Guidelines for Writing a Thesis Defense Paper James Travis Ross When I read your term paper, I do not want to be reading a book report. You will, of course, have to spend some time in your paper explaining the view or views of the figure(s) that you have chosen to write on, but this will all be strictly preliminary. The main focus of your writing will be defending a well-articulated thesis. We spent a good deal of time this semester analyzing the readings; now I want you to become engaged with the readings. You will need to defend a clearly stated thesis, and doing this requires that you respond to at least one objection to this thesis. In what follows, I will go over technical requirements and organizational suggestions. I do not require my students to use a specific format (MLA, Chicago, etc.). Instead, I ask that whatever method students choose to format their work in, it is presented in a clear and easily decipherable manner. Some basic requirements: 12-point font, double-spaced, and at least three pages. No contractions (spell words out: do not, does not, are not, is not, NOT don’t, doesn’t, aren’t, isn’t). No internet or text abbreviations (lol, wtf, ur…you would think that this goes without saying…you’d think). Numbers should be spelled unless used as prefixes (as in “12-point font” above) or if they are particularly large or convoluted (2,786,999 or 8,800) unless mixing them might work better (20 billion would be acceptable, or twenty billion, but not 20,000,000,000). If you use any quotations, be sure to cite your source. If you paraphrase, then be sure to cite the source. You can do this with footnotes. You could also just use parentheses with author and page number (Plato, pg. 50), but then you would also have to provide a works cited at the end (which I would not require if you were to use fully-detailed footnotes). If you use a rather long quote (something that comes close to filling up three full lines), then you will need to indent it (that is, tighten up the margins, and also make it single-spaced). Also, be sure to number the pages. The following is a basic organizational outline (this is merely a suggestion, and you can be tweak this serve a certain purpose. You are not required to follow one this exactly): 1. INTRODUCTION: In the first paragraph, you’ll mention a specific issue or topic that you’ll be focusing on. Then you’ll mention two possible responses to this issue. Not too much detail here, just the basics are necessary. Most importantly, you need to clearly state your thesis. Something along the lines of: “My contention is that Philosopher Y’s theory is far superior in dealing with issue Z to that of Philosopher X, and in what follows I will demonstrate why.” You may also mention briefly the possible objection(s) that you’ll be dealing with. 2. INTRODUCTION (CONT’D – optional): Briefly elaborate on the specific philosophical issue you’ll be dealing with (if necessary). 3. THE OPPOSITION: After the Introduction, you need to explain the viewpoint that you’ll eventually be opposing. Be sure to give it a fair hearing, and don’t make it sound weaker than it actually is (don’t build a “straw man”). Be sure to point out at least some of the benefits of such a theory. 4. YOUR CRITIQUE AND SOLUTION: After explaining the view of the opposition, it’s time to attack. Point out flaws in the opponent’s theory and explain how the theory that you are supporting effectively deals with these problems. Be sure to fully articulate and express your position before you do this. 5. OBJECTION – REPLY: Now it’s time to respond to at least one possible objection. Are there any flaws that an opponent might find in your position? Think of at least one and present an effective response to it. This section, along with your thesis statement, is probably one of the most important elements of your essay. 6. CONCLUDING REMARKS: Once you have explained your topic, clearly articulated your opponent’s position and your own, and responded to at least one objection to your position, now it’s time to quickly wrap things up. Provide a short re-cap. Something along the lines of: “Above I have shown that Philosopher X’s position regarding issue Z is far superior to that of Philosopher Y, and despite objection W, Philosopher X’s theory is still intact.” Optional: You may also want to use this section to acknowledge some unanswered questions or further issues that need to be explored in light of your position.
Topic: Imagine that a ship is sinking and that the seas are very rough. All but one lifeboat has been destroyed. The lifeboat holds a maximum of six people. There are ten people that want to board the lifeboat. The four individuals who do not board the boat will certainly die. The ten people are made up of one woman who thinks she is six weeks pregnant, one lifeguard, two young adults who recently married, one senior citizen who has fifteen grandchildren, one elementary school teacher, two thirteen year old twins, one veteran, one nurse, and the captain of the ship. What should be done in this situation? Who should be saved, and why? Assume that there is NO WAY for all of them to survive, and that at the very least there will be four people who will NOT survive. Pick at least one philosopher we have studied this semester, and explain how they might address these questions. What do YOU think should be done? Why?