A good paper should consist of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. A good introduction is engaging and quickly establishes the importance of the main point. Crucially, a good introduction includes a succinct and in-depth thesis that makes a strong claim.The body of your paper (the longest part of your paper) focuses on the text that you are discussing. The reader finds here a clear analysis of the argumentation provided in that text. It should be clear at all times how each part of your paper contributes to the goal that you have set for yourself (arguing in support of your thesis). The conclusion persuasively draws together the main lines of argumentation in the paper and offers a hint of broader implications and insights. It includes the author’s view.
In your writing, make sure that your paper has a clear focus and that the reader can find a coherent thread. This implies that each paragraph flows smoothly from the preceding paragraph and into the following paragraph, and that each paragraph is necessary in supporting your main thesis. Hence, leave out irrelevant information.
The thesis plus the reasons given in its support are called an argument. When a thesis is stated without any supporting evidence, it is merely a dogmatic statement of opinion. For example, the Platonic thesis that the body is an impediment for the soul is, without supporting evidence, no argument. Only when this thesis is supported by a step-by-step analysis of specific and sufficient evidence given in the text can we speak of an argument. Use quotations when the precise choice of words in the text is important for your argument. The author of the paper should display the logical structure of the arguments and should give a clear account of this structure. Simultaneously, the author of the paper should take account of arguments that do not support his/her claim. Also, in your evaluation of the argument, a simple statement of what you believe can have no philosophical value unless supported by reasoning.
Be as clear as possible! This implies that the author writes in simple lucid language and makes apparent what s/he is up to. Write you paper for a hypothetical reader who is, like yourself, intelligent, but who did not read the text you discuss. If your roommate does not understand your paper, you should probably rewrite it. A good organization as well as a clear argumentation will contribute to the clarity of the paper. Avoid long sentences (unless you are an excellent writer), pompous words (pretentious or fancy words), and padding.
What is a Thesis? A thesis is mostly the answer to the main question of the paper. It can also be the main conclusion, or a proposition it seeks to establish. An example of a thesis of a philosophy paper is: “For Socrates, the body is an impediment since it keeps us from thinking purely.” This can be the main conclusion or the answer to the question “Why is for Socrates the body an impediment?” In either case you will have to give an account of Socrates’ argument for this thesis
What is Padding? An example of padding is a sentence like “Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known.” Or: “Since the beginning of mankind people have been wondering about the best way to live.” Padding is mostly done to fill up space. It consists of writing some trivia or irrelevancies that do not contribute anything to your paper (apart from filling up pages). Instead of this strategy of padding, you should focus on the main aspects of your answer.
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