Interpretive and Critical Thinking Skills

Final Word Count: 2500 (+/-10%) papers that fall short or exceed this requirement may be penalized at your TA’s discretion.

Just like last semester, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate your interpretive and critical thinking skills in an exegetic essay. An exegetic essay is an interpretive engagement with a text that draws on the content therein to discover deeper meaning, insights, consequences, and relevance. You might think of the essay as a dialogue between your own thoughts and the content in the texts. With this goal in mind, you want to be clear where the context from the text ends, and your own interpretation of it begins. You should also note that this paper is neither a research paper nor an opinion piece. That is, you are not required to do outside research to establish your argument; in fact, the best papers will only appeal to the course texts. But be careful not to slip into an opinion piece. While we do want to see what you think, your analysis should be rooted in an argument and inquiry that emerges from engagement with the texts, rather than your own external opinions and beliefs, which do have a place in the world, just not in this essay.

This semester you have a choice between two prompts, please answer one of the following. The Prompts

Compare Machiavelli with either al Farabi or Christine on the most important virtues for political leadership. Where do they overlap and diverge, and what might be the underlying reason for their disagreement?

Grading Criteria

In grading your paper, your TA will be looking for:

  • a strong argument
  • clear organization and structure
  • effective use of textual evidence
  • demonstration of comprehension
  • correct citations
  • clear writing
  • creativity

Additionally, you want to present your paper as a professional document, meaning you should include a title page, with your name, date, course code, your professor’s and TA’s names, and of course, the title. You should also pay attention to formatting. Use standard margins and a professional font (no comic sans please!), separate the title page and the bibliography so that they appear on different pages, and include page numbers in the main body of the essay. All of this gives your reader a good first impression of your work and is a good general practice for submitting university papers. In addition to proofreading the paper yourself, you may also wish to have a friend or family member proofread your final draft.

Citation Style Guide

As you may know, each thinker in the Western canon has their own special citation style. This style of citation is used because there are multiple translations of the text, so this standardized form is used so that scholars can check references no matter the translation that they have. The following are examples of the in-text or footnote citation styles that you must use when referencing Al Farabi, Christine, Machiavelli, and Hobbes.

Please take note of when citations use the Hindu-Arabic numbers (1,2,3,4…etc.) and when citations use the Roman numeral system (I, II, III, IV… etc., or i, ii, iii, iv, etc.) as it matters for the accuracy of your citations.

Al Farabi

The Book of Religion (Title, section number) so: (The Book of Religion, section 2) or (section 2) “Political Regime” (Title, section number) so: (“Political Regime”, section 65) or (section 65). “The Selected Aphorisms” (Aphorism. Number) so: (aphs. 3) or (aphs. 3-4).

Notes: No page number is needed; the section numbers are found embedded in the text. You can shorten these citations, after you have made it clear which text you are referencing, however if you are referring and forth between The Book of Religion and “Political Regimes” you must make it clear which you are referencing either in the text or in the citation since the abbreviated form is the same for both.

Christine

(Text, Part. Ch.) so: (The Book of the City of Ladies, I.29) or (I.29)

Note: No page number or paragraph needed. You can also shorten this citation after you have made it clear that you are referencing The Book of the City of Ladies to simply (I. 29).

Machiavelli

(Text, Ch.) so: (The Prince Ch. VI) or (Ch. VI).

Note: No page number or paragraph needed. After the first citation of The Prince, each subsequent citation can simply be (Ch. VI).

Hobbes

(Text, Part Chapter, Paragraph) so: (Leviathan, I v, 17) or (Leviathan, Letter Dedicatory) or (Leviathan, The Introduction) or (Lev. v, 17).

Note: No page number needed, paragraph numbers are found embedded in the text. After the first long form entry, you can then shorten the citation to (Lev. v, 17). Note, here that I have dropped the part, and just referenced the chapter and the paragraph. If you were changing from a series of citations of part I, and then citing part II or III you would have to include that change in the citation that moves from part I to part II.

Feel free to make use of ibid., which is a Latin abbreviation meaning “in the same place”. So, if your citation is found in the same place as the citation immediately before it, you can simply put (ibid.) at the end of the sentence. Logically, you might then have a chain of (ibid.) if several citations in a row are found “in the same place”.

If you choose to use additional sources (although you are not required to, and indeed your paper will be stronger if you do the interpreting on your own) the remainder of your citations and the bibliography should be in Chicago Style.

Finally, you are strongly encouraged to speak with your TA about your paper. Students who do this tend to do much better on the paper than those who do not.

Happy writing!

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