Point Of View Essay Outline


The following material explains how to produce a position paper (sometimes calleda point of view paper). A template is provided that outlines the major parts ofa good position paper.  Keep inmind, however, that this is just a guide. Talk to your TAs about theirindividual expectations. Your TAs may want you to include some criteria that donot appear in this outline. Make sure you check with them.

Like a debate, a position paper presents one side of an arguable opinionabout an issue. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience thatyour opinion is valid and defensible. Ideas that you are considering need to becarefully examined in choosing a topic, developing your argument, andorganizing your paper. It is very important to ensure that you are addressingall sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for youraudience to understand. Your job is to take one side of the argument andpersuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic beingpresented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure thevalidity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show thatyou are well informed about both sides.

Issue Criteria

To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of atopic that interests you. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure thatyou will be able to present a strong argument:

  •  Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty?
  •  Can you identify at least two distinctive positions?
  •  Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions?
  •  Is the scope of the issue narrow enough to be manageable?

In the CMNS 130 courseware thearticle by Fleras begins to set out a range of issues you may choose toaddress. Your tutorial leader will also have a set of suggested paper topics.The suggested paper topics will also be available on the CMNS 130 website.


Analyzing an Issue and Developing anArgument

Once your topic is selected, you should do some research on the subjectmatter. While you may already have an opinion on your topic and an idea aboutwhich side of the argument you want to take, you need to ensure that yourposition is well supported. Listing thepro and con sides of the topic will help you examine your ability to supportyour counterclaims, along with a list of supporting evidence for both sides.Supporting evidence includes the following:


Type of Information

Type of Source 

 How to find these sources

introductory information and overviews

directories, encyclopedias, handbooks

Use the Library catalogue

in-depth studies

books, government reports

Library catalogue, Canadian Research Index, Government web sites

scholarly articles

academic journals 

Article indexes

current issues

newspapers, magazines 

Article indexes


government agencies and associations

Statistics Canada, Canadian Research Index, journal articles

position papers and analyses

association and institute reports

Library catalogue, web sites

Many of these sources can be locatedonline through the library catalogue and electronic databases, or on the Web.You may be able to retrieve the actual information electronically or you mayhave to visit a library to find the information in print. The librarian’spresentation on October 10th after your mid-term exam will assist inyour orientation of the SFU library.

** You do not have to useall of the above supporting evidence in your papers. This is simply a list ofthe various options available to you. Consult your separate assignment sheet toclarify the number and type of sources expected.


Considering your audience and determining your viewpoint

Once you have made your pro and con lists, compare the information side byside. Considering your audience, as well as your own viewpoint, choose theposition you will take.

Considering your audience does not mean playing up to the professoror the TA. To convince a particular person that your own views are sound, youhave to consider his or her way of thinking. If you are writing a paper for asociology professor/TA obviously your analysis would be different from what itwould be if you were writing for an economics, history, or communicationsprofessor/TA. You will have to make specific decisions about the terms youshould explain, the background information you should supply, and the detailsyou need to convince that particular reader.

In determining your viewpoint, ask yourself the following:

  • Is your topic interesting? Remember that originality counts. Be aware that your professor/TA will probably read a number of essays on the same topic(s), so any paper that is inventive and original will not only stand out but will also be appreciated.
  • Can you manage the material within the specifications set by the instructor?
  • Does your topic assert something specific, prove it, and where applicable, propose a plan of action?
  • Do you have enough material or proof to support your opinion?


Sample Outline

I. Introduction
___A. Introduce the topic
___B. Provide background on the topic to explain why it is important
___C. Assert the thesis (your view of the issue). More on thesis statements canbe found below.

Your introduction has a dual purpose: to indicate both the topic and yourapproach to it (your thesis statement), and to arouse your reader’s interest inwhat you have to say. One effective way of introducing a topic is to place itin context – to supply a kind of backdrop that will put it in perspective. Youshould discuss the area into which your topic fits, and then gradually leadinto your specific field of discussion (re: your thesis statement).

