wikiHow to Write a Philosophy Paper

Three Parts:Planning Your Philosophy PaperDrafting Your Philosophy PaperRevising Your Philosophy Paper

Writing a philosophy paper is quite different from other types of papers. In a philosophy paper, you have to provide an explanation of a philosophical concept and then either support or refute that concept. This means that you have to fully understand the concepts that you read about and you have to do some philosophy of your own to respond to these concepts. While writing a philosophy paper may be challenging, it is possible with some careful planning and hard work.

Part 1
Planning Your Philosophy Paper

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    Give yourself time. Writing a good philosophy paper takes time and careful planning, so make sure that you begin working on the assignment as soon as possible. Philosophy papers require skillful argument and rational thought, which takes time to develop.[1][2]
    • Try to begin developing your ideas for your philosophy paper as soon as you get the assignment. Jot down your ideas and use some of your spare time to think about what you want to write about.
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    Read all relevant materials. Before you begin to develop your ideas for the paper, make sure that you have carefully read all of the materials that are related to the assignment. If you read the materials, but do not remember much or do not understand part of what you read, then you should reread the texts before you attempt to work on your paper.[3]
    • Having a solid understanding of the concepts covered in your readings is essential to create an effective paper. Otherwise, your explanation of the philosophy may be flawed or your argument may not hold up.
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    Make sure that you understand the assignment. Some professors distribute assignment guidelines while others simply describe the assignment in class. Before you start working on your paper, make sure that you have a clear understanding of what your professor is asking you to do.[4]
    • If any part of the assignment is unclear, ask your professor for clarification.
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    Consider your audience. It is important to keep your audience in mind as you plan your paper and as you write your paper. Your professor is your primary audience member and your classmates might also be part of your audience.[5]
    • You can also think of your audience as a person who has some knowledge of philosophy, but who does not have the same understanding as you do. Therefore, if you introduce a special term or concept, you will need to define it for your audience.
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    Choose textual references. With philosophy papers, it is best to use quotes from the text only when it is absolutely necessary. The goal of your paper is to explain and evaluate a philosophical argument in your own words. Therefore, you should not rely too heavily on quotes or even paraphrased passages from your sources.[6]
    • Only use a quote when it is necessary to support your point of view.
    • Make sure to provide a citation for every quote or paraphrase that you use from a source. Include the author’s name as well as a page number.
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    Develop a thesis. All philosophy papers need to have a strong thesis. Your thesis states your position for the paper and you will need to make sure that you stay focused on your thesis and support it throughout your entire paper. Keep in mind that a strong thesis states your position as well as why you hold that position.[7]
    • For example, if you plan to refute Aristotle’s idea that beauty is related to virtue, then you would have to provide a brief explanation of why. One reason that you may cite might be that beautiful people are not always virtuous. In this case, your thesis might be something like, “Aristotle’s concept that beauty is related to virtue is false because beauty is often found in those who lack virtue.”
    • You will need to place your thesis at the end of the first paragraph in your essay.
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    Outline your paper. An outline can help you to stay on track as you draft your paper and ensure that you include everything that you need to include.[8] Try making a simple outline that includes:
    • ideas for your introduction
    • your thesis
    • main points of your explanation
    • main points in your evaluation along with supporting evidence
    • potential objections and your refutations
    • ideas for your conclusion

