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How to take a position in an essay

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How to take a position in an essay

What’s your favorite dinner? Got it. You’ve just taken a position. Sure it’s not much of one, but at least you’ve made a decision, and that’s where taking a position starts. In terms of writing an essay or position paper, a good position is one that gives you ample material to argue it. Your strong position is found in your thesis statement, which you will develop as you think about and choose your position. We will also explore examples and fix common mistakes.

Taking a Position in an Essay

A position is your stance on an open question or prompt. To understand an open question, let's first take a look at a closed question, which has no room for discussion about a topic.

Why do things fall down, not up?

To answer this closed question, you would recite facts about gravity.

On the other hand, an open question does have room for discussion about a topic.

Should fast food chains be allowed to advertise to children?

To answer this open question, you would use facts in order to support your position.

Now take a position for yourself. Should fast food chains be allowed to advertise to children?

how to take a position in an essay taking a position on advertising to children StudySmarterIs it right or is it wrong? flaticon.com

Some people might find this easy to answer. Others might find it hard to answer. So, what if you are in the latter group and don't have a hot take on fast food's business ethics? What if you don't have a strong opinion on whatever topic you are told to write about?

That’s fine—hey, it happens—but, taking a position begins with making a decision. When writing a position paper on a topic you are lukewarm toward, use these tips to help you:

Think about how the prompt relates to you. When you were a kid, did you like being advertised to? Did it annoy you, or do you feel nostalgic about it? Did it hurt you or disillusion you? Did it broaden your mind or prepare you for the real world? Did you ever notice how advertising affected your friends or siblings?

Think about how the prompt relates to others, and empathize. If you were a parent, would you care? Do you sympathize with this parent? If you were an advocate of free speech, would you care? Do you sympathize with this advocate?

If all else fails, take the position you feel strongest about. You might find your stance strengthened with time!

So, you've taken a position on the topic. Now the question is, can you make arguments to support your point? Are there counterarguments? It's time to turn your position into a thesis statement.

Make your Essay Position Stronger

It’s one thing to take a position. It’s another thing to take a position that makes for a great paper. A strong position statement is put in your thesis statement.

Thesis Statement: A sentence that states your position on a complex and arguable topic.

How are we supposed to know if we have a thesis statement, though, or something weaker? Let’s start with a non-position and grow it into a thesis statement.

Defining a non-position

A non-position is a brief personal decision regarding an inconsequential topic. This decision lasts mere moments.

I'm having pizza for dinner.

Defining a weak personal position

A weak personal position is a personal decision regarding an inconsequential topic. This decision could last days, months, or years. It remains weak because there is no argument to be had with someone else.

Pizza is my favorite dinner.

Defining a personal position

A personal position gets other people involved, which is good, but the argument you could have with someone else would be a battle of opinions, not facts. Your argument would also be limitless, as there are countless examples of pizzas and dinners. Where do you even begin? A strong position has specific topics.

Pizza is the best dinner.

Example of a weak position

A weak position is like a personal position, but it is limited. You are beginning to form an argument about a specific topic.

Papa Domino’s Pizza Shack has the tastiest pizza among pizza chains.

Here, the scope of the argument is limited to only pizza chains. You could also cite some “evidence” to support this argument, such as sales figures and polls, although is this evidence of causation or correlation? You can’t really know, because tastiness isn’t a quantifiable metric.

Causation vs. Correlation: When taking your position on a topic, always bear in mind how you are going to support that position. Helpful in this endeavor is knowing the difference between causation and correlation.

Causation proves cause and effect, while correlation suggests cause and effect. You want to prove causation because proving cause and effect supports a position. Suggesting a cause and effect relationship proves nothing. Take a position and prove causation with a lot of strong, non-circumstantial evidence!Here's a useful trick. Take a cause and effect relationship, then imagine that the cause stops. Can you prove with evidence that the effect would also stop? If you can't prove this, you might have a case of correlation on your hands.

A position is an arguable idea. It is your stance on an open question or prompt.

Papa Domino’s Pizza Shack has the healthiest pizza among pizza chains.

Unlike taste, there is a science to healthfulness. Calories, fat, ingredients, and more can be referenced to support this position. You can cite evidence. The position remains arguable because an opponent might place different emphases on the relevant pieces of evidence.

So have we arrived at a thesis statement yet? Can we start our position paper? Not quite yet, but we are almost there. The final step is making your position complex.

Example of a Strong Essay Position

At last, we are going to turn our position into a thesis statement.

Papa Domino’s Pizza Shack, which has some of the healthiest pizza among pizza chains, is leading the fight against childhood obesity among its competitors, not only with its healthy pizza options but with successful ad campaigns and a truly modern company culture.

This thesis statement is loaded, as there are many points in it that need to be supported. It needs so much support, in fact, that you could write a whole position paper about it!

how to take a position in an essay hot take StudySmarterWell what do you know? We have hot food takes after all, pixabay.com

Not only does the claim "Papa Domino's Pizza Shack has some of the healthiest pizza" require support, but so does the claim that it is "leading the fight among its competitors," has "successful ad campaigns," and has a "truly modern company culture." What even is a "truly modern" company culture? Presumably, this paper will explain that and tie it into how Papa Domino’s Pizza Shack is leading the fight against childhood obesity.

