Phil 205 S14: Second Essay Prompt

General Instructions: Your assignment is to write a 3-4 page paper on the following topic. The paper should be typed, double-spaced in a 12 point legible font. It is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, March 20. You should also turn in a hard copy of the op-ed that your paper is based on.

Prompt: In this paper you will find and analyze an argument. To begin, you will first need to identify an argument. Find an op-ed from a newspaper that makes an argument about some issue of interest today (this might be an argument about US foreign policy, gun control, same-sex marriage, abortion, campaign finance, voting rights, etc.). I want you to pick an op-ed from a newspaper or magazine that also has a physical presence (you can find your info on the web, just make sure that there is also a dead-tree version available). It is very important that you pick an op-ed that is actually making an argument, rather than just describing some issue. If you have any questions about this, feel free to run sample arguments by me. Also, you may find the paper easier to write if you disagree with the conclusion of the argument you are analyzing.

A successful paper will do the following:
  1. An introduction in which you lay out the issue and provide a thesis. It should BRIEFLY introduce the issue at hand.  The thesis statement of your paper should appear here.  The thesis should take a stand on the issue in question. Do you support the argument made in the op-ed, or do you disagree? Your thesis statement should make this clear. Also, your thesis should provide a “map” or outline of the rest of your paper.  For instance, “In this paper, I will first explain the argument made by X in the New York Post. Next I will evaluate the argument and articulate its weaknesses.  Finally, I will offer some suggestions as to how the argument could be improved.”  Oftentimes, it is best to leave the writing of your introduction for last.  As you begin to draft your paper, you may not always know exactly where it will end up.  Allowing this process to occur without worrying about being consistent with your introduction will help your ideas flow more readily and consistently.            
  2. Explain the argument. Paraphrase or summarize the argument. What kind of argument is it? Deductive or inductive? What are the premises, what is the conclusion? What support is given for the various premises?
  3. Evaluate the argument. Is it a good argument or a bad argument? Is it valid? Sound? Strong? Cogent? Why or why not?
  4. A consideration of possible counterarguments or objections to the argument under discussion.
  5. A conclusion in which you summarize the results of the paper and draw any general conclusions we can take from the issues being discussed.
Your paper will be graded on content as well as on clarity/style and mechanics.

Clarity/Style: Your paper should be written such that a person who is entirely unfamiliar with the subject could understand it and follow it with relative ease. This means that you avoid excessively long sentences and you keep it simple. Once again, imagine that you are writing your paper to a reasonably intelligent friend who is interested in what you have to say but is unfamiliar with the subject. Also, your paper should not digress from your thesis. This means that your paper constantly keeps its objective in sight and does not change the subject or veer off course.

Mechanics: “Mechanics” here refers to the presentation of your paper as well as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and proper citation. Paper should be double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins. Paper should be AT LEAST 3-4 pages, but more appropriately, you should accomplish your objective. Also, if you do cite something, all of your citations should be done properly according to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). If you are unfamiliar with these methods of citation, please consult Writing Philosophy Appendix B.