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How to Write

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Dan Lowe

on 18 April 2016

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Transcript of How to Write

How to Explain an Argument
Resources for How to Write in this Class
The Prompt
The First Rubric
What a Good Paper Looks Like
The Second Rubric
Aside from the parts of the writing guide that were assigned for you to read (Introduction, Chs. 5-6, Appendix 1), use it however you want.
The Two-Rubric System
first rubric
is a checklist which you have to meet in order to be eligible for more than 50% on your paper.

In other words, if you don’t meet the items on the checklist, you will not be eligible for a grade greater than 50%

The First Rubric
Critiquing an Argument:
Four Parts
A short paragraph is fine.

It should:

restate your thesis, and

summarize your argument in the broadest possible terms.
A Few Pointers on Correct Citation
A Few Pointers on
Accurate Explanation
What A Citation Is
When to Cite
When to Quote, When to Paraphrase
What to Cite
Avoiding Plagiarism
is a reference to a source of a claim, which directs the reader toward the specific place in the source where that claim is made.
Cite your source in-text whenever:

you quote from an author,


you paraphrase an author (so long as the claim is not common sense or common knowledge)
When to quote

quote whenever
there is a controversy as to what the author actually said, or
the author said it really well.

The general rule:

Cite so that if someone wanted to find the claim in the original text, they could do so easily.
How to Cite
Don’t cite a secondary source (e.g., a website on Aristotle) when you have the same information from a primary source (Aristotle himself).
What Plagiarism Is
Consequences of Plagiarism
Ignorance Isn't an Excuse
How to Avoid Plagiarism
is using someone else’s ideas without acknowledging where they come from.
1. You fail the course

It’s your responsibility as a CU student to know the plagiarism policy.

This means that unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.

Avoiding plagiarism is easy.

Just make sure it's always clear when you're discussing your ideas, and when you're discussing someone else's ideas.

The best strategy:
When in doubt, cite it!
Why It's Difficult to Be Clear
What to Do About Clarity
The main obstacle to writing clearly is that
your writing will always seem clearer to you than it really is

This is because you are putting forward
your own
ideas through
your own
mode of expression.
write in a fancy style, choosing big words and complicated sentence structure.
Any Questions?
A Few Pointers on Minimal Distractions
Little Things Make A Big Difference
Spaces Between Words
Choosing The Right Word
What Have We Learned?
By “distractions,” I mean little errors in writing: the wrong word, a typo, a missing comma, messed up formatting, etc.

These are little things, but little things make a big difference.

Spelling Words Correctly
1. Little things make a big difference. Small errors can really change the meaning of what you say.

2. Spellcheck isn’t enough.

3. To catch these errors, you have to actually
your paper.

What they meant to say: “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.”
What they actually said:

What they meant to say: “Toilet ONLY for disabled, elderly, pregnant, children, [etc.].”
What they actually said:
"Become a partner in public education with the Red Lion area school district.”
“Really! The next door neighbor has a dog that will not stop barking!”

: A kind of fragrance, usually for men.
: A mark of punctuation, or literally a butt hole.

second rubric
comes into play if you meet the items on the checklist for the first rubric. The second rubric will be used to grade papers that are eligible for more than 50%.

Think of the first rubric as a gateway that you have to pass in order to get more than 50% on your paper.
Academic Honesty
Having an Appropriate Thesis
There can be no plagiarism -- whether you realize you're plagiarizing or not.
Here are a few instances of plagiarism:
Copying some text from a website and putting it into your paper, without referencing the website, or using the text from a website with only minor adjustments without referencing the website.
Taking an idea from a website and putting it into your paper, without referring to the website.
Taking an argument or set of ideas from a classmate and putting them into your paper.
Copying and pasting information from the text with only minor adjustments, without referencing the text.
Getting an idea from a friend and putting it into your paper, without saying it was your friend's idea.

When you put your name at the top of your paper, you’re saying that – unless you say otherwise – the ideas are your own.
2. You have to go to the Honor Council
He argues that if he thinks, he must exist, since if he didn’t exist he would not be able to think (Descartes, 45). Or, as he famously put it,
“Cogito ergo sum” (Descartes, 45).

A quotation, a citation, and a paraphrase are not the same thing!


