What are some tips for writing a philosophy paper?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first step is to come up with an interesting topic: free will, the effects of God, the nature of reality, epistemology, and so on. Philosophy ("love" of wisdom) is quite broad, so there are many topics to choose from. There is even a branch called the philosophy of science. 

Once your topic is chosen, there needs to be a thesis statement. This is what your paper is going to argue. For example, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" is a useful synopsis of the notion/metaphor of "thinking outside the box." After stating a thesis such as this, it is helpful to say why it is important or relevant. This is the "so what" question. Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" helps us to remember what thinking outside the box means. Then you need to answer the "so what?"

From, here it will also be useful to give some examples using this lesson of "thinking outside the box." So, you are arguing that Plato's text is still useful, but you also want to show how it can be applied practically. Suggest examples when thinking outside the box has been used, especially if Plato's particular metaphor is used. I. e., "The shadows on the wall of the cave are like virtual reality and modern media. They seem real and attract our attention so much that they have become a large portion of our reality. But, they are not as real or as "true" as actual interaction with other human beings." 

Next, look for other philosophers/thinkers (Plato included) who support your thesis. Quote them when necessary, but don't overdo the quotations. And try not to be redundant. This makes for a very uninteresting paper. State your thesis. Offer arguments for it. Cite thinkers who support your thesis. Google key terms to find some articles. Only use Wikipedia as a starting point. Find out if your school has access to online databases: ProjectMUSE and JSTOR are good databases for philosophical and literary articles. Check out some synopses and analysis on Enotes as well. 

Anticipate challenges to your thesis. Find one or more thinkers who would disagree with your thesis. State their arguments and refute their arguments. 

After stating your thesis, offering supporting evidence, and refuting challenges, write a short, cogent conclusion. 

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