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College Writing Assignment 2
Position Paper

A position paper differs from the personal essay in tone and in purpose.   Its tone is usually more serious or academic but may be lighter depending on the subject.  Its purpose is to take and support a position on a controversial issue.  (By controversial I mean that your position is not obvious - that an intelligent person might disagree.)  The position paper should address an issue outside the immediate experience of the writer although the writer may incorporate personal experience or local events into the essay.  Where the body of an personal essay includes the "telling details" that make a personal experience vivid, the body of the position paper includes the "telling details" that make the issue and argument clear.

For this assignment, you are required to cite at least two sources in your paper and at least one of the sources must represent an opposing viewpoint.  It is often effective to use one source to provide some kind of broad statistical data that shows the breadth of the problem or issue.

Below are position-paper-type questions from actual college applications.  These seem to ask for boring academic essays so remember the advice from "How to Say Nothing" and look for a fresh, creative solution to the problem.  Our  rule will be if you don't have something new to say on the subject, find a different subject. 

Typical position paper questions found in college applications include the following.  as you can see they almost beg for an old tired topic and essay.  Remember to avoid the bad-question/bad-answer trap and find a fresh topic or fresh angle on an tired topic. 

1. What do you consider to be the major international or national issues today?  Address one, outlining possible causes, effects and resolutions.

2. Outline a national, state and/or local issue.  Discuss the issue's relevance to you and the causes, effects and possible resolutions.

3. Exam any book or work of art that has affected your philosophy or viewpoint.

4. Discuss the most pressing problem you think our society faces today and its relevance to you.


Length: One to two typed pages.
Rough Draft due: March 26, 2007; Final Draft due: March 30, 2007
All papers must have a Works Cited page for all your research

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Qualities of an Effective
National Issue Essay

1.  Show an understanding of the problem (breadth, depth and causes)

2.  Present a solution that addresses the causes.

3.  Write a conclusion that comes more than full circle.


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