When to paraphrase

paraphrase whenever you don’t quote.
So, in general you will paraphrase way more than you quote!
If there are no page numbers, you should include chapter and paragraph numbers.
This means including page numbers! (If you just tell me that something is said in Aristotle's
Nicomachean Ethics
, that doesn't help me find it -- that's a long book!)
use plain words whenever possible.
keep a thesaurus handy just to replace your plain words with fancier ones, in order to make your paper seem better.
What about MLA, APA, etc?
I truly don't care.
e.g.,: “I will examine Anselm's argument that God exists."
This is not the thing you're trying to prove.

Go to Appendix 1 of
Dan's Guidelines

Go to the First Assignment prompt

Page 14 of your syllabus

Look at the bottom of page 14 of your syllabus.
Critiquing or Defending
an Argument


There will be weird cases. What do you do?
What they
meant to say
What they
actually said
What they meant to say
What they actually said
What they meant to say
What they actually said
Using Quotation Marks Correctly
Don't use quotation marks for emphasis,
or just randomly put them in.
This is especially true of
. Only cite lecture if the information I’m talking about is not available in your text.
What to Shoot For
The reader always knows what is being said and why it is being said.
What to Shoot For
The structure of your paper is clear and it helps the reader understand the argument.
The Prompt
What a Good Paper Looks Like
Go to Appendix 2 of
Dan's Guidelines

Go to the Second Assignment prompt

Page 16 of your syllabus

The First Rubric
The Second Rubric
The First Rubric
1. Persuasiveness (40 points)

2. Accurate and Full Explanation (20 points)

3. Organization (10 points)

4. Clarity (10 points)

5. Minimal Distractions (10 points)

6. Complete Citation (10 points)
Correct Citation
Minimal Distractions
Look at the bottom of page 16 of your syllabus.
What to Shoot For
Things to Avoid
The paper has an argument which starts with plausible assumptions and moves logically to an interesting conclusion.
The Parts of Your Paper
Any Questions?
1. Don't respond to an objection by just restating what the original author says.
The prompt says: "Make sure you're not just listing a bunch of claims, but you're
showing how they fit together into an argument
Ways of explaining something:
the same idea in different terms.
"In other words..."
. "
For instance...
" Not the
same as a definition!
what's been said.
"So far the author has argued..."
Organizing Your Explanation
Address possible
"It may seem like the author is saying x, but ..."
Use paragraphs to break up arguments into parts.
Don't try to get the whole argument into one paragraph (unless you're recapping), or even two.
Paragraphs don't have a minimum length. This means you can have small paragraphs, which makes it easy to break up an argument into smaller parts.
Introduce paragraphs in such a way that it connects with what has been said.
Use transitional sentences.
"Now that Rachels has defined his terms, he can use those terms in an argument."
Mention key terms that connect with what went before. Suppose you've just explained moral disagreement, and you want to show how that supports moral relativism. "
Moral disagreement provides evidence for moral relativism.
Avoid beginning a paragraph by saying:
"Another thing Aristotle brings up is..."
important terms: "
Social construction is...
If you cite when you should, then you are more likely to get the author's view right.
Not an Explanation
Not an Explanation
Giving the play-by-play of the article:
First Haslanger talked about x.
Then Haslanger talked about y.
Then Haslanger talked about z.
I'm not saying that you can't mention the order of ideas.

I'm saying that it's not a substitute for connecting the ideas to one another. (For someone who hasn't read the article, the order in which the author mentions the ideas isn't, by itself, relevant.)
Just listing a bunch of claims:
Anselm's first premise is...
Anselm's second premise is...
Anselm's third premise is...
This also means
the claims -- not just stating them.
Also Not an Explanation
You may want to summarize the argument, in premise-and-conclusion form, at the end of the paper. This is good!
This summary is not a
for explaining the premises and the validity of the argument.
Summarizing the argument in this way should recap things you've
already said
. But a recap only helps if you've already said them!
But be sure that all the premises you include have been explained earlier.
The prompt:

an argument that we've gone over in class.
Explain it in such a way that someone who is intelligent, but who is not in the class and who hasn't done the reading, can understand it well.
1. Introduction with thesis.
2. The author's argument (that you're critiquing).
3. Your critique of that argument.
(Why it is unsound.)

