Consider another paper, on the same topic as example 1. Its introduction:
The quintessential critique of the United States republic and its constitution is embodied in the philosophy of Karl Marx as he said "the rights of man, as distinguished from the rights of the citizen are simply the rights of... egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community.... as an isolated monad" (42). Regardless of the esteem in which you hold Marx's estimation, it is important because it pinpoints a central theme coursing throughout the history of American society and politics. Individualism as an ideal, as a foundation for government, and as impetus for American economy played a major role in the founding of the United States. However, while it is very easy to subscribe to the image of the American citizen as an overwhelming individual this does not dismiss the other more holistic notions of society that were expressed at the time of the founding. In fact, it is clear that the embryonic stages of democracy, positive freedom, and equality were developing as the republic was built.
Here, the author has brought familiarity with Marx to bear on the topic. The use of Marx in the American context is obviously provocative, and the author uses that fact to frame the issue in a useful way. This is, first, an example of the author having "developed his or her own ideas": the author happens know something about Marx, has realized that there is an interesting connection, and decides to use that connection to frame a very interesting thesis. The point isn't that it is Marx, or even a political theorist, the point is that it is something the author knows from somewhere else and which has a useful connection to the topic at hand.
The author goes on to consider the first thinker:
First of all, it is useful to examine the attitudes of the man who typified the founding in trying to gain a hold on the abstract idea which constitutes the "American ideal". Benjamin Franklin's autobiography sheds great light upon the influences of the Protestant faith in shaping a competitive individualist attitude. One of the central notions of American society at the time was the Protestant belief in asceticism, or the strict regulation of the passions and desires of oneâs earthly life in order to gain eternal salvation in the after-life. For example, Franklin attests in his autobiography that at a certain time in his life "I wish'd to live without committing fault at any time" and actually set out a regimented daily plan in order to try to overcome all "natural inclination, custom, or [what]company might lead me into"(9). Moreover, Franklin argued for the merits of hard work and savings which resonate loudly with the American ideal that "good things will come to the person who works hard and saves their money." Not surprisingly, Franklin argues near the time of the founding that "land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man... can in a short time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new land sufficient for a Plantation" (capitalization by Franklin 34). Moreover, preceding the founding, Franklin constructed a plan of government which would minimize the constraints of government on an individual striving to couple "industry and frugality". He said government should only "make laws, and lay and levy such general duties, imposts, or taxes... with the least inconvenience to the people; rather discouraging luxury, than loading industry with unnecessary burdens"(42).
Here, again, we have a good example of a compelling textual analysis. The quotations are incorporated smoothly into the flow of the paragraph. The author manages to convey a set of sophisticated point about Franklin's ideas consistently, finding relevant quotations in different parts of his writings and condensing them skillfully into the prose.
The author moves from Franklin to the Declaration of the Independence and the Constitution, discussing conceptions of individualism those two documents might offer. After that, a critical analysis:
Unfortunately, the universal energy does not extend in the coupling of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the American notion of "equality of opportunity". Very closely related to individualism because it is not equality in the sense that all people should be equal on the basis of gender or material livelihood, but that individual white men should be given an equal chance devoid of government restriction to pursue their own interest. Following from this idea comes the justification of unequal property rights as James Madison stated in the defense of the Constitution; he said "the diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate.... [and] the protection of these faculties is the first object of government"(99). Thus, it is evident that to the founders unequal property rights were the logical outcome of the competition of individuals and that protecting this competition is the cornerstone of government. John Adams reinforces this idea in his defense of the Constitution pointing out that economic inequality will exist but that everyone should have an equal and sacred right to their own property. He said "the rich are people as well as the poor, that they have rights as well as others, that they have as clear and as sacred right to their large property as other have to theirs which is smaller"(italics by Adams 81).
The author takes a risk by exploring connections -- unsolicited in the topic -- between individualism and conceptions of equality. This can be tricky, and many similar attempts failed because the connections were not made plausible. I am not convinced by the author's argument here, but it is certainly prima facie plausible.
The author's concluding paragraph not only pulls together the argument, but represents what is good about the paper:
In summary, while it is compelling to interpret the founding of the American government as the means for uniting a society of isolated individuals the issue is complicated by the often forgotten social visions of the "American ideal", government, and equality. And even though the founders did not believe a "simple and perfect democracy" could exist among men, there is still a certain high esteem for the project of self-government that only began at the founding (97). In fact, the founding is a much richer story than simply the story of the individual. Perhaps the story will be concluded when the dichotomy between the society and the individual can be resolved. To return to Marx's ultimate individualist critique, he said the dichotomy would only be resolved when "individual man, in his everyday life, in his work.... has recognized his own powers as social powers"(76).
In terms of substance, a good, careful paper sees how complicated the world is and appreciates those nuances. A common error in student papers is to characterize different positions and issues far too starkly, presumably in order to have a strong thesis. A thesis is strong when it is compelling, and it is often more likely to be compelling if it is moderate, capable of making sense of complicated connections.