Guidelines for Position Papers

In a position paper, you take a stance on some controversial issue in the information systems

area and present an argument supporting that stance. The paper should not go into technical

detail, unless that technical detail is necessary to support the argument. Citations from journals

and other sources are mandatory.

Be sure to start your paper by letting the reader know what the issue is and what position you are

taking. Also, be sure the paper ends with a conclusion that sums up your position. One common

outline is to state your position, justify it, state the opposing position(s), state why they believe it,

discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and then restate your position. “Both sides have good

arguments; I can’t decide,” is not a position. The goal of the author should be to persuade the

reader to agree with the position taken. Opinions should, wherever possible, be corroborated by

factual data. Whether the conclusions are reached by induction or deduction, the argument must

be reasonable and logical.

References are helpful (and mandatory) because they add weight to your argument. There

is a difference between, “I think it will rain tomorrow,” “Joe, the local meteorologist, thinks it

will rain tomorrow,” and “According to the Institute of Chi co Weather Prediction, which has a

98% success record in predicting weather, it will rain tomorrow.” (Of course, you are not

supposed to make up your references like I just did.) Also, “I do not believe Napster should be

put out of business because I download lots of free music,” (from a prior paper, author to remain

anonymous) is not a winning argument.

Choose a topic that is controversial. It is virtually impossible to write well on non-

controversial topics such as “Companies Should Do Backups” or “Companies should do

Training,” even though too many companies have poor backup and recovery plans and may not

do a good job at training. The point is that even poor companies agree they should have good

back-up plans and should do training.

Some examples of the types of issues are:

  • The potential impact of a new government regulations or use of technology on an                                                                                                                                                                                                           individual’s rights to confidentiality of specific types of personal information
  •  The potential impact of a technological or software development on the skills and                                                                                                                                                                                                         knowledge required of information workers in the future
  •  The potential impact of a technological or software development on a field of vital
interest to our society, such as education or medicine
  • The potential impact of a technological or software development on an entire class of                                                                                                                                                                                                          workers, e.g., health care, auto repair, travel agent, grade school teacher Privacy vs. Security                                                                                                                                                                                                Big Data analytics vs. Free will etc.
  • Do not limit yourselves to the topics above. They are just some examples to give you an idea of the types of topics you can pick.

Format Information. Adhere to the following format guidelines in writing your document.

1. The paper is to have a cover sheet that identifies:

a. the author

b. the title of the paper

c. the semester and year during which the paper was submitted

2. The second page of the paper is to contain only the title of the paper.

3. The author is to present and defend a position regarding a controversial issue.

4. The length of papers should range from 1,000 to 1,500 words (excluding references).

5. Use single space, 12-point font size and allow approximately one-inch margins

6. Include a references section

7. Incorporate APA style for references and citations (in the essay)

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