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Position Paper

A position paper is a paper in which you express an opinion about a topic, and use evidence to back up that opinion. In other words, you’re taking a side on some question or controversy, and you use reasoning and research to support your side of the argument.

You’ll write an essay discussing a turning point in Roman history of your choice, examining, the source material, causes, and effects of the event or transformation and drawing your own conclusions about its meaning.


Optional Draft

I urge you submit a draft of your paper. What I’ll give you is a general evaluation, not a detailed critique; but if you’re having trouble with your paper, submitting a draft and getting feedback on it may improve your final work. Submitting a draft on time will be worth 5 extra points on the total paper grade.

Final Paper

The paper will be due by beginning of class on the date scheduled on the Assignment Schedule. Papers will be evaluated for (a) the argument and evidence you bring to bear on your topic (we’ll be discussing both of these in class, as well as research strategies), and (b) clarity of presentation.

As stated in the syllabus, late papers will be marked down ten points per class meeting. You can submit your paper electronically, but it doesn’t “count” unless you get a reply from me.


For your topic, choose one of the 14 meeting topics for the course and decide on a controversy or debate that pertains to that topic.

You can choose something that the people at the time might have debated—e.g., “Should we expand into the east?” as a question arising around 200 BCE, or a question arising now among historians—e.g., “When did the Republic end?” In each case you need to outline both sides of the question in your paper and then provide evidence why you think one side was right.


  • Your optional draft is due April 30
  • Your final paper is due May 14


Take a position on one of the following topics and state it in your introductory paragraph. In the body of your paper, work through all of the arguments in favor of your position, using information and authority judgments you’ve gathered from your own research. Make sure to include opposing arguments – use your research and conclusions to refute them. Conclude with a summary paragraph restating your position and your strongest arguments in support of it.

This paper MUST

  • Be typed, double-spaced, in 12 pt. Times or Arial, with one-inch margins on all sides. Please spellcheck and, if you’re not sure about your writing, have a friend read it. I will not mark down for grammar, but clarity is very important.
  • Have a cover page with the title, your name, my name, and the date; and page numbers on each page after the cover.
  • Run 6 to 8 full pages, not including the cover page. Papers that are too short will be marked down!
  • Have all direct quotations, indirect quotations, and ideas from other sources footnoted according to the style discussed in class. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT; failure to do this will seriously affect your grade.
  • Have a Bibliography with at least 3 distinct works. These may be books, articles, or both; they may be primary sources, secondary sources, or both, but you should use at least one primary source.
  • Use NO INTERNET SOURCES apart from scholarly journals.
  • Use NO TERTIARY SOURCES (encyclopedias or textbooks).
  • Analyze, not merely describe.

Copying or plagiarism will result in a zero. I want your analysis, not someone else’s.

Finally, choose a topic you’re interested in and have fun with it. Make it wacky, make it provocative—anything is fine as long as you make an argument regarding your chosen topic and support it with facts.