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Research Paper Assignment



As stated in the syllabus, a significant requirement (25% of final grade) of the course is a 5 to 7 page research paper. The general purpose of a philosophical research paper is the inculcation and development of several distinct yet interrelated philosophical skills and traits. Representative skills include the following:

These general philosophical traits, however, may be developed by means of several specific types of research and accompanying writing style. Accordingly, a selective range of philosophical paper options is listed below. It is not an exhaustive list. Therefore, if you design a customized style I will consider its validity or appropriateness.

1. Comprehension, reconstruction, and analysis of a philosophical concept or position advanced by a specific philosopher.

2. Critical evaluation of a philosophical argument according to standard philosophical criteria.

3. Formulation of an informed and well-reasoned argument for a particular interpretation of a philosopher, theoretical concept, philosophical movement, or particular thesis.

4. Clarification and coherent organization of one’s own philosophical thinking in the light of a particular philosophical theory, thesis, attitude, or concept; or in light of an encounter with a specific philosopher.

5. Critical comparison of competing philosophical positions on a specific problem or issue (for example, freedom in Heidegger and Sartre).

6. Identification and elucidation of one or several consequences (logical, historical, ethical, social, political, legal, etc.) that would follow from the truth of a specific philosophical orientation, attitude, argument, theory, or concept.

7. Innovative interpretive application of philosophical resources (concepts, theories, arguments, etc.) to one’s culture, historical present, artistic work, cultural institution, or self for purposes of clarification or criticism. Elaboration of the contemporary relevance of a movement, thinker, worldview, concept, theory, etc.

8. Reasoned defense of a philosophical view or philosopher against the actual or anticipated objection(s) of critics.

9. Reconstructive revision or adaptation of a philosophical theory, argument, or concept in the light of well-founded, compelling, or widespread criticism.

10. Systematic summarization or synopsis of a philosophical concept, argument, or theory that is diffused in a text or corpus of a particular philosopher.


1. Determine general topic
Examples: Heidegger, existence, angst, Sartre, Existentialism and “God”

2. Project reading audience: your classroom peers; assume a minimal philosophical background.

3. Background research and reading: dictionaries, encyclopedias, introductory overviews, etc. Provides an initial historical, theoretical, and thematic framework

4. Narrow general topic:
Examples: Heidegger’s interpretation of death; The concept of existence in Kierkegaard; The existential mood of angst and its relation to freedom; Sartre’s theory of authenticity; The meaning of Nietzsche’s pronouncement God is Dead.

5. Develop a working list of resources: print and electronic

6. Research resources: revise narrowed topic accordingly

7. Formulate a tentative thesis/approach and outline

8. Write a rough draft: obtain feedback from peers, others; revise accordingly

9. Submit first draft to instructor for evaluation and recommendations

10. Conduct additional research if warranted

11. Revise draft

12. Edit revised draft: proofread, spell check, content selection, organizational coherence, argumentative cogency, overall clarity, etc. (see evaluative criteria below).

13. Prepare final draft: minor alterations and finishing touches

14. Proofread again: enlist others to proofread final draft

15. Deadline for finished paper


C.1 Positive Characteristics

C.2 Negative Characteristics:


1. Paper topic (# 4 above)…………………………………………........10/18
2. Tentative thesis and outline (# 7 above)………………………….....11/1
3. Rough draft (# 9 above)…………………………………………........11/20
4. Finished paper  (# 15 above)………………………………………....12/4

NOTE: Every late submission will result in a grade reduction (for example, B+ to B)

You should plan to consult with me about your paper topic in person during office hours (Th, 6-7pm). If you have class at this time speak to me about arranging a time to meet in person or speak by telephone. The 4 tasks listed above should be typed or word-processed and handed in at our class sessions on the due date or prior.


E.1 Print Resources

1. Graybosch, Anthony, et. al. The Philosophy Student Writer’s Manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

2. Martinich, A. P. Philosophical Writing: An Introduction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989.

3. Rosenberg, Jay F. The Practice of Philosophy: A Handbook for Beginners, 2nd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1984.

4. Seech, Zachary. Writing Philosophy Papers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993.

5. Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments, 2nd edition. Indianapolis, ID: Hackett, 1992.

E.2 Electronic Resources

1. Allen, Collin. A Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays

2. Berkeley, Istvan. How to Write a Philosophy Paper

3. Cruz, Joe. Paper Writing Strategies for Introductory Philosophy Courses 

4. Portmore, Douglas W. Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper

5. Pryor, James. Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper

6. Suber, Peter. How to Use Philosopher's Index

7. Writing in Philosophy

8. Philosophy Writing Consultants

G.3 Paper Submission Guidelines

a) Print

1. Chicago Manual of Style. 13th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

2. Gilbaldi, Joseph, and Walter S. Achtert. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York: The Modern Language Association America, 1995.

3. Hodges, John C., et. al. Harbrace College Handbook, 11th ed. New York: Harcourt, 1990.

4. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide, 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

5. Roth, Andrew J. The Research Paper: Process, Form, and Content. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1989.

6. Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. Elements of Style, 3rd edition. New York: Macmillan, 1979.

7. Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

b) Electronic

1. A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on MLA Documentation

2. Purdue University's
Using Modern Language Association Format

3. William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style