Phil 205 S13: Final Paper Prompt

Your assignment is to write a 6-8 page essay in which you use the tools developed in class to examine and evaluate the pseudoscience you wrote about in Essay 4. You should employ the SEARCH method to evaluate that pseudoscience. As a reminder, the SEARCH method consists of four steps:
  1. State the claim: what exactly is being claimed. We should try to be as detailed and clear as possible when we perform this step.
  2. Examine the Evidence for the claim: what arguments are made on behalf of this claim? Are they good arguments or bad arguments? Do the arguments commit any fallacies?
  3.  Consider Alternative Hypotheses: are there any other possible explanations for the claim being made, perhaps a simpler explanation (Ockham’s razor) or an application of Hume’s maxim? 
  4.  Rate, according to the Criteria of adequacy, each Hypothesis: We should apply our earlier criteria for evaluating and deciding between competing hypotheses: Testability, Fruitfulness, Scope, Simplicity, Conservatism.
Finally, you will conclude the essay by describing an experiment that could test the validity of that pseudoscience. Be sure to consider controlling variables, the use of a control group, and double-blinding.

A successful essay will contain the following:
  1. An introduction in which you describe what you will be doing in the essay and take a stand on the plausibility of the pseudoscience you will be writing about. It might be helpful to offer a brief history of the development of the pseudoscience here as well.
  2. A discussion of each of the four steps in the SEARCH method.
  3. A description of your experiment to test the legitimacy of the pseudoscience under consideration.
  4. A conclusion in which you summarize the essay and draw some conclusions about the validity of your pseudoscience.
The essay should be typed, double-spaced in a 10-12 point legible font. In addition to the final draft of the paper which is due on Thursday, May 16, you will also need to complete the following pre-writing assignments. Though these assignments will not be graded, failure to participate in them will result in an F on this essay:
  • You will need to bring three copies of a draft of your paper to class on Thursday, May 9 for in-class peer editing and instructor comments.
  • You will need to give a short, 5 minute presentation on your paper in class on Thursday, May 16. Feel free to use presentation software or the internet in your presentation. 
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. Further, all of your citations should be done properly according to the Chicago Manual of Style or MLA. If you are unfamiliar with these methods of citation, please consult Writing Philosophy, Appendix B.