Scribe Project
Effective Writing

Position Paper That Work

In any organization larger than a few dozen people, a position paper, often called whitepaper (although whitepaper is a broader term) is an important vehicle for socializing and promoting new ideas within an organization. A position paper can take many forms, but in most cases its content is tiered so that the primary points can be easily acquired by reading a single page Executive Summary. Subsequent text describes the details in full.

Format position paper:

  1. Abstract: Half-page description of the document including background, motivation and foreshadowing of document contents.
  2. Executive Summary: Brief presentation of the recommendations in the position paper. These can be a restatement of items in 6b below.
  3. Table of contents: If the document is longer than five pages, a table of contents is useful. For documents longer that 10 pages it is very important.
  4. Introduction: Lay out the background, motivation, description of status quo, vision of the goal and foreshadowing of approach.
  5. Case study: If a similar situation exists that can illustrate what you want to accomplish and how it might be done, a case study is an excellent element for a position paper, but it is not essential.
  6. Full presentation of your case for why change must occur and how it can be accomplished. Discussion should be presented point by point using compact language. You should anticipate concerns and acknowledge risks. One format, for each item of your argument is:
    • Present status
    • Recommendation.
    • Discussion.
    • Risks and requirement.
  7. Summary and conclusion

Example

Example of a postion paper can be found here

Exercises:

Write a short (3-5) page position paper on topic of interest to you. Think of a situation you know well, and how the status quo needs to be changed. Topics do not have to be technology-related, but should be otherwise appropriate for a general audience.