II. Counter Argument
___A. Summarize the counterclaims
___B. Provide supporting information for counterclaims
___C. Refute the counterclaims
___D. Give evidence for argument

You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself what someone whodisagrees with you might say about each of the points you've made or about yourposition as a whole. Once you have thought up some counterarguments, considerhow you will respond to them--will you concede that your opponent has a pointbut explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will youreject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you willwant to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger thanopposing arguments.

When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present eachargument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish.You want to show that you have seriously considered the many sides of theissue, and that you are not simply attacking or mocking your opponents.

It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in somedepth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterargumentsand replies.

Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. Ifconsidering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go backand revise your original argument accordingly.

For more on counterarguments visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html

III. Your Argument
___A. Assert point #1 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___B. Assert point #2 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___C. Assert point #3 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)

You may have more than 3 overall points to your argument, but you shouldnot have fewer.

IV. Conclusion
___A. Restate your argument
___B. Provide a plan of action but do not introduce new information

The simplest and most basic conclusion is one that restates the thesis indifferent words and then discusses itsimplications.


Stating Your Thesis

A thesis is a one-sentencestatement about your topic. It's an assertion about your topic, something youclaim to be true. Notice that a topic alone makes no such claim; it merelydefines an area to be covered. Tomake your topic into a thesis statement, you need to make a claimabout it, make it into a sentence. Look back over your materials--brainstorms,investigative notes, etc.--and think about what you believe to be true. Thinkabout what your readers want or need to know. Then write a sentence, preferablyat this point, a simple one, stating what will be the central idea of yourpaper. The result should look something like this:

OriginalSubject: an important issue inmy major field 

FocusedTopic:media technologyeducation for communication majors

Thesis:Theories of media technology deserve a more prominent place in thisUniversity’s Communication program

Or if your investigations led you to a different belief:

Thesis: Communication majors at this University receive asolid background in theories of media technology

It's always good to have a thesis you can believe in.

Notice, though, that a sentence stating an obvious and indisputable truthwon't work as a thesis:

Thesis: This University has a Communication major.

That's a complete sentence, and it asserts something to be true, but as athesis it's a dead end. It's a statement of fact, pure and simple, and requireslittle or nothing added. A good thesisasks to have more said about it. It demands some proof. Yourjob is to show your reader that your thesis is true.

Remember, you can't just pluck a thesis out of thin air. Even if you haveremarkable insight concerning a topic, it won't be worth much unless you canlogically and persuasively support it in the body of your essay. A thesis isthe evolutionary result of a thinking process, not a miraculous creation.Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading the essayassignment. Deciding on a thesis does not come first. Before you can come up with an argument on anytopic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possiblerelationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts orsimilarities), and think about the beneath-the-surface significance of theserelationships. After this initial exploration of the question at hand, you canformulate a "working thesis," an argument that you think will makesense of the evidence but that may need adjustment along the way. Inother words, do not show up at your TAs office hours expecting them to help youfigure out your thesis statement and/or help organize your paper unless youhave already done some research.

For more information regarding thesis statements visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html


Writing with style and clarity

Many students make the mistake of thinking that the content of their paperis all that matters. Although the content is important, it will not mean muchif the reader can’t understand what you are trying to say. You may have somegreat ideas in your paper but if you cannot effectively communicate them, youwill not receive a very good mark. Keep the following in mind when writing yourpaper:


Diction refers to the choice of words for the expression of ideas; theconstruction, disposition, and application of words in your essay, with regardto clearness, accuracy, variety, etc.; mode of expression; and language. Thereis often a tendency for students to use fancy words and extravagant images inhopes that it will make them sound more intelligent when in fact the result isa confusing mess. Although this approach can sometimes be effective, it isadvisable that you choose clear words and be as precise in the expression ofyour ideas as possible.



Creating clear paragraphs is essential. Paragraphs come in so many sizes andpatterns that no single formula could possibly cover them all. The two basicprinciples to remember are these:

1)  A paragraph is a means of developing and framing an idea orimpression. As a general rule, you should address only one major idea perparagraph.

2)  The divisions between paragraphs aren’t random, but indicate ashift in focus. In other words you must carefully and clearly organize theorder of your paragraphs so that they are logically positioned throughout yourpaper. Transitions will help you with this.

