Paper Guidelines SU Writing Center:
Thesis Statement:
What question are you trying to answer? Good papers have a central idea to which everything
that follows should relate. Clearly tell the reader what question you’re going to be trying to
answer in the body of your paper. Be explicit. This not only helps the reader understand what
you’re going to be talking about, but it helps you get clear about the problem you’re trying to
solve and have a better plan for organizing your ideas. Tell the reader what you’re going to write
about and how you’re going to write about it.
After explaining in your opening thesis statement what problem you’re going to address, provide
an in-depth exposition of the issues. Imagine the person reading your paper is intelligent but
knows very little about the themes you’re discussing. How would you explain the problem to
them? Even if you think you’ve explained a problem adequately, you probably haven’t. As a rule
of thumb, try to go into what you think is too much detail. You want to give the reader a good
sense for what you’re talking about. If, e.g., you’re dealing with a theme in Plato’s “Allegory of
the Cave,” spend time setting up the scene. Explain what’s happening in the Allegory before
delving into the philosophical issues.
After providing a detailed exposition, it’s time to get into the really important part of your paper,
namely, the analysis. Draw out the themes that are integral to the problem you’re addressing. If
you’re writing about, say, the concept of education in the “Allegory of the Cave,” be specific
about how that concept is represented in the cave. Don’t simply say, for instance, “the prisoner
being dragged from the cave represents Plato’s idea of education.” You need to make that
connection; it’s not obvious on its own. It’s your job to make that connection obvious.
Textual Support:
In the humanities, an important way of supporting your claims is to provide evidence from the
text. This should be a feature of both your exposition and analysis. For example, if you were to
make the claim that, in the “Allegory,” Plato thinks that a proper education is a difficult
endeavor, point to examples from the text to support your claim. How is this idea articulated in
Plato’s text? Why are attributing to Plato that idea? These things are not obvious to your readers.
Again, it’s your job make it obvious, and one important way to do that is to show that Plato
actually does think what you claim he thinks. Justify your claims!
At the end of your paper, tie things up for your reader. Provide a neat summation of the ideas
covered in your paper, how the ideas all fit together, and be explicit about what you have
concluded and how you reached that conclusion.

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