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Essays 3, 4, and 5 – platform position papers

Basic unit of discourse

Your assertion

Your assertion

rhetorical part: assertion, support, explanation

analogy: pull out your gun, load, aim and shoot

Your evidence

Your evidence

An assertion is like a gun. Anyone can pull one out and start waving it around. By itself, an assertion is an opinion, all talk, lots of fervent belief, but nothing else. To make it more persuasive, all you can do it raise your voice, wag the gun more wildly.

The support is the bullets. It’s what you load your gun with. A loaded gun is a lot more threatening. It can, potentially, do a lot more damage than the gun by itself.

However, to effectively communicate, you need to pull the trigger. No matter how good your gun and your bullets, you’re never going to hit your target unless you pull the trigger. Your target is your reader, and that’s a singular “reader”, on purpose. You cannot shoot everyone with a gun. It’s pretty much one at a time.

Same with an essay. Don’t try to write to “everyone”. Write to one specific person, one reader. You need to explain what you want your reader to get out of the evidence. Then it’s not just your opinion against someone else’s. It’s your substantiated, explained opinion, which is more persuasive and carries more weight than the opinions of those wagging their guns at each other.


Due dates

  • February 23 – First position paper
  • March 16 – Second position paper
  • March 30 – Third position paper

What is your party all about? The voters want to know.

For each of these three position papers, focus on one of your platform positions.

Rhetorical modes: definition, comparison, process

Length: at least 1,000 words.

Title: the name of your party followed a catchy expression of your platform position. For example, a platform position favoring social justice for mothers: Give Mom a Break!


The voters who would have put your party high on their list before they read the position paper.

Make them feel good. Your position paper will confirm for them that they made a wise choice supporting you.

The voters who could be persuaded to vote for you.

Make them think; give them a reason to favor you. Your position paper will tell them how to think about the evidence in such a way that they will be convinced to put your party higher on their list.

The voters who would have put you at the bottom of their list.

Make them uncomfortable; create cognitive dissonance. Your position paper will give them evidence that they may not know about or for which they have different evidence. Explain your evidence in such a way that they can at least respect your position. Your party will never be at the top of their list, so distinguish your party from the others at the bottom of their list.


To help the voters decide where to rank your party. This essay presents data, not an argument. Think like a scientist, not a lawyer. Inform the voters. Don’t try to persuade them.


Given that these essays are a minimum of 1,000 words, there’s only so much evidence that you can offer. That makes your Works Cited even more important for readers who want to learn more.

All your claims should be the result of your thinking about relevant, valid evidence. Otherwise, don’t include the claim.


As always, use the unit of discourse, an introduction, and a conclusion. See the page on Essay structures.


As always, begin with a sentence or two designed to catch the voters’ attention. Look at the introduction as what you would say if an interested voter gave you 15 seconds to sum up what your party is all about as it focuses on this issue.

The body of the paper

First section

Dominant rhetorical mode: definition

Gather all your data in this section. This section could easily be half of the whole position paper.

Use the data to define the problem or situation that your platform position is responding to. How big is it? How bad is it? Are there any natural experiments, that is, other countries or states that do it differently and whose outcomes are different. Use statistics and models, not expert opinion.

In this section, organize the data. Keep asking yourself “so what?” For example, so what that many Americans don’t have health insurance? To answer you can bring in data from countries that have universal health care and live longer, healthier lives than Americans.

Second section

Dominant rhetorical mode: compare/contrast

Examine related platform positions, especially those of other Factistan parties. You are explaining them, not arguing for or against them.

Third section

Dominant rhetorical mode: cause/effect, process

Explain your proposal. How and why will it improve the situation defined in the first section? How will your proposal be implemented? How much will it cost? How will it be paid for? Who will benefit? Who will be burdened?

Other rhetorical modes could work better for your content, but you should check with me first. Whatever modes you use, retain a firm control over it by using the introduction and the transitions between sections to lead the reader through your thinking.


Give a sense of closure to the essay by summarizing what you wrote in the body. Where the introduction was what you would say if you have only 15 seconds, the conclusion is what you would say after the voters gave you five minutes to listen to your analysis of the problems and solutions.

Works Cited

Follow the conventional MLA format for a Works Cited section.

What this essay is not

This position paper is not an argument. You are not presenting reasons why your proposal is a good idea. You are not countering the other side’s argument or their objections to yours. There are no sides here, only data and reasoning. You are not finding quotations from experts about data. You are finding data. No experts need get involved. Think for yourself!