Position paper

A position paper is an essay that presents an arguable opinion about an issue – typically that of the author or some specified entity. Position papers are published in academia, in politics, in law and other domains. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience that the opinion presented is valid and worth listening to. Ideas for position papers that one is considering need to be carefully examined when choosing a topic, developing an argument, and organizing the paper.

Position papers range from the simplest format of a letter to the editor, through to the most complex in the form of an academic position paper.[1] Position papers are also used by large organizations to make public the official beliefs and recommendations of the group.[2]

In academia

Position papers in academia enable discussion on emerging topics without the experimentation and original research normally present in an academic paper. Commonly, such a newspaper and magazines.

In politics

Position papers are most useful in contexts where detailed comprehension of another entity's views is important; as such, they are commonly used by political campaigns,[3] government organizations,[4] in the diplomatic world,[5] and in efforts to change values (e.g. through public service announcements) and organisational branding.[6] They are also an important part of the Model United Nations process[7], and are used in the European Union.

In government, a position paper lies on somewhere between a white paper and a green paper in that they affirm definite opinions and propose solutions but may not go so far as detailing specific plans for implementation.

In law

In international law, the term for a position paper is Aide-mémoire. An Aide-Mémoire is memorandum setting forth the minor points of a proposed discussion or disagreement, used especially in undiplomatic communications.


  1. Sanders, Tingloo & Verhulst 2005, p. 11, "The simplest form is the letter to the editor... The most complex type of position paper is the academic position paper in which arguments and evidence are presented to support the writer's views."
  2. An example of a position paper published by an organization: Information Literacy: A Position Paper on Information Problem Solving, American Association of School Librarians, archived from the original on 2008-04-22
  3. Steely 2000, p. 186, "Through the use of position papers, telephone briefings, audio and video tapes and personal appearances Newt was able to share his ideas, ... ."
  4. Government position papers, Brake: the Road Safety Charity, retrieved 2008-08-24
  5. Bond 1998, "..., writing position papers and talking points, ... are examples of non-classified work which is carried out at virtually every diplomatic post."
  6. Newsom & Haynes 2004, p. 163, "Another special area is the use of position papers as the locus for image ads and public service announcements (PSAs) for an organization."
  7. How to Write a Position Paper, United Nations Association of the United States of America, archived from the original on April 10, 2008, retrieved 2008-08-25


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