College Paper-Writing: A GuideUnit 1: Summer 2013Intro to PhilosophyProfessor Miller
My Expectations for Your Papers• An accurate and well-reasoned representation of thematerial• Entirely original material – no plagiarism of any kindwill be tolerated• Meeting at least the minimum page requirement of 5full pages• Correctly formatted• Proof-read and free of typos and grammatical errorsHow to get an ‘A’ on your paper
Unit 1 Lecture RoadmapI. The Writing ProcessI. How to write a Philosophy paperII. Basic GrammarI. ApostrophesII. CapitalizationIII. Quotation MarksIV. Sentence FragmentsIII. Proper FormattingIV. SourcesV. Plagiarism
I. The Writing Process• I’m sure many of you have never written a philosophy paper. Thispaper can make a philosophy paper more daunting than it really is.The following process is recommended to assist you as you writethis semester.1. Pick a Topic: Be sure to do this early in the course in case you want tochange it later. I have provided you with 5 paper topics. Please choose oneof these for your paper.2. Read your Text: Palmer’s Does the Center Hold? Is an excellent startingpoint for learning about your topic. Be sure to read the pertinent sectionsof the text carefully to gain an idea of what your topic entails.3. Determine your Focus: Philosophy papers are different from your typicalresearch papers, in that they are not simply a summary of the research onthat topic, but rely heavily on the student’s critical evaluation of the topicchosen. For example, a paper on the three major proofs for the existenceof God would include a description of each proof, followed by an evaluationof the strengths and weaknesses of each proof, concluding with adetermination of the merit of each.
I. The Writing Process, cont’d…4. Complete your Research: Some students find that they can complete the paperwithout any additional sources. Others prefer to utilize sources other than thetextbook and primary sources. It is up to you, although I would recommendtrying to write your paper without any sources, only adding sources as you needthem.5. Outline, outline, outline: Perhaps the most critical step, be sure to sketch a basicoutline of your paper, organizing it in the most coherent way. You want to besure your reader has a clear picture of where you are going, and the progressionof arguments that will carry them there.6. Write your Heart Out: Using your outline and basic research, write your paper. Ihave found the best approach in writing a philosophy paper is to pretend thatyou are explaining the topic to a friend or family member who knows nothingabout philosophy. Trying to explain your topic to someone who does not knowabout it will help you to break down complex topics into a simpler argument.7. Proofread and Edit: I am always available to read-through your papers prior tosubmission to assist you in the editing process. However, even if you choose notto take advantage of this option, please be sure to carefully read through yourpaper prior to submitting. This action could be the difference between a B andan A!
II. Grammar - Apostrophes• Appropriate uses of apostrophes:• To show that a noun is possessive– CORRECT: The student’s notebook is full of doodles.– INCORRECT: The student’s are busy studying for exams.• In contractions– CORRECT: I don’t know the answer.– INCORRECT: I cant see the board without my glasses.• To represent omitted numbers– CORRECT: She graduated in ‘06.– INCORRECT: I went to summer camp in 04.
II. Grammar - Capitalization• When should a word be capitalized?• Proper nouns» Ex: names of deities and religious followers; governmentdepartments; names of countries; trade names; etc.• Titles» Ex: President Barack Obama; Professor Jones• Major words in the title of an article or book» Ex: “In John Smith’s work, Walking Your Way to a HealthierYou…”• First word of a sentence» CORRECT: Texting while driving is a very dangerous behavior.» INCORRECT: so many students text while they drive.
II. Grammar – Quotation Marks• When to use quotation marks:• To enclose direct quotations» Ex: According to Smith, “Puppy dogs make far better petsthan does your typical rock.”• When short works are mentioned» Ex: Johnson’s article, “New Tree Planted in Central Park,” waspublished in this morning’s paper.• When setting off words mentioned in a sentence» Ex: The words “their,” “they’re” and “there” are oftenmistaken for one another.• When calling a word into question» Ex: He was “working” very hard on his paper as he napped inthe library.
