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Developing and Writing a Strong Discussion Paper


Issue Criteria

To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of a topic that interests you. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure that you will be able to present a strong argument:

· Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty?

· Can you distinctly identify two positions?

· Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions?

· Is the issue narrow enough to be manageable?

Analyzing an Issue and Developing an Argument

Once your topic is selected, you should do some research on the subject matter. While you may already have an opinion on your topic and an idea about which side of the argument you want to take, you need to ensure that your position is well supported. Listing out the pro and con sides of the topic will help you examine your ability to support your counterclaims, along with a list of supporting evidence for both sides. Supporting evidence includes the following:

· Factual knowledge - Information that is verifiable and agreed upon by almost everyone.

· Statistical Inferences - Interpretation and examples of an accumulation of facts.

· Informed Opinion - Opinion developed through research and/or expertise of the claim.

· Personal Testimony - Personal experience related by a knowledgeable party.

In considering your audience, ask yourself the following questions:

· Is your topic interesting?

· Can you manage the material within the specifications set by the tutor?

· Does your topic assert something specific and propose a plan of action?

· Do you have enough material to support an opinion?

What is a Discussion Paper

A discussion paper is a formal discourse or exposition on a topic in which there is an exchange of views culled from the literature. A discussion paper differs from a position paper in that a discussion paper consists of the reasoned defense of your recommendations. In order to offer your own recommendations on an issue, you must present a variety of opinions or recommendations based on the literature. Your goal in writing a discussion paper is to formulate and share your own opinions so that your recommendations are a natural extension of your paper.

Writing a Discussion Paper

There are a variety of things a discussion paper can aim to accomplish. Many features of good discussion writing invite comparison and contrast of specific authors, clinical practice, or different interpretations of a nursing issue, such as telehealth. Discussing the significance of both what is common and what is different will prompt you and the reader to new insights.

A good discussion paper is modest, and makes a small point, but it makes that point clearly and succinctly, and it offers good reasons in support of it. In other words, your paper must offer recommendations. It can't consist in the mere report of your opinions, nor in a mere report of the opinions of the authors you discuss.

A discussion paper usually begins by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration. Then it goes on to do one or two of the following:

· Criticize that argument; or show that certain arguments for the thesis are no good

· Defend the argument or thesis against someone else's criticism

· Offer reasons to believe the thesis

· Offer counter-examples to the thesis

· Contrast the strengths and weaknesses of two opposing views about the thesis

· Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible

· Argue that certain authors are committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis

· Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true

· Revise the thesis, in the light of some objection

Your paper has to show some independent thinking. Try to come up with your own arguments, or your own way of elaborating or criticizing or defending some issue we looked at in this course. Merely summarizing what others have said won't be enough.

Proposed Outline of a Discussion Paper


· Briefly highlight the most salient points of your topic

· State your main thesis on the topic for discussion


· Provide background information from the literature on your general topic area

Definition and Scope

· Provide a definition of your topic Outline the scope of the topic-does this affect all of Canada, or just your province or your health care region? Explain.

· How do nurses or the health care system factor into the topic?

Benefits and Challenges

· Describe the benefits to nurses or the health care system

· Describe the challenges that nurses [or other health care providers] face in this topic

· What does the literature say about the benefits and challenges?

Impact and Implications

· What is the impact on nurses or the health care system?

· How will this affect human resource management?

· What other implications do you foresee; what does the literature say about implications?


· What do you think needs to be done next?

· Who do you think should be involved?

· What are the recommendations from the literature?

· Would you agree or disagree with the literature and why?

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