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Trends in Health Care Delivery (25:705:223): Writing issues papers

Designed for students in 25:705:223 to support their issues paper

Tips for success with issues papers

     In an issues paper, you are focusing on persuading rather than informing your reader.  While library research is fundamental to both an issues and a research paper, the nature of the information you select may differ.  While you weave your sources into your paper, your voice takes precedence.  You are making a unique and valuable contribution to the conversation about the issue.


 Testing your issue

  • Would reasonable people have more than one response?  Can someone disagree with the issue?  Is the issue debatable?
  • Can the issue be narrowed sufficiently to be thoroughly explored in the space available?  (narrowing the issue will make your argument more effective)
  • Why do you want to write about the issue?  Are you personally interested in it?  (this will help sustain you through the effort of writing the paper)
  • Can you find evidence to support your position on the issue?

Getting started

      Use your emotions to help you focus on the issue.

  • Write informally about your feelings when you think or read or speak about the issue.  Are you angry, afraid, or full of pity?  Why? 
  •  Make a list of the reasons for your feelings.  Thinking intellectually, add other points to the list that you may have missed.
  • Now consider opposite points of view.  Use them to clarify your ideas.

Types of sources for evidence to support your argument (be sure to verify the credibility of your sources!)

  •  Facts, events, dates
  •  Statistics – interpretation of facts
  •  Informed opinion – developed through research and/or expertise of another on your issue
  •  Personal testimony – personal experience related by a knowledgeable party

 Format of paper

Two models are suggested for issues papers:

First: the general format model



                        Establish your premise and why you’re taking the position

                        Include appropriate place for illustrative anecdote or quotation


                        Begin with counter arguments and support for counterclaims

                        Refute and include evidence

                        State your position on the issue

                        Use separate paragraph for each reason and incorporate sources


                        Review major reasons to reinforce your purpose

                        Include plan of action, if appropriate

Second model:


                        Introduce issues and capture reader’s interest

            Statement of background

                        Provide information reader needs to know to understand your point of



                        Interpret the information you’ve provided and define terms


                        Give the reasons (with evidence) for the position you’ve taken


      Indicate why you’re not persuaded by the arguments of different positions/claims       (shows you are knowledgeable about all aspects of the issue)


                        Summarize important points

       Frieda Mendelsohn, mentor at Empire State College, has written a helpful guide on writing issue papers for her students.  She includes tips on organizing, where to begin writing (not with the introduction!)  Check out her guide:


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