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How to Write Philosophy Term Paper: Complete Guide

Need advice on how to approach a challenging philosophy term paper? Writing in philosophy differs from other types of academic writing because the main aim of any paper is to provide a reasoned defense of the thesis and convince the reader to accept it. If you face problems with completing writing assignments in philosophy, keep reading this article, where you will find a short and easy philosophy term paper writing guide that covers all the main aspects of creating an impressive paper.

What Is a Philosophy Term Paper?

Philosophy is often defined as an inquiry into important matters for the whole humanity – justice, meaning, truth, reality, mind, and knowledge which philosophy examines logically, directly, and in-depth. In the western philosophy, the philosophical inquiry was developed as a verbal activity, taking a specific form of a dialogue (Socrates) or in the written form (Aristotle, Plato, and plenty of philosophers who followed them). In both forms, the main goal of any philosophical inquiry is to create a thesis and persuade the audience to accept the thesis using logical, honest, and thorough argumentation.

In contrast to other fields of study, philosophical writing is argumentative writing. Philosophy papers don’t simply report facts, explain ideas or convey the author’s beliefs. Philosophers examine specific philosophical issues or problems and do philosophy. Their writings typically deal with:

  • investigating the nature of an issue or a problem;
  • presenting a solution or a view on the problem;
  • arguing in defense of that view or a solution.

Sometimes, the aim of philosophical writing is to develop a view on an issue or a theory and defend them. Philosophical writings may also present a critique of a view of another philosopher or critique of opposing views and defend the author’s preferred view.

The aim of written assignments in philosophy classes is to get students doing philosophy so they are expected to write philosophical essays and term papers. They differ from academic papers you have to write in other classes. Your task is not just to do a research and provide your opinion on the topic, you need to develop your own views on different important issues and argue for them. Your goal is to persuade your audience that your ideas are correct and make your readers believe your view is true. That’s why the aim of your philosophy term paper is to present a well-structured, convincing defense of your position on some issue or critically evaluate a philosophical theory.

Choosing a Worthy Topic for Philosophy Term Paper

If your instructor hasn’t assigned any specific topic for your term paper, you have to choose it on your own. The best approach is to write on a topic you are passionate about so you will enjoy the writing process. Make sure that your topic is broad enough to write about it and is narrow enough so you can manage it.

Basically, there are 2 types of topics for philosophy papers: problem-focused topic and text-focused topics.

  • Problem-focused topics. These concern a certain philosophical issue or problem without reference to some text of a particular philosopher (e.g. Is euthanasia ethical?).
  • Text-focused paper topics. They are about considering the writing of a particular philosopher on a specific issue (e.g. Discuss critically Kant’s freedom definition).

The difference between these two types of topics is not critical because any text of a certain philosopher is devoted to a particular philosophical problem or question and practically all philosophical problems have already been written about by philosophers.

When writing on text-focused topics, you should approach them as attempts of the philosophers to deal with specific philosophical issues or problems. Actually, you will have to do philosophy with other philosophers and think about the specific issues.

As for problem-focused topics, you can use texts of different philosophers when you explore these topics. Of course, this approach is not obligatory but it may be helpful, especially, for beginners because texts can help you stay focused while you provide respond to the question.

Here we have a short list of extended philosophy term paper topics which you a free to use to get started.

  1. Berkeley, Hume, and Skepticism;
  2. Kant on the World;
  3. Berkeley’s Doctrine of Signs;
  4. Descartes on Certainty And Skepticism;
  5. Marx’s Concept of Ideology;
  6. Socrates’ Philosophical and Religious Views;
  7. Plato’s Theory of Beauty;
  8. Aristotle’s Conception of the Soul;
  9. Heidegger on Art;
  10. Nietzsche on Human Nature And Morality.

Structuring a Philosophy Term Paper

term paper writing

Your typical assignment for writing a term paper can be evaluating some thesis or argument that was presented by another philosopher. Concerning this argument or thesis, you may be assigned to make one or more of the following steps:

  • explain a thesis;
  • present an argument to support it;
  • give an objection to this argument or thesis;
  • discuss the consequences that a thesis might;
  • defend a thesis against an objection to it;
  • assess the arguments against and for it etc.

