Although this essay ends up agreeing with the authors, one could have a well-argued paper that disagrees with them. In that case, one might want to spend more time developing the objection, so as to ensure that one is still being charitable.
- Do not treat this as a cookie-cutter. That is, do not try to copy the exact form of this sample, paragraph-for-paragraph. The number of paragraphs that are necessary for summarizing the argument, or providing a criticism, or responding to that criticism (if appropriate) will vary from case to case.
- Instead, you can use this as a sample of the style of paper you are being asked to write. For example, once you have figured out what the key premises of the authors argument are, you can communicate them discursively as I have done in this sample essay.
- Note the use of topic sentences in the paragraphs. This helps to focus the principle point of the paragraph. Note that the conclusion is essentially a re-statement of the thesis, which is acceptable for a philosophy paper.
Having trouble cutting your paper to within 750 words (give or take)? Click to see the original version of this paper which was about 150 words over limit. It shows where I cut, so you can have an idea of how to cut down your paper.
Student Name (Student Number)
Tutorial: D1.XX (Day, Time)
Tutorial Leader: TAs name
Word Count: 754 (comes out to just under 3 pages, double-spaced)
In developing their case for the need to reform interrogation tactics, Kassin and Gudjonsson survey a number of studies regarding the role of confessions in criminal investigations. For example, they are at pains to provide evidence that interrogations are often influenced by a bias on the part of the interrogator. Further concern is found in the fact that Miranda rights, as found in the American legal system, are insufficient safeguards, given that suspects, especially innocent ones, often waive those rights. Finally, Kassin and Gudjonsson note that aggressive interrogation tactics can often produce false confessions.
What makes these findings most troubling, according to Kassin and Gudjonsson, is the strong correlation between false confession and wrongful conviction. Trial jurors, we are told, are inclined to give disproportionate weight to a confessions, even taking it to outweigh so-called hard evidence. As a characteristic example, Kassin and Gudjonsson cite the case of Bruce Godschalk. Even when DNA evidence proved Godschalk could not have been the rapist, the District Attorney of the case refused to release him from prison, stating that I trust my detective and his tape-recorded evidence (Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2005, p. 28). Because of this tendency on the part of jurors and prosecutors, together with the facts listed above regarding the potential for unrestricted interrogations to elicit false confessions, Kassin and Gudjonsson argue for the need to reform police interrogation tactics.
Underlying their argument is the implicit moral principle that social justice requires that we do everything we can to minimize the potential to wrongly convict innocent persons. This may seem obvious, but one could reasonably question whether it puts too much emphasis on protecting potentially innocent suspects and not enough on convicting potentially guilty criminals. In a perfectly just system, criminals would always be brought to justice and treated appropriately, and innocent suspects would always be exonerate. However, any system devised and implemented by humans must deal with the reality of imperfection.
The difficult moral question we need to ask is how we are to balance the needs of society to protect itself from criminals while at the same time protecting the rights of innocent persons. We need to ask at what cost we are willing to limit the ability of police and Crown prosecutors to prosecute criminal suspects. Imagine, for example, the following two systems: (1) Almost no innocent persons are ever convicted, but a very high percentage of recidivist offenders are able to escape conviction, (2) A very high percentage of offenders are caught and brought to justice; however, a small but non-negligible percentage (say 3%) of innocent persons are unjustly caught in the system and thus wrongly punished for crimes they never committed. Neither of these is very palatable, but if forced to choose, my intuitions favor result (2). Of course, there are many variables at work here, and I do not have the space to delve into a detailed discussion of all the relevant trade-offs. My basic point is that social justice requires not only that we protect innocent individuals from prosecution, but that we hold guilty persons accountable for their actions.
While I think that this is a reasonable worry to raise given the tenor of Kassin and Gudjonssons article, I do not think it ultimately undermines their argument. That is, I think one might reasonably object that they are overly focused on the possibility of false confessions without saying much about the utility of true confessions. However, their specific proposal that interrogations be video-taped does not seem to diminish the ability of police to effectively interrogate suspects and, when possible, to elicit a confession. Indeed, they conclude their essay by citing a study showing that police largely found the practice of video-taping to be quite useful and not to inhibit criminal investigations.
So, even if one thinks that Kassin and Gudjonsson are a bit one-side in focusing on false confessions, ultimately I think these authors provide a compelling argument for the need for such reforms as mandatory video-taping of police interrogations.
ReferencesKassin, Saul and Gudjonsson, Gisli (2005). True Crimes, False Confessions, Scientific American Mind, July, pp. 24-31.
“The Year that Changed Everything" is a definition essay is written in a classical style which attempts to persuade the audience to accept the author’s conclusion that 1948 was an important year. The author backs this claim up with three main sub-claims which show how this year was important in the lives of three future Presidents: Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson. Furthermore, he links these presidents and this year by claiming that all of them were involved in either uncovering or covering up secrets.In paragraph 7, he claims that these dramatic secrets were an emblem of this era, which exemplified the uneasiness of Americans about who they were. He gives more examples of secrets in paragraph 8 and examples of great changes in paragraph 9. Morrow concludes with his major thesis that 1948 was a year when three future presidents encountered “formative ordeals” which propelled them toward their presidency but also toward tragedy.
The audience for this article is educated, people.The author expects people to not only understand his references to the Kinsey report, DDT, and Silent Spring but also to be able to deduce how these support his thesis.While dropping these references and allowing the audience to inductively understand his points may be effective for those who lived through this historical period, it makes the article less effective for younger people who, for example, don’t have memories about DDT nor remember pictures about what it did to birds and animals. The author attempts to establish common ground through historical references but these may not be effective for those who don’t know them. What also limits the effectiveness of the article is the fact that the author does not explain how his examples relate to his thesis.The logical connections between his examples are also sometimes weak. Does Nixon’s involvement in uncovering the Hiss case really compare clearly to Kennedy’s cover-up of his medical history and Johnson’s cover-up of his dirty politics?
What is effective about the essay is that it causes the reader to think differently about what sorts of events should be considered important and it also makes the reader think about the connections between personal decisions and political events.