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Ask a philosophy student what they find most challenging about college, and their answer will probably be “writing the term paper or research paper.” Writing is a huge part of academics because it shows the professor your understanding of a particular topic in your own words. It is through writing that you showcase your creative and critical thinking skills.
If you are wondering how to write philosophy papers, this article will guide you in writing a philosophy paper that gets a nod from your instructor.
What Is a Philosophy Paper?
A philosophy paper is a piece of academic writing that clearly states another philosopher’s argument about a subject, analyses the view and supports or criticizes the argument exhaustively. Philosophy papers cannot be termed as research or studies because they are not conclusive ideas after testing a theory or conducting a practical.
Similarly, they are not personal opinions or beliefs. Instead, philosophy papers are based on reasoned out and well-thought arguments that are convincing and logical. That is why a good philosophy paper should have a clearly thought argument, topic or thesis statement.
Generally, philosophy papers will do any of the following:
- Defend the argument
- Criticize the argument
- Poke holes on some parts of the argument
- Explain why the reader should believe the argument
- Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the argument
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How To Write Philosophy Paper
Writing philosophy papers requires more than having writing, research and organizational skills. It requires a clear understanding of the other philosopher’s argument and critical thinking to come up with a question or counterargument. Create a good philosophy paper by following the following steps:
- Select a Relevant Topic
- Read Widely
- Create an Outline
- Write the First Draft
- Give Credit to Your Sources
- Edit the First Draft
- Proofread Final Draft
- Check Plagiarism
- Qualities of a Good Philosophy Paper
How to Select a Relevant Philosophy Paper Topic
Your course instructor may provide the topics for you to handle or ask you to come up with your own. In the latter situation, think over the possible topics or argument angles you can adopt for your paper. Make sure it is something you can pull off. Again, don’t pick a broad topic you cannot comfortably exhaust. The topic you choose should be moderate, neither too wide nor too narrow.
No matter how well-written or explained a philosophy paper is, if it misses the goal of the question or mispresents information, it will go in the poor performing pile on your professor’s desk. For this reason, you should not attempt a philosophy question without fully understanding it.
Read the particular argument and understand what it means. Sometimes, your understanding may be different from what an argument actually means. The best way to gauge your knowledge of a topic is to try and explain the concept to someone who hasn’t heard that argument before. If they find it hard to understand your point, you have some more reading to do.
Check out books and online philosophical databases for the original texts, as some online versions may be quoted out of context or missing some crucial part of the argument. Philosopher’s Index, PhilPapers and LibGuides are examples of philosophical databases to find original philosophical texts.
How to Create Philosophy Paper Outline
An outline is a roadmap of how your ideas will follow each other to create a comprehensive, easy-to-follow paper. Organize your arguments how you will discuss them. If the question had multiple parts, write down the answers for each part and how you intend to marry the narrative into one argument.
One mistake students make is creating a sketchy outline. After writing the first few points, they return to the outline but cannot remember the explanation for a particular keyword or phrase they scribbled as number four on the list.
To avoid such occurrences, make a detailed outline such that when you are done writing it down, you have downloaded 80% of your ideas into the paper.
Write the First Draft
Once you have arranged your ideas in a sketch, it’s time to write the first draft.
Introduction and Thesis Statement
Use simple language to present your argument and discuss ideas. Go straight to the point when introducing the thesis to your reader. Remember your professor or instructor is familiar with the topic, so don’t overdo the introduction. At the end of your introduction, clearly state your thesis, and keep it narrow.
Present the arguments using well-thought yet straightforward language. Never write words you wouldn’t use in a conversation as a rule of thumb. Huge vocabulary will distract the reader or shift their attention from your argument. If you use technical terms, explain them in a layman’s language.
Bring your reader to speed with your arguments by citing your sources, quoting or paraphrasing statements by other philosophers. However, keep the quotes minimal and expound on them in your own words. You can use phrases such as ‘X believes that…”, “Y once said…”, “in the words of Z…” and so forth.
The body should be your playground where you explain everything regarding that topic. Don’t leave out essential details, thinking the instructor can decipher what you were driving at. However, stick to the information relevant to the topic at hand.
Use transitional phrases and conjunctions to join ideas together to create a well-flowing narrative. These phrases include, “therefore”, “in the above statement”, “because”, “nevertheless,” and “however” r. If you fail to use transition words correctly, the reader may get confused and find it hard to relate to your argument.
Don’t forget to give examples. You have a point to make, an argument to justify and a reader to convince, and there is no better way than using a relatable example.
Another way to convince your reader is to anticipate objections to your school of thought and give plausible explanations that overcome this objection. You can also show how such criticisms don’t hold water, making your argument valid.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to break a few grammar rules when writing philosophy papers. Remember, it’s an argument, and you might need to use words like “I” to explain your perspective. You can also finish a sentence with a preposition if that is the best way to present a point. As for synonyms, avoid them at all costs because some may change the context of an argument.
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Give a concise, precise summary of your argument. Avoid dwelling on the body to avoid repetition. Also, never introduce a new discussion in the conclusion. In philosophy papers, it’s okay to lack a conclusive verdict.
Give Credit to Your Sources
The reference section is crucial for a philosophy paper because it gives credit to your sources. The person reading or marking your paper can judge the validity of your essay by looking at your sources. If your sources are not educational or relevant, your content is likely not convincing enough.
Follow the professor’s guidelines when formatting the paper, especially the reference list. Philosophy papers commonly use Chicago, MLA and APA styles, but it will depend on your instructor.
Edit the First Draft
After completing the first draft, leave it a few days to clear your head. That is why it’s essential to start your philosophy paper early to give room for editing and proofreading. After two, three days, open your document and read through editing as you see fit. Remove unnecessary sentences, phrases and paragraphs. Add more content to shallow explanations, give more explicit examples, etc. Format according to instructions given, such as margins, font size, page numbers, etc.
Proofread Final Draft
When you are satisfied with the final draft, the last step is to proofread for grammatical, punctuation and syntax errors. You can ask a friend or a family member to help you proofread the text because fresh eyes spot mistakes quickly. Grammar checking software can also help you proofread for errors fast.
All academic writings ought to be original. Pass your paper through approved plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin to check for duplicate content. If there are plagiarised parts, rephrase them until the paper records zero plagiarism.
Qualities of a Good Philosophy Paper
A good philosophy paper should have the following qualities:
Clarity and Simplicity
Philosophy is associated with ambiguity due to the complex language that most philosophers use. Don’t accelerate the complexity by filling your paper with technical terms, vocabulary and hard-to-read sentences. Use everyday words and phrases and explain ambiguous terms clearly. Your essay should make sense to a person who has never set foot in a philosophy class.
When researching for a philosophy paper, you might get overwhelming information about the subject at hand. An excellent philosophy paper should be concise and modest. Avoid redundancy and adding irrelevant information. Before submitting your essay, make sure every sentence adds value to the reader.
A good philosophy paper should be accurate, from the argument to the quotes to explanations. Only write on a topic you fully understand to avoid misinformation. If you select a topic, read widely to understand every detail to articulate correct arguments.
Deep and Extensive
One of the things your professor looks for in your philosophy paper is your ability to think critically. Explain your points exhaustively and clearly, leaving the reader satisfied and convinced.
How to Write Philosophy Paper Conclusion
Writing a philosophy paper requires critical thinking in addition to writing and grammar skills. To write excellent philosophy papers, choose a topic you can handle, read extensively on it, create an outline then write the first draft. After the first draft, leave it a few days to clear your head, then come back to it and edit. Proofread for errors and check plagiarism before submitting.