Writing in Philosophy Lesson Plan: Structure

Lesson Objective: To help students “chunk” information, as  presented in a text or in their own writing. To introduce students to the notion of a paper’s structure, so as to be able to distinguish the various elements of an article when reading it, and to be able to structure or organize their own papers when writing them.

Total Time: 75 min

Coursework Underway: Can use the same readings as Lesson on Identifying Conclusions and Lesson on Identifying Arguments.


Any piece of philosophical writing

Harvey’s Brief Guide, Structure

Pre-Lesson Homework: Pick a philosophical text. Have students draw the structure of the paper. (Note that this is not the same thing as drawing the content of the paper!)

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

Read Harvey’s explanation of structure out loud and explain it. Give examples of the elements of the structure of a paper (introduction, conclusion, background, argument, anticipating and responding to objections,  etc.).(5 min)

Ask a few (2-3) volunteers (or call on students) to come up to the board and draw their homework. Discuss how it relates to the text. Discuss whether their drawings represent the structure or the content of the paper. Discuss whether they accurately represent the structure of the paper. (10 min)

Return to the text. Distinguish between the various stages of the paper (introduction, background information, motivating premises, anticipating and responding to counter-arguments, conclusion…). Discuss the various roles of these different parts of the paper, and why they are there (and in the order presented). Draw the structure of the paper as a class. (40 min)

Follow-up: Have students return their homework, and evaluate which parts they got right and which need improvement. Have them correct their homework. (5 min)

Give students sample topics or thesis statements for papers. Have them draw the structure of how they would approach a paper on that topic. Have them explain how it satisfies Harvey’s explanation. (15 min)

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