Philosophy 3100 - Ethical Theory
Guidelines for Papers
See syllabus for length requirements and due dates of papers.
For any of your papers, you can choose your own topic. The point is to explain and defend your own idea -- this will be your thesis -- relating to something from a reading or from class. Once you have identified the idea you'd like to discuss, you need to be sure you do at least these things in your paper:
- Make it clear early on exactly what your thesis is. As a general rule, it's best if your thesis is contained in the first paragraph. It should be blatantly obvious what the thesis of your paper is. A thesis, just to be sure, is a claim -- something that you think is true. It is the goal of your paper to convince the reader that your thesis is true. Your thesis should not be a trivial claim. It should be at least somewhat controversial or surprising or interesting.
- Provide whatever background is required to present your idea. This part of your paper will likely be merely repeating things from a reading or from class in your own words, but it is still quite important. When you do this, don't assume I know anything about your topic. Provide whatever background you'd have to provide if you were going to be explaining your idea to an intelligent friend who knew nothing about our class.
- Clearly explain your thesis. Your idea might be a criticism of some idea from a reading or from class, an objection to some argument we discussed, a way for some theory to avoid some potential problem, or just anything that relates to our material that you found interesting and worth writing down.
- Give the reasons or reasons for thinking that your thesis is true. This is the main argument of your paper.
And if you have room, you should also
- Address one or more possible objections to or criticisms of your thesis. This would, of course, require first explaining the objection or criticism before you address it.
Whatever your idea is, it can't be too big. The papers for this class are not long, and there isn't space to do anything very big.
Since I realize that this material is difficult and unfamiliar, and you might have a hard time coming up with your own idea on these issues just yet, you can write a paper addressing one of the pre-assigned topics. There are links to these on the main page.
Regarding format, your paper must:
- be typewritten and double-spaced, with normal fonts and margins
- be printed out (double-sided printing is best) and submitted in class on the due date. Do not submit your paper by email.
- contain your name on each page.
- contain page numbers on each page.
- be stapled together.
Regarding style, you should:
- aim for clarity, precision, succinctness, and directness.
- avoid flowery language, polysyllabic words, and long, winding sentences.
- you don't need to be “deep” – instead, just make it completely clear exactly what you are trying to say.
- make no spelling and grammatical mistakes – use a spell checker and get a good style manual.
General Guidance. Here are two helpful guides on writing a philosophy paper. Please look them over.
Cheating: You are encouraged to discuss your paper with others in the class; however, the paper you turn in must be your own work. Students turning in duplicate or near-duplicate papers will receive an F for the entire course and may be subject to expulsion from the university. I take cheating very seriously.
Do not quote much or at all in your papers. I want to hear the ideas in your own words. But if you must use the words of others, put them in quotation marks and cite the source. Otherwise, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism will earn you an F for the whole course and possible expulsion from the university.
Extra Assistance: I am more than happy to provide assistance to you as you work on your paper. Feel free to come to office hours with questions or just to run a rough outline by me.