on Paper Writing
- Have an opening paragraph that introduces the question you
are going to address. The final sentence of this paragraph would
normally state the thesis of your paper i.e. it tells
the reader the conclusion that you will be arguing toward.
- Make sure that the ideas in each paragraph are closely related
to each other. You should be able to sum up in a single sentence
or phrase what each paragraph is about.
- Make sure that each paragraph is related to the paragraph
that comes before it and the paragraph that follows it. It should
normally be apparent to the reader how your paper is moving toward
the thesis you have stated in your opening paragraph.
- In summarizing an author's position, be sure to cite material
from the text to support what you say. This may either be by
means of judiciously chosen quotations that reinforce your account
of the author, or by simply citing the place in the text where
the author says what you claim that he or she says. In most cases,
the latter is preferable because it is more concise.
- There are several ways in which you might criticize what
an author says:
- you can show internal inconsistencies in his or her position.
- you can show logical fallacies in his or her argument.
- you can show that he or she has presuppositions that your
audience would not accept.
- When ascribing a particular position or view to an author,
make sure that it is the author's own view, and not a view that
the author is describing that he or she will later go on to criticize
- In putting forward your own position, you should as much
as possible make arguments in support of your views.
- In arguing for your own position, try thinking of it, at
least initially, as a logical syllogism. The classic example
of a syllogism is:
- Socrates is a human being (major premise).
- All human beings are mortal (minor premise).
- Socrates is mortal (conclusion).
- Note that both the major and minor premises are statements
that you presume your readers will accept, either because they
are things that you have already argued for earlier in your paper,
or because they are claims of such obviousness that you need
not argue for them. In other words, you are putting together
two (or more) claims that your reader already accepts
in order to make him or her concede a claim that he or she does
not yet accept.
- Of course you will not be making your points in syllogistic
form, but a good test of whether or not you are actually making
an argument is to try and recast what you have said in the form
of a syllogism. If you can't do it, then there may well be a
problem with your argument.
- Personal stories can be used to lend rhetorical force to
your arguments, but normally they are no substitute for argumentation.