During the semester, you are asked to write position papers of 400 words in length (one page). Please come to class weekly with your position papers in hand.


The aim here is for you to write an expository essay about an idea that you are addressing between the texts/visual artifacts for the week in question. Writing, like speaking, forms part of a critical process of thinking through what we are learning.  Just like we speak to friends about a problem seeking advice or to help make a decision, writing serves this same function as it forces us to look at a polemic from various angles, think it through critically on paper, and then to return to it over time for reassessment. Writing forces us to analyze and take a position. Paradoxically, through the process of research and writing, often after finding a position with which we are comfortable, we reflect further only to realize that there are other valid possibilities and arguments to take in relation to the texts we are analyzing.  So I ask that you come to class weekly with these position papers written, ready to discuss with your classmates your ideas as well as to pose questions about issues you either did not understand or that you find problematic. 


Each position paper will focus on the readings and visual art for the week. Because I want to read your individual analysis on the readings/visual searches available, I ask that you submit these position papers the day the material is to be discussed in class. All essays must be typed and follow the submission format (sample position paper) and implement the methods of research & writing and the Protocol for Submission of Written Work). Since these are one page critical essays, please do not submit a bibliography.  Also because these are a critical take on two known texts each week, only parenthetical references to page numbers or author is necessary (ie. the year is not necessary for this brief exercise) only for quotations or for the citation of information derived from said source.  Any late or emailed papers will not be accepted. Likewise please do not submit your work through a third-party.  You are responsible for submitting your position paper personally. 


These position papers are an exercise to contemplate individually and express in writing your original interpretations. These essays are an exercise to reflect and articulate your understanding in writing of a specific idea (which is for you to decide) of the material at hand, and not to present what you think I want to read. It is also important to note that these essays are not textual explanations or book reports.  Instead, these essays should expose concise arguments that analyze and criticize a concept presented in the readings of the week. In other words, the purpose of these position papers is not to say: “The author says X or P and I think P is correct,”  but rather,  “My view of text Q is P  for reasons X, Y, Z.”


It is also important to note that the reasons which you give to support your point of view should be clear and based on textual analysis with concrete examples to back up your thoughts. This shows that you have contemplated the argument and brought the theoretical dimensions into the more practical spheres of culture, praxis, or the everyday. You can agree or disagree with the argument of the author, but it is essential to provide a critical reasoning. Finally, it is often easier to write a long work than a short work as the position paper demands that you be very concise both in language and in terms of ideas. Do not be discouraged—you will learn how to do this.  As we say in English, “practice makes perfect.”


Position papers will be evaluated based on the criteria of: 


-content (strength, persuasiveness, relevance and originality of your argument)

-methodology and analysis (suitability of method and development of analysis)

-structure (clarity of thesis, exposition and organization)

-use of evidence (quality of propriety of supporting evidence and examples)

-presentation, grammar and style


The key to this exercise is your thesis. This will determine the content of your work. A good thesis should contain the following qualities:


• It should take a position.

• It should warrant discussion. That is to say, your subject should be a problematic point of view, preferably a problem that is not too obvious. This belies your perception and reflection on the readings.

• It should ask a single idea or a relationship between several ideas. A thesis that tries to express several different ideas can confuse your work and readings.

•It should be accurate. Your thesis should not be too vague or it will be too difficult to explain in 400 words.


You are responsible for keeping track of your paper marks:  please do not ask me to tell you how many essays you have already handed in. Each week your essays will be returned to you with comments and you need to keep them as a reference.  I do keep records of your papers, but as you can imagine in large classes my having to give constant accounting on these papers would be time-consuming.  Pay special attention to the comments on your essays which will help you improve the quality of your writing during this course. (And this is the goal ultimately!)  For questions of style (the format, quotations, etc.) you will be responsible for utilizing the “MLA Formatting and Style Guide” and to format your position paper as shown in this sample position paper.  Keep in mind that position papers are one page only, so please do not use titles, headers or include bibliographies.


Here are some other aids for writing these position papers, also known as expository essays:

How to Write an Expository Essay
Writing an Expository Essay


Please refer to other links to resources throughout this website and the links on the right to assist with all questions related to your position papers.  Additionally, you can find writing assistance with XJTLU’s Continuing Support.

position papers

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