View this PageEdit this Page (locked)Uploads to this PageHistory of this PageHomeRecent ChangesSearchHelp Guide


Policy Position Short Paper (30 points: 20 from final paper, 10 from participation)

Original Assignment Details still apply, this document simply provides more detail.

With the Mock Congress completed, you now may turn your attention to completing the Policy Position Short Paper. Here are some reminders and additional pointers. NOTE that some dates have CHANGED to help you pace your progress through this assignment.

DUE DATES (see specific instructions below)

You should have already completed a draft of your paper. This was only a first draft! Assume that no paper worthy of a high grade was ever submitted as a first-and-only draft. During the week following Spring Break, March 28-Apr 1, review your draft and make any changes you think are appropriate.

Between April 2 and April 7 (was April 5) other students will be able to read your draft and offer comments. Likewise, you are REQUIRED to evaluate and post comments on at least two other students’ draft papers (try to choose those that do not already have more than three evaluations posted); your contributions to their papers will be assessed as “participation.” Be as constructive as possible by suggesting sources, arguments, etc., and not simply finding weaknesses. Use the suggestions in the suggested structure section below to help you make useful comments. Your comments must be posted by midnight, April 7.

Between April 7 and April 19 (was April 14), revise your argument and redraft your paper. No later than midnight on April 19 (no exceptions), papers must be posted on the web site and also submitted to the professor by email (Word, 12-point Times font, file name “PolicyPaper_[your name].” Do NOT submit a paper copy. Suggested length is 1200-1600 words. Appropriate formatting of references is shown below.

Read your paper carefully before submitting it, preferably aloud. Spell-checking is not sufficient. Eliminate exaggerated or needlessly provocative assertions. To quote Strunk and White's Elements of Style (which should be owned and studied by everyone), "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences." If a word or sentence adds nothing (often because you have already made the point), get rid of it.

The original objectives and criteria for this assignment are unchanged: (1) Effectiveness at using print, web, and other sources efficiently and wisely, (2) Ability to contribute to the work of others, (3) Ability to write a coherent, well-structured policy position paper.

A policy argument is successful not only when you convince someone to agree with you. It can be considered successful if an opponent has no alternative but to acknowledge that you have made a strong case, and that your disagreement derives primarily from differing values or objectives.

SUGGESTED (suggested! not mandatory!) STRUCTURE:
  1. The topic is introduced and placed in a larger context (historical, other current issues, current political implications, etc.) to demonstrate its importance and relevance.
  2. Your argument begins with your claim or position. It must be stated clearly, but you may wish to qualify or limit the scope of your claim by acknowledging complexities, uncertainties, pluralism, etc. Throughout your paper, you should distinguish factual aspects of your claim (what “is”) from evaluative aspects (whether the current state of affairs is “desirable”) and from your advocacy claims (what “should be done,” derived by combining the purported reality of what you assert “is” and your values, i.e., “what should be”).
  3. Proceed with your argument, remembering that a good argument will contain most of the following:
    1. Knowledge claims: statements that build on demonstrable knowledge (e.g., data, statistics, experts’ statements, etc.), the sources of which you should be able to cite. You cannot build a strong argument on a shaky foundation.
    2. Self-skeptical extensions of knowledge claims: what the demonstrable knowledge implies for your argument (what do these “facts” mean for your claim) – but self-skeptical because you recognize that data are usually incomplete and can be selectively chosen, and because other experts’ opinions could be used to refute your argument. You must admit to your assumptions and the potential weaknesses in your knowledge claims, but by doing so you will strengthen your position.
    3. Contextual acknowledgements: recognition that your argument may be dependent on factors such as when, where, by whom, under current law or constitutional interpretation, etc.
  4. Finish with a “therefore” conclusion: having built a case with a series of “whereas” claims, you now are explicit about your objectives and how your argument justifies your claims.
  5. Now set the paper aside for a day, then review it one more time. Any unsupportable assertions or assumptions? Did you forget to cite a source? Does your argument flow from introduction to your position to supporting claims to conclusion? Most importantly, would this paper convince you if it had been written by someone else?

Papers must be posted on the web site and also submitted to the professor by email (Word, 12-point Times font, file name “PolicyPaper_[your name].” The paper should use twelve-point Times font, one-inch margins all around. References should be in the text in the form (Burdell 1982, 17) with the list of references at the end, not in footnotes. Footnotes to explain or elaborate on the text may be used, but sparingly.

Citations should be in the form

Book: George P. Burdell. 1982. The History of Georgia Tech. Atlanta: Georgia Tech Press.

Article: Chan Gailey. 2001. “The Secrets of ACC Football,” Sports Today 10: 51-68.

Chapter: G. Wayne Clough. 2000. “The Future of Georgia Tech.” In Educating the Future Engineer: From Equations to Equality, edited by Michael Johnson and Cynthia Smith, 181-199. Washington: University Press.

Web: Nancy Diamond and Hugh Davis Graham, “How Should We Rate Research Universities?” [web page] Feb 2001; [Accessed 16 Mar 2001].

Link to this Page