History of Medicine 558 Ethical Issues Raised by Biomedical Technology General Paper Writing Tips: 1. Goal: an ethics paper consists of a reasoned defense of some ethical claim or position (see (2) below). This means that by the final draft, you need to be clear on the claim or position you want to defend, and you should also be clear on the reasons or arguments you are going to present in defense of that claim or position. If it is not clear what position you are arguing for, or if it is not clear what your argument is, your paper will suffer. 2. Thesis: you must have a thesis. Your thesis is whatever ethical claim or position you are trying to argue for or defend, and ideally, should use language that clearly relates to the paper topic (e.g., I think that Thomson’s analysis of Hill’s decision is most compelling.) It helps to have some idea as to what your thesis is going to be before you start writing your paper, but it will often be modified or qualified as you go through the writing process. 3. Structure: your paper should have an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. 1. Introduction: The introduction should be short and concise, and it should indicate to your reader what it is that you are going to try to accomplish in your paper. In other words, you should state your thesis in your introduction. The simplest way to write an introduction is to say something like the following: “In this paper I will argue that thesis T is true. The paper proceeds as follows. First, I will do P. Then I will do Q. Having done P and Q, I will then present my argument for thesis T. Finally, I will consider some objections to thesis T, and I will argue that none of them should force us to reject thesis T.” You should not begin your introduction as follows: “From the dawn of time, humankind has worried about thesis T. From Plato to Shakespeare, people have asked the eternal question, what is the nature of T? Bedouins in their tents on the Sahara and Inuit in their igloos on the frozen tundra have all worried about T. Etc., etc.” First of all, it’s unlikely to be true. And second, nobody cares whether it’s true. 2 Main Body: The main body should consist of your reasoned defense of your thesis. This defense will often (but not always) consist of laying out the various possible positions one can take on an issue and an argument for why one position is the correct one, and defending your argument against objections.. 3 Conclusion: your conclusion should sum up what you’ve tried to accomplish in the main body of the paper. The simplest way to write a conclusion is to say something like the following: “In this paper I have argued that thesis T is true. First, I did P. Then I did Q. Finally, I presented an argument for thesis T and considered some objections to thesis T. My conclusion is that none of the objections to thesis T should force us to reject it.” My advice? Say what you’re going to do; do it; and then say what you did. This is somewhat boring, but it’s very effective. 4. References: you must provide references for any quotations you cite in the body of your paper. The easiest way to do this is to put the author’s name, the article or book title (article titles in quotation marks, book titles underlined or italicized), and the page number(s), in that order, either in parentheses immediately after the quotation or in a footnote. For example: Judith Thomson argues that when rights are not at issue, “no one is morally required to make large sacrifices … in order to keep another person alive .” (Judith Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” 91) Why is this important? For two reasons. First, because your reader might want to check on the quotation, either because she disbelieves it (did Thomson really say that?), or because she might want to read more of the article or book from which the quotation came (Thomson said that? Interesting; I wonder what else he says on this topic). And second, because if you do not provide a reference, you risk representing another person’s ideas as your own. That’s plagiarism, and plagiarism is a serious academic no-no. 5. Style: I cannot tell you how you should write; part of the goal of a university education is to develop your own style of writing. However, writing a philosophy paper is importantly different from writing a history paper, or an English paper. The essence of good philosophical writing is clarity, focus, and attention to relevant details. You do not want to spend lots of time on irrelevant details, and you want to get to the point as quickly as possible. Always avoid jargon and try as hard as you can to use your own words to say what it is that you want to say. If you need to introduce some technical terminology, be sure to carefully explain what the terminology means. In general, you do yourself more harm than good by using fancy terminology; most of the time, everything you want to say can be said with ordinary English. 6. Your Reader: Your section leader will be your reader, so you need to write your paper with that person in mind. Who is that person? It is safest to think of that person as somebody who is lazy, stupid, and mean. Lazy in that he or she will not spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it is that you are trying to say. Stupid in that he or she won’t understand what you are trying to say if it is not clearly said. And mean in that if you say something that can be interpreted in several different ways, he or she will always opt for the less charitable interpretation or reading. 7. Proof Reading: you should always proofread your papers before handing them in. To proof-read effectively, you should be on the lookout for spelling or grammatical mistakes, for passages that are susceptible to multiple interpretations, for confusing words or expressions, for missing words, for correct references, and so on. It is often a good idea to have somebody else look at your paper. If they get confused or have questions, then chances are that I will too. A good rule of thumb is the following: after having proofread your paper, ask yourself two questions: What am I trying to accomplish in this paper? And how am I proposing to accomplish it? If it is not clear to you what the answers to these questions are, then you probably need to revise or rewrite some or all of your paper. 8. Scope: you are not expected to definitively solve the ethical issues you are presented with for the paper topics in a four to five-page paper, nor should you try. What you will be expected to do is to clearly lay out your view and provide some reasons for thinking that your view, as opposed to the other, competing views, is true. Be clear, show awareness of competing views and the material in the lectures and readings, and provide a plausible argument for you view. You are also encouraged to visit http://www.epistemelinks.com/Main/MainClas.asp for more help writing philosophy papers.