4. Conclusion
Defending an Argument:
Five Parts
1. Introduction with thesis.
2. The author's argument (which will face an objection).
3. The objection to that argument.
5. Conclusion
4. Why the objection is not successful.
Academic Honesty --
Same as Assignment 1
Basic Readability --
Same as Assignment 1
Originality --
1. A thesis should be stated in the very first paragraph.
2. A thesis should be
3. A thesis should be one sentence.
4. A thesis should
be a description of your
for the paper.
The Author's Argument You're Critiquing
No need for a big introduction. Just long enough to make your thesis
has to be original
Same as Assignment 1
Same as Assignment 1
Same as Assignment 1
Same as Assignment 1
Things to Do
Explain how the starting points of your argument support your conclusion.
Don’t assume that it is obvious how the points you make establishes your conclusion!
Be explicit about what specific part of the argument or objection you disagree with.
Think about who you are trying to convince. Make sure you're bringing something up they probably haven't thought of!
2. Don't misunderstand the author's claim that you're critiquing or defending. Otherwise the whole paper will be on the wrong track!
A Very Important Tip!
It's much better to have
good argument, which is thoroughly and persuasively made, than a ton of OK arguments made more briefly and less thoroughly.
In order to critique an argument or defeat an objection, you just have to
make one point really well
Two days on how to write, with Prezis.
The Rubric for Papers
Sample Papers (Appendices 1 and 2)
Dan's Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers
I will refer to the Guidelines in my feedback on your papers. (A #7 written on your paper means: look at Writing Suggestion #7, etc.)
Actual sentences from students
What they mean
“The argument’s premises, when taken together, conjoin to establish the conclusion that God has existence.”
“That this evil exists makes it hard for philosophers to determine the existence of a God.”
"Evil implies that God doesn't exist."
"The argument shows that God exists."
1. Really
the argument, don't just list claims.
2. Be sure to cite everything you need to in-text.
Full and Accurate Explanation of an Author's Argument
Cite your source in-text whenever:
you quote from an author, or
you paraphrase an author (so long as the claim is not common sense or common knowledge).
Cite your source in-text so that it's easy to find the claim you're talking about.
Don't cite lecture or a secondary source when you could cite a primary source.
This requires proofreading your paper -- spellcheck doesn't catch everything!
Use plain words whenever possible.
Explain your own ideas using the same techniques as you explain the author's ideas.
Define important terms.
Restate difficult ideas in different ways.
Provide examples.
Address possible misconceptions.
Each paragraph should be about one thing.
Use transitional sentences to indicate how a new paragraph connects with what came before it.
Same as Assignment 1
the argument, don't just list the claims.
Use section titles to indicate the parts of your paper.
Go to the second rubric

on page 15 of your syllabus

Just make sure your citation obeys the rule:

Cite so that if someone wanted to find the claim in the original text, they could do so easily.
The good news:
Not an Explanation
Giving the play-by-play of the article:
First Anselm talked about x.
Then Anselm talked about y.
Then Anselm talked about z.
I'm not saying that you can't mention the order of ideas.

I'm saying that it's not a substitute for connecting the ideas to one another. (For someone who hasn't read the article, the order in which the author mentions the ideas isn't, by itself, relevant.)
The objection can't be something that is obviously false.
Coming Up with Objections
It can be difficult to come up with objections that you yourself don't agree with.
The objection can be original (you come up with the objection -- even though you don't agree with it).
The objection can not be original (some other author makes this objection; someone in class made this objection)
Whether you have an original objection or not is up to you.
The objection is actually plausible.
The objection is something that people actualy believe.
The objection could be both (though it doesn't have to be).
But it's a good skill to have: imagine what an intelligent person who doesn't believe what you believe would say in response to an argument or claim.
In short: a good way to come up with objections is by
exercising intellectual empathy
This is exactly what you did in the first assignment: explaining an author's argument.
That doesn't mean trying to explain the author's entire argument in one huge paragraph. Many parts of the paper require multiple paragraphs!
Explain it to someone who hasn't read the article or been in class.
Pro tip:
Before you write, look back through your comments on the first paper.
Especially look to see if there were any problems which kept coming up (about clarity, citation, etc.).
has to be original
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