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Key Features of a Strong Essay

Instructions and Requirements

Instructions: Please answer 1 of the following 4 questions:

  1. Sexual/romantic objectification is usually immoral. However, both Blackburn’s chapter from ‘Lust’ and Nussbaum’s article on objectification argue that objectification isn’t always immoral. Do you agree with their arguments?
  2. The internet has made pornography more widely accessible than ever before. What are the consequences of this availability? For ordinary adults? For youth? For seniors? In your essay, you should critically engage with Dines ‘Grooming for Gonzo’ and Smith/Attwood ‘Emotional Truths and Thrilling Slide Shows’.
  3. Is passionate love, especially for women, a form of entrapment? In this essay, critically analyze De Beauvoir’s ‘The Woman in Love’.
  4. Propose your own topic. Be sure to contact me for the go-ahead. There are numerous issues surrounding love and sex and if you have a particular interest, by all means suggest something to me.

This is not a research paper. Cite quotations from course readings in text like this: (Name of philosopher/author, title, page number in textbook). You may use the course notes, but you must cite them (quotation marks, and in text citations). To cite lecture notes like this: (Landry, Name of Lecture, page number).


  • Length: 1200-1400 words.
  • Write in your own words.
  • Use paragraphs, complete sentences: no point form.
  • Do NOT include a cover page. Do NOT use headers and footers.
  • Typed, double-spaced, include the word count at the top of the first page.

Submit an electronic copy through the Blackboard dropbox. To submit electronically, click the “Written Assignment” link at the top of these instructions to access the dropbox. Electronic submissions are put through plagiarism detection software.

Question #2 – “Some Thoughts about Essay Writing”

Each student has a unique educational background. Accordingly, sometimes there is a lot of diversity in how students format and compose their essays. In this essay, I will rehearse some of the key content and formatting features that go into a strong essay. This has the benefit of giving students clarity about my expectations as the instructor. Please note that throughout the essay I will model these features so also pay attention to how this essay looks. In fact, you can see right here in the introduction that I have a clear thesis, namely that in this essay ‘I am going to go over key features of a strong essay’. This is an essential part of the introduction, and ideally should be argumentative in nature, so you should use language like ‘I will argue that’ and ‘I will attempt show that’.

In this paragraph, I will summarize formatting issues. Notice that this essay is in a 12 point size and the Times New Roman font. It doesn’t have to be this font type, but something similar. Notice that you do not need a separate cover page. One line that communicates the essay question, title, name, and date is sufficient. You do not need to copy and paste the essay question in the essay. As long as you have the question number, and a clear introduction, I will know what you are writing about. Also, notice that I have no space between my paragraphs. Many students have a tendency to do this, but it is unnecessary. You have more space to write content and communicate your thoughts if you avoid putting a space between paragraphs.

Another formatting feature is the direct quotation. Sometimes a direct quotation fits perfectly with what you are trying to say. But keep a few things in mind. First, try not to quote too often. If the quote is quite long, it is probably a better idea to paraphrase. Also, if you quote, be sure to have the author and page number. For example, as Landry states, “Sometimes it’s better to paraphrase longer quotes” (13).

Formatting Issues

Apart from formatting, the other issue worthy of attention is how essays are evaluated. I have most likely provided you with a rubric that breaks down how the essay is evaluated. But I can spend a bit of time here clarifying my general thoughts about how I evaluate the essay. First, think of 14/20 or 70% as the adequate and satisfactory essay. In an essay that achieves around 70%, the essay will be grammatically correct (for the most part), appropriate length (not too short), and accurate with the content. In other words, there is nothing glaringly wrong about the essay. What normally keeps an essay at 70%, or thereabouts, is that it lacks originality.

In order to achieve 16/20 (80%) and above, the essay must contain some original elements that show me you have gone beyond the course material and reflected on these issues yourself. But what is originality? How can you know if what you are doing is original? It is a broad term and you can be original in different ways. For example, it may be that you think of an interesting and thought-provoking example that highlights something essential about the course content. Let’s say you are discussing Plato’s Cave and have summarized it accurately. This may remind you of a movie like ‘The Matrix’ and you can draw connections to that. You can also draw on your own experiences. Maybe there was a time in your life when you felt like you occupied a Cave. You can draw connections between the Cave and how society tells us what to value – money, consumption, physical beauty.

For grades that go under 70%, it is because there is something missing or wrong. Maybe the essay is not to the minimum length, so you do not have enough time to summarize the key concepts and offer your thoughts. Maybe you have presented the material wrong, or have missed something essential that must be covered in order to demonstrate your understanding. Maybe you have only answered part of the question. Usually, there is more than one part to an essay question, so be sure to make sure you answer everything. Finally, sometimes the writing contains too many grammatical or spelling errors. This can have a big effect on how well you communicate your thoughts. When I was in undergraduate school, I was lucky enough to have my mother help edit my essays. If you have a friend or family member with better writing skills, invite them to review the essay with you. Another useful resource is the Humber Writing Center, which is on the 2nd floor of the Learning Resource Common (LRC) in the library. You can make appointment and have a qualified tutor go over the essay with you. I can’t stress enough the value of starting your essay early so that you have enough time to improve upon it with editing and re-reading.

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