For further information on paragraph development visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/paragraphs.html



In academic writing your goal is to convey information clearly andconcisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitionshelp you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections betweensentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitionstell readers what to do with the information you present them. Whether singlewords, quick phrases or full sentences, they function as signs for readers thattell them how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as theyread through what you have written.

Transitions signal relationships between ideas. Basically, transitionsprovide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into alogically coherent argument. They are words with particular meanings that tellthe reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providingthe reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand thelogic of how your ideas fit together.




also, in the same way, just as ... so too, likewise, similarly


but, however, in spite of, on the one hand ... on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet


first, second, third, ... next, then, finally


after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then


for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate


even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly


above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there

Cause and Effect

accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus

Additional Support or Evidence

additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then


finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary 

For more information on transitions visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/transitions.html


Grammar and Spelling

You must make certain that your paper is free from grammar and spellingmistakes. Mechanical errors are usually the main reason for lack of clarity inessays, so be sure to thoroughly proof read your paper before handing it in. Forhelp with common errors in grammar and usage consult the following websites:



Plagiarism and academic honesty

Plagiarism is a form of stealing; as with other offences against the law, ignoranceis no excuse. The way to avoid plagiarismis to give credit where credit is due. If you are using someone else’s idea,acknowledge it, even if you have changed the wording or just summarized themain points.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings--any pieces of information--that are not common knowledge;
  • quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words; or
  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words.

In addition to plagiarism,SFU has policies regarding other forms of academic dishonesty. For moreinformation on SFU’s policies regarding academic honesty consult yourundergraduate calendar or http://www.sfu.ca/policies/teaching/t10-02.htm.If any of the University’s policies are not clear you must ask your professoror TA for clarification. Again, ignorance is no excuse.




The information included in the document “Writing a Position Paper” wasadapted from the following sources:

Guilford, C.(2001). Occasions forArgumentative Essays. Writing Argumentative Essays. Retrieved August 26, 2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.powa.org/argufrms.htmPreviously adapted from: Hairston, M. (1982) A Contemporary Rhetoric(3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Northey, M. (1993). Making Sense: a student’s guide to research, writing,and style (3rd ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press.

UHWO Writing Center (1998) Writing a Position Paper. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web: http://homepages.uhwo.hawaii.edu/~writing/position.htm

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000). ConstructingThesis Statements. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26, 2002 from theWorld Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000). EffectiveAcademic Writing: The Argument. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000).  Paragraph Development. Writing CenterHandouts.Retrieved August 26, 2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000).  Transitions. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html




It’s the first day of class, and your instructor hands you the syllabus. As you browse through, you get to the list of assignments and your eyes widen–a 15-page research paper is due at the end of the semester.

You’ve never written 15 pages of anything in your whole life. Sure, you have all semester to do it, but some of that time is going to be spent trying to figure out how to write that large of a paper.

Research papers can be pretty scary at first, but there is a secret weapon that can help you overcome some of that fear–The Outline.

A research paper outline will keep your thoughts on track, enabling you to write that mammoth paper with relative ease. It still won’t be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, but imagine the sense of accomplishment you’ll have when you hand in that 15-pager (that’s about 3650 words)!

Research Paper vs. Essay: How Are They Different?

Length: A research paper is considerably longer than an essay. Some are a bit shorter, around 8-10 pages, but they can sometimes be up to 30 pages or more. While many essays can be given as in-class assignments or homework for the week, the length of a research paper requires more time to write it.

Effort: By the same token, research papers also require more effort. The name says it all–research paper. You’ll have to do much more research on a topic than you would for a standard essay assignment in order to do well.

Point of View: While essays are typically about expressing your point of view on a topic, research papers take other scholars’ viewpoints into consideration. From your research, you’ll see what other (credible) sources have to say about your topic and use your own thoughts to either expand or refute those claims.

The Point of It All: A lot of students probably want to know what the point of any writing assignment is. Essays are about improving your skills as a writer and communicator in general. Research papers, on the other hand, are assigned both to improve your writing skills and to improve your knowledge about a subject. With all that research, you’re bound to come out of it with a lot more information about your topic than when you started.

Why You Need a Research Paper Outline

It may be tempting to think that, for the sake of time, you should just jump right into your research paper, skipping the outline completely. But an outline, especially for lengthier papers, will end up saving you some time in the end.

