1. Apparently similar but actually different, or apparently different but actually similar.  Paper topic by John Immerwahr, Villanova University

2. Paper Rubrics. Dera Sipe, Villanova University

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Apparently similar but actually different,
 or apparently different but actually similar.
  Paper topic by John Immerwahr, Villanova University

Before using any of this material, check our discussion of Permissions and Copyrights
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Back to TΦ101 home. February 8. 2008.

This paper topic asks students to chose a point of comparison between two of the philosophers they have read in the course, and to develop a thesis about the comparison.  The instructions tell the students that their paper will be most effective if they chose an area where the two philosophers are apparently different, but where they find a deeper similarity, or, if they choose an area where the two philosophers are apparently different but where they can show a deeper similarity.  This approach forces the students toward a close reading of the text and requires a level of thinking where secondary sources are of virtually no help (and no temptation).

Another major advantage is that this topic can be done for multiple paper assignments in the same course (restricting the choice in the second paper to texts read since the writing of the first paper).  Since the task is exactly the same for the second paper, students do significantly better. 

Paper assignment
John Immerwahr:

Your assignment is to develop and defend a thesis comparing or contrasting an important point in the assigned passages we have read from any two philosophers we have read so far in this course.  Here are some points to keep in mind.

In reading and grading your paper, we will look for the following factors.  Please read them carefully before you start writing your paper, and then check your paper against them before you hand it in. 



We will look for:


A meaningful title, student name, course number, professor’s name, a date, page numbers, and works cited section at the end.  References follow MLA style.  Under three pages of double spaced text in length (there is no minimum length). 


Does the paper actually fulfill the assignment?


Should be written for members of this class who have already read the passage fairly carefully.   Should not assume that the reader already agrees with the paper. 


Help the reader see the passage in a new light.  Reader should ideally respond, “I’m glad I read this paper, it helps me understand something about the text that I hadn’t thought of the first time I read it.”


Avoids pompous generalizations such as “since the dawn of time, men have always . . . “

Indicates what the paper is about, excites reader’s interest in the paper.

States a thesis that the paper will defend.

Possible: gives reader a brief map of how the argument will proceed.


Should be clear but not obvious to someone who has already read the text.  Sometimes the thesis may even seem surprising, until the reader has actually read the paper and been convinced by the argument.

Topic sentences

Ideally each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that offers support to the thesis.  (Some writers recommend that if all topic sentences are put together they would form a summary of the paper). 


Paragraphs should be of appropriate length.  Check to see if paper would be stronger if the paragraph could be divided in two, combined with another paragraph, or eliminated altogether.


Points made should be backed up with evidence from the text.  Check to see if the evidence actually supports the point being made.  If you find you can write this paper without DETAILED TEXTUAL EVIDENCE you are probably not doing the assignment correctly.

Connecting evidence to the point

Quotations from the text often need to be contextualized or interpreted to show how they connect to the point be supported.  Check to see if evidence needs further commentary to show how it supports the point.

Selection of evidence

Generally the points should not rely on a single passage from the text.  The most persuasive papers pull in evidence from a variety of places in the text.

Avoiding unnecessary summaries

Since the audience already is familiar with the text, the paper should not merely summarize the texts.  Instead, the paper should focus our attention on aspects of the text that are important to supporting the thesis.

Use of other materials

The paper should definitely bring in any relevant materials from any  sources we have already read in the course, and you may even need to bring in materials from other texts other than the two you are comparing.  However, you should absolutely avoid reading outside sources.   If you do happen to use any outside sources, you must list them in your work cited page, regardless of whether you relied on them specifically for  this project.


In a short paper, the conclusion should be more than just a repetition of what the reader has already read.  Ideally, the conclusion gives the author an opportunity to draw broader implications, raise new ideas or reflections, or raise thoughtful questions.


2. Paper Rubrics, Dera Sipe, Villanova University

Before using any of this material, check our discussion of Permissions and Copyrights
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Back to TΦ101 home. February 8, 2008


Philosophy 1050 Paper Guidelines


Your paper should be organized and carefully edited.  The Writing Center can be a good resource for this.  If you plan to make an appointment you need to call them well in advance (they book up quickly) at 610-519-4604.  If you did not do so for the midterm paper, you may find that it is also a good idea to check out Douglas Portmore’s article “Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper” for some advice.  Portmore’s guide can be helpful if you are working on any type of humanities paper: http://www.public.asu.esdu/~dportmor/tips.pdf.  His guidance on thesis development is especially good.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that your paper should take a stand on an issue.  Don’t be wishy-washy – argue for something.  Your thesis should clearly reflect the stance you take and your subsequent paragraphs (with textual citations!) should support your claims.     

