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How to write a philosophy paper- Full Guide

Sep 5, 2022 | 0 comments

Sep 5, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

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If you’re writing a philosophy paper, you’re trying to convince the reader that your thesis is correct. Your goal is usually to analyze and criticize an argument made by another philosopher or group of philosophers. In this post, I’ll explain how to write a philosophy paper effectively without getting bogged down in minutiae or obscure details. I’ll also provide tips for structuring and organizing your argumentative essay on this topic.

What is a philosophy paper?

A philosophy paper is an academic writing that attempts to answer a question about some philosophical topic. It’s not just one type of paper; it could take the form of an essay, research paper, or something else entirely. The only thing that makes a paper a philosophy paper is its content—the title and subject matter don’t necessarily need to be philosophical (though they often are).

A good way to think about it is as an introduction to more in-depth writing on the same topic. If you’re interested in examining how existentialist thought relates to contemporary feminist theory, then a short piece on this connection might be useful as part of your research process.

A philosophy paper is not simply a personal essay or a review; it’s also an argument that uses evidence to support your conclusions. While you can certainly write about what you think, it’s better to try and persuade the reader that your ideas are valid and worth considering. To do this, you will need to present arguments and counterarguments based on evidence (that is, facts).

How to write a philosophy paper

A philosophy paper is a written argument that follows the standard rules of logic. It is not an essay, though it may contain elements of an essay as well. Rather than simply making observations about your subject matter, you will be asked to present it in a way that demonstrates your understanding and mastery of the topic at hand.

Your instructor will rarely give you specific instructions on how to write your paper; rather, they expect you to read through the syllabus and any other materials relevant to the class (e.g., course readings). The expectations for writing in philosophy classes vary by instructor but generally consist of:

  • A clear thesis statement—a statement that clearly states what you are trying to argue or prove in your paper.
  • A supporting paragraph—the paragraphs preceding your main point should lay out all the evidence that supports this claim in order; they should also include references/footnotes where appropriate if using outside sources (i.e., books/articles) so those sources can be checked when reading through the paper later on down the road!
  • An argumentative conclusion—this wraps up everything said before by providing additional support for previous claims throughout each section (I’m still working on mine…). You should also make sure to cite any books/articles you used for your research; this is important for two reasons: 1) it allows the reader to check your sources later on down the road and see if they agree with what you are saying (i.e., do not plagiarize!); 2) it helps them understand where you got all of your claims from so they can better evaluate their validity.

1. Think very carefully and clearly about your topic.

The process’s first step is to think carefully and clearly about your topic. Before you begin writing, make sure that you can answer these questions: What am I going to say in my paper? How will my argument go? What are the main points that I want to make? These are all things that you should answer before you start writing.

Once you have a clear idea of what your argument will be, it’s time to write down those arguments on paper. This will help ensure that they never get lost or forgotten during the rest of this process. It would be best if you also thought about how these arguments fit together; certain pieces may have more importance than others, while some might need more clarification or examples for them to work.

In addition, it’s important not just for yourself but also for anyone else reading this paper later on (like professors!) when thinking through how everything fits together as part of one coherent whole instead of having sections that don’t quite seem like they belong in relation with each other or provide enough context needed by readers who aren’t familiar with either subject matter beforehand!

If there aren’t any specific rules about how you should write long papers out there yet, then please feel free

to use whatever word count seems appropriate based on how long each chapter lasts throughout school life here at our university campus, where we’ve all spent several years studying various subjects ranging from biology classes which focus on topics such as DNA replication processes within cells. In contrast, others learn social studies lessons such as governments’ role within society today versus back then during medieval times when peasants had no rights whatsoever.”

The paper needs to be written in a way that doesn’t just provide a general overview of what each chapter is about but also how they all fit together as part of one coherent whole instead of having sections that don’t quite seem like they belong in relation with each other or provide enough context needed by readers who aren’t familiar with either subject matter beforehand!

2. State exactly what it is that you are trying to show

The second step is to state exactly what you are trying to show. This means you need to write a thesis statement, a sentence that states your idea in the form of a question or topic sentence for your paper. The thesis statement should be relatively short and clear but also complete—that means that it needs to make sense on its own and not require further explanation (although it can do so as well).

The next step is explaining how you will demonstrate this argument. What research questions do you plan on answering? What are sources going to be most helpful in doing so? How will you bring together all these resources into one cohesive argument? Remember: having an excellent research question isn’t enough if the answer isn’t convincing!

3. Determine how to convince the reader that your thesis is correct.

The next step is determining how you will convince the reader of your thesis. You can break this question into two subquestions: 1) what do you need to do to convince the reader, and 2) how will you do it?

  • What do I need to do?

