Term papers are four page essays in which students must defend a particular claim that is relevant to the subject matter of the course.
The process for writing these papers:
· Go over ethicist Lawrence Hinman’s guide to writing ethics papers1 and review the section that offers suggestions for writing a philosophy paper in the article we read from Pojman in the beginning of the course.
· Decide on a topic to write about. You could look over the syllabus and other material that we have covered to decide which of the topics has been the most interesting to you. You can also look ahead to topics that we have not yet covered, and skim some of the reading.
· After selecting a topic, look more closely at the material that we have covered on that topic, including PowerPoints, your notes, quizzes, and reading material. Think about what issues have been raised that you want to discuss. If your topic is one we have not yet covered, you could carefully read the material for it, and then you will be a step ahead for when that reading is due.
· Next, formulate your thesis. State the claim that you want to defend as clearly and precisely as possible. Keep in mind that good philosophy papers tend to have a narrow scope. Generally, a paper that tries to defend a smaller claim such as “moral theory x is superior to moral theory y”2 will be much stronger than one defending a large claim such as “moral theory x is superior to all other moral theories and gives us the best guidance about abortion, homosexuality, and torture.”
· If… o
o you aim to respond to one of the authors we have read (in which case your thesis would say something like “Mill’s defense of his view about the qualities of pleasure is unsuccessful”), then summarize the author’s argument as clearly and precisely as possible. Explain why you do not find the argument compelling. Think about how the author might respond to your criticism, and explain why those responses do not seem compelling.
· Now, put together your paper proposal. This should be about one page long. In it, you need to summarize what you plan to write about, including the points mentioned above. If you want to do this in outline rather than paragraph form, be sure to use complete, grammatically correct sentences and give enough detail so that what you plan to write about is clear. It is possible that some of the points you plan to write about may change in the course of writing the paper, but explain your current plan as accurately as possible. Please note: failure to turn in an on time, complete paper proposal that follows these instructions will result in a grade reduction on the term paper.
2! Please note: this is just an example. You can formulate a thesis about any of the topics we’re covering.
you want to defend a thesis like the one mentioned above (“moral theory x is superior to moral theory y”), identify one or two strongest arguments in support of your position. Think about someone who disagrees with your thesis, and consider how that person might critique your argument(s). How would you respond to those critiques?
· Once you receive your proposal back, start to flesh out the ideas in greater detail, proceeding slowly. This can sometimes be a frustrating, painstaking process, but it is of utmost importance. Every claim you make should be subjected to two questions: What exactly do I mean here? and Why should anyone believe this? Again, once you have completed a full draft of the paper, it would be wise to set it aside for a few days and then return to it with these questions in mind. Though this takes extra time, it is virtually guaranteed to improve the quality of your paper.
· Besides striving for clarity, you should also seek to be as charitable as possible. If you are uncertain how to interpret an author’s ideas, you should always attribute to him or her the most plausible view that is possible. It can be tempting to saddle one’s opponents (real or imagined) with silly or crazy-sounding ideas that are easy to refute. But doing so is irresponsible. Some ideas can ultimately be shown to be false, but be very careful to avoid making a caricature of someone’s view.
Other requirements (for the paper and the paper proposal):
· Type them, using 12 pt. font, Times New Roman, 1” margins on each side;
· in the top left on the first page, single spaced, include your name, the due date, the course number,
and Term Paper Proposal or Term Paper (no title page is needed);
· for the term paper, include a title, and use footnotes wherever a reference is needed;
· for the rest of the paper, use double spacing;
· include a brief, concise introduction that says what you are going to say in the paper;
· a conclusion is optional, but if you include one, make it brief and concise;
· use either ‘he’ or ‘she’ where necessary, and you can alternate uses – this will avoid having to use
‘he/she’ or ‘their’ when the pronoun ought to be singular or other clunky pronoun usages;
· avoid grammatical and spelling errors; and
· if possible, save your assignment as a .doc file, and then submit it on Blackboard.
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