The key to a good paper is to be specific, concrete and focused. Be sure to avoid making vague generalizations. Make sure that you back up your claims with textual support. In fact, every non-trivial claim in your paper should be accompanied by some sort of textual reference (to either primary or secondary sources). Make sure that your thesis is formulated clearly and explicitly in the first paragraph and that the body of your paper (i.e., every subsequent paragraph) directly supports that thesis. I expect to see well-written, well-organized, polished prose: coherent sentences, a natural flow from sentenced to sentence, unified paragraphs and transparent transitions from paragraph to paragraph.
Clear writing can only result from clear thinking. So, first and foremost, you must get to know the material that you chose to write about—read it and read it often, before you begin to write. I suggest that you start writing well before the deadline so that you have time to revise your ideas and edit your writing.
Although you must provide textual support of you claims (by cite page numbers), you are free to be creative in your responses. So, for instance, you are free to compose your essay in the form of a dialogue between Descartes and Socrates, Chomsky, Nagel, etc. But if you go that route, you must still offer something like a “thesis statement,” strive for clarity and provide textual support for you claims.
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