Standards of Good Writing in Philosophy

The following standards were agreed upon by the George Mason philosophy faculty. They are numbered in importance for grading. Students should realize, however, that individual instructors are not bound by these standards, and may have somewhat different, or additional, expectations for student writing.

  1. Essay demonstrates an understanding of the material: The student has correctly grasped a philosophical problem or question, has explained it accurately, and on the basis of a substantially correct interpretation of any texts involved. Key terms are used correctly. The essay shows evidence of the student's independent thought, and is written in her distinctive voice. Quotations are used, when appropriate, to support the writer's analysis, and an explanation is offered for each quotation.
  2. Essay has clear and coherent argument: There is a clearly stated thesis, and support for this thesis in the body of the paper. Each paragraph contributes to this argument, and follows logically from the paragraph before it. The argument presented is persuasive.
  3. Essay fulfills assigned task: The essay addresses the entire assigned question or topic, elaborating on important ideas in satisfactory depth, but without bringing in anything extraneous or irrelevant. The introduction of the essay focuses and provides clarity for the paper. Important terms are clearly and accurately defined. Each paragraph conveys a coherent, organized thought.
  4. Essay obeys standards for good persuasive writing: the writer shows that he is comfortable using philosophical language, and the prose is clear, not awkward. The structure of the sentences reflects the relationships between/among the ideas discussed.
  5. Essay is technically correct: The essay has been carefully and thoughtfully proofread. The argument is written in complete sentences, with punctuation that does not mislead the reader. There are few or no mistakes in spelling, grammar, word choice, and punctuation.

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper from NYU

Mason Library Resources for Writing a Philosophy Paper

Seech, Zachary. Writing philosophy papers / Zachary Seech.
Location: Fenwick Stacks B52.7 .S44 1997

Martinich, Aloysius. Philosophical writing: an introduction / A.P. Martinich.
Location: Fenwick Stacks B52.7 .M37 2005

Watson, Richard A., 1931- Writing philosophy: a guide to professional writing and publishing / Richard A. Watson.
Location: Fenwick Stacks B52.7 .W37 1992

George Mason University Writing Center

We can help you with academic writing, all disciplines, all subject matter, as well as personal statements, application essays, cover letters, and other personal and professional writing. We offer face-to-face and online tutoring, and we work with you at any stage of the writing process from brainstorming to revision.

Central Location: Robinson A 114

Hours of Operation: Monday - Thursday 10:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Phone Number: (703) 993-1200

Additional Locations (check the Writing Center's online schedule for hours at these locations):

Fairfax campus: Enterprise 076 and JC Library Room 134L
Mason Square campus: Founders Hall 212