Step 1: Develop your thesis statement
This course includes four main branches or fields of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and socio-political. A good way to start thinking about the topic question is to try to answer the question from the point of view of each of these branches. Note that the information you jot down is what you think and is based solely on your viewpoint in response to the topic. In your Locker, you’ll find an Essay planning chart with the essay topic in the centre and the four branches of philosophy in four corners. You can use this chart to transfer your notes in response to the following development questions.
Your answers here can be very brief; you’ll get a chance to expand on them later. Think of this as just basic note-taking.
What criteria are required to call a society “good,” from a metaphysical perspective?
What criteria are required to call a society “good,” from an epistemological perspective?
What criteria are required to call a society “good,” from an ethical perspective?
What criteria are required to call a society “good,” from a socio-political perspective?
Examine the points you’ve made. What do they all have in common? Is there an underlying moral or political position to them? After thinking about your notes some more and moving ideas around, you will be able to define and write your thesis statement.
Step 2: Write your thesis statement
Here are five possible thesis statements in response to the question “What is a good society?”
Society is good when people do the right thing.
A good society is not one where people have no human rights.
A perfect society is one where criminals are punished so that they will not reoffend.
Before it can become good, our society needs to crack down on organized crime.
A good society is one where people receive according to their needs and provide to others according to their abilities.
Which response do you think would set the scene for a thesis statement (your main argument or position) on the topic?
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How did you do? The correct answer is 5. Keeping this example in mind, create and write your own thesis statement, one that most accurately reflects your viewpoint.
Step 3: Plan and do your research
At this point, you’ve established your position on what you think a good society is. Your next step is to collect evidence to support your position. You should keep a concise record of your search sites and sources as you will need to quote them using APA format when you submit your essay. You can do research and use quotations from the resources and information presented in the course and you can also include research that you’ve found online and at your local library.
Once you have a fairly large list of evidence, take a look at the philosophers and the philosophical concepts discussed in this course. Locate the philosophers whose positions would agree with yours, and see what they had to say. Next, look online or at your local library to continue your research to find information and quotations that will support your thesis statement.
When doing your research, keep an eye out for the following:
Key and concise quotes: if the philosopher can summarize his or her argument in a few sentences, use those.
Explanatory paragraphs: you won’t use these directly, but you can summarize them in your essay through paraphrasing (there are notes for you on paraphrasing in the third section of this lesson).
Good work! So far, you’ve established your thesis statement. You have broken it down into key elements according to the four main branches or fields of philosophy you studied. You’ve researched those elements and the philosophers who support it. Now you are ready for the next step: developing three body paragraphs.
Write the body paragraphs
When making your choices of branches or fields of philosophy and philosophers to quote in your three paragraphs, consider the following:
strength of the argument – this is related to and supported by the branch of philosophy
variety of arguments – some branches might have more arguments, and more diverse arguments, than others
variety of supporting philosophers – some branches have more philosophers who agree with your position
impact of supporting philosophers – you generally get more strength in your position by quoting from the more famous and influential philosophers than the less well-known ones
relevance of supporting philosophers – some philosophers directly address the points you make, while others just “sort of, kind of, maybe” support your position
Remember that it is important to apply logic to all your position arguments. If you want to refresh your memory about logical, deductive arguments, check back to Lesson 2. Also, keep in mind that the quotations and arguments from other philosophers are there to support your original case, not replace it. Be sure that most of the writing in your paragraphs is your own, and only seasoned by the researched philosophers.
Repeat this process for all three of your body paragraphs.
Good work! Now, all you have to write are the introductory and concluding paragraphs. You’re almost there!
Write the introductory paragraph
The introductory paragraph is often one of the last paragraphs written in an essay because it is a one-paragraph summary.
When a reader has read your introductory paragraph, they should know precisely what you’re going to be talking about and your exact position on the topic. They should be able to determine what the main topic is, as well as the number of subtopics you will be addressing and the order in which they will appear.
Take a look at this sample introductory paragraph:
The tension caused by the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was the result of aggressive leadership from the superpowers. Under Stalin’s command, the Soviet Union advanced westward towards Germany, converting Nazi-occupied countries into Soviet puppet states. Stalin then set about extending his influence not just into Europe, but also into Asia. Under his command, the Soviet Union also involved itself in a series of non-military competitions with its chief rival, the United States. Stalin was directly responsible for the hostilities between the two superpowers for most of the second half of the twentieth century.
Now answer the following questions.
What is the topic of this essay?
