How to Write a Philosophy Paper
outrageous!Let’s image that you are writing a paper in Epistemology. One possible titlewould be:
Problematic? Definitely. ‘Truth’ is far too generic, and a bitpompous to boot. How about:
The Correspondence Theory of Truth
. –Better; but it is still too broad and it doesn’t provide the reader with a senseof the paper’s purpose.
The Correspondence Theory of Truth: A Defense
– This is even better as it gives the reader an indication as to what you’reexamining and hints at what your point of view will be. Of course, it’s notvery sexy but we leave that possibility up to you.
Your opening paragraph(s) should set the stage for the rest of the paper.You are providing your reader with a contextual roadmap of what they canexpect. It provides the reader with some indication as to why the topic isimportant, what the general problem is (or has been) and what your generalthesis will be. If you have the space, you may wish to provide a brief glimpseof the main points you will be making- but be careful, you don’t want tospend 1/3 of a short essay just explaining what the essay will be about. Justlike your title, you may want to write the first paragraph last. This is due tothe fact that you may not be quite sure what direction the paper willultimately take and what the various arguments will be. Thus, instead of trying to force your paper to comply with the limits that you set out in a pooropening paragraph, just sketch the start of your paper to begin with andthen jump right into the main text. Of course, the creation of an outline priorto this (see ‘How to Plan your Paper)will benefit. Once you’ve written the firstdraft, then you can go back and tweak the opening paragraph.
While the opening sentence of each paragraph should be a new idea or anexpansion of a previous one, it must flow naturally from the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Take care that you don’t jump around from point topoint without warning the reader – otherwise the reader will be lost as towhere you are going and what you are trying to accomplish. Of course, thereare many different approaches to write your essay, and sometimes it justbecomes a matter of what works best for you, the topic and what yourinstructor wants. For example, you may want to present the issue, yourviews, then the possible objections and your responses; or you may wish todevelop these things all in tandem. That is, present an argument and apossible objection then resolve the criticism and move on.
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