PHIL 300 – History of Ethics – Research Paper Assignment

Fall 2008

The research paper project is your opportunity to pursue a topic in greater depth and with greater original contribution. So are, our readings and discussion have so far have provided you with the major issues, concepts, and theories. Your research paper must focus on either David Hume or Immanuel Kant, and it must include some comparison of Hume and Kant.

Your paper will do the following:

·         Focus on a selected issue of your choice in normative or metaethical theory.

·         Develop a clear thesis.

·         Explore and explain the position of Hume or Kant on that issue, showing how his philosophy agrees or disagrees with your own thesis.

·         Briefly compare & contrast Hume and Kant on that issue.

·         Offer a criticism of each philosopher concerning their approach to that issue

·         Present and support your own view on the issue (where you need not agree with either)

·         Do research and locate at least two different “outside” sources (1) to support your interpretation of Hume and/or Kant, and (2) as a way to identify problems or criticisms that have been brought against one or both of them. An “outside” source is a source not assigned by the instructor. Successful research involves successful incorporation of ideas from worthwhile sources in accomplishing both (1) and (2) above. Warning: Wikipedia is not a worthwhile source.

·         Attach a bibliography of all relevant sources used.


The assignment consists of three steps, each with its own due date. Skipping step I or II will severely compromise your grade.



Due November 18: You will submit a bibliography of four or more worthwhile items that you have acquired to guide your research. You will attach a copy of the first page of each of the four items to demonstrate that you have actually tracked down each of the four items you’ve listed.

As you develop your paper, it’s possible that you will change your mind about the relevance of the items you initially selected. That’s understandable. Your final paper will have a bibliography, but these four items are not necessarily the ones that you will cite in your finished paper.

The class session on Thursday, Nov. 6, is designed to help you locate and evaluate sources. That session will be held in Library 222.



Due: Tuesday, Dec. 2: You will submit a page of writing (about 250 words) stating your thesis and explaining the relevance of Hume and/or Kant to that thesis.



Due: The finished paper is due on Dec. 16

It will be about 8 pages long (not counting either the cover sheet or bibliography). (The word count should be 2500 words or more.)



1. You have copied words written by someone else. Whenever you use more than four words in a row that occurred exactly in the same order in your source material, you must put the words into quotation marks and give credit to your source parenthetically or in an endnote or footnote. Full information on your source is placed in the bibliography.

2. If the words are your own, but the idea comes from your source, you do not need quotation marks, but you must give credit to your source parenthetically or in an endnote or footnote, and you need to supply make clear to the reader whose idea it is. Citations are attached to the sentence in which you borrow words or ideas, not at the end of a paragraph in an attempt to indicate that some ideas in that paragraph come from a source. The reader has no way of knowing whether just the last sentence or the last several words or the whole paragraph is someone else's idea. Your writing should make it clear to the reader where your summary/paraphrase starts.

3. Any information you use in your paper that is not general knowledge requires that you give credit to a source. When in doubt, cite your source.

 For more information, see the department's guidelines HERE.


Some students have been trained to use MLA style. Some have been trained to use Chicago style.  Some have been trained to use APA style. I don’t care what style you use.

If you have no clue how to prepare bibliographical citations, go the home page for the MSUM philosophy department. On the left, follow the link “Philosophy Links.” On that page, in the center of the page, follow the first link (“Guide to Writing Research Papers”).

Make no mistake: if you use an outside source and fail to cite it in your bibliography, you will receive a failing grade for this course.

For more information, see the department's guidelines HERE.


Last revised Oct. 31, 2008