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Extra Credit Writing in Philosophy Courses You may write on virtually any of the topics that we cover in the course. I don’t expect, or particularly recommend, researching additional materials beyond our texts. You may do so if you wish, but please heed the warning about plagiarism below
Some basic strategies for a paper:
- Articulate and explore a question about something you have found in a reading. You might raise a question of clarification concerning what the author is trying to say in a certain passage. In that case, you might explore some possible meanings that could apply and consider which alternatives are the most plausible. On the other hand you might raise a substantive question as to whether what the author says at some point is correct. In that case you should explain your reasons for doubting the authors view.
- Present an argument for, or against, some claim made in the reading.
- Attempt to clarify–or to expand upon–some important point, idea, or argument encountered in (or perhaps presupposed by) the reading.
- Compare and/or contrast (or otherwise relate) the ideas of different authors on a particular subject matter. If the authors disagree, you might also try defending one view over the other.
- Discuss how something in your own experience supports, or helps you understand, some idea(s) found in a reading. Or perhaps explain how your own experience casts doubt on what the author has to say.
- Summarize the main points, and key supporting arguments, found in a particular reading.
Discuss your topic with me prior to putting much work into your project. I may be able to help you refine your project or offer some suggestions.
Consider writing on a topic that will be covered by an upcoming exam. This has the advantage of helping to prepare you for the next exam as well as earning extra credit.
Start with a short paper, and write additional (short or longer) papers if you wish. That way you won’t be putting a lot of work into something for which I cannot give much credit. Length is up to you, but I recommend starting with a paper of 2 to 4 pages, or so. After receiving feedback on a short paper, you may want to expand it into a longer one for additional credit.
The number points awarded to a paper will depend on clarity, cogency, accuracy of representation of our authors ideas, etc. and also on evidence of effort to understand the material.
A paper that is satisfactory in those areas would result in roughly one point of extra credit for each full page. Stronger papers receive somewhat more credit per page, weaker papers less.
Each point of extra credit amounts to one percentage point added onto the student’s overall percentage (0 to 100%) for the course. The total number of points a student may earn is 12, which would amount to one full letter grade increase, though to move from a “B” to an “A” there must be some “A” quality work.
Plagiarism is a serious offense. (See the University of Pittsburgh’s Policy on Academic Integrity at http://www.cfo.pitt.edu/policies/policy/02/02-03-02.html.) Be sure to acknowledge the sources of any ideas that are not your own. You may use any of the standard documentation styles, MLA, APA, etc. (For citing passages from our text, parenthetical page references will suffice.) The following Purdue University website provides useful guidance for understanding and avoiding plagiarism: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/02/.