The first thing you should establish is whether or not your argument needs any justification beyond simply stating your thesis. This can be determined by asking yourself whether or not there are already reasons available in common knowledge that would lend credence toward accepting the truth of your thesis (i.e., does anyone else accept this as true?) If so, then a strong case does not necessarily have to be constructed for your particular position; rather, all you must do is present those commonly held beliefs from which readers might reach their conclusions about what follows from them (or even better: describe how these premises lead directly into an argument).

On the other hand, if no such “common knowledge” exists yet or if it’s unclear whether there even should be one after reading through some sites’ articles about similar topics—then a strong case may be necessary for people who don’t already agree with everything said on those sites (e.g., someone who has never heard anyone mention anything about determinism before). In either case, though—whether making up arguments off-the-cuff or defending existing ones—it’s important once again that we express our ideas enough​ while avoiding over-explaining them too much​ so as not to be too wordy​ but also avoiding being too vague​ (this latter point will be discussed further later on in this article).

  • How will I accomplish these goals?

There are two ways to do so: 1. Make sure that the reader understands your main point by itself; then, use examples and explanations to show how this applies to more specific cases (i.e., avoid using too many words to describe something that you can understand just as well in less than half of that). 2. Use simple language (e.g., avoid big words unless necessary) while avoiding being overly simplistic​ so as not to be too wordy​ but also avoiding being too vague​ (you will discuss this latter point further in this article).

Things To Avoid In Your Philosophy Essay

1. Lengthy introductions.

It should be short. Not only is the introduction the first thing that readers see, but it’s also where you define your approach to the topic and set up your argument. It’s not a good idea to make this section too long or complicated—your paper will be hard enough to read if you try!

Instead of writing an introduction that includes details about what other people have said in previous papers, write one that explains clearly what you will be arguing in yours (don’t forget to include citations). For example: “In this essay, I will argue for…” instead of “I will discuss…”

2. Lengthy quotations.

Quotations are a good way to support your argument but don’t make them too long or complex. Consider paraphrasing or summarizing instead of quoting directly if you quote for more than two sentences. Remember that you should balance the length of quotations with their relevance to this paper’s theme. While it makes sense to include lengthy passages from academic writers who have written extensively on a topic, they shouldn’t replace your arguments and analysis. The idea is to include relevant information and analyze it in terms of its relationship with other ideas within the paper (and outside).

3. Fence sitting.

Fence sitting is a common strategy used by students who want to make their paper sound as good as possible. It sounds like this:

  • “There are two main views on the topic of…”
  • “Although this view is appealing, there are some problems with it.”

In other words, fence-sitting involves avoiding taking a position until you have to. You don’t have to do this if you’re writing about something controversial or your professor has asked you for your opinion on something specific. If that’s not the case and your professor has asked for an explanation of X, then don’t be afraid to say what X is! Be bold!

4. Cuteness.

As you write and revise your paper, keep in mind that the tone of your writing should be dignified. Philosophy is a subject that has traditionally been taught seriously and formally, with no place for jokes or lightheartedness. This approach to philosophy makes sense because it helps students learn to think carefully about complex ideas.

However, as a writer, you must remember that this seriousness does not mean that your reader will take your argument seriously if it sounds like you are trying too hard to be cute or humorous! You should not try too hard at being funny—say what needs to be said in the most straightforward way possible. No writers whose views you’ve read are idiots; name-calling is inappropriate.”

5. Begging the question.

Begging the question is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion of an argument is assumed in its premises. For example, consider this argument:

All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The conclusion (i.e., “Socrates was mortal”) is already assumed in the premises (“All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man”). The argument repeats itself without progressing toward justifying its conclusion because it assumes what it’s trying to prove!

On the other hand, if you write another version of this argument that doesn’t include begging the question as part of your premise structure—i.e., don’t assume your conclusion at all—it will be much more convincing:

All humans are mortal; only Socrates has been observed to be human; therefore, Socrates must also be mortal.*

Some Suggestions For Writing Your Philosophy Paper

After you have determined your thesis and have organized your paper, it is time to begin writing. Here are some suggestions:

1. Organize carefully.

Before you do anything else, organize your paper. If you start writing without organizing first, you’ll end up with a bunch of ideas that don’t fit together into one coherent piece. How can anyone read a bunch of disorganized ideas? It’s like trying to listen to someone talk while they’re chewing gum and whistling at the same time: impossible!

You want your reader to be able to follow along easily as they read your paper. So make sure you organize by topic, not chronology—put the main idea at the beginning of each paragraph and then explain how that main idea works out in detail from there onward (think: cause-and-effect). Another way this might work for philosophy papers is if some piece of information doesn’t fit into any specific category but serves as an important point nonetheless—put it in its section or paragraph so readers won’t miss it!

