Philosophy Writing ProjectsPage address: http://english.mnsu.edu/vwp/studentresources/writing/philosophy/athome.htm
Philosophy Writing Projects: At Home (or Revising) Arguments
In an introductory "W" Philosophy course, you may be asked to return to and revise one or more of your shorter "Response/Reaction," "Argument/Position," or "Critical/Analytical" papers. So make sure that you've filed them in a safe location. What makes this paper different than the earlier arguments you've built?
Sometimes you will simply revise the paper(s) from a different vantage point; you will have read and written many more arguments and become more adept at arguing and more sophisticated in your thinking, so you return to an earlier paper and make use of you improved thinking and writing skills.
Or, you may be asked, again based on new material you've read or written about, to add a new section or example or further objection to the original paper, revising the original introduction and conclusion (and even the body) to accommodate this new material.
You may well ask, "Haven't I already done that in my shorter 'Argument/Position' papers?" Depending on your instructor, you very well may have. But, even if you have, those earlier positions you've taken have occurred in 4-5 page papers. The development of those positions has been necessarily brief, with the emphasis on representing another philosopher's position in one of your readings, understanding clearly how it works, and seeing how it applies to a set of specific circumstances or a real issue.
And there's a "wild card" in this assignment: you're being asked to REVISE those earlier papers and to place YOU and YOUR POSITION in them. In a very real sense, the work you do on each one of these "critical/analytical" assignments is what the "W" in this course is all about. You'll be COMPLETING your arguments, and, in direct response to your instructor's suggestions, you'll be "re-seeing" and changing substantial portions of them in order to make all facets of them more finished.
- Revision—before you can proceed on this paper, you'll need to respond to any and all comments your instructor wrote on your first draft.
- A new introduction—because of the changes you've made on the paper, and because you'll be adding material that makes you a major part of this paper, you'll need to re-cast your introduction in order to reflect these changes. You very well may need to build a new thesis and to develop a statement of direction that reflects your different focus.
- An added section—you're going to make this paper yours by featuring your position and carefully developing it. You've probably been told to use the first person pronoun before by your Philosophy instructor, but you'll really need it here.
- Audience—this is truly what distinguishes high school writing from college writing. Your instructor will ask you to answer these questions before you proceed:
- Who is my audience?
- Who am I trying to reach as I approach the development of my own position on a specific issue?
- What do they believe?
- What do they know about my subject?
- What do they need to know?
- How would they appreciate me speaking to them about it?
- Persuasion—every argument requires some persuasion. But you're not trying to sell a car in this assignment. Emotion or intimidation won't work. You'll be trying to persuade by reason, by providing convincing reasons and proof for them. Your thesis will establish your "main claim" of your argument, and everything else in the paper should advance that claim.
- Length—figure on an additional 2-3 pages in fleshing out these papers. About 7 pages should do it.
- Textual evidence—theres nothing new or earth-shaking here. Your Philosophy instructor will be furnishing most of what you should need to support your argument or question a stance that the material handed to you takes. But you'll be expected to use that material closely, carefully, and accurately. As in other Philosophy "W" papers, it's possible that you'll need no more than the articles distributed in your class.
- Other-textual evidence—but no one will prevent you from using additional material that will help you to establish your own position logically or undercutting a position different from your own. That material could come from scholarly articles, newspaper pieces, scientific studies, or the like. As always, when you're using outside sources, evaluate carefully where they come from and whether they are credible. Merely supporting a position with another opinion, or with a source whose credibility is questionable, won't work. Use of this additional material is always optional.
- Personal experience—because you are in the paper and have a direct stake in the argument you're waging, personal experience may help you (direct observation, personal examples, descriptive and provable details). Depending upon the nature of your audience, this kind of evidence will carry great or little weight.
- Direct quotes—whether you're using only the articles your instructor provides or additional sources, the most compelling evidence will come from direct quotes. These quotes will substantiate the claims you'll be making about them. Even though 7 pages seems like a long paper, it's not. That means short quotes, interspersed and introduced into your paper in a variety of ways: in single words, phrases, and full sentences, and blended carefully into your argument. No credible argument can exist without the real words of your source.
- Paraphrases—most often, you'll be placing words and ideas into your own words; this is how you'll be able to convince your audience you understand what you've read and will be responding to. And you must cite them.
- Summary—you'll be using some of this strategy, to be sure. You'll have already included in each of these papers that presents the basic form of the theory/argument that applies to a particular issue. But, once that's done, you'll be spending your time and developing your position and supporting it with proof.
- Internal citations—you'll be using this parenthetical method of "in-text" citation consistently in your paper. Be sure to be consistent with the citation format that you're most accustomed to. Use these citations for the article your instructor has provided as well as other sources you've decided to bring into your paper.
- Works cited—whether you're using only one source or a small collection of them, you'll need a separate "works cited" page in this paper. The brief "in-text" citations will be indexed to the works on your "works cited" page. Again, use a bibliographical format that squares with those internal citations, and be consistent with it.
- Re-visioning—because these assignments exist to make you re-write, re-focus, and substantially lengthen them, you'll need to make a number of important changes as a consequence of "re-seeing" them. This is the way that real writing occurs in the working and academic world. These papers assume the existence of a FIRST DRAFT that will go through at least one additional draft, with minor, and major changes. And it goes without saying that you'll carefully proofread and edit each of these second drafts after you've written them.
- Introduction—in re-fashioning them, you'll need to attend to all the bells and whistles: a clear focus; a sense of why you're writing about it; a thesis to reflect your own position; a clear sense of how the paper will unfold.
- Your position—this is the biggest change you'll make in each of the papers you'll be asked to revise. And you'll need to know who you're addressing with it.
- Organization—again, everything you include in these papers requires a reason for being there. All flows from your main claim. Thus, careful and logical sequencing of your argument in each paper will make them clearer, more coherent, more persuasive.
- Support—no position, no matter how attractive, can convince without evidence. Each of your claims, as well as at least one of the counter-claims you're addressing in each paper, will require proof.
- Analysis—this is what will lift your papers above being merely a set of lists of examples and quotes after each of your claims. Analysis demands that you understand the connection between your claims and your evidence and that you consistently demonstrate that connection by answering a question like "how or why does this statistic or example or quote strengthen my claim." It's the "because" that counts here.
...and What's NOT
- Incomplete revision—papers that make no more than superficial changes won't succeed. By definition, these papers require big changes.
- Flawed introduction—introductions that don't reflect a writer's new position and explanation of it simply will not provide an adequate sense of what the papers they're attached to will be about.
- Undeveloped position—papers that don't reflect a full commitment to explain a position fully and support its claims can't be called "finished."
- Incoherence—papers that don't reflect the logical sequence of a developing position and argument will lead to confusion and a lack of credibility.
- Generalization—it's the same old story: arguments without concrete, evidentiary support must fail.
- Inconsistent analysis—claims left unconnected to evidence brought forward in their behalf (the "how" and "why" of an argument) will fail the ultimate tests of the "At Home" Argument paper: logic and reason.
Links to at home assignments.
Links to at home assignments.