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2021 Philosophy and Religious Studies Essay Competition

It’s the time of year again – the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies’ annual essay competition. Please read the below for submissions and send in one of your amazing papers. The deadline is April 20th. Awards will be given in two categories: Philosophy and Religious Studies. Details for each are below:

Philosophy Paper

An award will be given for the best paper defending a substantive thesis in any area of philosophy (theoretical or applied). Papers may be on any topic but should be self-contained. Papers will be judged by a committee of faculty from the department. The committee will assess the paper on a number of dimensions including: clarity, rigor, creativity, insight, originality, breadth and depth of research, accuracy, and comprehension.

Papers need not defend a broad positive thesis (for example, that scientific realism is true/false, that abortion is permissible/impermissible, or that Utilitarianism is true/false). While these topics are appropriate, papers may defend much narrower theses (e.g., we should adopt opt-in organ donation policies to address current organ need, whether the demandingness objection to Utilitarianism fails/succeeds, if the personhood argument endorsed by so and so is unsound, a particular version of the no-miracles argument for scientific realism is open to objection…).

Religion Paper

An award will be given for the best critical analysis of a topic in religious studies. Given that religious studies is a multi-disciplinary field, papers may address religious phenomena from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives. Papers may be on any topic but should be self-contained. Papers will be judged by a committee of faculty from the department. The committee will assess the paper on a number of dimensions including: originality, rigor, appropriate use of materials, appropriate choice and application of theory and methodology, accuracy of content, clarity of prose and argumentation. Papers should not be theological or expressing personal views about religious phenomena.


The top three papers in each category will be recognized and a prize valued at approximately $300 will be given to the best paper in each category.

Submission and Other Information 

  • Who can submit? 
    • There is no restriction on who can submit for the prizes. 
    • Do not worry if you aren’t a major, are only a minor, or have only taken one or a few classes. 
    • If you are thinking of submitting for this prize, it’s probably because you like thinking about these kinds of issues. Even if you don’t win, you’ll get something valuable out of the process: you’ll further advance important skills and reflect on issues you take to be important. 
  • Submission Deadline 
    • Submissions must be received by: April 20th at 12 pm 
    • Decisions will be made by: May 1st  
  • Word Limit 
    • Papers are to be between 3000-4000 words 
    • The total number of words should be included on a title page. 
  • Abstract 
    • An abstract (maximum 150 words) should be included at the top of the paper providing a summary of the content of the paper. 
  • Style Guide 
    • Citation style is open, but should be uniform. 
  • Preparing for Blind Review 
    • Papers will be evaluated blindly, meaning that students’ identities will be concealed from the professors evaluating the essays. 
    • Papers should have a title page that includes the title, author’s name, student ID, and word count. 
    • The first page of the paper should include a title, the student’s ID, and an abstract (maximum 150 words) – this is “blind review” we don’t want to know who you are by the first page of the paper itself 
    • The paper, except for the title page should have no identifying information. 
  • How to Submit 
    • Papers can be submitted by email to: 
    • Indicate in the subject which prize you are submitting to. For example: 
      • Subject: Submission: Philosophy Paper Award Submission 
      • Subject: Submission: Religion Paper Award Submission 

We look forward to getting your submissions.
-Prof. Yelle

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