Philosophy 39 - 2.6.3 Organize Your Paper

Academic philosophy papers use the same simple structure as any other paper and one you likely learned in high school or your first-year composition class.

Introduce Your Thesis

The purpose of your introduction is to provide context for your thesis. Simply tell the reader what to expect in the paper. Describe your topic, why it is important, and how it arises within the works you have been reading. You may have to provide some historical context, but avoid both broad generalizations and long-winded historical retellings. Your context or background information should not be overly long and simply needs to provide the reader with the context and motivation for your thesis. Your thesis should appear at the end of the introduction, and the reader should clearly see how the thesis follows from the introductory material you have provided. If you are writing a long paper, you may need several sentences to express your thesis, in which you delineate in broad terms the parts of your argument.

Make a Logical and Compelling Case Using the Evidence

The paragraphs that follow the introduction lay out your argument. One strategy you can use to successfully build paragraphs is to think in terms of good argument structure. You should provide adequate evidence to support the claims you want to make. Your paragraphs will consist of quotations and paraphrases from primary and secondary sources, context and interpretation, novel thoughts and ideas, examples and analogies, counterarguments, and replies to the counterarguments. The evidence should both support the thesis and build toward the conclusion. It may help to think architecturally: lay down the foundation, insert the beams of your strongest support, and then put up the walls to complete the structure. Or you might think in terms of a narrative: tell a story in which the evidence leads to an inevitable conclusion.

Connections

See the chapter on logic and reasoning for a developed account of different types of philosophical arguments.

Summarize Your Argument in the Conclusion

Conclude your paper with a short summary that recapitulates the argument. Remind the reader of your thesis and revisit the evidence that supports your argument. You may feel that the argument as written should stand on its own. But it is helpful to the reader to reinforce the argument in your conclusion with a short summary. Do not introduce any new information in the conclusion; simply summarize what you have already said.

The purpose of this chapter has been to provide you with basic tools to become a successful philosophy student. We started by developing a sophisticated picture of how the brain works, using contemporary neuroscience. The brain represents and projects a picture of the world, full of emotional significance, but this image may contain distortions that amount to a kind of illusion. Cognitive illusions produce errors in reasoning, called cognitive biases. To guard against error, we need to engage in effortful, reflective thinking, where we become aware of our biases and use logical strategies to overcome them. You will do well in your philosophy class if you apply the good habits of mind discussed in this chapter and apply the practical advice that has been provided about how to read and write about philosophy.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax