In this case, it will be a good idea for the student to ask what they have been taught. This is just part of the course, so one can ask questions about what they have learned. The student may want to know how to read an essay. They could also find out how to properly spellcheck an essay.
If the student has been asked to answer a question on how to defend a thesis, the student should first look at the syllabus and see what kinds of answers are given there. Then ask the instructors how to apply the methods taught in the syllabus. The instructors should be able to answer the question and why they arrived at that answer. There should be specific reasons why a conclusion is drawn about a particular argument. For example, if the instructor is trying to teach the student how to properly criticize a thesis, the conclusion could be that the thesis is not reasonable.
If a student cannot answer a question with at least some reasoning, they should look at another question on the syllabus. The instructor should have laid out what kind of reason can be used to arrive at a conclusion. A typical question on philosophy homework will have to do with what is owed to those who have come before us. The question may also ask about what we have given and taken from those who came before us.
The question should be clear and simple. The format should be something like this: “You argue that it is an ox, thus I cannot agree, therefore it does not deserve membership in the category of genuine philosophers.” This is an example of a common question in philosophy class. Another form is “You argue that x satisfies a necessary relationship of basic human needs, therefore I cannot support the conclusion that it deserves membership in the category of genuine philosophers.”
The essay should be up to 500 words. The syllabus will have examples of other essays that students had written. The teacher will have discussed the concepts of argument and syllogistic already. The essay should build upon those concepts. The essay will need to be substantially more than a response to a previous question on philosophy homework.
The question should be one that the student wants to know the answer to. It may be one that is presented to the class for discussion or one that is a part of the assignment itself. In either case, the question should lead to further clarification. The conclusion should point to a resource that would further explore the question or the topic.
A good question and answer session is one where both parties have had time to think about the question. The teacher should help clarify the question and answer it while the student can offer an appropriate answer. They should have a reasonable level of understanding about the topic. There should be no implied understanding of what the question means and why the answer is given.
When a student offers an answer, that answer should be plausible enough to stand on its own. That answer should not have been proposed by the student. Only if it was suggested by someone else can it be used in the essay. The concept behind the answer must be understood. Otherwise the entire essay will be worthless as it cannot be used to establish a thesis.
Another component of the essay is the conclusion. This is the most important part of the whole argument. The conclusion should argue against one or more aspects of the philosophy presented. The conclusion does not need to restate the entire thesis but it needs to restate some of its major arguments. The arguments may be similar to those made in the introduction.
Phases and cycles are another way to organize an essay for homework. Different people have different conceptions of causation and they bring varying levels of scientific proof to support their theories. In order for the conclusion to be valid it needs to restate each of the concepts supported by the argument in the conclusion. Each concept in turn leads into the next and this process is also a great way of reinforcing the main concept in the essay. Formulating a sound conclusion is an important part of philosophical learning.