Part 2
Drafting Your Philosophy Paper

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    Write how you speak. Writing in a flowery, overly complex way will not make you appear to be more knowledgeable about philosophy. It is better to write in your own voice and use simple, direct language to get your point across. Imagine that you are explaining the concept to a friend and making an argument for why you agree or disagree with this concept. What would you say? What examples would you use?[9]
    • Try to avoid padding your work with extra words. This makes it hard for your readers to understand what you mean.
    • Look up new words before you used them. If you like to sue the thesaurus feature ow Word when you write, just make sure that you are looking up the meanings of these words before you include them. The thesaurus does not always provide suggestions that are grammatically correct or equivalent in meaning to the original word.
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    Introduce your paper with relevant details. Your introduction is important because it gives readers a first impression of your paper. The introduction is your chance to grab your readers’ attention and to provide a preview of your argument. That is why it is important to use your introduction wisely.[10]
    • Avoid introductions that provide a sweeping overview of your topic, such as “Since the dawn of time…” or “All people everywhere have wondered….” Instead, jump right into the topic. For example, you might lead in with something like, “Aristotle often draws a line between beauty and virtue in his work.”
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    Explain the argument. After your introduction, you will need to explain the philosophical argument or concept that you are planning to refute or support. Make sure that you present the philosopher’s ideas in a clear, objective manner.[11][12]
    • Do not add or leave out any details that might provide you with an advantage when you start to evaluate the philosophy. Otherwise, your professor may consider your argument to be less effective.
    • Stick to the relevant details of the argument. Do not explain things that you do not plan to argue against in your paper unless they are absolutely necessary for understanding your point.[13]
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    Support your thesis. After you have provided a clear explanation of the philosophy, you will need to move on to your evaluation. Your evaluation should work to support your thesis at all times. Do not go back and forth between positions or contradict yourself at any time. Stick to your position no matter what.[14]
    • One great way to support your thesis is by using examples that you draw from personal experiences or that you create. For example, if you are arguing that beauty and virtue are unrelated, then you might give an example of a convicted criminal who many consider to be beautiful.
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    Anticipate objections to your argument. A good argument should also acknowledge and refute any objections you’re your opponents might have. Try to identify the strongest objections that an opponent might use to refute your argument and develop responses to these objections.[15]
    • Don’t worry about handling every single objection. Focus on handling the three biggest objections that your opponents might raise.
    • For example, if you are arguing that beauty and virtue are not related, then you might identify an objection that some studies have demonstrated that some men are less attracted to women with undesirable personality traits, despite their beauty.
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    Conclude your paper in a meaningful way. Conclusions are also important because they provide an opportunity for you to summarize, clarify, and emphasize one or more important parts of your paper. Try to conclude your paper in a way that will help your readers to see the relevance and significance of your paper.[16]
    • For example, you might explain what your paper has established or how it has added to a philosophical conversation.[17] If your paper is about Aristotle’s concept of the relationship between virtue and beauty, you might discuss how your findings demonstrate the modern separation of image and personality.

Part 3
Revising Your Philosophy Paper

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    Put your paper aside for a few days. Revising is easier if you can take a break from what you have written for a few days. After you return to the paper again, you will have a fresh perspective that should help you to improve the content of your work more easily than if you had attempted to revise it right away.
    • If possible set aside your paper for at least three days, but keep in mind that even setting aside your paper for a few hours before you revise is better than nothing.
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    Read your paper with an eye towards content and clarity. Revision is not about fixing typos and grammatical errors. Revision is about seeing what you have written with new eyes and being willing to make major changes, additions, and deletions if it will improve the content of your paper.[18]
    • When you revisit your paper, read it with a focus on the content. Do your arguments hold up? If not, how might you improve them? Are the concepts in your paper clear and easy to understand? If not, how might you clarify these concepts?
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    Ask someone to read your work. Having someone else take a look at your paper can also help you to improve your work. Someone who is not too familiar with philosophy may also help you to identify areas where you could offer more helpful details.
    • Try asking a classmate or friend (preferably someone who you know to be a good writer) to take a look at your paper and give you some feedback.
    • Many universities also have writing centers where students can make an appointment and get some feedback from a trained writing tutor. This can also help you to develop effective strategies for revising your own work.
    • You can also make an appointment with your professor if he or she is willing to provide feedback before you submit the paper. Just make sure that you request an appointment at least one week before the paper is due. Otherwise, your professor may not have time to meet with you.
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    Polish your work with proofreading. Proofreading is the final step in the writing process where you check for minor errors and correct them as needed. These little errors can distract your readers, so take time to proofread your work before you submit your final draft.[19]
    • To proofread, go through your paper and correct any typos, grammatical errors, or other minor flaws before you print and/or submit your work. Try reading your paper out loud or reading it backwards one sentence at a time. Mark any errors you find with a highlighter or pencil.

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