II. Grammar – Sentence Fragments• A fragment is an incomplete sentence that cannotstand alone.• Ex #1: When I was a college student.• Ex #2: Because there was not enough milk.• Ex #3: Such as pancakes, sausage, and waffles.• “Red flag” words that indicate a possiblefragment:• Because; especially; such as; which is; etc.• Any of these words at the beginning of a sentence mayindicate that the sentence in question is a fragment.• To prevent including sentence fragments in your paper, it isbest to try and avoid starting sentences with any of theabove mentioned words.
III. Proper Formatting• Guidelines among professors can vary, so it is best to check withyour professor before writing your paper. Ideally, your professorsshould provide guidelines at the beginning of the course but if theydo not do so, be sure to ask them.• My guidelines for your paper:• Times New Roman, 12pt. Font (no other fonts or sizes)• Double-spaced with 1 inch margins• Separate title page (does not count towards page total)• Separate ‘Works Cited’ page at end of paper (does not count towards pagetotal)• Last name and page number in the upper-right corner of each page• No extra spaces between paragraphs• In-paper citations – either parenthetical or footnotes. MLA, APA, Chicago andTurabian styles all accepted• For an example of an appropriately-formatted paper, I haveuploaded a sample to the Course Documents tab
IV. Sources• Not all sources are created equal!– What makes a good source?• A listed author– A credible academic source will nearly always list an author’s name.– This makes sense! If you worked hard on a paper or article that was laterpublished (in print or online), wouldn’t you want your name to beassociated with it?• A stated, recent date– A lack of a date is problematic, as the information may be old andoutdated. Try to avoid using sources without dates.– Recent dates are always better, as older sources may no longer berelevant.– Exception: Primary Sources. In philosophy, you may be writing a paperon an original piece by a philosopher. In those cases, the date ofpublication may not be recent, but the source itself is still acceptable.
IV. Sources, cont’d…– Good sources cont’d…• Pertinent credentials of the author– Is the author an expert in the field, or a layman?– In philosophy, is the author of the source an academic in thefield? Or simply a layman blogging about philosophy from hiscouch? While the layman might have some interesting points, hisinformation is likely not reliable enough to be included in anacademic paper.• No blatant bias– When searching for sources, be aware of potential biases.Writing a paper about politics, for example, and drawing onlyfrom very left-leaning or right-leaning sources does not produce abalance paper. Unbiased sources are always best.– If you must use a biased source, try to use another source fromthe opposite camp to help bring balance to your paper.
IV. Sources, cont’d…• Print Sources:– Examples of excellent print sources:• Peer-reviewed philosophy periodicals– Found on EBSCOhost or in-print in the library• Philosophy textbooks– Such as Palmer’s Does the Center Hold?• Primary Sources– Plato’s Republic, Descartes’ Discourse and Method, etc.– Examples of poor print sources:• Any “pop” philosophy periodical (non-academic)• Book reviews• Books published prior to 1980 (non-primary sources)
IV. Sources, cont’d…• Online Sources– Examples of excellent online sources• Online Encyclopedias– Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc.• University-sponsored philosophy sites• Open courseware– MIT’s open courseware, etc.• Online peer-reviewed journals– Things to watch out for:• No Wikipedia our about.com-type sites. If anyone can updatethem, they are not rigorously academic enough to cite in a paper.• No blogs that aren’t written by professionals in the field• Unprofessional-looking websites – lots of color, few recentupdates, etc.
V. Plagiarism• Plagiarism is ANY use of another’s material without appropriatecredit. It is the accidental or intentional passing off of another’swork as one’s own.– Examples of plagiarism:• Use of an entire paper written by another person• Copying and pasting a paragraph from a source word-for-word (withoutofficially quoting the text)• Quoting briefly from a text without citing the source• Plagiarism is a very serious offense. Plagiarism on an assignment inthis class will result in automatic failure of the assignment and thelikely failure of the class, depending on the extent of the plagiarism.• If you aren’t sure if something is plagiarism – ask me.• Plagiarism extends to my lecture materials as well. You are free toquote me, but you should not copy my notes word-for-word in yourpaper without citing the source.