Cooperative Argumentation Course
Preliminary Writing Assignment
“Position Paper”

Note: This assignment provides the first of three formal assignments designed to help students craft a successful argumentative essay. For further details on the remaining assignments, return to the home page and select “Argumentative Essay Assignment.”

Issues broadly related to family life prove especially fruitful for development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with this series of assignments. Among other things, these topics evoke passion and interest, challenge students to think critically and to engage in introspection, and require heightened capacities to listen and read empathically. Other topics meeting these criteria prove useful as well.

Below is the full text of the Position Paper (preliminary writing) Assignment. Although written specifically with family life issues in mind, the assignment can be adapted to any topic selected by the class.

Four steps (2-4 double-spaced typed pages):

1. Identification of topic and articulation of central and subordinate issues:
Be sure the central issue reflects the locus of controversy, that the topic relates directly to family life issues, and that the topic is viable (for the remainder of your assignments). Be sure to frame the central issue as a concise question. Identify subordinate issues that need to be resolved in order to address the central issue effectively.

2. Identification of key commonplaces and terms that require definition:
Be sure you have identified the most important commonplaces of relevance to your central issue. Be sure these statements reflect common ground shared by the deliberative community (including class members and authors of e-reserve readings). Feel free to list the commonplaces (no narrative is required for this section of the position paper assignment). Be sure to list all key terms that will need to be defined in later assignments (no definitions are required for completion of the position paper).

3. Articulation of your views:
Use narrative for this section of the assignment. Be sure to present your perspective on the central and subordinate issues as concisely and clearly as possible. Where do you stand on the issues? Why? What are the strongest reasons available to support your views?

4. Articulation of deliberative community perspectives:
Use narrative for this section of the assignment. Be sure to articulate as clearly as possible the most reasonable grounds available for members of the deliberative community who disagree with your perspective. Why do reasonable, well informed people disagree with you? What are the strongest arguments available in support of their points of view?

Criteria for Assessment:
• Topic relates directly to family life issues and meets topic selection criteria (deeply controversial, important to the author, viable, etc.)
• Clear and concise articulation of the author’s perspective
• Strong support for potentially contested assumptions, claims, and inferences
• Identifies and explains key points of controversy among multiple perspectives
• Thoughtful integration of relevant commonplaces
• Thoughtful articulation and consideration of multiple perspectives on the relevant issues
• Sensitivity and responsiveness to interests, needs, beliefs, and values of the broader deliberative community (including class members and authors of e-reserve readings)
• Clear communication of key ideas and perspectives
• Adherence to appropriate and relevant standards of communication, including grammar, punctuation, and spelling