For your final research paper, you are asked to write a paper of 1700-words (minimum word count—any paper of fewer than 1300 words will not be accepted as a complete paper) to 2000-words

For your final research paper, you are asked to write a paper of 1700-words (minimum word count—any paper of fewer than 1300 words will not be accepted as a complete paper) to 2000-words (maximum word count—you may exceed this without penalty only if it is essential to attaining the purpose of your paper). Your paper must cite the work of at least four philosophers studied during the course; there is no upper limit on the number of sources you may use.
The assignment is broken into two parts. Part I is simply the introductory paragraph, which should include your thesis statement. Also include in Part I a “working” title and an informal list of possible sources. This will be due at the beginning of the last week of class so that the instructor can give you feedback on your thesis before the final version is due. You will be able to change your thesis and revise your sources for the final version; treat this as a “rough draft” of the introduction of your paper. Part II is the finished, final version of the paper. It will be due on the last day of class. Please click on the title link above, “Final Research Paper,” to access the assignment module where you can submit both Part I and Part II of this assignment. Once you are on that page, click on the title links to access the submission page where you may browse for and upload your document.
Read more detailed assignment guidelines here: Final Research Paper: Detailed Guidelines Click for more options Final Research Paper: Detailed Guidelines – Alternative Formats .
Also, please carefully review the Final Paper Grading Rubric Click for more options Final Paper Grading Rubric – Alternative Formats .
You have the option of writing a position paper or a comparison essay, depending on whether your plan is to argue in favor of an original position regarding the work and thought of at least four philosophers covered in the course or to comparatively evaluate the work of four or more philosophers. The topics below may be approached using either strategy; you may find that some will better lend themselves to a position paper (also known as an argumentative essay) and some will work better as a comparison essay. Choose the topic that most interests you and the strategy that works best for you.
Topic Areas
Plato, Hume, Kant, and Russell: What is human knowledge?
Kant, Mill, Aristotle, and Kierkegaard: What is the ethical life?
Sartre, James, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche: What is an authentic, autonomous individual?
Descartes, Hume, Searle, and James: What is consciousness?
Plato, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche: What is truth?
Plato, Descartes, Hume, and Nietzsche: What is the soul or self (conceived as an entity that is purely mental, spiritual, or nonphysical)?
Sartre, James, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche: What is the role and value of religious faith?
Descartes, Kant, Sartre, and Nietzsche: What is free will and why does it matter?
Socrates/Plato, Russell, Sartre, and Nietzsche: What is the role and value of philosophy?
Position Paper Strategy:
A position paper follows a particular format. First, the thesis is clearly stated in the introductory paragraph (sometimes it is pushed into the second paragraph). The thesis expresses the author’s position on a specific issue related to the topic at hand, and the issue itself is introduced in the first part of the introductory paragraph. Your position on the issue is, in fact, your opinion, but it is your considered opinion. That means that it is your task in this paper to support your opinion with good reasons for why you hold that opinion (your position on the issue); that is, why you believe your thesis to be true. This is what it means to give or present an argument.
You may have one or more separate arguments (or sets of supporting reasons/evidence) to bolster your position. You will be presenting your own argument in conjunction with an opposing view. Whatever format you use to present opposing or alternative positions, it is imperative to reply to each and every opposing claim you introduce; otherwise, your own case is severely weakened.
You may consult external sources to find a counterargument or play “devil’s advocate” and come up with one yourself. Note that if there is no possible counterargument in opposition to your thesis, there is a problem with your thesis. Any significant thesis will assert a claim about which intelligent, rational thinkers may disagree. You must then reply to each counterargument and refute it, explaining or showing why any objection to your position raised in the counterargument fails and thus the counterargument may be rejected or simply dismissed. Finally, re-state your thesis in an expanded form as developed by your discussion and argumentation throughout the paper. This will stand as the conclusion of your position paper.
Comparison Essay Strategy:
Generally speaking, there are five key elements of comparative analysis paper:
1. Frame of Reference: This is partly determined for you by the guidelines of the assignment. You will be comparing and contrasting the work and ideas of four different philosophers. It is possible that you could combine two or three philosophers into a single group by considering them under a particular “umbrella”–a theoretical standpoint or position on a particular philosophical issue, etc., and then compare two groups of philosophers.
2. Grounds for Comparison: This will be key to formulating your thesis. Here again, this is partly set for you by the assignment; you will be comparing the views of four thinkers about a particular area of philosophical inquiry (questions about knowledge, truth, ethical judgment, religious faith, etc.). What you must do here is to narrow down the specific aspect of this broader area of philosophical inquiry in relation to the thinking of the four philosophers in your chosen topic area.
3. Comparative Thesis: This will follow directly from your having established the grounds for comparison. Your thesis will depend on the aspects of the philosophers’ views you have chosen to isolate for comparison and contrast and how they relate to each other in the domain addressed in the specific topic area. Do the items (in this paper, this will likely be views, theories, or positions) being compared corroborate, contradict, complicate, extend, or oppose one another? Whether you place the focus on similarities or differences, the main task is to clarify the relationship(s) among the items.
4. Organizational Scheme: You can use the block method, also called text-by-text, or the alternating point-by-point method. See the guidelines below for more details. 5. Linking of compared elements: It is essential that you link all of the compared items or elements back to the main point expressed in your thesis. The reader should be able to logically and systematically follow your analyses, comparative discussion and argumentation in relation to the issue at hand. A comparative analysis involving four items can be highly complex, so proceed with care.
You may find the following documents helpful in providing further explanations of how to write position papers and comparison papers:
Position Papers – broken link (from Pearson Drafting; this is extremely detailed and includes two samples of professionally written position papers: 26 pages).
Writing a Position Paper Click for more options Writing a Position Paper – Alternative Formats (from Simon Fraser University; good overview: 6 pages).
Argumentative Essays – broken link (from Purdue Online Writing Lab; 2 pages).
How to Write a Comparative Analysis – broken link (from Harvard College Writing Center; concise and complete: 2 pages).
The Comparative Essay – broken link (from University of Toronto; 2 pages).
Comparative Analysis – broken link (from the English Department of Mississippi State University; very thorough, includes several student model essays and essay planner worksheets: 14 pages)
Generating an Argument – broken link (PowerPoint slide show reviews argumentation in general).


Approximately 250 words