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Tutor profile: Kyle B.

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Kyle B.
10+ Years Experience Teaching College Writing - PhD in Philosophy
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

How should I plan my writing process? I have a five page paper due, and I feel overwhelmed.

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Kyle B.
Answer:

I totally understand! When you look at a writing project from a bird's-eye view, it can seem daunting, and it can be hard to know where to start. Here's what I suggest. First, do some brainstorming. Turn the critical part of your brain off. What interests you about this topic? What are you opinions about it? What type of position could you see yourself arguing for? Second, do some research. Cast a wide net at first. Bookmark anything that you think might be able to be used as background information or evidence for a thesis that you will develop in the future. Now do some reading. Get a feel for the topic and the different positions people take on the topic. Do you find yourself gravitating to a particular viewpoint? Jot that down; this could be your thesis. Third, try to land on a thesis. A thesis is an answer to a live and important question you might ask about the subject matter. This thesis will be the controlling idea of your entire essay. Fourth, try to come up with three distinct points in support of your thesis. Use the information you've found in your research as evidence where it is appropriate. Finally, take a deep breath and write a (probably messy!) first draft. Your first draft does *not* have to be pretty or polished. You might find that once you get writing, your nerves begin to evaporate and your head clears up. (A parting piece of advice: write you intro *last*. It should sum up your thesis and lay out the structure of your paper, and it's often hard to know exactly how it will turn out until you begin drafting. On that note, if you find yourself arguing for a different thesis than you started with, don't be afraid to change it! You want your thesis to really control your essay.)

Subject: Study Skills

TutorMe
Question:

I can't seem to stay on top of all of my course work. How can I make sure I don't fall behind this semester?

Inactive
Kyle B.
Answer:

It's amazing how easy it can be to lose track of things, isn't it? Here's what I suggest. 1. Keep a schedule. You can do this on your phone or in a notebook. Keep all of your homework, projects, exams, and the like in one place. Being organized has a great way of calming the nerves. 2. Pace yourself. It is generally a bad idea to ignore your schoolwork for a while and then try to cram it all in. It's hard to absorb new material under those conditions, and it's hard to plan exactly how long you will need. Try to estimate how long each assignment will take you and write it down in your schedule. Work on something each day. 3. Take breaks! Your brain and your soul need them. 4. Find some friends who can regularly hold you accountable. Hold work and study sessions (make sure they really are work and study sessions! :)). Sometimes you need that extra push from a study buddy. 5. If you mess up, don't pile shame upon yourself. If you get behind, just spend a little more time to crawl back ahead. Succeeding in a course is about grit and self-care as much as it is about book smarts.

Subject: Philosophy

TutorMe
Question:

Imagine that there is a runaway trolley barreling down a set of train tracks. No one is able to stop it. Unfortunately, just ahead of the train, there are five people who are stuck on the tracks. If the train is allowed to continue down the tracks, it will hit and kill all five people. There isn't enough time to get them off the tracks. You happen to be standing on a bridge above this train, and next to you is a very large man. If you push this man off the bridge and in front of the train, the train will grind to a halt, which will kill this large man, but spare the five people stuck on the tracks. Is it morally permissible to push the large man off the bridge?

Inactive
Kyle B.
Answer:

The answer to this question depends on what sorts of factors are *morally relevant* to a decision. Different moral theories consider different factors relevant to the rightness or wrongness of a decision. According to *consequentialism*, an action is morally acceptable just in case it brings about the best results. On that view, it is clear what you should do: you should push the man off the bridge. It's a simple calculus of choosing the better outcome, and it is better to save five people than to spare one person. However, according to various forms of *deontology*, there are certain actions you are not morally allowed to do *even if* they result in the best outcome. There are different ways to unpack this, but one popular way to do so is to speak in terms of *rights*--people have a right to life, and this right entails a constraint on how we are allowed to treat other human beings. In particular, as Kant puts it, we cannot treat human beings as "mere means"--as tools to bring about a greater outcome. So, on Kantian deontology, it is probably immoral to push the large man off the bridge to save the five people on the tracks, which is plausibly a form of killing. This would be to use this man as a tool to bring about a good outcome, rather than as an "end" in and of himself.

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