What is a Position Paper?
A position paper is a piece of academic writing which argues debatable issues and uses supporting evidence to take a stand. Research is usually objective and makes conclusions based on data collected after observation and empirical measurement. Similarly, position papers are based on statistics, facts, opinions, and evidence. They are often written about popular issues where there are considerable differences in views and science is ambiguous. When writing a position paper, you should compare both sides of the argument and build your case to make the reader understand why you favor whichever side over the other. In summary, your position paper should:
- Have a topic with contrasting opinions
- Discuss both sides of an argument
- Take a stand and support it with evidence
Purpose of a Position Paper
The main goal of a position paper is to convince the reader that your argument is well-founded and worth listening to. It should generate support for your claims. To achieve this, a position paper must:
- Define the arguable issue.
- Discuss the relevance of the problem.
- Assert the author’s position in the thesis statement.
- Give supporting evidence-based arguments.
- Critically examine opposing positions using facts and presenting evidence to offer their strengths and weaknesses.
- Demonstrate the reasons for favoring one side over the other.
Position Paper Structure
A position paper has three parts: an introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. The main body is the bulk of the essay and is the section that differentiates a position paper from other pieces of academic writing.
The introduction gives background information about the issue and its relevance to the community. It also states the author’s position. This section should follow a flow that builds a thesis statement that asserts your position.
To begin the paper, define the problem, and provide the history and nature of the issue in relation to existing evidence. Sample points:
Definition- Euthanasia refers to the actions undertaken by a physician to intentionally end a patient’s life to relieve their pain or suffering, particularly during the final stages of a terminal disease.
History- Different countries have different laws on euthanasia, with some legalizing it to prevent the misuse of the practice. In countries where euthanasia is legalized, approximately 4% of all deaths are reported as euthanasia.
Nature of the issue- Ethical, legal, moral, and cultural considerations are essential in deciding whether euthanasia is appropriate in end-of-life care.
Discuss why the issue is significant to society. Sample points:
Euthanasia puts people at risk, is incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer, and changes societal values over time.
Euthanasia should be legalized, and legislation enacted to control the practice, preventing it from being abused.
The body is the main part of a position paper. It contains a detailed description of the main arguments with supporting evidence. This section should present a coherent and logical discussion of opposing sides. Making a list of the claims and counterclaims helps you organize the paper well without missing key points.
A good position paper should acknowledge the validity of the counterclaims without discrediting your claims. You should be able to persuade the audience on why your position is better than the opposition. Refuting the counterarguments, where possible, helps make your position stronger. Using credible resources throughout the paper is crucial in a position paper. Every claim and counterargument should be backed by evidence, facts, and statistics. It is essential that you cite the sources correctly and thoroughly to prevent plagiarism. It also guides the reader on where to get more information on a particular subject. Developing an objective, balanced, and thoughtful argument that is not one-sided assures the success of a position paper.
In our sample position paper, we can develop various arguments and counterarguments based on ethical, legal, moral, and cultural considerations.
- Argument 1- Euthanasia provides relief from pain and suffering, allowing the individual to die with dignity, which is the goal of end-of-life care.
- Argument 2- The ethical principle of respect for autonomy requires physicians to respect the patient’s choice to die.
- Argument 3- Human rights imply that human beings have an explicit right to die, justifying euthanasia.
- Argument 4- Death is private, and other people have no right to interfere.
- Argument 5- Euthanasia already happens, so regulating it to prevent abuse is necessary.
- Counterargument 1- Life is sacred, and no one but God has the right to take it.
- Counterargument 2- The physician’s Hippocratic oath of doing no harm to the patients makes euthanasia unethical.
- Counterargument 3- The law is against deliberately taking someone’s life and requires people to protect vulnerable persons against actions that jeopardize their lives.
- Counterargument 4- Euthanasia assumes that some lives are worth less than others.
- Counterargument 5- Euthanasia weakens the community’s respect for the sanctity of life.
To conclude, summarize the key points and restate your position. You can also make recommendations based on the findings from the paper. In this section, you should focus on your argument. It is your final chance to convince the reader that your position is the best one, so avoid dwelling on the counterarguments.