How to Write a Position Paper Part 1: Topic Background

by Xinrui Xue on March 7, 2016

252A position paper is a document describing a topic, your country’s position, and possible solutions. It is important to write a position paper for each of your topics because it will help you gain insight on the issue and prepare you for the MUN conference. Writing a good position paper not only requires research skills, but also involves the ability to critically analyze the information you gather through your research.

A typical position paper is 1-2 pages long and contains the following sections, which should each be 1-3 paragraphs long: Topic Background, Past International Action, Country Policy, and Possible Solutions. In this article, we will be discussing how to write the first section of a position paper–the topic background. This is the introductory section of your position paper, where you give a brief overview of the topic and why it is important.

Define the topic.

Knowing the definition to the topic you’re writing about is essential, and it is a good way to start your research. After you know the short, general definition of your topic, you should try to gather details about the issue. Read articles, reports, background guides, and other sources to get a comprehensive view of the topic.

For example, the topic of climate change is defined as “ a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere” by the United Nations. After finding this, you can now use the aforementioned sources to develop your research.

Identify key terms and answer key questions.

As you move further along in your research, you should get an idea of what key terms are related to the topic. Asking yourself “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?” can help identify important terms and help you come up with questions for your research. By analyzing these key terms and questions, you can find sub-issues that will narrow down the topic and make it easier to write the topic background.

Using the example of climate change again, some key terms could be “greenhouse gases” and “emissions”. You can pose questions such as “How are emissions causing climate changes, and who is responsible?”, which you can find the answer to through research. By using key terms and questions, you have now made your research more precise.

Use credible sources.

It is extremely important to get all of your topic background information from credible sources. This research will be the basis for your position paper and what you say in committee, so the information you gather must be factual and relevant. What are some credible sources? Since you’re doing Model UN, the most credible source is, of course, the United Nations! Other than that, news agencies, scholarly articles, and state government websites can also be reputable. Refrain from citing Wikipedia or the conference background guide, although these may be good starting points for information.

By following these tips, writing the topic background for your position paper will be easier and more effective. Stay tuned for articles on how to write the Past International Action, Country Policy, and Possible Solutions sections of your position paper!

“Want to learn more tips on how to participate in Model UN? Check out the Model United Nations Institute Diplomat Program– hosted across the United States every summer!”

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