Papers

Purpose

The purposes of the papers are to afford the student an opportunity for extended reflection about the material and to afford the instructor an opportunity to gauge student success at becoming familiar with the ideas, concepts and approaches that comprise the content of our study, as well as students' abilities to read, write, and think critically and carefully.

General Guidelines

  • The dates for the papers are given in the course plan.
  • Before the first paper, we will have a preparatory session at which best practices for writing a philosophy paper will be discussed.
  • Students should be prepared to apply their best critical thinking, argumentative, and clear writing skills to our subject matter.

Evaluation Rubric

Excellent (4) Good (3) Adequate (2) Poor (1) Unacceptable (0)
Substantive Content A thorough, detailed and accurate understanding of the subject matter of the question or topic is evident. All technical terms are defined and all parts of the question or topic are explicitly addressed. An basically accurate understanding of the subject matter of the question or topic is evident. All parts of the topic or question have been addressed. There may be lapses in terms of completeness, undefined technical terms, or the like but these are minor. A basic familiarity with the subject matter of the question or topic is evident, but it is unclear whether or not real understanding has been achieved. There may be minor errors in recall of some details. Coverage of the topic or question may be partial. Important technical terms, though used correctly, may be undefined. An incomplete or partial understanding of some points of the subject matter of the question or topic may be indicated. Serious errors in recall of important points may be present. Technical terms may be absent or used incorrectly. Main parts of the topic or question may go unaddressed. The answers given suggest that invention has been used to mask inadequate recall of basic facts, or show significant gaps in comprehension, or leave room for doubt that the student has bothered to become acquainted with the material at all.
Relevance No extraneous information is included, and no necessary information is left out. Some irrelevant information may be included or details omitted but such lapses are minor. Irrelevant information may be included, or relevant information omitted, in a way that casts doubt on the student's understanding of the material. Irrelevant information may be included at the expense of relevant information. It may be unclear whether or not student has understood the question. The answer given may be irrelevant to the question in a substantial way, or indicate that the student has entirely failed to understand or has simply ignored the question.
Critical Thinking and Argumentation An objective and fair-minded approach to the assignment has been taken. The paper is logically consistent. Any analyses given are insightful; any argumentation presented is at least cogent and is rationally persuasive. All critical thinking skills implicated in the assignment are demonstrated to an exemplary degree. An objective and fair-minded approach to the assignment has been taken. The paper is logically consistent. Analyses may be pedestrian, shallow, or too focused on minor points. Argumentation may be cogent but rationally unpersuasive. The critical thinking skills implicated in the assignment are clearly in evidence, though their execution may be wanting to some degree. The answer may show an uneven approach to the question in terms of objectivity or fairness. The paper may be open to question as regards its logical consistency. Analyses may be shallow, trivial, or clumsy. Arguments may lack cogency or be misdirected. Though an attempt has clearly been made, an unskillful or incorrect application of critical thinking skills is in evidence. An unfair or overly subjective approach to the question may be taken, or the student may show an inability to escape his or her own point of view with respect to the question.The answer may demonstrates a preponderance of "pop-psychology" or speculation, or unstructured thinking over attempts at analysis or argumentation. The essay may exhibit problematic internal inconsistencies. No discernible attempt at objectivity has been made. The answer consists mainly of unsupported assertions of opinion, or demonstrates uncritical dismissiveness towards disliked positions and arguments, or consists entirely of "pop-psychology", speculation, or personal narrative. Avoidable, pernicious contradictions are present.
Organization The structure of the answer(s) is clear, concise and efficient, presenting a continuous, logical line of thought. The structure of the answer(s), for the most part, displays a continuous, logical line of thought. The answer may follow a conversational format, lack the sort of transitions that indicate an organized passage between thoughts, or similar flaws. The answer may ramble, become incoherent, or exhibit a free-association/"stream of consciousness" sort of pattern. More than one of the flaws listed under "Poor" may be in evidence, or there may be no discernible structure to the answer at all.
Writing The writing exhibits clear, competent English appropriate to a collegiate level of study. The writing exhibits competent English appropriate to a collegiate level of study, but may contain minor, inconsequential errors in structure, word choice, etc.. The writing exhibits flaws in sentence structure, word choice, etc. that hinder uptake of meaning are present. Problematic ambiguity or vagueness may be in evidence. The writing may be overly conversational in tone. The writing, while generally understandable, contains serious stylistic errors or infelicities in word choice that obscure meaning. Problematic ambiguity or vagueness is in evidence. The tone is conversational or otherwise employs language inappropriate to academic writing tasks, e.g. slang, idioms from colloquial speech, texting shorthand ("2" in place of "to") etc. If handwritten, the writing may be illegible. The writing displays any combination of two or more of the flaws listed under "Poor" to a severe degree, is fundamentally incoherent, or is otherwise inappropriate to a collegiate level of study.
Format All instructions and formatting criteria for the assignment have been observed. Writing is not just legible but easy to read. Distracting scratch outs and their ilk are minimal if present at all. All instructions and formatting criteria for the assignment have been observed, but handwriting could be more readable. There might be one or two small but distracting scratch outs or other blemishes that interfere with flow of reading. Most instructions and formatting criteria have been observed, or have been observed inconsistently. Handwriting may be poor, or there may be large or multiple blemishes, scratch-outs, etc. that interfere with the flow of reading. Some instructions and formatting criteria have been observed or have been observed inconsistently. Handwriting is poor or the ratio of text to blemish is unfavorable, making the answer hard to read. Instructions and formatting criteria have been ignored altogether. Handwriting is illegible.

Relative Weights

Relative weights for each area in the rubric are provided to give you a sense of how the factors line up in terms of their importance. Think of the weights as a ratio—much as you would think about the ratio of one ingredient to another in a recipe. A cake recipe may require more flour than sugar, but that does not mean that the sugar can be left out without consequences for the cake! In the same way, it may well be that substantive content is weighted more heavily than organization, but poor organization will have carryover effects on other areas of evaluation. Structure your work accordingly, keeping each of the areas and their inter-relationships with each other equally in mind.

Substantive Content 3
Relevance 3
Critical Thinking and Argumentation 4
Organization 2
Writing 2
Format 1

Note: In accord with Marygrove College's academic honesty policy, any instance of plagiarism or cheating on any assignment or test will be met with a failing grade for the course.

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