2. Use the right words.

When writing for a philosophy audience, it is important to use words your readers will understand. This means avoiding jargon and being clear and direct in your language, but also not being overly simplistic or colloquial (think: “just speak plain English,” not “don’t use big words”). Most importantly, you should avoid confusing terms with multiple meanings—if there is any chance of ambiguity in what you mean by one of your key terms (e.g., “justice”), then define it before using it!

3. Support your claims.

You will want to provide evidence for your claims.

The best way to do this is by providing examples and analogies, which can help make the points you are trying to make more clear. It would be best to use authoritative arguments, such as quotes from philosophers or other notable figures.

It is not enough to say something is true; you must also explain why it is true (or false). It’s not enough to say that something is good or bad; you must also explain why it is good (or bad).

4. Give credit.

It would be best if you always gave credit to your sources whenever you use them. When quoting or paraphrasing another author’s words, ensure that you provide a bibliography with a full reference for each source used in the paper (including page numbers). In addition, explain how you used the source—for example, by summarizing its thesis and analyzing it critically as part of your argumentative structure.

5. Anticipate objections.

Anticipate objections to your thesis and address them in advance. This is a crucial step that many students fail to take or they do it poorly. When you anticipate objections, you can address them in advance, which makes your paper stronger and more convincing. If you cannot answer the objection, you may consider revising your thesis statement to defend it better from criticism.

6. Edit boldly.

You should edit your draft as you write, but once you have completed the manuscript and are satisfied with your work, it is time to revisit and make the final changes. Take a break from working on this paper for a few days before editing it so you can have a fresh perspective when revisiting it.

When editing, be ruthless about cutting out anything that does not add to your argument or support your claims. Cut entire paragraphs if necessary—and even entire sections or chapters if they don’t support your thesis statement or main points. Don’t worry too much if you feel like some ideas are incomplete; keep going! You can always come back to them later when writing another paper that might fit better than they do here (or perhaps not). Also, consider cutting whole pages if these pages aren’t necessary for conveying any of the main points in this writing (and there’s no harm in checking).

Be sure not to become too attached to certain sentences that may sound good but do not contribute much substance; remember: words are cheap! Try removing these sentences from their context by putting them into quotes as part of another sentence as an exercise: “No matter how well-written [these sentences] may be.”

Structuring a Philosophy Paper

A good philosophy paper follows this structure:

  • Introduction: Presents the topic of the paper and introduces its thesis statement
  • Body: Presentations of arguments with supporting evidence
  • Conclusion: Summarizes main points made in body paragraphs

1. Begin by formulating your precise thesis

The first step to writing a philosophy paper is to formulate your thesis. Your thesis statement is the single sentence that summarizes the main idea of your paper, and it must be clear, specific, and direct. It should also be a claim that is supported by evidence. This sentence will serve as the backbone for all of your content throughout your paper because it will provide a clear vision of what you’re trying to argue and how you want readers to understand it through their interpretation.

2. Define technical or ambiguous terms used in your thesis or your argument

Defining technical or ambiguous terms used in your thesis or your argument is crucial to the success of your paper. For the reader to understand what you’re talking about, they need to know what words like “freedom” and “justice” mean. So you must define these terms in a way that is clear and consistent with (1) the literature on this topic, (2) your previous work, and (3) your overall argument.

Many authors fail at this part of their writing because they don’t pay attention to how they define their terms. For example, say someone was writing about a particular political philosopher who argued that we should be allowed more freedom than people currently have under our current system of government—that would mean we should be able to say whatever we want without fear of consequences from government officials; e.g., if I wanted my neighbor’s cat dead then I could go out into his yard at night with a knife and kill it without anyone stopping me!

3. If necessary, motivate your thesis (i.e., explain to your reader why they should care about it)

If you find that the arguments in your paper do not fully support your thesis, a good place to start would be to ask yourself, “why should anyone care about this?”

After all, if someone doesn’t care about what you’re saying, why should they bother reading your paper? Some readers will be familiar with the topic and may be able to get through your argument without being motivated. However, most people need some boost from time to time to keep them going through difficult concepts or tedious details. As such, you must provide some motivation for your reader for them to stay engaged with what you have written.

You can motivate your thesis in various ways:

  • Give an example–if there is an illustrative story or situation that helps illustrate why they should care about the topic at hand or how it connects back to their life experience, then use it! This should come early, so as soon as possible after introducing the issue/problem itself; otherwise, it might seem out-of-place when trying again later (etc.)…

4. Explain briefly how you will argue in favor of your thesis

In the fourth paragraph, explain how you will argue in favor of your thesis. For example, if your thesis is that ethics are all relative, then you could begin by explaining what leads you to believe that there is no one right answer to moral dilemmas and then argue against this idea.

In the fifth paragraph, explain the argument that you will be critiquing. You can also use this paragraph to explain why it’s important for readers to understand these arguments—for example: “This issue has been hotly debated between philosophers since ancient Greece.”

