Summative deadlines are approaching and philosophy students can already feel its pressure. How-ever, do not stress because there is a recipe that ensures a decent philosophy grade. Aside from the actual content of your essay, there are three things that you can do in every essay to ensure that you score all the easy marks and build your argument on solid foundations. In this article they will all be revealed, in a succinct manner so you do not lose much time from your essay writing!
1. Structure, Structure, Structure
I cannot stress enough how important a clear structure is to a successful essay. The best thing about it is that no matter how bad your argument is, you can always guarantee the structure marks. Breaking the essay into sections is important, headlines are also important. Make sure to outline your answer and your method in the Introduction, then repeat it in the conclusion. Start each paragraph with a sentence describing the purpose of the paragraph.
Even if your method is inherently unclear, just add a couple of sentences at the start and the end of each section to remind yourself and the reader the direction of your argument. The marker should know exactly where you are heading from the beginning. It is philosophy essay, not a suspense novel, plot twists are not welcome.
2. Familiarise yourself with the debate
All the questions you can choose from is guaranteed to have already been discussed. Take full advantage of that fact. Search key words of the question in Durham/discover and you will find at least one very relevant journal article. Read it carefully and then go to its bibliography and find references that both support and oppose their answer, read them too.
The purpose of this process is to be aware of what others have said, you should not pretend to re-invent the wheel. You will find arguments that you agree with and most importantly ones that you disagree with, that can be used as objections to your essay. It does not take too many papers for the marker to think that you are involved in the debate and know both sides. Doing so will also help you to articulate your position more deductively because you will become familiar with the writing style of academic philosophy.
So do not only use books, branch out for journal articles to easily boost your bibliography and understanding of your own answer.
3. Objections and limiting the scope
Given the word limit, you cannot possibly cover all your bases. Assumptions will need to be made and you cannot address all sides of an issue. It is thus important to suitably limit the scope of your essay.
When the marker reads your work, they should not be coming up with obvious questions that you have not addressed. Avoid that by showing them that you are aware of all these questions you do not have space to address. If you make a controversial assumption (such as using words like ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ without qualification), acknowledge the controversy in a footnote.
For the same reasons you should have an Objections section in your essay were you pre-emptively reply to the most powerful or obvious ones to your argument. If there are more than a couple and you simply do not have the space, acknowledge that in a footnote as well. Adding these little disclaimers is another trick to score some easy marks because it’s a low-cost way to demonstrate your proficiency on the topic.
I hope the above will be helpful. From the Philosophy and Religion section, we wish all our readers good luck with their summatives