The Position Essay

Unit 3: The Position Essay


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Goals of this unit:

  1. construct cogent, logical, effective, and ethical arguments in writing;
  2. compose texts that effectively employ the features of a given genre;
  3. identify reliable and appropriate sources;
  4. integrate appropriate sources effectively and ethically in their own texts;
  5. participate effectively in groups with an emphasis on listening, critical and reflective thinking, and responding; and
  6. compose texts that effectively address audience, purpose, style, and content. (This includes clear focus, structurally unified development of ideas, appropriate rhetorical style, correct use of Standard American Academic English (SAAE), and ethically appropriate use of research.)



You have been studying communication within different communities, and, in Unit 1, you created your own research in an effort to enter the conversation taking place in your field. And, in Unit 2, you researched multiple perspectives on the same topic in order to understand the varying ideas and research available to you on that topic. Now, it is time for you to enter that academic conversation and write your position essay. It is finally your turn to create your own knowledge and have your chance at convincing others of your perspective. You will use the topic of your research analysis essay and build an argument for one side of the topic. You will take one (and only one) side of the argument. Your aim is to take a stand on the topic of our choice and use sources to support that claim.


Nuts and Bolts:

For this essay, you will use the topic that you researched for you Unit 2 essay. As with all the essays this semester, you will need to choose a topic that includes borders, (again, defined as any border—physical and literal or metaphorical and ideological boundaries between two places). Just as you did in Unit 1 and Unit 2, you will need to start with questions and not answers. Your task is to use the sources from your Unit 2 essay (and a few new ones) to create an argument about the topic—you will take a stance on your chosen border topic and create an argument that convinces readers that your position is correct and valid. This essay requires that you use a minimum of eight peer-reviewed sources as evidence for your position, which means that you can use some of the sources you used for your Unit 2 essay, but you will also have to find more. As with Unit 2, your sources should not simply restate the same opinion repeatedly. Nor should all your sources agree with one another. Rather, your sources should build upon each other’s ideas, and their arguments should be somewhere on the spectrum of agreement.


You are to choose at least eight peer-reviewed articles that contain and incorporate research that relates to your chosen topic of borders. The articles that you choose must have been peer-reviewed, and its topic must include a border, again, that is either a literal boundary between two places or an ideological or metaphorical border.


Here are some examples to help clarify. Let’s say that you chose to write about cultural borders that are physically and metaphorically crossed every day for your Unit 2 essay. You researched the multiple perspectives on that argument. Now, you will take a stand on the issue—what do you have to say about cultural borders that are crossed? You will start with the sources you found for your Unit 2 essay that help you support your position on the topic. Then, you will research to find more sources that serve as evidence for your position. Then, you will write your position on the topic, using at least eight sources as your evidence for your position.


Similar to the Unit 2 essay, to identify common threads in the sources, read each source searching for its relationships to the other sources (look for places where one author contradicts the other authors, places where the author supports other authors or repeated references to key texts).


Things to keep in mind while you are reading:

  • How does this source support my ideas about my topic?
  • How does this source help me persuade my readers to accept my position on this topic?
  • What are the most significant issues regarding this topic that those studying the topic should know about? How will this source help me demonstrate this significance?



The research essay is to be 1,500-2,000 words and should include specific, cited examples from all of your sources in MLA format. You are required to use at least eight peer-reviewed sources. In addition, your essay should be written with an eye toward academic tone, voice, and Standard American English. Also, your essay should be free of grammatical errors.


Features of the genre:

The research essay genre is a very objective essay. Thus, it does not use pronouns, especially the second-person pronoun “you” or the first-person pronoun “I.” Do not include yourself (I, we, us, our) or your reader (you, your) in this document. In addition, position essays use strong verbs—they omit weak auxiliary verbs like “could,” “can,” “would,” and “should.” Be confident in what you are presenting: if you have conducted good research, then you should be proud of what you are saying to your readers.


