PHIL 350:  PAPER GUIDELINES

 

 

            1.  STANDARD OF CLARITY.  Your paper should be understandable to a reasonably intelligent person who has never taken an epistemology course. 

 

            2.  PAPERS SHOULD BE 5-7 PAGES (300 WORDS PER PAGE).  THEY SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO CANVAS BY MIDNIGHT ON TUESDAY MARCH 4TH.  There is no penalty for length per se, but papers exceeding seven double-spaced pages of text (2100 words) will be penalized, if they could have been shortened by careful editing.  (Footnotes may appear on a separate page.)  Although papers are evaluated chiefly on their philosophical merits, grammar, spelling, and diction will also be evaluated.  You are expected to express your thoughts in clear, grammatical, English sentences.

 

            3.  CITE FULLY AND ACCURATELY.  In your paper, you should cite to both the BonJour text and the Pojman text.  Make sure you accurately state the position of any author you discuss.  Any time you quote an author or attribute a proposition to an author, the quotation or attribution must be supported by a citation to the text, with page numbers.  YOU MAY NOT CITE ME AS AN AUTHORITY ON WHAT AN AUTHOR SAYS (UNLESS I AM THE AUTHOR!).  YOU MUST CITE THE AUTHOR HIM/HERSELF.  Where the reference is to a text in the assigned readings, it is sufficient to provide page references in parentheses immediately after the quotation or attribution.  In all other cases, provide a full bibliographic reference in a footnote or endnote.  The page limit on the paper applies to the text of the paper only.  Footnotes are free.

 

            4.  TO SHOW THAT YOU UNDERSTAND AN AUTHOR'S POSITION, IT IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO SIMPLY PARROT THE AUTHOR.  Where you quote the author, make sure you explain in your own words the significance of the quoted material.  It is often helpful to use your own examples to clarify the views of the author you are discussing.

 

            5. USE CARE IN INTERPRETING AN AUTHOR, PARTICULARLY SOMEONE YOU DISAGREE WITH.  If on your interpretation of an author, the author either is inconsistent or has made an obvious error of reasoning, begin by assuming that you have misinterpreted the author.  Reread the relevant passages carefully to see if you can put together a consistent position that is not obviously erroneous.  If you cannot do so, or come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss it with me.

 

            6.  CAREFULLY DISTINGUISH VIEWS THAT YOU CLAIM AN AUTHOR HOLDS FROM VIEWS THAT YOU CLAIM THE AUTHOR SHOULD HOLD OR IS COMMITTED TO HOLDING.  Claims that an author holds a particular view must be supported with cites to the text.  But claims that an author should hold or is committed to holding a particular view must be supported with relevant arguments, in addition to cites to the text.

 

            7. USE LABELS.  In your paper, you will typically have to distinguish between a number of different theses or positions.  It is often useful to give names or labels to the various theses or positions, for ease of reference.  Whenever you use a label (e.g., foundationalist) make sure you explain what it means.

 

            8.  USE EXAMPLES.  In philosophy, it is easy to get lost in a discussion of abstract ideas. You should not feel that you understand an author's view unless you can explain how it applies to relevant examples.  In your paper, you should not deal entirely in abstractions.  You should try to develop one or two or more examples which (perhaps with some variations) can be used to illustrate the main issues in the paper. 

 

            9. CRITICAL EVALUATION.  In your paper, you must critically evaluate the positions taken by authors you discuss—that is, you must take your own stand on which side is, on balance, the most reasonable position to take, and explain why you think so.

 

            10.  USE THE PRONOUNS “I/ME”.  In your paper you must use the pronouns “I/me”.   Using these pronouns enables you to take control of the structure of the paper and to tell the reader what to expect.  It also enables you to enter into the critical evaluation of the various views.  In the introduction you will say such things as:  In section 4 I will review what A has to say about X; or I will argue that Z.  When you introduce a label you will say something like:  I will use [label] X to refer to Y.  In the critical evaluation, you will say things like:  I believe that A makes a stronger case for X than B makes for Y, because Z; or A’s position seems more plausible to me than B’s, because of Z.   

 

            11.  NO APPEALS TO AUTHORITY.  Because this is a philosophy course, you may not use your religious views or any other appeal to authority to resolve the issues.  You may, of course, appeal employ reasoning or arguments used by others, so long as you independently evaluate the cogency of the reasoning.

 

            12.  AVOID PLAGIARISM.  Whenever you turn in any assignment in this course, the understanding is that what you are turning in is your own original work, except to the extent that you explicitly credit others for their contributions. You have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, by always attributing any argument or idea that you have borrowed, even if you have modified it, to its source.  The source may be written or oral.  For example, if an argument was suggested by a fellow student, include that information in a footnote.

 

            13.  PHILOSOPHY WRITING CENTER.  You may avail yourself of the services of the Philosophy Writing Center to obtain a preliminary reading of a draft of your paper.  The Philosophy Writing Center is located in Savery 362.  A sign-up sheet for Writing Center appointments is posted outside the door.  The Writing Center Tutors will not evaluate your paper for philosophical content, but they will be able to help you make sure that your makes sense and that it says what you intend it to say. 

 

 

STYLISTIC SUGGESTIONS

(including some adopted from Professor BonJour)

 

            1. Make sure that you express yourself in complete sentences.  Each sentence must contain, at a minimum, a subject and a predicate in grammatical agreement that make sense together.

 

            2.  A common mistake is sentences that run on too long.  Two or more gramatically complete sentences should be separated by a period, not a comma.  If you want to link them more closely, you can use a semi-colon, or a comma and a conjunction (e.g., "and" or "but).  Other things being equal, two short sentences are better than one longer sentence.

 

            3.  Check the meanings and spellings of all words that you are not sure of.  It is recommended that you use a computer spelling checker before printing your final draft.

 

            4.  Some people believe that really good philosophy must be very deep, and thus hard to understand.  You will not be rewarded for such writing in this course.  Your goal should be to make your papers as clear, as unambiguous, and as easy to understand as the subject matter allows.  A good way to test for awkward constructions as well as for sense is to read your paper aloud to someone else, or even just to yourself.  You may also have it read by one of the tutors in the Philosophy Writing Center.  Your paper should make sense to most reasonably intelligent people (even someone not taking this course), though, of course, they need not be persuaded by your arguments.  You are encouraged to discuss the paper topic with other students in the course, but you are responsible for making your paper your own original work, except for the sources that you explicitly acknowledge and cite in the paper itself.