How to Make an Outline for a Position Paper

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If your instructor asks you to write a position paper, he or she wants you to take a strong stance on an issue and present your argument. This paper is similar to writing one side of a debate. While making your assertions, you must also back them up with research and sources to lend credibility to your paper and convince your audience to accept your position. But, before you start writing, it's best to create a position paper outline and take a look at position paper samples.

1 The Best Approach to Writing an Outline

Before writing your position paper, you'll need to create an outline that can help you organize your thoughts and ideas. Having an outline will make it easier when it comes time to write the actual paper. Writing outlines is easier for some people than others, and likewise, some people find it easier to just jump right into the writing part. Either way, an outline doesn't hurt.

The best approach to writing an outline depends on what works best for you. Some students may find it easier to use pictures and diagrams to create their outline or a template provided by their teacher. Others may find it easier to write the outline from scratch. You can write it on the computer, or you can write it in a notebook. It's up to you. There is no right or wrong way to establish your outline, yet, it's necessary that your outline includes all the vital points that you'll need to have in your position paper. You may want to look at a position paper sample before starting the process.

2 Create Your Title

Start your position paper outline with a strong title that expresses your position briefly. Keep the title to 10 words or less. Don't write an "abstract" title or get too creative—just get right to the point. An example of a position paper title would be, "Why Hybrid Cars Are the Wave of the Future." If you're having difficulty coming up with a title, then come back to it later. Sometimes, it's easy to come up with a title if your teacher suggests the topic or you're answering a very specific question. Otherwise, if the title isn't coming to you right away, do the rest of the paper and come back to it later.

3 Write Your Introduction

Write the introduction. The introduction poses a fact or question for the reader to consider and presents the thesis (main idea). Keep the introduction to about one to two paragraphs. Similar to coming up with a title, an introduction can sometimes be much easier to write after the body of the essay is already completed. This way, you will know exactly what the main ideas are that should be mentioned in the introduction.

4 Find Your Main Idea

Outline a general background on the issue you plan to discuss. Here you're not yet presenting your argument—just informing the reader on why the issue is important. Plan a section of about one to four paragraphs.

5 Present Your Argument

Present your argument in the next section of the outline. This is the "meat" of your position paper outline. Here you'll state your position clearly and provide statements and facts from your research that supports this opinion on the matter. A position paper argument should include plenty of examples, charts, quotes from experts and other data in this section that will back up your position. This section should be several paragraphs (about one to five depending on your instructor's length requirements).

6 Outline Your Conclusion

Finish the outline with a conclusion. Here you'll summarize everything you've presented in the position paper and focus in on one or two points you mentioned that you feel are most relevant. Be careful not to repeat yourself word-for-word in the conclusion. End it with an interesting question or thought for the future regarding the issue.

  • When writing out your outline, use a numbered list. For instance, "1. Title," "2. Introduction," etc. You can then go back and type in your various ideas for the position paper next to each point in the list.
  • Be brief when filling out your outline. Short bullet points beneath each numbered section is fine. You will expand on each point when you're writing the actual paper.

Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.