Human Rights is a multidisciplinary field of study which broadly encompasses legal, ethical, and political considerations, placing primary focus on moral principles as they relate to particular standards of human behaviour. Human rights, as such, are considered inherent to all human beings, and thus a universal entitlement. Because human rights are fundamentally concerned with ethical questions, the discipline is both descriptive and prescriptive in application; that is, it seeks both to describe events as they are and prescribe events as they should be. Indeed, much of the contention in human rights debates derives from this distinction between the moral ideal and the observable reality. A successful human rights essay, it follows, takes account of tensions and contradictions between stated moral principles and documented behaviour, scrutinising the resultant politico-legal implications while keeping sight of an overall framework of applied ethics.
The ultimate purpose of any critical argument is to convince the readership of your point of view. Because human rights are often enshrined in law, accompanying theoretical perspectives tend to possess a legalistic tenor. A good human rights essay follows suit: identifying a specific position then gathering and presenting a body of evidence that supports that position. The more convincing the evidence one produces, the more convincing the overall argument will be. Here, clarity and precision are top priority. One must begin by identifying a central proposition and making it very clear. One must then delineate the implications of this proposition. For example, our essay might open by asserting that the lack of a central world authority makes it difficult effectively to enforce international human rights law. This is our central proposition. Next, the essay suggests the implications of this proposition. For instance: the primacy of national sovereignty impedes the observance of human rights above the state level. Our next duty is to justify our argument with relevant evidence.
The author of a human rights essay is at an advantage because there is a wealth of documentary evidence at their disposal. For examples of prescribed human rights law, one may refer to the United Nations Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as numerous international treatises. When seeking descriptive accounts of actual events relating to human rights, organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch compile many detailed reports outlining alleged abuses. Further, there are numerous scholarly texts and academic journals which deal in depth with the theory and praxis of human rights law. It is important not to be too narrow or too broad in scope when seeking evidential support for one's argument. Accordingly, a compelling human rights essay will draw on a number of resources and critical perspectives while maintaining a consistent and lucid position.
The paramount attribute of critical argument is its relevance to the point at issue. Scholarly writing should be tightly focused; it should say what it needs to say without extraneous material. Everything in an essay must significantly add to the central argument. The essay must avoid being overly descriptive at the expense of adequate analytical content. A good human rights essay dissects and evaluates (it does not just describe) relevant theory and practice. In mounting one's argument, it is important to steer clear of imprecision and inaccuracy. This is particularly important considering the legal dimensions of human rights studies. All facts must be thoroughly checked and cited materials properly referenced. Timeliness is also key. Human rights law is in a state of continual development and change; thus one must ensure one's sources are up to date.
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