As early as you can, begin discussing possible topics for a SIP with potential advisors. The main idea behind the Philosophy SIP is so you engage in substantial independent research on a topic you have chosen as important and interesting. Along with the comprehensive examination, it is the capstone experience of your undergraduate major in philosophy. Because the SIP, or a précis of it, may be submitted for graduate school applications, it is important the document reflect your interests and express your talents as an emerging philosopher.
Discuss your foreign study options with a philosophy professor. Even at this early stage in your philosophy major, you may have chosen a general subject area or specific topic for your SIP that is better accommodated by some CIP programs rather than others. Consult with a member of the department about philosophy courses and Area of Study courses that may support your research.
Continue to keep in contact with faculty who are helping narrow your focus on potential topics of interest. They will give you good advice on courses that may provide the foundation for your independent research. Philosophy faculty will recommend articles and books that will help you gain a more secure understanding of potential SIP topics.
Before you leave for your summer break, meet with advisors and ask for suggested summer readings that might help you clarify the topics you may want to research.
Consider your courses up to this point. Think about the different areas of philosophy you’ve studied and which ones you feel most comfortable with. Decide if there is one to which you would be happy to devote a great deal of time over the course of the next year. Remember this is not the beginning and end of your scholarly interests and pursuits, but it should be something interesting to you and you can see yourself doing research in in the future. Try to settle on an area and assemble a short list of the major themes, problems, questions or figures you might be interested in studying by September 1.
It is expected that your time on foreign study allow your ideas on potential SIP topics to mature.
Set up a meeting with your advisor(s) to nail down possible topics in advance of settling on a research plan. This may be done via email. During these meetings, you and your advisor(s) should frame a sharply formulated 2-3 sentence question your SIP thesis proposes to answer.
Set up a meeting with your advisor(s) in the Philosophy department to discuss the direction of your SIP and discuss possible sources for your research.
Set up a meeting with your advisor(s) in the philosophy department to establish a prospective list of sources, settle upon a single question, and write a brief paragraph that presents the central claims you plan to defend.
Have a complete annotated bibliography and a reading list for your research over the summer approved by your SIP advisors before Exam Week starts. A preliminary version of the thesis topic should also be turned in at this point.
Keep to your reading schedule, while exploring new leads you may discover. Most importantly, never read without writing expositions of such texts. It is crucial you be able to define important terms, clarify the central questions addressed, and explain the structure of arguments. Demanding expository writing will help you read more clearly and critically. When you read, mark crucial passages. Later, type the most important passages into a document as quotations and explain how your author is arguing for or against a position.
Have 50 to 100 pages of exegetical research completed to turn into your advisors by the first day of classes in Fall Quarter. This should be the review and exposition of relevant literature you have been examining over the summer. Since such expository work is devoted to a topic about which there may be considerable disagreement, you should also have some critical commentary about the alternative positions or debates you have studied. In other words, you should have critical commentary on why you agree or disagree with an author’s views. Such critical commentary most often suggests a tentative organization into sections that offers a developmental ordering of some issue or question. Finally, you should have, at a minimum, a 5-10 page rough draft of your argument. When you agree or disagree with the authors whom you have read, you are constructing your own view by saying where you stand vis-à-vis your authors. These reasons offer a partial articulation of your independent stance.
Schedule a meeting with your advisor(s) the first week of Fall Quarter to discuss your progress over the summer and agree on a time for weekly tutorials. You should also be ready to discuss the development of the argumentative portions of your SIP at such a meeting. Such meetings are devoted to the sequential organization and revision of materials you have already written and to the expansion and refinement of your argument. New writing, whether revisions of earlier materials or additions to the argument, are expected every week. Remember, you will be taking senior seminar during this time, more specifically, writing two comprehensive examination essays so time management will be important. (NB: Often such essays have a bearing upon your topic and may contribute sections to your SIP).
Turn in a final draft of the SIP. This is a crucial juncture in the evaluation of your thesis. While it is customary for your advisor(s) to ask for revisions of the manuscript (to be completed during the Winter break), it is expected the thesis be clear and defensible. Winter break revisions allow for the refinement of prose, the clarification of transitions from one section to another, and most importantly, the clarification and elaboration of your argument. While substantial revisions may be carried out during Winter break, the SIP argument must be completed before the end of Winter Term.
Turn in your final version of the SIP for review. Your advisors will read the SIP to ascertain its eligibility for official submission as a bound document.
Although it is not required for the philosophy major, the presentation of your thesis at a conference is strongly recommended. During the Winter term, continue to meet with your advisor(s) about composing a 10-page précis of your thesis. If your paper is accepted at a professional conference, Senior Seminar will be devoted, in part, to preparing you for your presentation. You will deliver your paper before an audience, receiving not only coaching, but critical questions that may surface during the actual conference. Important revisions and refinements are made after your K presentation(s).
At the end of Winter term, your conference paper should now be ready for presentation. Also, a list of six potential questions and your tentative response should be submitted in written form to your advisor(s).
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