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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Chapter 27. ANALYSIS


Introduction   Basics   Advanced   Samples   Activities


Student Samples Page




The samples below are papers by students, unless specifically noted.  They are examples of "A" level undergraduate writing or entry-level professional work.  To get a better idea of how this type of paper is written, you will want to look at all the samples.  Then compare the samples to each other and to what the "Basics" part of this chapter says.   

 The authors of all sample student papers in this Web site have given their permission in writing to have their work included in WritingforCollege.orgAll samples remain copyrighted by their original authors.  Other than showing it on this website, none should be used without the explicit permission of the author.

Unless otherwise noted, sample papers do not necessarily meet all requirements an individual instructor or professional supervisor may have: ask your instructor or supervisor.  In addition, the samples single spaced to save room; however, a proper manuscript given to an instructor or supervisor normally should be double spaced with margins set at or close to 1" unless another format has been requested.


Sample One: Analysis Using Three Viewpoints

SPECIAL NOTES: This paper is written in MLA style.  It also has a "Summary" section that summarizes the reading that the essay analyzes.

Inver Hills College
Eng 1108, College Composition
© 2002 by Joe Delgado

Concerning the Death Penalty
by Joe Delgado


            In the article “The Case Against the Death Penalty,” which appears in Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints, Eric Freedman argues that the death penalty not only does not deter violent crime but also works against reducing the crime rate.  Freedman says, “The death penalty not only is useless in itself, but counterproductive . . . ” (140).  This paper will analyze Freedman’s article from the viewpoints of a middle-age working man, a poor person, and a politician.  


            Freedman argues that the death penalty does not deter crime.  In his article, he argues that states that use the death penalty have crime rates nearly indistinguishable from those states that do not have the death penalty.  He also adds that criminal cases in which the death penalty is sought are much more expensive to investigate and try, thus denying much-needed funds to programs that have been proven to reduce crime.  

A Middle-Age Working Man

            A middle-age working man would probably agree with Freedman’s point of view with relation to the financial aspect of capital punishment because Freedman talks about how much more the death penalty costs than life imprisonment. He says, “In Florida, each execution costs $3,200,000, six times the expense of life imprisonment” (141).  The workingman would probably be amazed at how much the execution actually costs compared to how much life imprisonment costs.  The workingman would probably wonder why the death penalty is even sought when life imprisonment seems to accomplish the same goal for much less money.

The working man would also probably agree with Freedman because the workingman would rather see his tax money spent on more productive programs.  Freedman says, “The reality is that, in a time of fixed or declining budgets, those dollars are taken away from a range of programs that would be beneficial” (142).  The workingman would add that with the government taking so much of his income in taxes, it could at least do something more productive than killing people. 

A working man would probably be upset at how much money is spent on just trying a person in a capital punishment case.  Freedman says, “Thus, the taxpayers foot the bill for all the extra costs of capital pretrial and trial proceedings and then must pay either for incarcerating the prisoner for life or the expenses of a retrial, which itself often leads to a life sentence” (142).  The workingman would be upset because not only is the government using his money to try these criminals, but it is using more of his money to retry these criminals just because they didn’t get the verdict they wanted in the first place.

            The working man might also be upset that more money has to be spent on extra expenses that would not be incurred if it was not a capital punishment trial.  Freedman says, “Much more investigation usually is done in capital cases, particularly by the prosecution” (141).  The working man might be upset that just because the prosecution wants to kill the defendant, he has to pay the extra cost so the prosecution can gain more evidence even though it often leads to a life sentence instead of an execution.  

A Poor Person

            A poor person would agree with Freedman because of how discriminating the death penalty is.  Such a person would look at Freedman’s article and agree that many poor people are discriminated against because they do not have the money to receive a high quality of defense.  Freedman says, “ Most capital defendants cannot afford an attorney, so the court must appoint counsel.  Every major study of this issue . . . has found that the quality of defense representation in capital murder trials generally is far lower than in felony cases” (144).  The poor person might see poor people as being targeted for capital punishment simply because of the fact that they won’t be able to defend themselves properly. 

He might also be outraged at the fact that people to whom he can relate are not getting a proper defense because they cannot afford the best.  Freedman says, “[T]here is an overwhelming record of poor people being subjected to convictions and death sentences that equally or more culpable—but more affluent—defendants would not have suffered” (144).  Mark Costanzo, author of Just Revenge, agrees. He argues, “If you or someone you cared about was accused of murder, you would surely want a defense team as skillful and thorough as [a wealthy person]” (73).  A poor person would add that if poor people had the money to defend themselves properly, fewer of them would receive the death penalty. 

A poor person would see the death penalty as a way to rid the world of poor people because people might think they are different and don’t deserve to live.  Freedman says, “Jurors are more likely to sentence to death people who seem different from themselves than individuals who seem similar to themselves” (144).  A poor person would probably view most people as having more money and better things than he and that because he doesn’t have the best things, he is different than everyone else.  He might feel bad because it seems like the world is against him and wants to get rid of him.

            He may also see the death penalty as trying to take away money from programs that would benefit him and people like him. Freedman says, "Despite the large percentage of ordinary street crimes that are narcotics-related, the states lack the funding to permit drug treatment on demand.  The result is that people who are motivated to cure their own addictions are relegated to supporting themselves through crime, while the money that could fund treatment programs is poured down the death penalty drain" (142).  The poor person might be sad that he does not have access to beneficial programs because people are putting so much money into the death.  He may conclude from Freedman’s statement specifically that if the death penalty were abolished, there would be fewer drug-related crimes because states would have more money to fund treatment programs.  

A Politician

            A politician would probably disagree with Freedman because he would believe a price tag cannot be put on doing the things that are right.  He would probably see the statistics Freedman gave as irrelevant.  Freedman says, “In Florida, each execution costs $3,200,000, six times the expense of life imprisonment” (141).  The politician would see these costs as very high but taken out of context.  He would most likely look to the statistics of how the death penalty has actually been a crime deterrent, as proven by Jay Johansen in his article “Does Death Penalty Deter Crime?”  Johansen says that the “[h]omicide rate is a mirror image of the number of executions.  Consistently as the number of executions goes down, the homicide rate goes up, and when the number of executions goes up, the homicide rate goes down” (138).  He would see this as proof that capital punishment is a deterrent, and it should remain legal as long as it continues to deter crime.

            A politician might use Johansen’s statistics to prove that the death penalty should not be abolished.  He might see that even though a capital punishment case costs more, if the crime rate goes down than we have fewer criminals to take to trial.  If we have fewer criminals to take to trial, we are actually saving more money in the long run by keeping capital punishment legal.  A politician might be angry that Freedman does not show the actual statistics of the crime rate as executions were outlawed and then when executions were again legalized.  He might see Freedman as trying to divert people’s attention away from the actual statistics by showing how much one capital punishment case compared to one non-capital punishment case.

            A politician might also disagree with Freedman because Freedman proposes to take a state’s right away.  He would agree with Michael Levin that a state should have the right to enforce its laws however it sees fit.  Levin says, “Well, the state must be able to enforce whatever it commands, or it is a state in name only” (83).  Levin also states, “Once the state is granted the right to administer lesser punishments, it cannot be denied the right to kill” (83).  The politician would strongly agree that a law abolishing capital punishment would be a law that is limiting a state’s right to pass judgement.


This paper has shown how three different types of people might interpret Eric Freedman’s article “The Case Against the Death Penalty,” which appeared in Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints.  Freedman argues that the death penalty does nothing to deter crime but uses valuable resources that could help control crime.  Freedman says, “The death penalty is not just useless—it is positively harmful and diverts resources from genuine crime control measures” (145).  Freedman argues his point very well and logically and makes it very easy for people to understand all of the harm capital punishment can inflict.  Whether capital punishment is ethical is still unclear, but what becomes more obvious is this, that the social class of a person may directly influence his or her opinion about capital punishment.


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Sample Two: Analysis of Four Arguments

SPECIAL NOTES: This paper is written in APA style.  Because there are only two sources and this paper was not assigned as a research project, the authors' names and a publication date are not repeated after each quotation and paraphrase, nor is there a bibliography.  This paper has a summary section.  At the end, an optional final evaluation is offered.

University of Minnesota
Eng 1011, Honors College Composition
© 2000 by John Webb

Suicides Using Guns: An Analysis
by John Webb


        In the article "The Number of Gun-Related Teen Suicides is Exaggerated," David B. Kopel (1998) insists that removing firearms from homes would not reduce the rate of teen suicide. Kopel says, "Many gun-control advocates assert that removing firearms from the home would reduce the rate of teen suicide" (p. 56). Kopel also contends, "While the percentage of teen suicide by firearms is high in the United States, the numbers have remained stable for many years." This paper will analyze Kopel’s essay from the perspective of a gun-control advocate, with the help of the perspective developed in an article by Christopher Scanlan (1998), "Guns in the Home Contribute to Teen Suicide."


       The introductory section of Kopel’s article states that gun-control advocates have exaggerated the extent of teen suicides by firearms. Kopel continues the article by saying that gun control advocates use false statistics in their reasoning and in their explanation for the rate of teen suicide. The next section of the article stresses how gun-control laws have no effect on the rate of teen suicides in United States. The last portion of Kopel’s essay mentions how gun-control advocates have resorted to using factoids written by different reporters around the country to try and get across their message of pro-gun control across.

        Kopel uses a helpful source, Gary Kleck, to back up his arguments on the issue of teen suicide. Mr. Kleck is a Criminologist at Florida State University. Kleck conducted a study of suicide rates and gun laws in every American city with a population over 100,000. The concluding results were that there seemed to be no evidence that any of the gun-control laws had a statistical effect on suicide rates in teens. These findings back up Kopel’s argument that gun laws have no effect, and Kopel uses these findings to a great extent against the gun-control advocates.

Suicides Exaggerated?

        A first point of analysis has to do with Kopel’s statement that gun-control advocates have exaggerated the extent of teen suicides by firearms. Kopel says, "If guns are not available, teenagers who want to kill themselves will merely find another method" (p. 56). Kopel insists that the percentage of teen suicide has remained stable for many years. From the mid-1950’s to the late 1970’s, teenage suicide rose sharply, and most of the increase was due to gun suicides. However, since then, the teenage suicide rate has remained relatively stable and so has the percentage of suicides involving guns.

        Gun-control advocates like Christopher Scanlan, who wrote the article "Guns in the Home Contribute to Teen Suicide," believe that gun-control advocates haven’t exaggerated the extent of teen suicides by firearms. Scanlan contends, "The easy availability of guns contributes to the high rate of teen suicide" (p. 51). The main argument of Scanlan and the gun-control advocates is that the incidence of teenagers killing themselves with firearms has increased dramatically, while the rate of suicides by other means has remained the same.

False Statistics?

        Another issue for analysis is Kopel’s belief that gun-control advocates frequently use false statistics in their arguments. Kopel critiques the advocates when for citing false statistics to justify their sense of the matter. For example, in 1989, according to Kopel, the American Academy of Pediatrics told a Congressional committee that "every three hours, a teenager commits suicide with a handgun." However, as Kopel points out, this figure is only valid if one counts all the suicides as handgun suicides, or if one calls every person under 25 a teenager. In addition, Kopel (1989) insists, "Gun-control supporters simply assume that fewer firearms would mean fewer suicides" (p. 57). Kopel can see the fact that if guns were less available, maybe suicide would decline. However, he insists that this is not inferable from the evidence.

        However, Gun-control advocates do not believe they use false statistics in their arguments. In a nation where half the homes contain at least one firearm, guns and youth are a fatal combination that annually kills more than 1,400 American youths between the ages of ten and nineteen. This is one youth gun suicide every six hours. By restricting the access of teenagers to guns, suicides could be reduced by twenty percent. Twenty percent is nearly 300 teenagers saved per year. Teen suicide rates have quadrupled since 1950, and according to Scanlan, a leading panel of firearm researchers concluded that the increase was fueled by rapid growth in gun suicides. Another twist to the situation is that guns also put at risk large numbers of young people who consider suicide. According to Scanlan, a 1990 nationwide federal health survey of high school students found that more than one in four young people had thought seriously about attempting suicide. Scanlan simply states, "Keeping guns out of the reach of children saves lives" (p. 52).

Gun Control Useless?

        A third issue for analysis is that Kopel firmly believes gun-control laws have no effect. He backs this strong statement with the help of Gary Kleck (1998), a criminologist at Florida State University. As was stated earlier in this paper, Kleck analyzed suicide rates and gun laws in every American city with a population over 100,000. He took into account all the factors that might affect suicide, such as race, religion, economic situations, and nineteen different gun-control laws. The result was that Kleck found no evidence that any of the gun-control laws had a statistical effect on suicide rates. Kleck pointed out, "People who had decided to kill themselves simply substituted other, equally lethal methods" (p. 57). According to Kopel, it appears That data from other countries support Kleck’s conclusion. An example is Great Britain. There, gun control laws are much stricter than in the United States; however, teenage suicide rose sharply during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

        Teen suicides often go unnoticed in the national debate over firearm violence and gun control. According to Scanlan, in a nationwide survey of youth suicide prevention programs, none reported a major effort to limit gun access. Instead, government resources are being targeted at other problems such as violence against women, homicides, and violence against young people. However, says Scanlan, one hopeful sign has sprung up in the last couple of years. In 1993, the American Association of Suicidology voted to organize a workshop to bring together health advocates and gun enthusiasts to seek common ground on the issue of reducing access to firearms to our youth in society. According to Scanlan, National Rifle Association Research Coordinator Paul Blackman (1998) declared, "Sounds good to me. We’re here and waiting" (Scanlan, p. 53). The National Rifle Association is very skeptical, noting that the suicidology group sides with gun control advocates in favoring laws that restrict gun access.

Myths or Facts?

        A final point of analysis is of how Kopel is fed up with gun-control advocates using factoids to try and support their arguments. For example, according to Kopel, the Washington Post (1998) stated, "Teenagers in homes with guns are 76 times more likely to kill themselves than teenagers living in homes without guns" (p. 58). Kopel insists that this is how myths supporting gun control are started. Kopel says, "Given the lack of evidence that gun control reduced suicide, anti-gun activists have to resort to factoids to prove their case" (p. 58).

        Scanlan and other gun-control advocates believe they simply state the cold, hard facts about the teen suicide problem. Gun-control advocates around the country resort to studies certifying that the increase of guns coincides with a rise in firearm suicides. For example, says Scanlan, a 1991 study in western Pennsylvania found that the risk of youth suicide increased when guns were present in the home, no matter how carefully they were stored. Unfortunately, says Scanlan, the largest increase has been among the young, typically a group that is looking for quick solutions to life’s difficulties. Scanlan stresses, "Suicide among all ages remain one of the nation’s most enduring public health problems" (p. 54). He adds, "Without ready access to guns, many youth suicides might remain suicide attempts."


        This paper has analyzed the article "The Number of Gun-Related Teen Suicides is Exaggerated" by David B. Kopel. Kopel insists gun-control laws have no effect on teenage suicide rates, and he believes that removing firearms from the home would not reduce the rate of teen suicide. Kopel insists that gun control advocates state false statistics, use untrue factoids, and believe falsely that gun-control laws have an effect on teenage suicides. Even though Kopel agrees in theory with gun-control advocates’ that "fewer guns equal fewer teenage suicides," he states, "The evidence is not there to simply say fewer guns equal fewer teenage suicides" (p. 57). However, after analyzing Kopel’s essay, it is reasonable to suggest that suicide should be looked upon more as a whole. Perhaps instead of just concentrating on gun-related suicides, Kopel and gun-control advocates such as Scanlan should be focusing on suicide in general, for perhaps the blame for youth suicide by guns can’t be laid just on gun control or its lack, but on society as a whole.


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Sample Three: Analysis Using Three Theories with Research (9-09)

NOTE: This is an MLA research paper using three different psychological theories about one subject in a reading.

Tamara Hill
Analysis Paper
Eng 1114-02
Inver Hills College

Psychological Perspectives on a Missionary Woman
by Tamara Hill 


David Bergner’s non-fiction work In the Land of Magic Soldiers gives a very detailed account of what it has been like in Sierra Leone for the past couple of decades.  There are many graphic and gruesome images, and the character that stands out the most is Mary Kortenhoven; she is like an angel among murderers.  She is a missionary from Michigan who went to Foria, Sierra Leone with her family to help out with the well being of the native tribal people.  One can only wonder why she would leave a land so beautiful and free to go to a sad and desolate place like Sierra Leone.  According to Bergner, Sierra Leone “is a place where the bend in a path—just that, a slight curve in a narrow strip of mud—can produce an ache, a longing, a bending of the heart” (3).  We may determine her motives by analyzing them from the psychological perspectives of the theory of planned behavior, the empathy-altruism theory, and the negative state relief theory. 


In Bergner’s book, Mary Kortenhoven is a missionary.  She leaves a wonderful life here in the United States to go help the Africans in Sierra Leone.  She, her husband, and her three children go to Foria; they all give up running water, electricity, and the safety net of America.  They are subjected to diseases, harmful animals, and a lack of civilization.  She takes much time, teaches the women new ways to be more sanitary while giving birth and helps clear up and prevent deadly diseases.  Mary Kortenhoven brings in new medical techniques and tools.  She travels by herself through the jungle to stop the Malaria epidemic.  She spends over two decades in Foria, Freetown, and other small villages, so she and her entire family become a part of Africa.

Theory of Planned Behavior

            According to the theory of planned behavior, a person’s behavior is shaped because his or her attitude towards something is integrated with subjective norms and perceived control (Brehm, Kassin, and Fein 191).  So, in the view of this theory, Mary may have moved to Foria because she believes that is what society thinks she must do, along with her own belief that she should go.

 It was Mary’s idea initially to possibly do some mission work in Africa before she and her husband left for Africa, but what really influenced her to go was pressure from society.  Someone advocating for the theory of planned behavior would argue that that is one of the criteria to “shaping the final behavior” (Bergner 66).  In order to shape the behavior, one must have some sort of intention; one must want to do the initial behavior.  Normative social influence is when someone succumbs to societal pressures to gain support from their peers or to avoid some type of disapproval (Myers 705).  From the view of the theory of planned behavior, Mary may have wanted to go, and was also strongly persuaded by society. 

One must also have a strong belief about the behavior as well; Mary strongly believes that she “needed to treat the children of Foria” (66).  Need is a very strong word; rather than wanting to treat them, she needed to treat them.  She tries to portray this motivation through her kind actions. 

Another one of the criteria for shaping behavior, according to the theory of planned behavior, is that people will only integrate the behavior into their lives if they believe it is within their control.  This may explain why Mary does not try to convince the women that clitoris cutting, the female circumcision, was very detrimental to their health because she believes “she could do little” (76) about the situation since “in Africa alone . . . an estimated 60-90,000,000 women are circumcised” and “female circumcision is an ancient blood ritual” (Lightfoot-Klein).  She only does what she can, and what she thinks she cannot change she leaves alone.  Someone analyzing this from the theory of planned behavior would conclude that Mary Kortenhoven goes to Africa because she feels subjected to do so and only helps where she thinks she will be an influence.

Empathy-Altruism Theory

            According to the empathy altruism theory, compassionate concern for a person in need produces a selfless desire for helping that person (Brehm, Kassin, and Fein 361).  Mary out of the kindness of her heart, goes to Foria in order to “gain the trust, to teach rather than impose, to introduce the small, sustainable beginnings of a new and easier life” (Bergner 73).  Mary puts herself into the shoes of the people from Sierra Leone, and according to Brehm, Kassin, and Fein, “The major cognitive component of empathy is perspective taking: using the power of imagination to try to see the world through someone else’s eyes” (361).  The empathy altruism theory would say Mary Kortenhoven does not judge and undoubtedly cares for others.

That is exactly what Mary does; she sees the world through the eyes of the people of Foria.  She realizes that some people are happy with their religious beliefs and do not wish to change them at all.  She does not impose her beliefs on the villagers; she just suggests better ways of living.  Mary is not forceful in any way.  The way she presents her ideas is in an empathetic manner.

Even though Mary is not a nurse, she still tries very hard and reads books in order to learn more.  She would “listen with her stethoscope to lungs that crackled like cellophane” (Bergner 68).  She also patiently teaches the Kuronko what to feed their sick children, how to prevent infection during pregnancy, and about many other health related issues because, according to Davis-Floyd and Sargent, “of every 1,000 child born in a given year, over a quarter [die] by their first birthday, and more than half [do not] reach their fifth birthday” (Davis-Floyd and Sargent 424).  Mary sees a perfect opportunity where she can be of help, and she does whole heartedly.

Looking at Mary’s behavior from this point of view one can conclude that Mary is a kind, selfless woman who feels the need to help others simply because they need her help, and because she has the resources to help them.  Even when living in Sierra Leone became extremely dangerous, Mary stayed and set up a women’s shelter (Bergner 84).  She is not a needy person whatsoever.  She simply enjoys giving, with no expectation of reciprocation. 

Negative State Relief Theory

            According to Brehm, Kassin, and Fein, the negative state relief theory states people are motivated to help someone to increase their own welfare, to make themselves feel better.  They say, “Empathy highlights the potential rewards for helping others . . . . [H]elping makes [the helper] feel good” (363).  For instance, if person A is in need of help, it may cause distress for person B, so person B in turn will help person A in order to counteract his or her own sadness.  According to Rogers, “Genuineness, acceptance, and empathy are the water, sun and nutrients that enable people to grow like vigorous oak trees. For as persons are accepted and prized, they tend to develop a more caring attitude towards themselves” (Myers 588).  According to the negative state relief theory, Mary only helps others to be accepted and to feel better about herself. 

From the perspective of this theory, Mary also probably only helps because she feels saddened by the Kuronko people, so she helps them to relieve her anxiety that their agony causes.  Mary was “not propelled by fanatic devotion” (Bergner 67).  Mary is propelled by the depressed feelings she has; she is propelled to get rid of those negative feelings by helping others. This, in turn, makes her feel better. 

 In compliance with the negative state relief theory, she is only looking out for her own personal interest, which is to relieve her own anxiety.  Mary often seeks refuge, and the “refuge she needed was from disease, from the village woman . . . wailing” (Bergner 66).  She cannot stand the pain that she sees the villagers going through.  In order to make herself feel like a competent person, she helps the villagers.  Rogers declared that empathetic concern strengthens relationships; any relationship between two human beings (Myers 588).  The only motivation for Mary’s actions is to relieve her anxiety and for her to feel more competent among the villagers.

In addition, Mary is also subjected to many depressed people in Africa.  For example, the female circumcisions that many of the women in Africa endure result in “a severely depressed self-image, lack of confidence, feelings of sexual inadequacy and worthlessness, repressed rage and anorgasmia” (Lightfoot-Klein).  When Mary sees these depressed and distressed feelings in the women, it causes her to become upset, and that may be why she is more inclined to help these women.  She does not want to be around that kind of depressing situation, but since she is, she deals with it by helping others in order to relieve her agony, her sadness, and it makes her feel like a better person.


There are many different ways to analyze Mary Kortenhoven’s motivations for helping out the people of Foria.  We have looked at her actions from three psychological perspectives. Though one may never know her true motives, by analyzing them from the perspectives of the theory of planned behavior, the empathy-altruism theory, and the negative state relief theory, there are several explanations for her genuine intentions.  She may have felt pressured by society, she may have just wanted to help out of the kindness of her heart, or she may have wanted to rid herself of her distressing feelings and that is what made her help.  As Bergner states,

To step inside those chambers [of the buttress trees], to have the massive growths enclose you, to lean with your feet on the spongy ground and your back to the cool damp bark, with almost all the sounds of the world absorbed by the misty air and the immensity of wood, is to exist in some other atmosphere, some softer medium, some fluid capable of sustaining you between this world and another. (3)

Mary Kortenhoven is existing in this other atmosphere; she was possibly caught between this world and another. 


[NOTE: This bibliography uses some features of the older MLA format—from before 2009.]

Works Cited

Bergner, Daniel. In the Land of Magic Soldiers. New York: Picador, 2003.

Bitong, Liliane. “Fighting Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 83.11 (2005): 806-807. Academic Search Premiere. EBSCOhost. Inver Hills Community College Library, Inver Grove Heights. 28 Oct. 2006 <>.

Brehm, S.S., Kassin, S., and Fein, S. Social Psychology. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Davis-Floyd, Robbie E., ed, and Carolyn F. Sargent, ed. Childbirth and Authoritative

Knowledge: Cross Cultural Perspectives. Los Angeles: University of California, 1997.

Lightfoot-Klein, Hanny.  “Prisoners of Ritual: Some Contemporary Developments in the History of Female Genital Mutilation.” Second International Symposium on Circumcision 30 April,1991.

Myers, David, G. Psychology. 7th ed. New York: Worth Publishers, 2004.


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Sample Four: Researched Comparison/Contrast

SPECIAL NOTES: This is a comparison/contrast paper requiring research.  It uses MLA style.  The bibliography at the end would, in a normal manuscript, start on a separate page. 

Inver Hills College
Hum 1110, Humanities I
© 2001 by Melanie Pelzel

A Comparison and Contrast of Three Ancient Roman Philosophies
by Melanie Pelzel


         This paper compares and contrasts three different views of philosophy of Roman times: Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Neo-Platonism.  These three philosophies were created out of  a need for explanations about the meaning of life.  According to Lamm, "Epicureanism and Stoicism, two eminent Athenian schools of philosophy of the third century BC, developed ethical systems that could help individuals feel more secure in an unstable and hostile world.  Materialistic and practical, both philosophies suited thoughtful, educated Romans who chose to confront the problems of living an ethical life in a society plagued by dissension, vice, and corruption" (241).

          It was the era that sprouted such philosophies.  According to Shapiro, “The moral and emotional conditions in the first true ‘Age of Anxiety’ suffered in the western world—the Hellenistic Age—called forth and nourished three great philosophical responses: Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Neo-Platonism” (1).

Purpose in Life

        This section will compare and contrast the three philosophies regarding the question "What is one's purpose in life?"  In Epicureanism, securing tranquility is the answer.  The followers of this particular philosophy also believed the highest good in one's life is secure and lasting pleasure.  According to Lamm, “Epicurus considered pleasure the ultimate good and adhered, with remarkable consistency, to the consequences of this view” (241).  The only way a person could achieve tranquility and pleasure is, as De Lacy says, "through the philosopher.  Intelligent choice is also needed, and practical wisdom is more to be prized than philosophy itself.  Practical wisdom measures pleasures against pains, accepting pains that lead to greater pleasures and rejecting pleasures that lead to greater pains.  It counts the traditional virtues (justice, temperance, and courage) among the means for attaining the pleasant life; they have no other justification" (4).

         The followers of Epicureanism also felt that if a person were full of fear and anxiety, he or she would be hindered in achieving her purpose in life.  Religion and the dread of death were viewed as the two great sources of fear for mankind.  To rid mankind of these fears, De Lacy says, "Epicurus stated that peace of mind is achieved when the study of natural philosophy has removed all fear of the gods, when death is recognized to be merely the limit of experience and therefore irrelevant to the quality of experience, and when the gratification of desires that go beyond what is necessary and natural is seen to result in greater pains than pleasure" (4).

         This brings up an interesting point, one that should be addressed.  Epicureanism has been given the reputation of saying that sensual pleasures are the highest good and this is what a person should strive for.  This view is actually mistaken.  According to Burkhardt, “Intense bodily pleasure has consequences which are painful.  In the long run, therefore, the highest good lies not in bodily pleasure but in the maximum of equilibrium or absence of pain” (272).  The highest good is not in complete bodily pleasure, but in creating a total balance between pleasure and pain.

         How do the Stoics answer the proposed question "What is one’s purpose in life?"  They viewed purpose in life as the pursuit of virtue.  According to Lamm, “It was seen that virtue was the sole good in an individual’s life; health, happiness, possessions are of no account.  Because virtue resides in will power, everything good or bad in a person’s life depends entirely on that person” (242).  Lamm goes on to say, “Virtue is seen as a detached calm, and one must guard himself from allowing others from interfering with this calm.  One can finally achieve freedom by freeing oneself from all non-important desires” (242).  We can now see that Stoicism and Epicureanism have a common thread: to achieve ones purpose in life, she must look within.  Clark expands on this idea by saying, “to desire the impossible is irrational; and we should concern ourselves only with what is in our power—not wealth, pleasure, or reputation, but our inward reaction to the circumstances of life” (539). 

         The Stoics’ also wished to abolish passions, which were thought of as a mental disturbance.  According to Sandbach, “The passions came in four generic kinds: fear, lust, mental pain, and mental pleasure” (60).  A person who truly followed the Stoic philosophy tried to achieve a detached calm in any situation.  This person could have lost his wife and children in a fire, but would take care not to let it disrupt his calm.  He would try to view such a  circumstance as of no account to him.  If he did let it distract him, then he would worry that he was jeopardizing his ultimate goal of achieving virtue.

         Last is the Neo-Platonic view of one’s purpose in life.  This philosophy is somewhat different from Epicureanism and Stoicism.  According to Lamm, “The main idea of one’s life is to approach as near as possible to an understanding of reality while on earth so that, upon death, one is fit to enter the City of Good and contemplate the True Reality” (243).  In Neo-Platonism, there is the belief that nothing exists in its pure form.  Pure form is seen as impossible to experience it in this life.  According to Sweeney, “Neoplatonism tends, then, to put little emphasis on the material universe and reuses all value to the unique, distinguishing characteristics of an individual human person; for Plotinus these are unreal and unworthy accretion and must be put aside when one attains the One” (297).  The idea then, is to live this life as ideally as one would live after death.  By doing this, a person is more prepared when faced with the True Reality. 


         This section will compare and contrast the three philosophies regarding the question "Is there a God?"  De Lacy states, “Epicurus preferred the view, like all other atomic compounds, men have come into being when the necessary conditions have been met.  They have no creator and no destiny” (4).  It was his belief then that no God did, in fact, exist.  But Epicurus was influenced by society's belief at that time that there was a multitude of gods.  Even though he himself believed that there was no creator, he devised a way to explain the possibility of the existence of these gods.  According to Armstrong, “The gods live in the gaps between the universes.  They are peculiar atomic structures, immortal in that the flow of atoms into them exactly balances the outflow” (505).  Armstrong explains this state as follows: “Nothing exists but atoms and the empty space in which they endlessly move.  Universes, including our own, and all in them are just chance concatenations or chains of atoms, which are always coming into existence and being dissolved infinite space” (505).  To compromise his own view with society's, Epicurus further stated that the gods have no power over mortals and do not interfere in our lives or affairs.

         In Stoicism there was a belief in God.  According to Hallie, “The Stoics defined God as a rational spirit having itself no shape but making itself into all things” (21).  Hallie also states, “ he key words in the Stoic vocabulary are all basically synonymous: God, Zeus, creative fire, ether, the word (logos), reason of the world, soul of the world, law of nature, providence, destiny, and order.  The Stoics were monists.  There is no qualitative difference between God and the rest of the universe” (21).  In their view then, God is made up of everything; without Him nothing would exist.

         Neo-Platonists supported belief in a multitude of gods.  However, according to Shapiro, “the gods have no power over the universes.  They must exist because humans believe in them, but there is no need to fear them.  Philosophers can derive peace and joy from contemplating the ideal existence of gods” (334).  Therefore, even in their existence, they remain completely separate from mortals.  There is a point that does need to be clarified, though.  In Neo-Platonism there is often the use of the words "The One."  This has led many to mistakenly interpret this philosophy as arguing for the existence of God or a Creator.  However, according to Dillon, “The One can be defined as a principal superior to Intellect and being, total, unitary and simple” (95).  Another way of defining The One is, according to Sweeney, as follows: “The One is cause and final goal that unifies us and our love terminates in it.  No one knows for sure what The One is, but it’s beyond being, knowledge, and language” (297).  Therefore, The One does not represent the idea of God, but in fact an idea in itself.


         This section will compare and contrast the three philosophies regarding the question "Is there a soul?"  In Epicureanism there was the belief in a soul, but it was not seen as living forever.  In order to have a clearer picture of this, it is necessary to understand how this philosophy viewed the workings of the body.  According to De Lacy, “The human organism is composed of atoms undergoing characteristic patterns of change.  Body and soul are interdependent; neither can survive without the other.  The soul’s atoms are of four kinds.  Three are the same as the atoms that constitute air, wind, and heat; the fourth, the smallest and most mobile, is sui genesis and nameless” (4).  Thus it is that the soul is intertwined with the body’s functions, and has no purpose once the body dies.  In this regard, Epicureanism saw religion and the concept of eternal life as a threat.  According to Lamm, “Religion was not a consolation but a threat [to Epicureans]; it was a supernatural interference with nature and a source of terror because immortality denied release from pain.  Death was both extinction and liberation” (241). 

         Stoics also believed in a soul.  They used the word pneuma, which is "breath" or "seed."  Pneuma is what we now consider the soul in modern terms.  According to Reesor, “The Romans considered the pneuma to be a tensional motion within each entity, a stretching or tightness responsible for the entity’s coherence” (735).  Another interpretation of the Stoic's understanding of soul is explained by Clark.  He says, “According to a biological analogy that was proposed, the particular things of the world are governed in their emergence and development by the inherent power of seed—sparks, as it were—of the divine reason.  The underlying substance of the world, this divine reason, is an intelligent fire that directs all events” (539).  Without this pneuma, soul, or fire, nothing would exist.

         Neo-Platonism also expresses the view that humans have souls.  They also believed that the soul continues on after the body dies.  Lamm says, “The goal [in Neo-Platonism] is to approach as near as possible to an understanding of reality while on earth so that, upon death, one is fit to enter the City of Good and contemplate the True Reality” (243).  This illustrates the Neo-Platonic view that there is a life after death, which--in this philosophy--is dearly embraced because it frees the soul for better things.  Concerning this, Shapiro says, “Plotinus expresses contempt for all that is of sense, blames the commerce of soul with body as enchainment, an entombment, and upholds as a great truth the saying of the mysteries that the soul is here a prisoner” (280). 

         There is a point that needs clarification, though.  Many have confused the use of the word "soul" in Neo-Platonism.  According to Dillon, "The Soul is regarded as a level that generates time, and receives the forms into itself as reason principles (logoi).  Our physical, three-dimensional world is the result of the lower aspect of the Soul (nature) projecting itself upon a kind of negative field of force (matter).  Matter has no positive existence but is simply the receptacle for the unfolding of the Soul in its lowest aspect, which project three-dimensional space" (95).  Therefore, the use of Soul in Neo-Platonism refers to one of the levels of the universe, and not to what resides inside humans.


         As we can see, these three philosophies share some common threads of thought, and greatly diverge on others.  Though modern technology has proven some of the ideas that held these structures together as incorrect, some we still have yet to disprove.  As Hallie says, “Stoics compared their logic to the wall, their physics to the tree, and their ethics to the fruit of a fertile field” (21).  This passage holds very true; many wonderful things and ideas have sprouted out of these three philosophies, and many more will surely follow.   

Works Cited

Armstrong, Hilary. “Epicureanism.” Encyclopedia Americana.  1998.

Burkhardt, Fredrick. “Epicureanism.” Collier’s Encyclopedia.  1996.

Clark, Gordon H. “Stoicism.” Collier’s Encyclopedia.  1996.

De Lacy, P.H. “Epicureanism.” Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  1967.

Dillon, J.M. “Neoplatonism.” Encyclopedia Americana.  1998.

Hallie, Phillip. “Stoicism.” Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  1967.

Lamm, Robert C. The Humanities in Western Culture. New York: Random, 1996.

Reesor, Margaret E. “Stoicism.” Encyclopedia Americana.  1998.

Sandbach, F.H. The Stoics. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

Shapiro, Herman. Hellenistic Philosophy. New York: Random, 1965.

Sweeney, Leo. “Neoplatonism.” Collier’s Encyclopedia.  1996.


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Section E.
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Chapter 27. Analysis:







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Analyzing with Rhetorical Modes

Research Writing

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