Philosophy 4: Logic and Critical Thinking Sierra College
Argumentative Term Paper Assignment
Your assignment is to write an in depth research paper that provides a sustained
argument in support of a point. You can argue for any point you wish so long as the
point is open enough to require an argument to support it. Make sure you have some
discussion of objections, questions, counter-arguments and possible alternative views
to the thesis you present. A local issues with local sources would work well for this
The paper should be 6-10 pages, typed double-spaced (12 pt. font, 1″ margins on your
file). Include your name, the date and the paper title at the top of page 1. Make sure to
number your pages.
The paper is due Thursday, December 9—you will submit the final draft to Canvas.
A one-paragraph topic statement is due November 16 (also to Canvas).
Two peer editable hard copy rough drafts of the paper are due: Tuesday, December 7
You will need good research for this assignment. Please do not try to write the paper
off the top of your head or out of your own “general” knowledge. Cite all outside
sources using the latest version of the MLA source citation protocol. Your Works Cited
page should list at least six to eight sources. Use a variety of sources: books, scholarly
journals, newspapers, magazines, Internet sources, and so forth. The decision about
how to use sources will depend a lot on your paper topic.
Grading Criteria: The following criteria will be used to evaluate your work:
• The strength and quality of the chain of argumentation supporting your point.
• Sophistication of your critical commentary
• The quality of your research, including your selection of varied, relevant and
• Your ability to avoid the types of fallacious reasoning we’ve studied
• The clarity and organization of your writing
• Separation of your language from that of your sources (make sure you do not just
quote or paraphrase other people!)
• Competence of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
• Conformity to MLA guidelines
Phil. 4, Argumentative Paper Assignment, pg.2
Other considerations affecting your grade:
1. Is your paper in on time? Increasing late penalties for late papers.
2. Your rough draft should be typed not hand-written. The final version will be
submitted to Canvas so it must be in .docx or .pdf format.
3. Is your paper your original effort? Please write a new, original paper for this class.
F grade for plagiarized papers.
Important: do not resubmit a paper you wrote for a previous class. It will show up as
plagiarized. Recycling is good for garbage but not for college papers. Please do not
resubmit a paper you wrote for a previous class. Avoid self-plagiarism.
Helpful sources: Sierra College Tutoring Center. LRC 402 Fourth floor of the L.R.C.
(campus library), also can help with your writing. Call for an appointment: (916) 789-
Online Writing Center: meet online by appointment with a Writing Center staff
member. www.sierracollege.edu/distancelearning Choose “Online Tutoring,”
Sierra College library homepage: https://www.sierracollege.edu/library/
Sierra College Writing Center Handouts:
Helpful Web sites:
The Purdue University Online Writing Lab OWL http://www.owl.purdue.edu (this site
is hosted by the highly regarded Purdue University Rhetoric and Composition Program.
The site contains numerous downloadable handouts of source citation, punctuation,
sentence and paragraph development, and so forth).
Sierra College Writing Center: http://lrc.sierracollege.edu/writingcenter/index.html
Tips for Writing the Paper (also see Chapter 3 of the textbook)
1. Do not belabor the obvious (resolved: water is wet). Find a thesis that not everyone
will agree upon. It is your job to support your side with a good, well thought through and
2. Avoid topics where a deep personal or emotional commitment to an issue might keep
you from looking at the issue objectively or logically. There is no credit here for blind
commitment to a cause. Examples: the abortion debate, creationism v. evolution.
Best: find a topic that you really have no opinion on at the start of the project. Read up
on the issue, make up your mind what you think and argue accordingly. Local issues
work well here. Suggestion: look to a local news sources like a local newspaper for
3. Work out a chain of reasoning that supports your point. Make sure your paper has an
argument with premises leading to conclusions which, in turn, lead to your ultimate
conclusion. Establish criteria—lay out the requirements that a thing has to fulfill to meet
your argumentative standard. Then show how your subject meets that standard.
Suggestion: diagram your chain of reasoning before you write the final draft of your
Phil. 4, Argumentative Paper Assignment, pg.3
4. Be careful to avoid poor reasoning, logical fallacies, and the other slanting rhetorical
devices we will talk about in class. Your own poor reasoning and logical fallacies will
sharply lower your grade!
Avoid: Studies show that dumb people support Proposition 93, because that is what
happens when you are not that intelligent (proof surrogate, ad hominem, begging
5. If you can make up your mind which side of an issue you support either pick a side,
or the sake of argument, or come up with a different topic. Your goal is to convince the
reader, not to let the reader decide. Papers must have a thesis that supports a point of
6. When looking at your issue, consider questions such as: What claims are made by
differing sides? What support is offered for those claims? Make sure you confront and
respond to the counter-arguments against your position.
7. Spend some part of your paper explaining the issue you address. Consider your
audience. Think about what your readers might already know about the issue and how
your essay might add to what they know.
8. When you confront the counter-argument consider:
a) Is the counter-argument completely wrong? If so, work to simply refute it.
b) Does the counter-argument have some merit? If so, you may have to modify
your thesis to accommodate the good points of the counter-argument.
c) Is the counter-argument actually better than your argument? If so, concede
and rewrite your paper so that your old view is now the counter-argument.
9. Don’t write the paper in one sitting. Write and rewrite, revise to improve the clarity
and organization of your essay. Synthesize your own ideas as part of your writing
process. Don’t rely on just one source. Don’t spend your whole paper quoting and
paraphrase other people.
10. Pay attention to your language. Are your constructions grammatically correct?
Computer spell checking is useful but doesn’t get every spelling mistake. Learn the
correct rules of punctuation. Be careful about usage: are you sure that word means
what you think it does?
11. A note on Wikipedia and informal Internet sources. Wikipedia.com is a useful,
user edited online encyclopedia with interesting, user-friendly articles on many subjects
including philosophy topics. Problem: since as a “wiki” it is user edited, the entries are
not authoritative. Anyone can and does post on Wikipedia. You may use Wikipedia for
background information but do not cite it as a source in your paper. Term papers from a
term paper Web site (even if you cite it as a source rather than just copying from it!) and
“Evan’s English Homework, May 2019” that Evan, then age 16, posted on the Web, are
also not appropriate research sources.
Phil. 4, Argumentative Paper Assignment, pg.4
12. A note on “I feel.” Don’t use the phrase “I feel” unless you are giving a kind of “gut
opinion” that you can’t support as evidence. You are giving your opinion in your paper.
It’s your paper. Remember that you are purporting what you say to be true. Cross out
“I feel.” Does it change your sentence? If not, leave it crossed out.
MLA Format for Citing Sources
Follow the Sierra College Library Handout for the revised (8th edition) MLA standards
(available on Arg. Paper Canvas folder). We will discuss source citation in class.
Remember: Common sense and ethics should determine your need for documenting
sources. You do not need to give sources for familiar proverbs, well-known quotations
or common knowledge.
Be careful to distinguish good sources from bad sources:
Good sources are ones with reliable, fact checked information, written by people with
enough expertise to know what they writing about.
Bad sources are those that would rather appeal to you emotionally or viscerally than
logically. These sources may indeed have correct information, but there is no quality
control. The goal is to entertain or agitate rather than to inform.
More useful links:
Video: What is a scholarly journal article?
Good and bad sources
Writing an argumentative essay:
Another useful video on writing a paper:
Please notify me if links do not work.