PHIL 255

Topics for 8-page essay due March 20 (23% of final mark).

Feel free to refine the topic to something more specific.


Essays should not be longer than 8 pages, typed, double spaced, (2,000 words, including references; include a word count). You should consult 6-10 sources other than the textbook: for pointers, see the references in the textbook and the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy. Google Scholar is a good guide to the most cited works. Indicate your sources, using any citation style you like. Avoid Wikipedia and other sources of variable quality. Include at least one reference to the textbook. It's ok to use the first person: "I think that". Express your own opinions, but back them up with arguments.

The penalty for late essays is 10% per week late: if you hand it in after class March 20, you lose 10%, and after March 27 another 10%.. Extensions will be granted for reasons of documented medical illness or family emergency, but not workload (this essay was assigned Feb. 3). The penalty for plagiarism (passing another person's work off as your own) is a course grade of F and referral to the Associate Dean. The final day to hand in an essay and get any marks for it is April 3, in class.

See: How to avoid plagiarism.

Essays will be evaluated on the basis of:

1. Relevance: pose and try to answer an important philosophical question.

2. Research: use resources beyond the textbooks.

3. Writing: write intelligibly.

4. Argument: make a compelling case for the answer you prefer, and consider alternative answers. Essays will be graded on the quality of the argument, not on the particular conclusion you reach.

The format does not matter, but make sure that you indicate all your sources, including Web sites. This is a research essay so you should use 6-10 sources in addition to the textbooks. Include at least one reference to the textbooks. Use any citation style that you like.

Your essay MUST have the following explicit headings:

1. The issue. State the question you are trying to answer.

2. Alternatives. State possible answers to your question.

3. Evidence. Describe whatever arguments and evidence are relevant to the different potential answers.

4. Conclusion. On the basis of the arguments and evidence for the different alernatives, defend what you see as the best answer to the question.

Essays not using these headings will be penalized 25%!

Thagard blog: How to write productively


PHIL 255 home page

Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated March 10, 2014