PHIL 4300-01W: Senior Seminar

University of West Georgia

Fall 2013


Instructions for Seminar Paper, Associated Materials, & Presentation


The seminar paper is the central project of this class. The final paper, associated materials (including drafts) and your presentation will count for 70% of your total course grade.


Your seminar paper must be an original philosophical work dealing with the human identity and/or issues within bioethics. It should represent active engagement with recent work in the metaphysics of human identity and/or bioethics. The final draft of your paper should be a high-quality essay suitable for inclusion in your senior portfolio and for submission to undergraduate philosophy conferences and philosophy graduate programs.


Prospectus & Annotated Bibliography



First draft (minimum length: 1500 words; to be peer-reviewed during class on October 22; not graded by me, but you will be penalized 5% off of your final course grade if you do not come to class with a printed copy of a substantial term paper draft on that day).



Second draft (minimum length: 3000 words)



Oral presentation


various dates

Final draft (minimum length: 3000 words)







Some seminar papers will be included in this year’s Senior Seminar Anthology. (You have paid a special course fee of $20 to cover the cost of this anthology.) For this reason, you must submit your final seminar paper to me both in hard copy and as a Microsoft Word file via email. In order for your paper to be included in this collection, you must successfully complete all steps in this process and meet minimum criteria for the paper. Not every paper is guaranteed to be published in the anthology—only those of sufficient quality will be included.


The work of this paper takes up the majority of the class after midterm. So you must choose a project early and you must complete a draft early. You must also show extreme discipline and maturity about scheduling and work.


Because the seminar paper may be published in a collection and preserved by Philosophy Program, your writing is a very public activity. The class is now your peer group of editors; we begin with a healthy respect for each other’s work, but part of your job is to criticize—in helpful ways—your peers’ projects and in the same way be willing to use others’ criticism of your own work.



Paper Topic Selection


Begin familiarizing yourself with the kinds of issue we will be dealing with in this course by examining the course text, DeGrazia’s Human Identity and Bioethics. You may also wish read the Stanford Encyclopedia articles on “Personal Identity and Ethics” ( and “Personal Identity” ( and the Internet Encyclopedia article on “Personal Identity” (


You should also reflect upon the philosophy coursework you’ve completed up to now. Review syllabi, readings, and lecture notes from previous classes, and reflect on what you have found most interesting and exciting in your philosophy courses up to now. Even if nothing that you have studied so far is obviously connected to the topics of this course, it may be possible to make connections between what you’ve student before and the topics of human identity and bioethics. There needn’t already be direct and obvious connections—it might be (part of) the job of your paper to flesh out those links. Your goal should be to find some way of approaching the subjects of this course that genuinely interests you


I strongly recommend that, as you start to formulate ideas about your paper topic, you review the following documents (each should be familiar to you from earlier classes you’ve taken from me):


Robert Lane, “Writing a Philosophy Paper”:


James Pryor, “Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper,” especially “What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper?”:




The Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography (due October 1)


You MUST bring a hard copy of your prospectus and bibliography with you to class. If you do not, you will receive a grade of 0% for this material.


The prospectus should include a detailed (300-600 word) description of the topic indicating the ways you will support the thesis. It should also include an outline of the paper, which should be as detailed as you can manage at this early stage. You may use whatever outline format you like. The point is to show, to the degree possible at this early stage, the structure of the paper you think you will end up with.


The annotated bibliography should describe and evaluate the subject and scope of at least four sources other than DeGrazia’s Human Identity and Bioethics. These sources must be either journal articles or book chapters. Philosopher’s Index is an essential tool for finding sources. Many journals cited in Philosopher’s Index are available online through UWG’s library website. UWG also owns several relevant books; use the library’s online catalog to find them.


You must include full bibliographic information for each of your sources. Use the style of which I provide examples in section VI of this document: .


It might be helpful to use the following pattern for each entry in your annotated bibliography:

a)     a report of the author’s thesis in a that clause, introduced by the author’s name and qualifications, if known, and an accurate signal verb, for example, “argues,” “claims,” “explains,” “reports,” etc.’

b)    a brief but accurate explanation of the author’s evidence, in other words, the argument (including the facts, definitions, examples or other support) the author uses to support his or her thesis;

c)     a statement of the author’s purpose or motive (answering the question “Why did the author bother to write this?”), followed by an in order to phrase that identifies the author’s goal, that is, what the author hopes to achieve.[1]



First Draft (due October 22)


The minimum length of this draft is 1500 words. You MUST bring a hard copy of your paper with you to class. If you do not, you will receive a 5% penalty of off your final course average, and you will not be allowed to participate in the class’s peer-review work that day.


You will have 45 minutes or so to comment on one of your peer’s drafts. You will fill out a review sheet that I will provide. I will then take up their draft, plus the associated review sheet, and assign grades to each of them. I will return the review sheet to the person whose draft you reviewed; I won’t write on it unless I disagree with something that you wrote. I will return your own draft to you, with the grades for both the draft itself and for your review written on it.



Second Draft (due November 5)


This not a “rough” draft… this is a full-length, fully polished version of your paper. The minimum length of this draft is 3000 words—the same as for the final draft. This should be as close to perfect as you can make it at this point.


You MUST bring a hard copy of your paper with you to class. If you do not, you will receive a grade of 0% for this draft.


I will read it carefully, assign a grade to it, and return it to you with comments as quickly as I can.



Presentations of Seminar Papers (beginning November 5)


Each student will be required to present a near-final draft of his or her seminar paper and respond to questions posed by his or her fellow classmates and by me. Each presentation should take approximately 20-25 minutes, with a Q&A session of about 10 minutes following each presentation.


To accompany your presentation, you must develop a hand-out, with key claims, arguments, and quotations… whatever you think your peers will need in front of them to make following your presentation easier. Click here for an example. You must bring with you to class enough hand-outs for your peers and for me.


Student presentations will begin on Tuesday November 5. We will have one or two student presentations per class from that day until Thursday December 5.


[1] Adapted from Margaret Woodward, “The Rhetorical Precis,” Rhetoric Review, 7 (1), 1988, pp. 156-63.