“What would Aquinas say about Euthanasia?”Tackling the Application Essays

How is your juggling technique? Well that is exactly what you need to do in application essays. You not only have to consider the topic but evaluate how well it applies to an ethical issue, juggling-too-muchwhilst at the same time taking into consideration the specific wording of the question. Hence why application topics are so challenging!

The application topics work as follows:

  • Natural Law and Situation Ethics as applied to euthanasia
  • Kant and Utilitarianism as applied to business ethics

My understanding is that there are three possible types of questions you might be asked in ethics:

  1. Specific topic and issue (e.g. Natural law provides a helpful approach when dealing with issues surrounding euthanasia)
  2. Two topic comparison with issue (e.g. Utilitarianism is more helpful than Kantian ethics when dealing with ethical dilemmas)
  3. Just issue (e.g. Evaluate the view that the religious concept of sanctity of life is outdated)


  • A question might say ‘ethical dilemmas’ or ‘ethical issues’ which means you still need to talk about the related application topic, even if it is not specified (like Q2.)
  • If the question is just on the issue, you still need to draw in arguments from one or both topics, not just a general discussion of the issue (like Q3.)

So here are my tips to help you handle an application question. These four steps will work with any type of application question.

Step One: Work out the Five Paragraph Rule (see The Five Paragraph Rule for more guidance) for the topic/s

Step Two: Identify the ‘issues’ you wish to discuss (e.g. Euthanasia focuses upon sanctity of life, personhood, quality of life, slippery slope etc.)

Step Three: Plan ways to link the topic with the application issues.

Step Four: Work out your line of argument (is the topic helpful etc.)

The table below gives you a structural overview for Q1:


Note: I use words such as ‘may’ or ‘might’ so ‘may indicate’ and ‘might argue’ as you can only ever make assumptions about the application. Never say: Natural Law would be against because (as you just don’t know)

The table below gives you a structural overview for Q2:


Utilitarianism keeps the structure of the essay for two reasons. One because it is the topic mentioned in the question first, so by starting the paragraphs with Util means you are always keeping the question in mind. Secondly I advise you to stick with the same topic at the start of your paragraphs to avoid adding further complications (one paragraph starting with Utilitarianism another starting with Kant etc. just sounds messy). So even if the topic is not specified in the question (such as Q3) I recommend you structure your essays using the themes from one topic.

As you will notice there are only four paragraphs in this essay structure above (not the ‘five paragraph rule’ I advocate). This is because you will be comparing two topics with evaluation and application issues, therefore each paragraph will be quite lengthy = less paragraphs.

Please note: the two tables above are to show how to structure an essay, not demonstrating how to write coherent and eloquent arguments (as this would take a much longer paragraph). With this in mind don’t forget to add ‘defense’ arguments, books, quotes, other names etc.

Further Note: in the comparison section only link to one theme from the other argument per paragraph as well (so Util and pleasure vs Kant and duty), so at any one time you are only comparing one theme from each topic with one application issue.

For examples of student’s work see “Natural law provides a helpful approach when dealing with issues surrounding euthanasia” Student’s Work

For examples of student’s work see:  “Utilitarianism is more useful than Kantian Ethics when dealing with ethical dilemmas” Discuss: Student’s Work

For further guidance in developing your essay technique  just click on the image below to download this product quickly and safely (for a small charge).


If you would like a Lesson Pack with activities and worksheets, that complements the power point, please click on the image below:


Revision bubbles/ advice and sample questions with guidance found in:


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