It all boils down to organization. Sure, you could just start writing, but even if you reach the word or page requirement, your paper would probably lack any sort of logical flow. A research paper outline allows you to get your main ideas down and organize them before you get too deep into the actual writing.

Having a good research paper outline also ensures that you don’t leave anything out. While you’re writing, you can just look at the outline and know which section comes next, as well as what to include in that section.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to give you an example of how to put together a sweet research paper outline on the topic of ice cream.

Check out these example research papers.

How to Put Your Research Paper Outline Together

Like most essays, your research paper is going to have three main parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. However, what goes into each of these sections–especially the body–is going to be a little different and a lot more in depth.

The sections below give an example of each section of a research paper outline, followed by an explanation of each section.

  1. Hook
    1. In 1920, the United States passed Prohibition, nearly crushing the business of breweries like Anheuser-Busch. To stay in business, the breweries turned bars into soda fountains and went into the business of ice cream.
  2. Research Question
    1. What effect did Prohibition have on the popularity of ice cream?
  3. Thesis Statement
    1. Because of Prohibition, ice cream became nearly as popular as alcohol itself.

Hook: First impressions are everything. Just like an essay, your research paper needs a hook. The hook for a research paper is typically a bit longer, and may consist of an anecdote to create some sort of tension. You don’t need to write the whole anecdote in your outline, but you should write down an idea of how you want to start out.

Research Question: By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of your research question. State it concisely in your outline.

Thesis Statement: Every great research paper has a great thesis statement. This is going be the answer to your research question and the basis for your argument.

  1. Context
    1. Brief history of ice cream
    2. How breweries became soda shops
  2. Existing Arguments
    1. Why the consumption of ice cream was on the rise
      1. How the ice cream trade served as cover-up for alcohol runners
  3. Your Argument
    1. More than just a cover-up
      1. Former bars could be easily converted to soda fountains and ice cream parlors
      2. Ice cream parlors provided the same sort of social setting as going out to a bar

Context: You have to assume that your reader doesn’t know the history behind your topic. Giving background, or context, is critical. Again, this doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out in your research paper outline, but you should include your main points.

Existing Arguments: What do other people have to say about your topic? How do they prove their arguments? How convincing are the arguments they are making?

These are some questions you should think about while you’re researching. Include the answers in your outline.

Your Argument: This is the big one. Your argument should be in relation to the existing arguments. You will either agree or expand on what other scholars have to say.

To do this, you need to look at primary sources–sources such as photographs, charts, statistics, music lyrics, letters, newspaper articles, and other documents produced about your topic at the time it took place. You can also use other secondary literature to supplement this material.

For your research paper outline, include the main points of your argument and how you are going to support these points.

  1. Summary of Main Points
    1. Prohibition increased sales of ice cream
    2. Many scholars point to the need to cover up illegal alcohol smuggling
    3. Ice cream parlors were also easy to build and provided a good social scene for people who were used to bars.
  2. Why It Matters
    1. Dramatic changes in laws can have unforeseen consequences. In this case, it was an increase in ice cream consumption, but it may not always be something so sweet.

Summary of Main Points: Briefly go over existing arguments and the main points of your argument. In the research paper outline, these can be short bullet points.

Why It Matters: You did a lot of research, and this topic has become very important to you. Now explain why it should matter to anyone else.

Download the research paper outline template.

Best Practices for Your Research Paper Outline

Include bibliographic information in your outline. When you use specific information or quotes in your outline, be sure to mark exactly where it came from. This will help with your citations later.

Make sure you have enough detail. Research papers are not like essays. Their higher word count requires a lengthier outline. If you only put general information under the introduction, body, and conclusion sections, when it comes time to write the paper, you won’t have enough information to turn to.

Not including enough detail in your outline is almost as bad as not having a research paper outline at all.

After your research paper outline is done, it’s time to start writing. But that blank screen will be easier to tackle if you keep referencing your outline.

If you’re still having some trouble after you’re finished with your paper, let the Kibin editors help straighten out any kinks.

Now… time to start tackling those 15 pages!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

One thought on “Point Of View Essay Outline

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *