WRITING GUIDE FOR UIT2206 The Importance of Being Formal

Prof Henz has recently assigned his students an essay for his module of formal reasoning and symbolic logic. Siang Lin and I have sat down with Prof Henz (who has also contributed to and vetted this Guideline Sheet) and here is what you need to know:


The students are being asked to submit an essay of around 2500-3000 words (10-15 pages)


The essay is not written for General Readers, as in WCT, but for other students of formal reasoning and symbolic logic. Students will not, then, be expected to define, explain or provide reader orientation for the analytical tools employed, but will have to provide reader orientation to the TOPIC that they choose to investigate, which is completely open and up to them.


Topics that Prof Henz have approved so far for the essays include "Magic Tricks" (and the devising of a formal logic equations that helps to codify or explain the tricks) and (the inability of formal logic equations to satisfactory capture or explain) "Everyday Life." As you can see, the "scope" here can be magnitudes larger than what would be considered appropriate in a WCT module, because the students are not being asked to do a close reading textual analysis per se, so please refrain from the tendency to try to force these non-WCT type essays into WCT type essays. Rather, what Prof Henz would most like you to focus on is helping his students with the issues of:
  1. CLARITY: Even though we realize that you will not be able to judge the quality of the formal logic equations being used, all of the paper's discussion around the topic ("magic tricks", etc) should be clearly understandable to any reader of the paper, so do help the student with sentence level issues (e.g., suggesting and giving them a handout of the Paramedic Method if necessary), paragraph formation, conciseness, etc.
  2. STRUCTURE and ORGANIZATION: Again, the same rules apply here as in WCT essays. Has the reader been given all the information needed at each point of the essay? Does the essay evince a clear, logical flow or are there leaps in logic and missing transitions? Are whole sections repetitive or unclear? Does the reader "know where they are" in the argument at all times? Are the Introductions and Conclusions effective (and might the student benefit from one of our online Handouts about same)?
  3. ARGUMENTATIVE RIGOR: Again, check for all of the things that you would check for in any university-level essay, e.g. rhetorical fallacies, overgeneralizations, straw man arguments, claims that are merely asserted, rather than persuasively argued, to be so, etc.
  4. ORIGINALITY: The objective of the assignment is to see how well students can come up with their own equations of formal reasoning to model, explain or address a phenomenon that they have not seen so addressed in class. Thus, although the "thesis" of these papers will not much resemble the WCT close reading of a set of claims type of theses, Prof Henz has stressed that he still wants to see originality in the student's choice of phenomenon, and that their application of formal models to it should be surprising in some way (e.g., in what conclusions that it reaches, in the fact that such things can be successfully formally modeled at all, etc). In this regard, you should do what you do with WCT students and make sure that the students know that they must explicitly show or state in their papers, exactly how, why or in what way this application of formal logic is original and value-adding.
  5. CITATIONS: Cite your sources in-text, by referring to a list of references. The in-text citations as well as the references at the end of the paper should be formatted following the MLA guidelines, see MLA guidelines published by the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Below, for further guidance, are some of the instructions that Prof Henz has provided in writing to his students: