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Record-Breaking Number of Students Use Phrase “In This Paper, I Argue” in Final Essays


Photo by Caleb Roenigk on Flickr / CC By 2.0

For the first time ever, over 4,000 final papers contained the phrase “In this paper, I argue” within the first paragraph. The largest share of the 4,236 essays were written for Philosophy courses, with Political Science and Sociology classes following closely behind.

This semester’s record follows recent trends in the phrase’s growing popularity. Though the previous all-time high was in spring of 2012 with 3,944 instances of the phrase, usage has grown rapidly since the early 2000’s.

Many students and professors described themselves as “not surprised in the slightest” by the recent findings. PhD candidate and PSCI 188 teaching assistant Jonathan Becker noted that “nearly all 40 of my [Becker’s] students started out their essays with that stupid [redacted] phrase.”

“I get that it’s easy to use and that professors tell you to use it all the time,” Becker said. “But seriously? All 40 kids writing basically identical thesis statements? Filthy undergrads.”

A recent meta-analysis of political science and philosophical writings by Penn graduate students also showed that it was not only undergraduates that had a strong preference to use the phrase as well. In fact, a vast majority of students pursuing master’s degrees and doctorates also chose to write “In this paper, I argue” at least once in their postgraduate career.

English professor Brandon Massimo offered his opinion on the topic. “Millennials these days are lazy. They probably have those ‘group chats’ on ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ where they IM each other ways to plagiarize without getting caught. I don’t ‘know’ about you, but these ‘young rascals’ are up to something.” (Ed's note: quotes within Massimo’s statement have been added to indicate air quotation hand gestures that he made while giving his statement.)