Default Writing Project Assignment

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Default Writing Project Assignment

Postby ShawnMiller » Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:32 am

The Assignment

You are free to come up with your own Writing Project, in which case see this post.

Otherwise the Writing Project assignment is to:

Critically evaluate one of our class readings or one reading from outside class that addresses philosophy of biology issues.

You paper must be at least 1,700 words.

You can choose whether the Writing Project counts for 25% or 30% of your grade. If you choose 25%, then the Take-home final will be worth 30%.

Keep in mind that it is usually easier to argue against a position than it is to argue for a position (that is, I recommend picking an author with whom you disagree and/or an author whose reasoning is flawed).

The introduction to your paper should be relatively simple and straightforward. It should tell the reader of the paper what essay you are going to discuss and what you are going to argue for in your paper. Don’t get verbose. ("Since the dawn of time, humans have argued over...")

In the main body of your paper, you should do two things:

  • Present the author's arguments: Describe the author’s position, and the reasons given for his/her position, in your own words and via quotation and with enough detail to make your arguments. Don’t feel that you have to respond to every point that the author makes; focus on the author's main arguments. Be careful that what you are describing is actually the author's own position, and not a counter-argument that the author is responding to.
  • Evaluate the author's arguments: Either critique the essay by demonstrating its flaws, or defend the essay by providing additional arguments in support of the author's position (don't just rehash the author's arguments). Either way, you must give arguments (reasons) in support of your position and defend your position against possible counter-arguments. You may also find it useful to incorporate the views of other authors, but the focus should be on your chosen author and your own thinking.

There are two common ways to structure the main body of your paper:

  • Present all of the author's arguments first, and then evaluate them.
  • Present the author's first argument, and then respond to the first argument, present the author's second argument, and then respond to the second argument, etc., etc.

Either way, don't forget to consider and respond to counter-arguments to your own position. Be sure that you respond to any counter-arguments you present; remember that you are arguing for a particular position, and everything in the paper should work towards that.

The conclusion of your paper should summarize the arguments that you’ve made in the paper; remind your readers what you have shown them.

Final note: There is no magic formula for how many reasons, counter-arguments, etc., you should include. The point is to defend your position as best as you can. Write your paper as though you were trying to persuade someone who disagrees with you.


In general, I am looking for the following:

  • How clearly you express yourself. Are the individual sentences understandable? Is the paper well-structured?
  • How completely you address the issue. Do you do all parts of the assignment? Do you consider all the relevant aspects in your answer? Do you go beyond our class discussions?
  • How persuasive you are in making your points. Do you provide good reasons and examples to back up the points you are making? Do you defend your position well against possible objections or counter-arguments?


Citing sources: You must give credit where credit is due. If you aren't sure when you should give credit or what counts as plagarism, see Avoiding Plagarism: Mastering the Art of Scholarship from Student Judicial Affairs. If you still aren't sure, come talk to me.

Reminder: In accordance with Regulation 550 of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate, a grade of "0" will be assigned to examinations or assignments on which cheating, plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty is admitted or determined to have occurred by proper adjudication.

You must include a bibliography, even if you only cite one source. As for citation style, you may use MLA, APA, or Chicago. The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a good resource for citation information and writing in general.

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