Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers

As we stress in our discussion of the goals of the IU Southeast philosophy program, philosophy aims to develop creative and independent thinking on a variety of complex and difficult problems. There are distinctive benefits to be gained from organizing one's thoughts on a specific problem clearly and carefully in a form in which they can be examined critically by others. So we place considerable emphasis upon the presentation of written material.

Essays and reports are thought of not merely as a means of mastering assigned material, although in a new subject there will necessarily be some element of this, but as an opportunity for reflection upon the questions raised by the subject matter of the course. Students are encouraged to think seriously about these questions, so that they may make their own contribution to the subject from the start.

Many students who are relatively unfamiliar with the study of philosophy have found, at least initially, that written assignments present certain difficulties. The notes that follow provide some guidance for those who may be uncertain as to what is expected of them. They should not be regarded as cannonical. They do not prescribe any one method of working on assignments as the correct one, nor are they intended to cramp individual style. Experienced students may prefer to disregard them entirely.

It is hoped, however, that most will find some of the suggestions helpful in improving their grasp of the discipline no less than in meeting the formal requirements of a course. They are based upon experience of what makes for fruitful discussion, and of the problems commonly encountered by those for whom philosophy in a new subject. They are offered with the special requirements of philosophy in view, although they have some application to academic reporting generally.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains entries on a wide variety of philosophical topics written by well-respected contemporary philosophers.

The IU Southeast Library System

The IU Southeast Library System has recently acquired a license for students and faculty to use "The Philosopher's Index". This is the main subject and author index to articles, anthologies, books, and reviews in the Philosophical world. In addition, the library has a subscription of the Oxford English Dictionary. Both are available through the link above.