You will have an introduction that narrows your topic so that you only focus on the position that you are taking. Every topic has so many different arguments (as you learned in Unit 2), and your goal in your introduction is to narrow your focus to only the argument that you will offer. Your introduction will then logically lead to your focus, and your thesis statement should be clear and direct and should come in a thesis paragraph or at the end of your introduction. The thesis statement for a research essay takes a stand on the issue. Your thesis should be specific and arguable (which means that people should disagree with you).


Just as with the other essays this semester, you should have your research paper divided into sub-points with appropriate section headers. Each section should be focused around only that sub-point but should connect to the other sub-points as well as the overall thesis, making the research you present clear, cohesive, and easy to follow.


In the final section of your essay, you will present your conclusion. Conclusions in research analysis essay answer three questions:

  1. Did I do what I said I would do? In other words, did you present enough evidence to support the claim about the topic that you made? This is more than a mere recitation of your thesis.
  2. Why is this important? This question moves your research beyond our classroom walls. What is the significance of the stance you present on this topic?
  3. What do you want readers to do with this information? You are the expert on this area and you need to tell readers what they should do with the knowledge that you have given them.


A few reminders about paragraph structure:

  1. You should have a topic sentence that includes a transition and overviews the focus of the paragraph as it connects to your thesis.
  2. You should then expand on your thesis, describing how this idea (or sub-point) furthers your thesis.
  3. Give examples to which the audience can relate.
  4. Synthesize your outside sources with your ideas. For a research analysis essay, you will include more than one source in each paragraph.
  5. Discuss how the sources help you demonstrate the sub-point.
  6. Finish the paragraph with a sentence that connects the sub-point back to your thesis.




  1. Choose a side (or position) from your Unit 2 essay
  2. Determine what you want to say about the topic
  3. Choose articles that will help you support your position from the articles you have
  4. Research to find more sources that help you support your stance
  5. Organize your ideas around your thesis (a statement that tells your readers the stance you are taking)
  6. Pull out the information from our sources to be used in your essay (this include summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation)
  7. Write a rough draft of the research analysis essay
  8. Go see your professor or the Writing Center if you are struggling
  9. Actively engage in the writer’s workshop
  10. Make changes based upon the information in the workshop
  11. Go see your professor or the Writing Center if you are struggling
  12. Attend the peer review workshop
  13. Make changes based upon feedback from workshop
  14. Go see your professor or the Writing Center if you are struggling
  15. Edit and proofread
  16. Hand in Unit 3 essay and reflection


To earn the minimum grade of a C, your essay must…

  1. Be in MLA format
  2. Be on time
  3. Have been peer reviewed in workshops
  4. Meet the page requirements
  5. Have a controlling idea (claim) with evidence from all the sources
  6. Be cohesive and organized around your controlling idea
  7. Be specific and give details and examples
  8. Hand in essay and reflection on time


Unit 3 Reflection Questions

Directions: In a MLA format, construct a short essay that responds to these questions. Your reflection is due ­­the day of your Unit 3 essay at 11:59pm to the appropriate TurnItIn drop box and is worth 5% of your overall grade for this class.


  1. What did you learn in Unit 1 that you used in Unit 3? What did you learn in Unit 2 that you used in Unit 3? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  2. What did you learn in Unit 1 that you did not use/was not applicable to Unit 3? What did you learn in Unit 2 that you did not use/was not applicable to Unit 3? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  3. What did you learn in this Unit 3 that can be applied in other courses? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  4. What do you think you learned in Unit 3 that will not be applicable to other classes? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  5. How does the creation of an argument help you improve your writing, in general? How will it help you approach writing tasks in the future? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  6. From the comments you received from the readers of your essay, what are your writing strengths? Writing weaknesses? Are these weaknesses and strengths the same or different from Unit 1 and Unit 2? How so? Give examples, explain, and be specific. Remember, grammar is neither a strength nor weakness.
  7. From my comments as a reader of your Unit 1 and Unit 2 essays, what do you think my comments to you will be on your Unit 3 essay? What will be different? The same? Give examples, explain, and be specific.
  8. What was the most challenging aspect of this Unit? Least challenging? Give examples, explain, and be specific.


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