Finally, unless your topic specifically requires contemporary resources and you have discussed the use of these resources with me, avoid using sources other than our course materials.  You should have all that you need in the texts we have read for the course.  If you would like to pull outside sources into the paper, there must be adequate justification for doing so.  Above all, do not use a source without the proper citation – doing so constitutes plagiarism.  Instances of plagiarism will result in failure.

Below you will find my criteria for a good paper.  You may want to use this as a checklist during the writing process. 


Paper Guidelines



·         Is this paper word processed?  

·         Is it a minimum of 3 pages (12 pt. font, double-spaced, 1.25” margins)?  

·         Does it include the student’s name, the course title and section number, the date, and page numbers? 

·         Does it have a meaningful title? 

o       No fancy covers or cover page.

·         If the paper is meant to address a specific assignment, did the paper fulfill the assignment?



·         Is the paper grammatically written, spell-checked, and proofread? 

o       Good papers are free from punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors; always edit your papers carefully prior to handing them in. 

o       The Writing Center or a peer reviewer can be invaluable if you have a hard time identifying errors in your own writing.

·         Does this paper use gender-inclusive language (i.e., doesn't use words such as "man "and "he" unless males are specifically meant)?



·         Is this paper well organized? 

·         Does it include a thesis-driven introductory paragraph, at least three supporting paragraphs, and an interesting conclusion that affirms the success of the argument stated in the thesis? 

·         Is it carefully but subtly organized from beginning to end with smooth paragraph transitions? 

·         Does each paragraph address one subject with interest?



·         Does the paper have a single clear thesis? 

o       Poor papers often have either no thesis or several.

·         Is the thesis specific, focused, purposeful, analytic, and insightful? 

·         Is the thesis supported and successfully proven during the course of the paper? 

·         Is the thesis defended with evidence from the text? 

o       Less successful papers just assert ideas without backing them up with quotations from the text.



·         Does this paper employ relevant supporting details? 

·         Are the supporting details rich, interesting and full? 

·         Are the supporting details relevant and appropriate to the topic? 

·         Are there many quotes that are employed smoothly, explained fully, and subjected to critical interpretation?

·         Are all quotes properly cited? 

o       To avoid being caught in a questionable plagiarism situation, you must cite all direct quotations as well as indirect references. 

o       Quotations and references must be cited so that I can find the exact page of the exact volume from which they are taken. 

o       Use an official documentation style, e.g. MLA, APA, or Chicago Author-Date. 

·         Does this paper include a works cited section at the end?

o       Give all works that you have consulted (even if you do not cite them directly).  

o       You do not need to start the works cited on a new page.

·         Does this student avoid undesirable outside sources? 

o       Do not use web sites such as SparkNotes, Wikipedia, or other “summary” sites – these do not always contain correct information and can steer you in the wrong direction.

·         If appropriate outside sources are used, are they employed in a scholarly manner? 

o       If you do consult relevant outside sources from a database article, magazine, newspaper, or book, they must be cited in a works cited page at the end of your document, even if you have not specifically relied on those sources for quotes in your paper. 

o       Remember that you are responsible for citing any words or sentences that you quote or paraphrase from other sources, and you are also responsible for citing information that is taken from other sources.


Textual Understanding:

·         Does the paper reflect an accurate understanding of all the material (i.e., material relevant to the paper topic) we have covered? 

o       In less successful papers, the textual evidence is often taken from merely one or two passages in the text.  Good papers draw on evidence from many different passages within the parameters of the assignment.  



·         Is this paper thoughtful and thought-provoking?  Original and insightful? 

·         Does the paper shed new light on the topic, that is, would it help a good student in this class see the material in a new way? 

o       The ideas in poor papers are often obvious to anyone who had read the material or attended the classes.

·         In its assessments of the text or topic at hand, does this paper display critical thinking? 



·         Does the writer have a strong and consistent voice? 

·         Does the writer employ rich and effective vocabulary? 

·         Does the writer use a variety of sentence structures, types, and lengths? 

·         Is the paper structurally fluid? 





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