Give your students better writing feedback. A practical guide for instructors. Few practices promote student learning as effectively as well-formed writing assignments paired with personal, constructive feedback. Of course, giving useful feedback can be time consuming and has limited value if students don't read or act on it.
I find this claim plausible, for the following reasons You'll usually begin by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration.
Then you'll go on to do one or two of the following: Criticize that argument or thesis Offer counter-examples to the thesis Defend the argument or thesis against someone else's criticism Offer reasons to believe the thesis Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible Argue that certain philosophers are committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true Revise the thesis in the light of some objection You'll conclude by stating the upshot of your discussion.
For instance, should we accept the thesis? Should we reject it?
Or should we conclude that we don't yet have enough information to decide whether the thesis is true or false? No matter which of these aims you set for yourself, you have to explicitly present reasons for the claims you make.
You should try to provide reasons for these claims that might convince someone who doesn't already accept them. A good philosophy paper is modest and makes a small point; but it makes that point clearly and straightforwardly, and it offers good reasons in support of it People very often attempt to accomplish too much in a philosophy paper.
The usual result of this is a paper that's hard to read, and which is full of inadequately defended and poorly explained claims. So don't be over-ambitious. Don't try to establish any earth-shattering conclusions in your 5 page paper. Done properly, philosophy moves at a slow pace.
Originality The aim of these papers is for you to display familiarity with the material and an ability to think critically about it. Don't be disappointed if you don't make an utterly distinctive contribution to human thought in your first attempts at philosophical writing.
There will be plenty of time for that later on. Your critical intelligence will inevitably show up in whatever you write. An ideal paper will be clear and straightforward see belowwill be accurate when it attributes views to other philosophers see belowand will contain thoughtful critical responses to the texts we read.
It need not always break new ground. If you do want to demonstrate independent thought, don't think you have to do it by coming up with a novel argument.
You can also demonstrate independent thought by offering new examples of familiar points, or new counter-examples, or new analogies.
Major Guidelines Thinking about a philosophical problem is hard. Writing about it ought not to be. You're not trying to craft some fancy political speech. You're just trying to present a claim and some reasons to believe it or disbelieve it, as straightforwardly as possible.
Here are some guidelines on how to do that. Make an outline Before you begin to write, you need to think about the questions: In what order should you explain the various terms and positions you'll be discussing? At what point should you present your opponent's position or argument? In what order should you offer your criticisms of your opponent?
Do any of the points you're making presuppose that you've already discussed some other point, first? The overall clarity of your paper will greatly depend on its structure.
That is why it is important to think about these questions before you begin to write. I strongly recommend that you make an outline of your paper, and of the arguments you'll be presenting, before you begin to write. This lets you organize the points you want to make in your paper and get a sense for how they are going to fit together.
For instance, you want to be able to say what your main argument or criticism is before you write. If you get stuck writing, it's probably because you don't yet know what you're trying to say.Philosophical writing is different from the writing you'll be asked to do in other courses.
Most of the strategies described below will also serve you well when writing for other courses, but don't automatically assume that they all will.
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Of course, giving useful feedback can be time consuming and has limited value if students don't read or act on it.