Writing help

Writing papers in philosophy

Christina’s advice

Here is a set of guidelines for writing essays in this course. Both files are the same thing, in two different formats:

Guidelines for writing essays in PHIL 102 (MS Word)

Guidelines for writing essays in PHIL 102 (PDF)


Here is a longer, more in-depth set of guidelines that I wrote for a writing-intensive course I teach, Arts One (and that I adapted to fit this course). If you want a bit more detail, you can look at this 5-page document with advice! Again, this is the same file in two different formats.

Guidelines for papers (longer) (MS Word)

Guidelines for papers (longer) (PDF)


Here is a marking rubric we use when marking your essays. It is useful to look at this before you write essays, so you can see the sorts of things you should be sure to do in your essays.

Marking Rubric for papers in Hendricks’ courses (MS Word)

Marking Rubric for papers in Hendricks’ courses (PDF)

 Philosophy department essay clinic

The Philosophy department at UBC has announced an essay clinic: drop-in and appointment times to speak with a philosophy instructor or a philosophy teaching assistant about your essays (the TA is Phyllis Pearson, who is also a TA for our course!). There are regular drop in times each week Jan. 29-March 30, and also you can make appointments with one of them.

Examples of paraphrasing badly

These slides were discussed in class on Jan. 29, 2018.

Advice from others that Christina also agrees with

Suggestions for thesis statements & topic sentences for paragraphs

This page from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has some good tips for writing effective thesis statements.

This short PDF from University of Manitoba is also useful, including some sample thesis statements that are not very good and comparing them to stronger ones.

The drop-down for topics sentences on this page from the Writing Centre at the University of Ottawa provides a short and useful guide to topic sentences.

Others’ guides for writing papers in philosophy

Jim Pryor’s guide to writing papers in philosophy: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html
— These are clear, down to earth suggestions that reflect what most philosophy profs are looking for in essays. Only the “how you’ll be graded” part likely differs from professor to professor. See my own writing handout and rubric for how your essays will be marked for this course (will be posted under “assignments” when ready).

A shorter article on writing philosophy papers, also good, by Peter Horban from SFU: http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/resources/writing.html


Help with writing generally, outside of talking to Christina or your T.A.

UBC does have a place where you can go to talk to others about your writing, called the Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication. They have drop-in hours, as well as information on their website about writing more generally.


Citing sources

  • The UBC Library has a site that gives information about various citations styles. You can use any citation style in this course you want; just be sure to be consisten (go to “style guides” in the tabs on this page): http://help.library.ubc.ca/evaluating-and-citing-sources/how-to-cite/
  • This page from the library has links to a few citation tools that you could try to put your citations into MLA format. See “tools,” here: http://help.library.ubc.ca/evaluating-and-citing-sources/how-to-cite/
    • Note that if you use one of these tools, you are still responsible for making sure the citations are correct. Not all of the tools are entirely reliable for making the citations correct. And a problem with EasyBib and perhaps other tools: if you copy/paste from EasyBib, the text or film titles are no longer italicized, when they should be!


Academic Integrity / avoiding plagiarism

Here are some resources about what academic integrity is and how to avoid problems like plagiarism. It’s actually fairly easy to engaging in plagiarism in essays, even if you don’t mean to. Usually it’s a matter of learning how to paraphrase and cite sources correctly. The links below should help with such things.

UBC policies on academic integrity & academic misconduct

What is academic integrity?

The International Center for Academic Integrity explains integrity this way:

The International Center for Academic Integrity defines
academic integrity as a commitment to five fundamental
values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and
responsibility. We believe that these five values, plus the
courage to act on them even in the face of adversity, are
truly foundational to the academy.
This quote comes from The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity, a document in which they explain the five fundamental values in more depth.
UBC Library also has a website that explains academic integrity: http://help.library.ubc.ca/planning-your-research/academic-integrity-plagiarism/
— You can go to the tabs in that website to see information on avoiding plagiarism as well.

Avoiding plagiarism, how to paraphrase correctly

It’s actually fairly easy to engaging in plagiarism in essays, even if you don’t mean to. Usually it’s a matter of learning how to cite sources correctly. See the following links for help in learning about plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Here is how the UBC Calendar defines plagiarism:

“Plagiarism, which is intellectual theft, occurs where an individual submits or presents the oral or written work of another person as his or her own. Scholarship quite properly rests upon examining and referring to the thoughts and writings of others. However, when another person’s words (i.e. phrases, sentences, or paragraphs), ideas, or entire works are used, the author must be acknowledged in the text, in footnotes, in endnotes, or in another accepted form of academic citation. Where direct quotations are made, they must be clearly delineated (for example, within quotation marks or separately indented). Failure to provide proper attribution is plagiarism because it represents someone else’s work as one’s own. Plagiarism should not occur in submitted drafts or final works. A student who seeks assistance from a tutor or other scholastic aids must ensure that the work submitted is the student’s own. Students are responsible for ensuring that any work submitted does not constitute plagiarism. Students who are in any doubt as to what constitutes plagiarism should consult their instructor before handing in any assignments.” (from http://www.calendar.ubc.ca/Vancouver/index.cfm?tree=3,54,111,959)

Plagiarism is a serious offense; see here for the possible disciplinary measures, as given in the UBC Calendar: http://www.calendar.ubc.ca/Vancouver/index.cfm?tree=3,54,111,960


Links to help you understand and avoid plagiarism, including help for citing sources

    • the “Plagiarism 101” part is good
    • this video on the site is also useful
    • Note: the site seems to exist in part to get you to use their plagiarism checker site, WriteCheck, which costs money, and which might require you to store personal information in the United States. I am not recommending you sign up for WriteCheck! You can use the plagiarism.org site without that.
  • Here’s a document that explains some common problems with paraphrasing incorrectly in a way sometimes referred to as “patchwriting.” It’s a common way to unintentionally end up plagiarizing.
  • Here are a couple of comprehensive tutorials on how to use quotations and paraphrases accurately to avoid plagiarism.


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