Students will write a short essay (2-3 pages), in any style they like, that addresses one or two of the assigned texts. The essay must minimally quote from the chosen text(s), and the student will be graded upon originality, depth of insight, as well as charitableness. That is, a good essay will have something to say, or a question to ask, and it will say or ask it with earnest and conviction.

In other words, your essay does not need to be a scholarly research paper. Instead, I’m asking you to say something interesting about something we read for class. Here is an example of something that I found interesting:

When we read Nietzsche, I noticed that he connects the idea that life is a rare and exceptional phenomenon in the universe with the way that he talks about noble and common passions. Just like he says the noble person often errs by assuming that what is so exceptional about him belongs to all people, scientists often err when they assume that the kind of order and organization found in living beings, and especially in ourselves and our societies, are also in all natural phenomena.

Then, if I were writing a paper, I’d pull out a relevant quote. And, from there, I could connect this with my own ideas about science, or with observations about what people commonly believe, etc. And, finally, I might draw some general conclusion about why Nietzsche thinks this, or how this view challenges a common belief, etc. etc.

Also, notice, there is no need to write in the stilted language of academics. You can write in the first person. After all, this is a reflection paper, so it’s about your engagement with the text.

So, I hope this is a somewhat helpful example. Here are a few other reminders:

Don’t plagiarize.
Don’t plagiarize.
Don’t plagiarize.
Cite your sources (any format, footnotes are nice).
Don’t use sparknotes or wikipedia, although the SEP can be a good source if you cite it.
Actually re-read the text you’re working with.
Don’t plagiarize.

That’s about it.


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