Regarding Requests for Doing PHI 4911 With Me

The idea behind the PHI 4911 requirement is that we want to provide each major with a “capstone experience” which provides them with the opportunity to delve a bit further into a topic and improve one of their papers by working further on the topic with an individual faculty member—it is akin to an independent study, but is intended to both build upon a prior paper from a course (rather than to delve into a whole now topic or issue), and to be sufficiently flexible (to avoid posing an onerous burden on students).  We have only one “section” of the course each semester (listed with Professor Harris, who coordinates the course for the Department), and students register for it and work with any the Department's faculty members on their paper (students should let Prof Harris know who they are working with via email).  The papers are read by a single faculty member for grading purposes (students submit an electronic copy via email to the faculty member they are working with by the deadline).  The Professor grades the paper, and notifies the student and Professor Harris (who submits the grade to registration and records). 

The papers are also used as a way of gauging the overall effectiveness of our philosophy program.  Toward this end, to fulfill this requirement students must submit the final version of their papers to Professor Harris through his electronic Blackboard site (he provides the information to students enrolled in the course).  These copies of the papers of our graduating Seniors are rendered anonymous and later read by a Departmental  Committee which applies a Departmentally approved rubric that identifies traits we intend our program to develop in  our majors.  The Committee assess the level of competence of graduating philosophy majors as demonstrated by the papers using a rating scale which assigns five points for each of the traits indicated below in each of two broad areas, with a maximum per paper of 20 points per area.  Our current goal is that graduates will attain an average minimum score of 14 in each of the following two areas:  

-the Committee assesses the papers in terms of how well they demonstrate competence in philosophy by (1) explaining philosophical problems relevant to a specified topic, (2) evaluating differing philosophical methods or traditions as they impact a specified topic, (3) interpreting and critique competing views of major philosophers relevant to a specified topic, and (4) applying relevant philosophical concepts to a specified topic. 

-the Committee assesses the papers in terms of how well they demonstrate competence in critical thinking by (1) identifying and summarizing a problem or question, (2) analyzing and examining supporting arguments and counterexamples, (3) assessing the influence of context, and (4) constructing and interpreting conclusions by evaluating inferences and developing ideas. 

Clearly these traits are relevant for both the individual grade for each student in the course, and the overall assessment of the program’ effectiveness.   

I will work with students who have taken courses with me, and may, in an extra-ordinary situation work with a student who has not taken a course with me.  I ask that students who wish to work with me look over their prior papers and select the one they would most like to work on, and then contact me by email before the semester begins when they are enrolling in PHI 4911 to ensure I can take on the responsibility.  I will email you back if I approve, and then you should send me a copy of that paper via email one week prior to the beginning of the semester.  I will read (or re-read) the paper and will provide you with suggestions for revisions (of course if you have previously submitted the paper to me you should look over my original comments on the paper--I keep a file, so if you no longer have them, let me know and I will email them to you).  After receiving the additional comments, students should begin revising the paper.  We can discuss them and the paper generally via email or phone--as I am no longer in Miami, I can not meet you in person. 

By the mid-point in the semester, a revised paper must be sent to me.  I will review it, and either accept it as it is, or provide additional suggestions.  Students who skip this step and submit a paper at the end of the semester when there is no real opportunity to further revise run the serious risk of receiving a failing grade and not graduating!  Again, note that I am willing to discuss the topic, revision(s), etc., with you and will read additional drafts and answer email questions as the need or desire arises. 

Final versions of the paper are due to me by Noon on the first day of the last week of classes each semester.  This is a firm deadline, and there will be no reminders of this fact--note that for the Fall and Spring se4mesters this is the week before final exams (for Summer semesters it is the Monday of the final week of the "C" term). 

After I have graded the paper I will send you comments, and ask you to submit the final paper to Professor Harris following the directions he provides  for submission through his Blackboard site. 

As always, when you write a paper for me, I want you to write a critical and analytical paper.  Such a critical examination and analysis should: (1) clarify the position being examined; (2) elaborate the argument(s) for or against the position in question; (3) carefully assess the adequacy and strength of the argument(s) by considering possible responses, counter-arguments, or counter-examples; and (4) offer the student’s own overall assessment of where the arguments for and against the position being considered leave us—should we accept, reject, or remain neutral regarding this orientation, view, or position?  Review my discussion of what such papers are like in my “Writing Philosophy Papers”.  

Students who contact me after the first week of the semester to initiate this activity are likely to find I decline the opportunity.  Students who initiate the process but then do nothing until the very end of the semester should be aware of the deadlines specified above, I will  be disinclined to extend the deadline or work much with such students, and they may find it hard to find someone else to work with them at that time.  Since the course is supposed to be taken in the final semester, this will likely mean a delay in graduation and the need to retake the course for a passing grade. 

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Last revised: 06/24/2015