Tutor profile: Collette B.
Your teacher has assigned a research paper where you get to pick the topic. It must be 5-7 pages, MLA format, and have at least 3 sources. How do you go about picking your topic, researching, and then writing this paper?
To choose an essay topic, there are two main options: start with something you like/are interested in, or start with something you do not understand. Sometimes, writing on what you know and like can make for a really persuasive essay. But for a research paper, you have an opportunity to find answers to your own questions, which will make for a really engaging paper. Once you have a general topic, do a bit of research to find your specific idea. So if your topic is animal cruelty, look for a few credible articles talking about it, and see what those authors are saying. This will help you to narrow down to your thesis. As you do this research, ask yourself, "Do I agree with this article?" "Is this author missing something?" These questions and others like them will help you figure out your specific argument. Once you know what you want to argue, try to structure your argument. This need not be an exhaustive outline. But think about how you are going to convince the reader of your thesis. Then go back to your research, find some quotes that support your position, and maybe one that disagrees with your position that you think you can argue against. A good counterpoint and response really boosts the credibility of your argument. Finally, and this is usually the hardest step: just write. By now you have done the research, thoroughly thought through your point, and figured out the best way to structure your argument. Trust yourself and explain it like you would to a friend or another student. Once you have your paper written, go back over the guidelines and edit your writing. Does your teacher want you to avoid words like "you", "I", and "me" ? Now is the time to change those sentences to fit the academic style that your teacher is looking for. Go to websites like Purdue Owl to make sure all your citations fit the required format. The best way to make sure you can submit that paper with confidence is to have someone else look over it. Take it to your writing center or an online tutor so you can get help refining your paper. This also gives you an opportunity to see how convincing your point is and to make sure what you have written makes sense. At last, you can submit your paper and celebrate!
What makes for a good logical argument? What is the difference between validity and soundness?
There are two common forms of reasoning: inductive and deductive. Inductive reasoning involves reasoning from a specific observation to a broader conclusion about the world. For example, "My cat is cute, therefore all cats are cute." While inductive arguments are rarely airtight, they are judged based on how strong or weak the connection is between the two ideas. So while the argument above may be somewhat weak, a stronger version would be "Every cat I have ever seen is cute, therefore all cats are cute." This is stronger, though not perfect. This is why in philosophy we typically rely more heavily on deductive reasoning, which reasons from broad principles to specific conclusions. Deductive arguments rely on formal logic, and have the ability to be fairly airtight. Deductive arguments are judged on two criteria: validity and soundness. The validity of an argument is whether or not the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. For example: All cats are cute Bob is a cat Therefore, bob is cute. In this case, the argument is valid because IF the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. Let's try another example: Some cats are cute Bob is a cat Therefore, Bob is cute. This argument is not valid, because the fact that some cats are cute does not guarantee that Bob is in fact one of those cats. Soundness has two criteria: 1, the argument must be valid. 2, all of the premises must be true. So in the valid argument above, as long as it is true that all cats are cute, and that Bob is a cat, the argument is sound and Bob must therefore be cute.
Why does story matter? To put this another way, what is the significance of reading literature for student who have no intention of reading and using it later in life?
Many school subjects are designed to help us learn more about the world; science teaches us about the natural world, history teaches us about the past and the present, etc. But literature teaches us about what it is to be human. When we read, we learn about desire, romance, pain, friendship, hope, imagination, we learn about what motivates the human spirit and what changes it. In literature, we see ourselves. These deeply human emotions and processes cannot be found in a traditional textbook, we must see them written out in stories. Any subject can cultivate a student's ability to think, but stories cultivate a student's ability to feel -- without which many people live meaningless lives unacquainted with their deepest selves.
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