No matter which tasks you will have to complete, your term paper should always meet some structural requirements and you need to provide reasons for claims you make.
It’s very important to plan your essay in advance before you start writing. You should think about the paper structure where all parts of it are logically connected. There are no strict rules on how your term paper must be structured and the structure will depend on a certain topic to a large extent. But typically, your philosophy term paper will consist of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

Introduction

Your introductory paragraph has to present information about the particular issue you are going to address, what goal you expect to achieve in your term paper, and how you plan to organize your argument to do it. Make your introduction to be your readers’ guide through your paper that will help them understand your ideas. You can do it this way:

  • Start by formulating your paper’s thesis
  • Define terminology used in your thesis or in your argument
  • Explain the structure of your paper to your readers and inform them about the order in which you are going to argue your key points

Don’t begin your paper with some empty sentences like this one: “For centuries, philosophers have pondered what it means to know…” Such a beginning is not relevant and has nothing to do with the topic you are writing about.

You may start like this: “In this paper, I will refute Mr. Black’s statement about… by showing that it… Then I will present 3 arguments that support my thesis. They are 1)… 2)… 3)…”

Body

The body of your philosophy term paper should develop your analysis of a certain problem and express your arguments for your position. This part of the paper should be written according to the brief outline you have presented in your introduction. The body of your term paper has to consist of 3 essential parts:

  1. exposition
  2. argumentation
  3. respond to possible objections

Depending on the topic of your paper, you will need to provide a brief summary or exposition of the argument, theory or a view you are going to examine. You will have to explain the argument or the theory in your own simple words and be very precise and concise, providing details that are essential for your thesis and your argument. You can also explain here some technical terms that are necessary for understanding your argument.

The main focus of your term paper is argumentation. You have to present an argument to support the thesis you have made in your introduction. You should use straightforward language and be precise in telling what you actually mean. In this part of your paper, you will need some examples to prove your points but don’t include too much evidence or you may distract your readers. Try to be as concise as possible.

To strengthen your own argument, you should anticipate objections and answer to them. It’s a very important step in defending your thesis. You should think about the most serious objections to your argument. If you happen not to know what to answer to a tough objection, you should consider 2 options:

  • You may do your best to provide some answer to this objection.
  • You may rethink your own position – what if your own arguments need more efforts or maybe your point of view can’t be supported by argument.

You are free to change your mind anytime. You can do it and rewrite your paper according to this. In philosophical writing, this experience does happen and your ideas may become different from what you have thought before.

Conclusion

Your conclusion should not be long (about 1/3-1/2 a page). You should restate your thesis and explain what you think your argument has proved. You may also want to highlight some important limitations or implications to your argument.

How to Get Your Term Paper Done

Philosophical problems are complex so you will need a great deal of preparation to succeed in writing your philosophy paper. That’s why you should start as early as possible.

  1. You should plan your paper first and write rough sketches of ideas relevant to your topic. Freewriting is a great technique that will help you think things through.
  2. Then, you should write a detailed outline that will guide you when writing your term paper. Your outline should include your thesis and your argument in a brief form. You will also need to include possible objections and your responses to them.
  3. As you write your outline, you are most likely need to revise certain points in your argument or even the whole answer. You should make as many revisions as you need to feel that your argument is clear and you are completely satisfied with the outline of your paper.
  4. Your next step is creating your first complete draft of your paper. You should focus on the clarity and logic of your argument.
  5. When you complete your first draft, you should revise it several times, taking into account the logic, the flow, and the particular word choices.
  6. You can read your draft aloud or ask someone to read it and provide feedback about it. In this way, you will get a better idea which parts of your arguments are weak and need more work.
  7. Your final draft should present the clearest argument you could imagine.
  8. When you are satisfied with the content of your final draft, you need to edit it and fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You can read your draft backward to better notice possible mistakes or ask your friends and family members to help you proofread your final draft.
  9. You should check all your quotes and paraphrases to ensure that they are properly referenced according to a particular citation style specified by your professor. Typically, philosophers use CMS or MLA to format their papers.

General Tips from Our Experts on Writing Philosophy Term Papers

  1. Stick to your assignment. Make sure that all points in your argument are relevant to the problem and to the defending your position. Get rid of the sentences that don’t advance your argument.
  2. Use simple prose. Use simple familiar words and make your sentences and paragraphs short.
  3. Don’t write the lengthy introductions because they are boring and unnecessary for well-informed readers. Make your introduction as brief as possible and go straight to your topic.
  4. Don’t rely too heavily on paraphrases or quotations. Use quotes only where you can’t do without them and keep your paraphrases to a minimum. Your instructor wants to see your own thoughts.
  5. Don’t appeal to authorities. Don’t argue that the claim is true because someone of a great authority was of that opinion. Anyone can be wrong. Don’t appeal to any dictionary and avoid appealing to science because scientific findings are not authoritative on philosophical questions.
  6. Avoid emotional appeals because they are not arguments. You shouldn’t tell your audience what you feel. You need to tell them what you believe and provide reasons to explain and support your ideas.