Guidelines for Writing a Strong Philosophy PaperWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Forming a Clear Thesis

A Philosophy paper makes a clear, concise, simple statement that you must defend. This statement, also known as a thesis, poses the writer's central argument. (Writer's Web help with The Thesis Statement )

If you state that "X is Y," you must also explain why you believe "X is Y" (See tips on effective language.)

"Socrates believes X; however, from the following discussion I..."

"Socrates believes X. The evidence for this claim is..."

It is perfectly acceptable to state one's opinion--a good thesis is one that takes advantage of the author's interests and beliefs--but that opinion should be reinforced with strong textual support. Be careful to choose a thesis that is both engaging and defensible.

Articulating a Precise Argument

After your introduction, it is usually a good idea to define a lot of the terms you will be using in your paper. This can include terms used by the author of interest or terms that you put forward.

Summarizing is not substantial! You do not have to create a new theory but you must establish a thesis that shows your understanding of the material that is clearly providing support or criticism of some argument

Be sure to address all points brought up in an argument, unless you are directed to respond to a limited range of issues. A controversial thesis can be very engaging if the issues are thoroughly addressed, but can be left flat and veer into close-minded or insulting if one leaves the opposition to the argument wholly ignored or unfairly addressed (Gorkemli 9, Freed 141).

Incorporating Citations

You must show your professor that you understand what you have read and you have something substantial to say about it. Try to avoid long chains of quotes and make sure that the quotes you do use contribute directly to the argument that you are trying to build.

However, make sure that quotes are not simply repetitions of something you just said, and avoid using quotations to convey an idea you could have just as easily explained without one. Use quotations to amplify or justify your argument, not to reiterate it.

Be sure to cite sources correctly. More information on this is available in the Citations section.


Works cited

Freed, Stacey. “Subjectivity in the Tutorial Session: How Far Can We Go?” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 137-171.

Gorkemli, S. “This is a Redneck Argument!” Writing Lab Newsletter 28.8 (April 2004): 9-10.

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