Position Papers

Whether it's the day you got your assignment or the night before it's due, you're going to have to write a position paper. Fortunately, we're here to help you get started!
If you have a position paper you would like to get reviewed, please fill out our position paper review form 
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Research

Before you dive into writing, it is important that you know what you're writing about! When it comes to doing your research, you'll need a basic understanding of: 
  • Your Country
  • Your Committee
  • Your Topic
  • Current Events

Getting Started

Your first stop should always be your background guide. It gives you the details of what your chair wants to see in your committee.
 
Google and Wikipedia are good places to start for a general overview of your topic. The Best Delegate Research Guide is another great source for advice or research links
Our delegate binder also has advice and a guide to research and write your paper.
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"MUN? More like FUN!" -Kris Bergajo

Researching Your Country!

Using the CIA world factbook, you can begin to construct a country profile: 
  • Physical Geography: Defined Territory
  • Cultural Geography: Permanent Population
  • Political Geography: Government
  • Economic Geography: Capacity to Enter into Trade 
For some additional guidance, focus on these Country Profile Research Questions

Topic Research!

The biggest part of the research phase is developing a proper understanding of your topic!
  • Break it up: Break your topic into smaller issues to make it easier to understand
  • Know the players: You should know who is most affected by the topic and who has the most impact within it
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Learn about what else has been done within your topic
  • Committee Actions: Go to your committee's website and look for the most important resolutions to your topic
  • Past Actions: Find out about past actions taken within your topic and who undertook them
  • Develop a timeline: Create a timeline of major events and important actions taken within your topic. The BBC generally has good ones. 
Make sure you understand the current state of affairs as well!
  • Google: Do a search on Yahoo! News and Google News
  • Surf the web: Printed news, online news, blogs, and think tanks are all good sources. 

How to MUN: Position Papers

With all the research under your belt. It's finally time to begin writing that paper!

Step 1: Topic Background

Most Common Pitfalls:

  • The epic novel — I love exploring my topic. I like to know everything about what is happening, who is involved, and what other issues it is linked with. But while this is great knowledge to have in committee, not all of it belongs in your position paper. The name of the game is clear and concise. While it may be tempting to place the bulk of your paper’s length here, keep in mind that the most important section is your proposed solutions.

 

Essential Goals:

  • Project, don’t reflect — The chair won’t be testing you on what the issue used to be. They want to know where you think it’s going. The goal of this section is not to reflect the past, but project the future. This way, you can determine the most pressing matters to deal with. That being said, this section should focus on analyzing trends in where the issue appears and identifying obstacles to resolving it.

  • Break it down — One of the most important things you can set up in this section is sub-issues. By breaking the issue down into smaller topics, you make the initial problem more manageable and have more targeted goals to frame your solutions.

Formula:

  • Name at least three regions or nations in which the issue is most pronounced.

  • Name at least two things these regions or nations have in common that could be the source of the issue.

  • Name three relevant historical events that led up to the issue.

  • Look at the research collected so far and note any trends and conditions under which the issue appears.

  • Find three sub-issues associated with the topic.

  • For each sub-issue, explain what the deterrent has been in resolving it. Can the UN not enter the nation? Is there too little stability? A lack of education? What factors have made this issue so prominent and difficult to solve?

 

Step 2: Past UN Actions

Most Common Pitfalls:

  • The resolution focus — Many delegates tend to interpret this section heading to mean “past resolutions,” but in reality, UN resolutions are only the beginning. Oftentimes the most significant information in this section will come from broader action plans or collaborative efforts taken by regional bodies or NGOs. For example, the functions of oversight bodies are not necessarily connected to a resolution. Turning this into a paragraph about past resolutions limits the options you can explore.

  • Listing — Many delegates place so much focus on compiling a strong list of resolutions that pertain to the topic, that they pass over the analysis part, which is the real purpose of this section.

Essential Goals:

  • Analyze Solutions — Instead of providing a vast quantity of actions, choose a few significant resolutions or action plans and dig into the reasons these plans may have succeeded or failed. This will be the precedent by which you will frame your own solutions to the issue.

  • Explore failures as well as successes — Many position papers place the focus of this section on what has been done about the issue. While it is important to understand what plans are already in place, it is equally beneficial to understand what ideas have failed and why. In the case of resolutions, a failed resolution is just as important as a passed one, so take into account why it failed.

Formula:

  • Find two unique, significant action plans implemented by the UN or other international bodies.

  • For each action plan, answer the following:

    • What were the goals of the plan, and were they accomplished?
    • Is the plan still in effect?

    • What elements may have contributed to the plan’s success/failure?

    • What elements of this plan can be adapted to fit the issue at hand?

  • Find two to three resolutions that attempted to deal with the issue. Note whether they passed or failed.

  • For each resolution, answer the following:

    • If the resolution failed, specify why.
    • Was it vetoed? What parties voted it down and why might they have done so?

 

Step 3: National Policy

Most Common Pitfalls:

  • The neutral nation — Some nations simply don’t have as strong a policy as others. It may be difficult to find exact quotes from government officials or public records of less polarized nations on less controversial issues. In those instances, some extrapolation may be necessary.

Essential Goals:

  • Explore both the internal and external — Don’t limit yourself to actions your nation has taken on the international stage. Take some time to explore your nation’s official websites and public records to find out what has been done within your own national borders. Internal legislature and action plans are an excellent source of ideas for dealing with the issue, and they are a surefire way to find out how your nation feels about the issue. Additionally, plans that are implemented by a single nation will often be much stronger and more action-oriented than international plans.

  • Extrapolate — Look at factors other than what your nation has done overtly, such as its core values (national sovereignty, humanitarian relief, etc.) and any regional, religious, or political bodies it belongs to (OPEC, NATO, AL). Use this information to determine more about your nation’s policy than is immediately evident from their voting records. Remember: every nation has a policy, even if it isn’t expressed as strongly as those of other nations.

 

Formula:

  • Two internal policies or pieces of legislature your nation has implemented that are relevant to the issue

  • Two programs your nation has supported or been involved in at the international level

  • Two resolutions your nation has voted for or against

  • Identify at least two trends among the things your nation has or has not supported.

  • An objective analysis of what you feel are the most important goals of your nation. Do you believe in defending national sovereignty? In addressing humanitarian issues above political ones? What is your nation’s agenda?

 

Step 4: Proposed Solutions

This is where your solution-focused position paper starts to do the work for you. Looking into your background research, you already know the preventable events that created the issue and know three smaller issues to focus in on. From past UN actions, you know what types of plans have succeeded and failed in the past, and have even drawn conclusions as to what caused them to do so. You also know which ones are still in effect. All you have to decide is which ones you want to amend, expand, or discontinue. The beautiful thing about solutions found in this way is that because they already exist, the United Nations does not have to spend valuable time and money setting up an entirely new institution to manage a complex plan. Looking into your nation’s policy, you also know what measures have proven effective or ineffective at the national level. Based on those experiences, you know what sorts of actions the UN can encourage other nations to take, and even aid them in doing so. The final part of your proposed solutions is making sure that you have addressed all three of your sub-issues.

 

Using the Formula:

  • When doing research, fill out the formula like a worksheet. Gathering your information in a linear format, piece by piece, will make your paper come together in a much quicker, more complete manner.

  • To make your works cited page as easy as your paper, simply fill in the information like a work sheet, noting your source next to the topic it pertains to. This will make citing your sources a piece of cake, whether you are using parenthetical or footnotes.

Sample Papers

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Regular

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Specialized

Crisis and some specialty committees have different formats for their papers. This includes writing for characters as opposed to countries, you can take a look at a sample paper above!