In the sixth paragraph (and beyond), make an argument for your position and address objections raised against it. You should anticipate possible objections or criticisms of your position and respond to them as best as possible at this point; however, remember that doing so will often require more research than simply stating your thesis alone would allow! For example: “While some might say that ethics are relative because they depend on culture or personal preference, I will show how this view fails when put into practice.” If necessary for clarity or completeness’ sake (e.g., if an objection has been raised), briefly conclude by explaining what you think your argument has established.

5. If necessary, explain the argument you will be critiquing

If you are critiquing an argument, first explain what the argument is. You should briefly describe the author’s view if that is relevant. If you are reviewing someone else’s paper that contains the argument, mention what section number of their paper you can find it in; this will help your audience understand where to look for more details about the original work.

If it is not immediately apparent from your introduction under which heading your critique will fall (e.g., if it is a critique of multiple philosophical views), explain in detail how you plan on framing it: why these views matter, and why they should we care? This is important because many readers may not be familiar with all referenced works or might want some background information before embarking on reading them carefully themselves.

6. Make an argument to support your thesis.

As you write your philosophy paper, remember to make an argument in favor of your thesis. You need to explain why you believe the thesis is true or false and how it fits into a larger discussion about the topic at hand. You should also point out what other philosophers have said about this topic and explain how your argument differs from theirs.

To do all these things, you must follow some basic rules when making an argument:

  • Give examples of what you mean by “good” or “true.” What are some qualities that make something good? What are some qualities that make something true? How do these qualities relate to each other?
  • Explain why someone would agree with your claim (the thesis). Why is it reasonable for them to accept it? Why would they think it was true according to the evidence and reasoning involved in making a claim?

7. To strengthen your argument, anticipate and answer objections to it

To strengthen your argument, anticipate and answer objections to it. This is the final step in ensuring you have addressed all relevant issues and arguments concerning your topic. Your plan should include:

  • Point out the objections you anticipate in advance.
  • Explain why you think your argument can overcome these objections.
  • Explain why your argument is better than the alternatives (if they exist).

8. Briefly conclude by explaining what you think your argument has established

In your conclusion, you summarize the main points of your paper and explain how they support your thesis. You should also explain how your argument is different from other arguments that have been made in the past.

The final paragraph should be no more than two or three sentences long. It should not contain any new information or ideas but rather just a restatement of what has already been said throughout the paper.

Tips for writing a philosophy paper

  • Avoid direct quotes.
  • Use first-person personal and possessive pronouns; signpost using quotation marks if necessary.
  • Say precisely what you mean, and no more than you need to say.
  • Be careful with specialized language like “metaphysics” or “ontology” (precise definitions are better).

1. Avoid direct quotes.

The first rule of writing philosophy papers is to avoid direct quotations. Quotations are unnecessary and often add nothing to your text, so you should use them sparingly. If you do decide to use an excerpt or quote from another source, make sure it is for a purpose other than simply providing evidence for a point that you want to make but can’t prove yourself—such as when the author in question provides an eloquent explanation or analogy that helps clarify something more complicated.

In general, philosophical writing should be clear and simple; too many quotes can make your paper appear overly dense or inaccessible to readers.

2. Use first-person personal pronouns and possessive pronouns freely; signpost

Be sure to use first-person personal pronouns and possessive pronouns freely. These are common in philosophy writing, as they help clarify what you’re talking about.

Signposting is also important in philosophy writing. It helps readers follow your argument by showing them where ideas fit within the larger structure of your essay and how those ideas relate to each other. For example, if you have a paragraph that says, “In this essay, I will argue that X, but first…” then it would be helpful to introduce an idea with “Now let’s consider Y” or “But before we get into X, let’s take a look at Z.” This gives readers an idea of where they are about previous arguments, so they understand how all these different points fit together into one coherent whole (which is the goal of good philosophy).

3. Say exactly what you mean, and no more than you need to say

You should also avoid using long, complicated sentences and paragraphs. You might think that using long sentences helps you explain your ideas more clearly, but it’s the opposite! Using short, simple words makes it easier for your reader to understand what you’re saying.

Finally, make sure that every word you use belongs on the paper. Don’t use any words or phrases that aren’t necessary—they could confuse readers or distract them from understanding what’s important about your topic.

4. Be careful with specialized language

One of the most important steps when writing a philosophy paper is to be careful with specialized language. While it’s sometimes necessary to use jargon and technical terms in your paper, doing so may make it difficult for readers to understand your point. When choosing which words to use, ask yourself if they are necessary or if they can be replaced by simpler terms that will convey the same meaning.


Writing a philosophy paper can seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these simple tips, you can write an excellent paper that will impress your teacher and earn a good grade. So go ahead! Give it a shot! Who knows? Maybe someday, you’ll teach others how to write their papers on philosophy!

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