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What is the topic of the first body paragraph?
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What is the topic of the second body paragraph?
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What is the topic of the third body paragraph?
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What is the writer’s opinion (the thesis statement) on the topic of the paragraph?
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How did you do? If you found that your answers did not match those provided, have another go at breaking down the sample paragraph. Then, when you are happy that you understand the example, follow the same steps to write your own introductory paragraph. Here are a few notes to summarize what you have to do:
Your general statement (the opening sentence) should summarize the main topic of the essay. It should describe exactly what will be discussed.
The next three sentences in an introductory paragraph outline the arguments and subtopics you will raise to support or explain the main topic. These are essentially one-sentence summaries of your three body paragraphs. They should appear in the same order as they do in your essay.
The concluding sentence identifies the author’s opinion on the subject. This is the thesis statement.
Write the concluding paragraph
Your concluding paragraph is exactly that – a conclusion. It is not simply a restatement of either your thesis or your introductory paragraph. The reader has just absorbed all your information, but now needs a summary of everything you have told them. So you synthesize your thesis statement and your three body paragraphs, and restate them concisely for the reader in your concluding paragraph.
Checking your first draft
Lesson 20: Final thoughts and theories
You have written three body paragraphs and an introductory and concluding paragraph. You have also created a list of possible quotations with sources from different philosophers to insert in those paragraphs.
Before you move on to the Assessment of Learning, here are some tips to follow so your first draft is as good as it can be, and so you have all the information you need to provide accurate text for the examiner to assess.
Quoting from secondary sources
After each quote, you need to provide a source for that quote. Look again at APA citation style, which is in your Locker. You will most likely be acquiring your information from a website or a book source. In either case, be sure to include the author’s last name and the year of publication; if there is no author, as is often the case with a website, then provide the name of the website (for example, www.un.org).
Quotations should be inserted in text using quotation marks. For example:
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
If your quotation is longer than three lines, it should be separated from the paragraph and indented on both sides, as in the following example. Note that if you use this style, you don’t need quotation marks.
A quote from Alfie Smith:
Like any major event in history, World War I was not the result of a singular event, but the result of several factors, carefully built up over preceding decades, which all came to a head simultaneously, thrusting Europe and the colonized world into war. True, a series of pre-existing alliances and military agreements drew one nation – and its colonies – into the conflict, but there was more to it than simple contractual obligations. The nations involved possessed the will and even desire to go to war against each other, for a number of reasons. There was deep resentment between France and Germany, based on previous military encounters. Great Britain and Germany were competing for naval supremacy. And there was also desire for territorial expansion, especially by Germany and Russia.
When you read a text and want to use the information from it but not quote directly, you need to paraphrase the information; that is, you write it in your own words. Paraphrasing is not simply changing a few words. This is important to know for all the writing projects you submit now and later in your career.
Checking for typographical errors
It’s a good idea to check your first draft for typographical and grammatical errors. Read through the essay to spot them and make corrections. You can also use the spell-check provided with your word-processing software or run your essay through an online spell-check – but don’t rely solely on it. You will do a final check on the final draft of your essay, but it’s best to do a preliminary one at this stage.
You are near the end of this course. This is your final Assessment of Learning, which is used to evaluate your work based on established criteria and to assign a mark. Your teacher will provide you with feedback and a mark. This Assessment of Learning is worth 24% of your final mark for the course.
There are two Tasks in this Assessment of Learning.
Task 1: Complete your essay
In this lesson, you have prepared and written five paragraphs on the topic “What is a good society?” You have written an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.
You conducted extensive research to find philosophers who support your definition of a good society. Now you should insert the collected research into those paragraphs.
First, reread your paragraphs. Each paragraph should meet the following criteria:
It supports the thesis statement you developed, explaining what you think a good society is
It has a logical, step-by-step explanation of your position, from the point of view of a specified philosophy branch
It has a general statement, at least three points, and a concluding sentence
When inserting your research, for each point select the quote or idea that best matches and supports it. As evidence (in this case, your quote or theory from a philosopher), it should immediately follow the point it is supporting. You may, if you wish, have multiple ideas or quotes linked to one point.
Check your introductory and concluding paragraphs
Reread your introductory paragraph. It should include the following:
A general statement that introduces the overall topic of the essay
A summative sentence in sequence for every body paragraph that appears in your essay
A thesis statement that puts forth, in a simple manner, your position on the overall topic
Reread your concluding paragraph. It should synthesize your thesis statement and your three body paragraphs, and restate them concisely for the reader.