Indigenous Peoples and Health Disparities
- Is the Australian government responding adequately to the health disparities faced by Indigenous people in Australia?
Overview of Assessment 3
Position papers are used in a wide variety of contexts and for different purposes in academic and non-academic workplaces. Governments, political parties, non-government organisations and the business/corporate sector alike use position papers to communicate their approach to issues, to outline and ground discussions, to contribute to policy debates on a specific issue and to advocate for the positions of various stakeholders/organisations.
In an applied debate context, a position paper presents one side of an argument about a particular issue. A position paper describes a position on an issue and the rationale for that position. It is based on evidence that provides a solid foundation for your argument. Its purpose is to generate support on/for an issue and to convince the audience/reader that your position (on the issue) is valid and defensible.
More specifically, the goal is to present a compelling case justifying your position and the merits of the course of action you propose for solving the problem (where appropriate).
In the position paper you should:
- Use evidence to support your position, such as statistical evidence or dates and events.
- Validate your position with authoritative references or primary source quotations.
- Examine the strengths and weaknesses of your position.
- Evaluate possible solutions and suggest courses of action.
- Choose an issue/topic from the list of issues/topics provided or approach your tutor with a topic of your choice.
- The issues/topics will be announced on vUWS in week 7. Your position paper should be developed using evidence and solid reasoning. You may choose an issue on which you have already formed an opinion.
However, in writing about this issue you must examine your opinion of the issue critically. Prior to writing your position paper, define and limit your issue carefully. Social issues are complex with multiple solutions and you may need to narrow the topic/issue of your position paper to something that is manageable. Research your issue thoroughly, consulting the literature (and where appropriate, experts in the field) and obtaining primary documents.
Consider feasibility cost effectiveness and political/social climate when evaluating possible solutions and courses of action. The following structure is typical of a position paper:
- An introduction
- Identification of the issue (background information)
- Statement of your position (main thesis statement)
- The body
- A discussion of both sides of the issue (summary and limitations)
- Reasons why you position is stronger
- Supporting evidence or facts
- A conclusion
- Suggested courses of action
- Possible solutions
The introduction has a dual purpose: to indicate both the topic or issue and your approach to it (your position or thesis statement) and to catch the reader’s attention.
A position or thesis statement is a short statement or assertion about your topic, something you claim to be true. A topic alone does not assert anything: it merely defines an area to be covered (such as a lecture topic).
A thesis statement should be concise, clear and focused – clearly stating your position on the issue in one or two sentences. Before you can come up with your position on any topic, you have to collect and organise evidence, including research and theoretical perspectives (i.e., this means doing a literature search), look for possible relationships between the available data and reflect on the beneath-the-surface significance of these relationships. You are then in a position to develop a ‘working thesis’ or argument that you think will make sense of the evidence.
The body of the position paper may contain several paragraphs. Each paragraph should present an idea or main concept that clarifies a portion of the position statement and is supported by evidence or facts. Evidence can be primary source quotations, statistical data, interviews with experts (where appropriate), and indisputable dates or events. Evidence should lead, through inductive reasoning, to the main concept or idea presented in the paragraph.
- The body may begin with some background information and should incorporate a discussion of both sides of the issue.
- The conclusion should summarize the main concepts and ideas and reinforce, without repeating, the introduction or body of the paper. It could include suggested courses of action and possible solutions (where appropriate).
- An effective position paper is persuasive, evidence-based, balanced and measured, well-structured and coherent and understandable. It is not simply a diatribe for or against something.
- For further information about writing a position paper please read chapter 11 from Johnson-Sheehan, R. and Paine, C., 2009. Writing Today [online], Pearson Education, available as an attachment in this section.