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How to Research for a Model UN Position Paper

Great! You’ve now outlined your position paper (or should have!) and it’s time to start researching. With so many available resources, it is important to map out a strategy to effectively and efficiently research for your position paper. Because of the complexity of so many Model UN topics, you could spend years digging through material. Therefore, we’ve developed the following steps to help you narrow your focus to write a position paper.

Step One: Identify What to Research

Look back at that outline you developed in the previous step. That’s what you need to research! Spend time learning about the history of your issue area, your state’s relationship to the issue, and most importantly possible solutions. You should spend the majority of your time (that’s more than 50% for those of you at home), researching solutions. Remember, that’s what your resolution should focus on.

Step Two: Know Where to Research

There’s nothing wrong with starting your research on Wikipedia! Some might consider this blasphemous, but it is truly a great starting point– notice the emphasis on starting point. From there, you can gain an understanding of what you need to dig into deeper. There are so many great resources out there and rather than list them (which would be impossible), here is a list of the typeof research you should be looking for:

  • News Articles– focus on recent news but don’t avoid exposes and features written within the past 10 years. Great sources for international news include the BBC, Al-Jazeera, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times;
  • Editorials and Opinion Pieces– many of the same news sources publish opinion content (it’s very important to know the difference!). Look for editorials and submissions from respected sources, such as economists, political figures, and political activists for their insights;
  • Working Papers– states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and other agencies will often times publish working papers on a given topic. Run an online search for “[topic] working papers” and see if you can find current working papers;
  • UN Documents– makes sure to research passed UN resolutions from the General Assembly and Security Council on your topic.
Step Three: Summarize What You’ve Read and Analyze Why it was Written

Please don’t print out all of the great research you’ve found. For one, trees hurt every time you print something unnecessarily. Second, you’re probably never going to re-read what you’ve already read. So this is a simple step: write a 2-3 sentence summary of what you’ve read. Make sure to make note of any bias and note where in your outline the research is more applicable.

Common Research Mistakes

1.) Thinking you know enough
Get this: you don’t. If you think you don’t need to research before writing and submitting a position paper, your chair or director will know you didn’t research. Yes, it is very obvious when reading through 20-200 papers to identify who put in effort and those that did not.

2.) Not keeping track of your research
Remember that great point you read about in…wait, or was it in…you forgot, didn’t you? Keep track of what you read, where you found it, and what it said.

3.) Not researching solutions
Remember the point of your position paper is to argue for a set of solutions, not simply to summarize an issue’s history.

Action Item

Go! Do it! Start researching! Follow the steps above to research for the position paper you’ve already outlined!

Continue to Lesson 4: Position Paper Solution Sets