The thought of writing a philosophy term paper often terrifies students, even students that study philosophy. Philosophy term papers have earned a reputation over the years; the assumption is that they are dense, full of highly complex academic a language, erudite, and contain circular and impenetrable permutations of logic. However, successful term papers for philosophy need not be any of these things. Philosophy is the study of reason; as such, its goals are clear and attainable. If you have been assigned a term paper for philosophy, have a look at the following five tips to help you get clear on your topic:

  1. Organize your thesis around one core idea or central tenet of a philosopher’s theory or a particular school of philosophy. Do not attempt an overview of a certain philosopher’s career or of the genesis of a certain school – these approaches are too general. Philosophy term papers work best when they analyze one specific element of the larger theoretical construct.
  2. Write your paper using academic language sparingly. A myth persists that philosophy term paper language needs to be enormously complex and scholarly. This is not the case. Rather, the philosophy term paper requires a scholarly approach, which may just as easily be worded very simply. Penetrating analysis is always more important than erudite language.
  3. Keep quotations short and pertinent to the point you are making. Quotations are important to demonstrate that you have taken the time to research properly; however, your professor will be more interested in reading how you have interpreted the central idea.
  4. Balance your references equally between primary and secondary sources. Use your imagination where the primary sources are concerned. For example, see if you can find diary or journal entries or letters from the philosopher in question and include them as part of your research.
  5. Use the essay as an opportunity to build your own reasoning skills. If some aspect of the theory does not make sense to you, trust your own logic to break the theory down into its component parts and figure out the logical deductions that the philosopher made. If any of these deductions appear false to you, write them down. Perform the same mental work as the philosopher and see if you arrive at the same conclusion.

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