Position paper

Paper#​ ​3:​ ​Position​ ​Paper​ ​for​ ​an​ ​Academic​ ​Audience

Task​. Write an academic position paper that intervenes in the debate we examined in Unit 2. To

do so, you’ll need to take into account your own conclusions from your debate analysis paper.

Given the debate you’ve analyzed, what kind of argument should you primarily make (e.g.,

conjecture, definition, quality, or policy), and for which particular audience should you make

that argument? While the stasis analysis you conducted for Unit 2 tells you where you need to

begin, much of the work in writing this academic position paper will involve fleshing out that

argument. To do so, you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Invent or come up with a combination of persuasive​ ​appeals​ to logos, ethos, and pathos

that are appropriate for your intended audience (see RC chapters 9 & 11). To do this,

you’ll need to think carefully about your audience’s values, beliefs, and assumptions and

attempt to find common ground. What values, beliefs, and assumptions do you hold in

common with your audience?

  1. Find and cite evidence​ in support of your particular argument, and frame that evidence in

ways that are appropriate for your rhetorical situation (see RC chapter 10, especially

pages 151-154).

Unlike the previous two writing assignments, this academic position paper demands that you do

some additional research. You will need to find at least three​ relevant and credible sources

through your own library research and use them to support your argument.

Audience​ ​and​ ​purpose​. While you have a say in defining your audience and purpose for this

position paper, keep in mind that you have to do so within constraints. Your audience has to be

one that would value academic forms of argumentation (RC 97-98) and that espouses one or

more of the positions you analyzed in the debate analysis. Similarly, your purpose has to take

into account your audience and reflect the conclusions you drew from your debate analysis. Say,

for instance, that you think the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and should be removed from

public spaces. However, you’ve decided to write for an audience of Southern historians who

primarily define the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage. You and your audience thus

disagree at the level of definition (e.g., what kind of thing the Confederate flag is), and so you

realize that arguing for your ultimate purpose—to get the flag removed from public spaces, a

policy argument—wouldn’t work. So you determine that your purpose should be to persuade

your audience to redefine the flag as a symbol of hatred and not heritage. In short, your purpose

and audience should follow very closely from the results of your debate analysis.

Tips​. Keep the following tips in mind as you write this paper.

  • Make use of argumentative strategies you learned about in Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of

Rhetorical Choices. Part of your grade will be based on your effective use of rhetorical

strategies to accomplish your persuasive purpose.

  • Keep your rhetorical situation in mind. Who is your intended academic audience (RC

116-121)? To what extent does your argument meet or satisfy your readers’ expectations

(RC 97-98)?

  • Keep the results of your debate analysis in mind. To what extent are you intervening in

the debate in ways that align with the status of the debate (i.e., whether it’s in stasis,

which of the stasis questions seem to be at issue, etc.)?

  • Keep your rhetorical purpose in mind (RC 112-113). What do you want your readers to

feel, know, believe, or do as a result of reading your essay?

  • Keep your own ethos in mind (RC 163). In particular, ask yourself the following


■ How effectively have you selected and cited evidence (RC ch. 10)?

■ How credible or knowledgeable do you seem when writing about and referring to your


■ Have you selected supporting passages and evidence from your sources that are

appropriate for persuading your intended academic readers?

■ Have you integrated your sources effectively into your argument, including

effective use of quotation and paraphrasing?

■ Have you framed, explained, and interpreted your evidence in ways that will help

your audience make sense of it (RC 151-154)?

■ Are you accurate in your use of MLA format for parenthetical citations and your

Works Cited page?

Requirements​. As you draft your academic position paper, be sure to meet the following


  • Rough draft due: On your scheduled conference
  • Final draft due: Monday, November 27
  • Length: ~1200 words (excluding Works Cited page)
  • Formatting: 12pt Times New Roman font / 1-inch margins / MLA parenthetical citations

and Works Cited page / Follow WHH pp. 311-322 model