Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers
A position paper is just critical thinking, written down.
Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers
$10 US [Free shipping in US]
The Self-Defense writing guide is available FREE with Critical Thinking and the CT Software, all available on a single CD, in dual-platform format for Windows and Mac.
Critical Thinking CD
$55 US [Free Shipping in US]
CD with texts also in paperback
$79 US [Free shipping in US]
$5 US charge shipping outside the U.S.
TO ORDER: Please click the FAQs About Critical Thinking link below.
The Critical Thinking Lab
24847 County 17
Winona, MN 55987
Writing position papers is different from writing reports, take-home exams, letters, or stories--so different that, while you might be good at the latter, you might really stink at the former. It's not as if one has a natural knack for writing position papers [I sure didn't!]. It takes practice and more practice--for everyone. But this manual will definitely help!
When you omit one of the basic ingredients of an apple pie, you end up with something, but it won't be an apple pie. If you omit the crust, you get applesauce or crisp. If you omit the apples and substitute Ritz crackers, you get "mock" apple pie (or at least that's what the folks at Ritz say you get; I'd have another name for it ;-) Similarly with an effective position paper.
An effective position paper has at least four basic ingredients:
1. Statement of position
2. Arguments for position
3. Reconstruction of alternative positions
4. Critical review of alternative positions
If your paper consists of only the first ingredient, it's not even a position paper. It's a position statement. Corporations, for example, issue these periodically, just to let stockholders, etc., know what a company's policy is on an issue.
If your paper consists of only the first two ingredients on this list, it's a position paper, but a very ineffectual one. Your reader will be inclined to think, "Well, you've got your position and even arguments for it, but I've got my position and arguments for it too. So there!" At most you've reached a stalemate in the eyes of this reader, and you don't want to settle for that. You want to show your readers why you're so right and why they're so wrong. You need all four ingredients in order to do this.
If your paper consists of only the last two ingredients on the list above, it's not a position paper at all either. It's a critical review of alternative positions on an issue, but it advances and argues for no position on that issue.
An effective position paper must have all four ingredients so that, in essence, you are saying to your reader, "Here's my position on this issue; here are my reasons for thinking my position is true; here are some alternative positions people often take on this issue, but here's why those positions are mistaken."
Now that you have an overview of these basic ingredients, you're all set to look at each ingredient separately and in more detail in Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers.
Table of Contents
The 4 basic ingredients 1
Statement of position 3
Arguments for your position 6
Give complete arguments 6
How many arguments? 8
What makes an argument good? 8
Don't appeal to the dictionary 9
Address critics of your arguments 10
Anticipating critics 12
How your paper looks so far 14
Reconstruction of alternative positions 15
Critical review of alternative positions 17
What makes a criticism good? 20
Beware of begging the question 22
Beware of straw men 23
A question is never a criticism 24
How the second half of your paper looks 25
An alternative approach to assembling your paper 26
The closing paragraph 28
The process of writing your position paper 29
Citing your sources 32
Writing style 34
Nonsexist language 35
Where to find position papers 37
Anatomy of a position paper 43
Anatomy of "A Modest Proposal" 55
Self-Defense has been used successfully in Freshman Comp courses and Graduate courses; in philosophy courses and theater courses; in classrooms and corporate seminars; for writing position papers, proposals, and critical reviews.
Whatever your writing project, Self-Defense can help.
How can you use Self-Defense?
Use Self-Defense wherever position papers are studied or written. Use it, for example, in all your philosophy courses, since all the reading assignments are nothing but position papers and the objective is to learn how to understand, reconstruct, assess, and construct positions, arguments, and criticisms. Self-Defense is especially useful in capstone or writing-intensive courses. But, really, any course will benefit from incorporating Self-Defense into its curriculum.
Those writing with Self-Defense as their guide invariably improve the quality of their work and the clarity and breadth of their thinking. Self-Defense is the perfect answer to the student asking, "I just don't know what the prof wants in my critical review or position paper."
For critical thinking courses with large enrollments, it isn't feasible to assign written critical reviews or position papers, despite the fact that critically defending a position on an issue and demonstrating its rationality over competing views is the culminating exercise of critical thinking. Self-Defense, however, can be a great little intro to critical thinking. And its analysis of position papers can be the basis of exercises, assignments, and exams involving the "Anatomy of a Position Paper," as illustrated in Self-Defense. Using various examples short position papers, have the students identify the parts of a position paper in each paragraph, taking special note of the various ways of organizing position papers, as discussed in Self-Defense. These position papers are available in one's local newspaper, numerous periodicals, course reading assignments or on the Web. Other sources of "Anatomy" exercises are listed in Self-Defense.
Please check the Links below for more ideas on how to use Self-Defense in your classes to increase critical reading and writing skills.