Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation
You need to write three papers for the course. Each paper should be 4-6 pages long (double spaced) and should be word processed. Do not write more than one paper on the same course unit. Each paper should be on a different unit from the previous one, so when you are
done you should have written three papers on three different course units.
All quotations and paraphrases should be referenced, including any information you found online. You may use any standard referencing technique.
For each paper, do the following two things:
1. Describe and explain the views of one of the authors whose article was assigned for the course.
2. Critically assess the author’s views. (Point out the strong and weak points of the author’s views. For further information about this, see “Critical Assessment.”) Note: you should spend about half the paper on critical assessment.
Note #1: Make sure you write about an article listed in the course readings. It should be one by an author other than Munson (the editor of the book). Do not write on a case study or the general information in each chapter. So, for example, for the unit on Organ Transplants and Scarce Medical Resources you could write on the articles by Cohen, Spital and Erin, or Annas.
Note #2: This paper will generally be better if you pick an author you disagree with (at least partially) to write on. Papers in which you agree strongly with an author’s view tend to spend too much time repeating what an author says rather than analyzing it. Avoid writing on an author you completely agree with unless you have lots of new evidence or support for the author’s views.
How to Write a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a statement that expresses the conclusion of the paper, or a statement that expresses what you are trying to convince your reader of. It is usually one sentence long. The following are examples of thesis statements:
• Vang’s theory is a better theory than Douville’s because it values patient autonomy more than the physician’s desires.
• Kathleen Jones is incorrect when she claims that it is wrong to use fertility drugs.
• While Hassan is correct that those in the United States place too much value on expensive medical research, the changes he suggests are impractical in today’s world.
Because your papers will be evaluations of an author’s views, your thesis statement should reflect your evaluation. That is, it should take a position on the views of the author.
There are two places it is usual (though not required) to put a thesis statement in most academic papers. The first is at the end of your introduction. The second is in your conclusion. I should be able to underline a sentence in your paper that I recognize as your thesis statement.
When you write papers for the course you need to point out the strongest and weakest points of an author’s views. Much of philosophy involves giving arguments for particular views or positions. Sometimes people argue well, sometimes poorly. One thing that anyone reading philosophy has to be able to do is evaluate the arguments and positions of the writers.
When you are pointing out the strong points of an author’s views, consider the following:
• What did the author say that you found the most convincing?
• What did the author argue particularly well for?
• What new idea did the author present that was particularly good?
• What did the author say that was useful in other contexts?
• What did the author say that led you to think of something interesting or useful?
• What did the author say that seemed to match your experience of the world?
When you are pointing out the weak points of an author’s views, consider the following:
• Did the author make any incorrect assumptions?
• Did the author fail to back up his or her points with evidence and/or arguments?
• Can you provide any examples that show that an author’s view is wrong or false?
• Are there specific situations in which the author’s views do not seem useful or appropriate?
• Are the author’s views incomplete or poorly spelled out?
• Are there difficulties applying the author’s views to real life situations?
When you are writing a paper, it is a good idea to organize your critical assessment into a section that gives strong points and a section that gives weak points. You may choose to number the points in each of these sections (e.g. “The first strength of the author’s argument is . . .”) This way the reader will be able to easily follow your points and reasoning.
Things I Look At When Grading Papers
• What is my initial reaction to and overall impression of the paper?
• Does the paper clearly state a thesis (see “How to write a thesis statement”)?
• Does the paper address each part of the assignment adequately? If the assignment asks for both summary of a philosopher’s view and criticism of that view, is there a good balance between the two?
• Does the paper provide strong and clear support for the thesis? Are the claims in the paper backed up? Are the arguments in the paper reasonable?
• Does the paper contain ideas that show the student has carefully thought about the material?
• Does the paper correctly represent the views of any philosopher it refers to? Does it back up claims about the philosopher’s views by providing textual references and/or quotations?
• Is the paper organized clearly? Can I tell that the writer had a specific idea or point in mind when writing each paragraph? Are paragraphs and ideas ordered in a way that each flows into another and there are no abrupt jumps from topic to topic? Are there transitions between ideas in the paper?
• Are the style and tone of the paper appropriate for the audience and the topic of the paper? Note that for most philosophy papers written for classes, the best audience to pick is someone who has not read the material. Explain the material in enough detail that this person could understand it (you may want to test this with a family member or friend if you can).
• Does the paper have an introduction that gives the reader a sense of what the paper is going to be about? Does the introduction introduce the reader to the topic without making extremely broad claims (e.g. “Plato was the greatest philosopher of all time”)?
• Are the word choices in the paper good ones? Are there places where different or better words could be used?
• Are the sentences in the paper varied in structure?
• Does the paper contain correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling?
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