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Philosophy 103 - Critical Thinking in Philosophy  

Comparing both sides of a controversial issue.
Last Updated: May 1, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Your Assignment Print Page




What You Need to Know

Understanding Your Assignment

Before you begin looking for information you should make sure you understand your assignment. Some good questions are:

  • How many pages?
  • How many sources?
  • What kinds of sources?
    • Books
    • Articles
    • Websites
  • What format?

Your professor is your best resource to answer these questions.

image of student with her hand raised


Controversial Issue Paper

image of scaleWriting an argumenative paper on a controversial issue requires that you look at both sides of an issue and take a position on one side or the other.  You not only take a stand on an issue, but you must defend it against opposing points of view.  Therefore, your argumentative research paper will involve advocacy and persuasion. 

What to do:

  • Select your topic
  • Research the issues surrounding the topic
  • Read other writers’ arguments for and against
  • Take a stand
  • Present supporting evidence in favor of your position
  • Defend your position against opposing points of view
  • Anticipate and deflect arguments against your position
  • Make your case persuasively 

How To Write a Short Philosophy Position Paper - Professor Stolze

I. Ideally, your position paper should have five main parts:

  • The statement of a thesis.
  • An elaboration of this thesis.
  • A presentation of arguments in support of the thesis.
  • A consideration of fair objections to the thesis.
  • A response to these objections.

II.  Your first task is to select a topic related to our course that you think is philosophically interesting.  In your initial paper proposal, you should explain in a paragraph or two why you are interested in this topic and what you hope to achieve in doing your research.

III.  Your next task is to formulate your own distinctive thesis regarding the topic you have selected. A thesis is simply a statement in which you present a clear, definite assertion of a position that you are defending.  By the time you turn in your rough draft, you should be able clearly to identify your thesis and to explain how you intend to support it.

IV.  When you elaborate on your thesis, make sure that you carefully inform your reader just what you are going to argue in your paper.

V.   When you offer arguments in support of your thesis, you should be careful to use personal experiences only to the extent that they can be generalized. Cite relevant facts and draw necessary conceptual distinctions in your defense.

VI.  Think of the strongest objections to your thesis that you can by approaching the issue from an imaginary opponent's standpoint and envisioning how she or he might fairly criticize you.

VII.  Once you have thought of legitimate objections to your thesis, try your best to respond to them by showing how and why they fail.

VIII. Write as clearly and grammatically as possible. Don't wander from your basic outline, and don't mix together materials that belong in different parts of the paper. Don't ask rhetorical questions or make narrowly emotional appeals; give arguments instead. Of course, these arguments can take the form of extended analogies, narratives, or thought experiments. Bear in mind that your essay must be philosophically driven. You should document your paper by using footnotes, endnotes, or internal citations (either MLA or APA style is fine).


Research Basics - Step by Step

Breaking Down The Research Process    

The following outline gives a simple and effective strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with the library, you may need to rearrange or recycle these steps. Adapt this outline to your needs. We are ready to help you at every step in your research.                                         

  1. Choose a topic - or have one assigned
  2. Understand your topic
    • Refine your topic 
    • Consider a main focus
    • Background reading
  3. Search Sources
  4. Write your paper – Informative, Analytical, Argumentative, Critical
  5. Cite Your Sources

    Talk to a Librarian

    Need Help 

    The Cerritos College Librarians can help you with your research in a variety of ways:

    Librarians are available during library hours to answer your questions by phone or chat.
    (562) 860-2451 x2425


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