We use the term "complex" to describe a great thesis statement because there are many ways attack it and defend it. A good position has a lot of room for discussion—so much room for it that you don't have time or space to possibly cover every argument. If you can cover every argument against your thesis statement in your paper, you should choose a position that gives you too much information to discuss.

Now that we have defined a good position (in a thesis statement), let's discuss the language of writing one for yourself.

Writing a Position in an Essay

Your position will be clearly stated in the introductory paragraph of your essay or position paper. When it comes to writing the position itself, here are some do’s and don’ts.

Do be clear when taking a position

This is no time to hide behind vague words and ideas. When taking a position in an essay, take a position. A vague position doesn't get your point across, such as this statement:

Non-organic fertilizer has interesting qualities when compared to organic fertilizer.

Even at the risk of hurting the feelings of non-organic fertilizer, you should say what you mean about the topic. A clear position leaves no doubt in anyone's mind.

Organic fertilizer has superior qualities to non-organic fertilizer.

Do not exaggerate your position

It’s great to take a strong stance, but don’t go too far. You are writing an essay or position paper, not a clickbait article. “They won’t believe what I say next!” shouldn’t be something you think when turning in your paper. Keep all your arguments within the realm of reason. You are concerned with the facts.

Do think ahead about the rest of your paper

To study smarter, always think ahead. Consider how many body paragraphs you can crank out using your chosen position, and consider your introduction and conclusion. Your position might seem really juicy at the outset, but shrivel as you outline it.

Do not fear reassessing your position

If your position is doomed to failure, don’t fear letting go. The longer you hold onto a weak position, the more time you waste. While it’s good to get as much out of your position as possible, understand that it has limits. Don’t wait for your pen to run dry three paragraphs in. Write a new position.

Taking a position in a timed essay: Whether it is for a classroom or standardized test, you will need to take a position on a short, timed essay prompt. To set yourself up for success, take the position for which you have the most evidence memorized. In a timed essay, your goal is to create a well-supported argument that demonstrates your knowledge of the prompt.

So don’t worry as much about your passion for the topic, or about opening the floor to limitless debate. When taking a position in a timed essay, reading comprehension is the skill to utilize. You want to prove how much you remembered and understood.

How to take a position in an essay - Key takeaways

  • A position is your stance on an open question or prompt. Avoid trying to take a position on a closed question.
  • Choose a relatable position. If you feel strongly about your position, you will have more to write.
  • Make sure your position is ripe for arguments and counterarguments.
  • The thesis statement is where you state your strong position.
  • A thesis statement needs to be multi-faceted, meaning it has many faces to attack and defend.
  • Use clear language when taking a position.
  • Don't be gimmicky. Stick to a reasonable position on the topic.
  • Outline your paper to be sure your position supplies enough material to write about.
  • If your position on the topic is weak, rework it early on.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to take a position in an essay

A position is your stance on an open question or prompt. It is arguable from both sides.

Your position will be clearly stated in your introductory paragraph in the thesis statement.

A strong position statement is a thesis statement: a complex and arguable position on a topic. A thesis statement has many ways to attack it and defend it, and has a lot of room for discussion.

Think about how the prompt relates to you. Think about how the prompt relates to others, and empathize. Take a position that has arguments and counterarguments, and for which you have a lot of evidence.

Take a position that has arguments and counterarguments, and for which you have a lot of evidence.

Final How to take a position in an essay Quiz

Question

"Home Store has the lowest cost hammers."

Is this a thesis statement? 

Show answer

Answer

No. "Lowest cost hammers" among what? Always be specific. This position is also not complex. There is only one way to attack or defend this position.

Show question

Question

When taking a position...

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Answer

Avoid personal positions

Show question

Question

Is a prompt like an open or closed question?

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Answer

Open. This means there is room for debate. It is not scientific fact.

Show question

Question

"How does a balloon stay afloat?"


Is this a closed question?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. The answer is known science.

Show question

Question

What is the strongest type of position, in terms of writing an essay?

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Answer

A thesis statement.

Show question

Question

What is a non-position?

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Answer

A non-position is a brief personal decision regarding an inconsequential topic. This decision lasts mere moments.

Show question

Question

What is a position?

Show answer

Answer

Your stance on an open question or prompt.

Show question

Question

If your position is arguable, have you created a thesis statement?

Show answer

Answer

Not yet, as a thesis statement needs to be complex. It has many ways to attack it and defend it. It has a lot of room for discussion.

Show question

Question

You can write a whole essay about your position. Are you headed in the right direction?

Show answer

Answer

Of course you are! Writing an essay is kinda the point here, after all.

Show question

Question

"A position is stated in the first body paragraph."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Your position should be made clear in the introduction.

Show question

Question

"Clarity is a secondary concern when taking a position."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Clarity is critical when taking a position.

Show question

Question

"Do not exaggerate your position in an essay."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True. Keep your position within the realm of reason, as you are unlikely to impress your grader. You wouldn't believe what they've already seen!

Show question

Question

Where does your position belong?

Show answer

Answer

In the introductory paragraph.

Show question

Question

When should you reassess your position?

Show answer

Answer

If you find that it is weak. If you find that you have little to say about it. Remember to reassess early!

Show question

Question

Your position is defensible and has no holes. Is it a strong position for an essay?

Show answer

Answer

No. You want to take a position that fosters debate. If your position cannot be attacked, it might answer a closed question.

Show question

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