For instance, suppose youre writing a paper about abortion, and you want to assert the claim what do you mean by a person? That will make a big difference to whether your audience should find this premise acceptable
Do your friends understand your main point? Are parts of your draft unclear or confusing to them? If your friends cant understand something youve written, then neither will your grader be able to understand it
It also helps ensure that youre in a position to what your main argument or criticism is, before you sit down to write a full draft of your paper. But you should try to come up with your own arguments, or your own way of elaborating or criticizing or defending some argument we looked at in class
If you cant figure out what some sentence contributes to your central discussion, then get rid of it. Make sure that your reader can tell what the point of every paragraph is. Do you clearly state what youre trying to accomplish in your paper? Is it obvious to the reader what your main thesis is? Do you offer supporting arguments for the claims you make? Is it obvious to the reader what these arguments are? Is the structure of your paper clear? For instance, is it clear what parts of your paper are expository, and what parts are your own positive contribution? Do you illustrate your claims with good examples? Do you explain your central notions? Do you say exactly what you mean? The comments i find myself making on students philosophy papers most often are these explain this claim or what do you mean by this? Or i dont understand what youre saying here this passage is unclear (or awkward, or otherwise hard to read) too complicated too hard to follow simplify why do you think this? This needs more support why should we believe this? Explain why this is a reason to believe p explain why this follows from what you said before a kind of complaint that is common in undergraduate philosophy papers goes like this philosopher x assumes a and argues from there to b
Here are some more interesting things our student could have done in his paper. Dont write using prose you wouldnt use in conversation if you wouldnt say it, dont write it. But the student hasnt really philosopher xs view in an interesting way. Pretend that your reader has not read the material youre discussing, and has not given the topic much thought in advance
Hence, dont start with assumptions which your opponents are sure to reject. The aim of these papers is for you to show that you understand the material and that youre able to think critically about it. Writing a good philosophy paper takes a great deal of preparation
Your grade will suffer if your paper has these defects. Part of what youre being graded on is how well you can do that. The aim of these papers is for you to show that you understand the material and that youre able to think critically about it. If you understand the material youre writing about, and if you aim your paper at such a reader, youll probably get an a
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Its ok to end a sentence with a preposition. You may come up with some objection to your view to which you have no good answer. For example, suppose you write is that what you really mean? So when oswald murdered kennedy, was that the same thing as aborting kennedy? Or do you mean something different? Perhaps you mean that abortion is murder.
One or two well-mapped paths are better than an impenetrable jungle. Often it will be more appropriate to paraphrase what x says, rather than to quote him directly. If the quoted passage contains a central claim or assumption, then indicate what that claim is.
Theyll change some words, omit others, but generally stay very close to the original text. So the author of the paraphrase appears not to have understood what hume was saying in the original passage. Ive discovered time and again while teaching philosophy that i couldnt really explain properly some article or argument i thought i understood.
Examples are also useful for explaining the notions that play a central role in your argument. Hence, dont start with assumptions which your opponents are sure to reject. Use your draft and the comments you received on it to construct a new outline, and write from keep in mind that when i or your ta grade a rewrite, we may sometimes notice weaknesses in unchanged parts of your paper that we missed the first time around.
But dont treat the philosopher or the views youre discussing as stupid. This will help you understand the issues better, and it will make you recognize what things you still dont fully understand. If youre assessing two positions and you find, after careful examination, that you cant decide between them, thats okay.
I strongly recommend that you make an outline of your paper, and of the arguments youll be presenting, before you begin to write. You should always make it clear how you understand these notions, even if they are familiar from everyday discourse. Here are some more interesting things our student could have done in his paper. See my tips on then ask yourself are xs arguments good ones? Are his assumptions clearly stated? Are they plausible? Are they reasonable starting-points for xs argument, or ought he have provided some independent argument for them? Make sure you understand exactly what the position youre criticizing says. But i hope youll all do better than that.
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But note that this too is a claim or most pressing However, this argument is faulty.
The author of the paraphrase appears not to want to figure out what your argument is.
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In philosophical prose, you have to be sure to say exactly what you mean. It is always better to concentrate on one or two points and develop them in depth than to try to cram in too much. For example, suppose you write is that what you really mean? So when oswald murdered kennedy, was that the same thing as aborting kennedy? Or do you mean something different? Perhaps you mean that abortion is murder.
If you understand the material youre writing about, and if you aim your paper at such a reader, youll probably get an a. You should assume that your audience does already accept your position and you should treat your paper as an attempt to persuade such an audience. As you read each sentence, say things like this to yourself does this really make sense? Thats totally unclear! That sounds pretentious.
Use your draft and the comments you received on it to construct a new outline, and write from keep in mind that when i or your ta grade a rewrite, we may sometimes notice weaknesses in unchanged parts of your paper that we missed the first time around. Your reader shouldnt have to exert any effort to figure it out. It have held, or should have held, though you cant find any direct evidence of that view in the text.
And dont turn in your only copy! (these things should be obvious, but apparently theyre not. Explain why its not clear which of these interpretations is correct. Explain it give an example make it clear how the point helps your argument.
But the student hasnt really philosopher xs view in an interesting way. One or two well-mapped paths are better than an impenetrable jungle. Use technical philosophical terms only where you need them.
You just have to make it clear that youre doing this. Quotations should never be used as a substitute for your own explanation. The overall clarity of your paper will greatly depend on its structure. I find that making an outline is at least 80 of the work of writing a good philosophy paper. So everything turns here on what the author means by person.
Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper
Three Stages of Writing 1. Early Stages The early stages of writing a philosophy paper include everything you do before you sit down and write your first draft. These early stages will involve writing, but you won't yet be trying to write a complete paper.
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For instance, some philosophers use the word person to mean any being which is capable of rational thought and self-awareness. Nothing should go into your paper which does not that problem. There are two main problems with paraphrases of this sort...
Also, dont begin with a sentence like websters dictionary defines a soul as. Try to figure out what reasonable position the philosopher could have had in mind, and direct your arguments against in your paper, you always have to explain what a position says before you criticize it...