Term Paper Project Requirements



For this term paper assignment, you will investigate and report on some issue related to the course material that involves some controversy — that is, some social, legal, or ethical aspect of computers or computing technology. If your topic is covered in the text, do not use the text as a main source. Report in more depth and/or on newer or other aspects of the topic.

How long should the term paper be?   The paper should be long enough to cover the background/history of the topic, state the different sides of the issue with arguments and counter arguments, and draw your conclusions. For those who insist on a number, the paper should be approximately 3000 words in length, however, I never check the word count and it does not impact your grade at all. The grade is based entirely on the quality of your paper and how well you present the different sides of the issue as well as your conclusions. This project is to be done this semester. Do not turn in a paper done earlier for another course or for your job. If you are writing a paper on the same topic for another class this semester you must get my approval ahead of time. Your paper may check out as being plagiarized if you submit it to more than one professor.

Requirements for Submitting Your Topic Description

Your topic for this project must be approved in advance. Using the Assignment submission link (this will show up in one of the modules), submit your topic description  on the assigned day (see the calendar). Include a title, a paragraph describing the issue, and at least two references (e.g., a book other than A Gift of Fire, an article, a Web site). At least one of the references must be scholarly in nature (discussed during the presentation on Library Databases).

There will be a limit on the number of students doing any single topic, so it will be good to have a second topic in mind in case you choose one that has too many people. Be specific, a topic like “Children and the Internet” is too broad – you will find there is way too much material to cover in one paper. On the other hand avoid being too specific, a topic like “Applying to Universities via Online Applications” may be too specific to find reliable and sufficient references. You can find ideas for topics by looking through the book, Gift of Fire. Please be sure to choose a topic that has more then one point of view.

Guidelines/Specifications for the Paper

Remember that the focus of this course is on social, legal, and ethical issues. Don’t just give technical descriptions, or material that is purely factual or historic. On the other hand, be sure to give enough facts to support your opinions.

Explain how your topic relates to material covered in the text and/or in class discussions. Be sure to include an explanation of all the major course-related issues.

Your paper should also include your own analysis and evaluation (after you have presented the major arguments). Select some course-related issue about which there is controversy or disagreement. Summarize the different points of view on this issue (giving appropriate citations). The paper should cover all sides of an issue, whether you agree with the arguments or not. All arguments should be presented completely and in an unbiased manner. Then evaluate the arguments on the different sides, give counter arguments, and state and justify your own position. Be sure to support your position with convincing arguments and facts — try to write in a way that would make someone who initially disagreed with you think about the issue more carefully.

Be sure to use a variety of reference sources (and a variety of types of sources). Include at least two resources from peer-reviewed journals (please ask if you do not know what a peer-reviewed journal is) or books. Articles from magazines and Web sites are acceptable but should not be considered as reliable as peer-reviewed journals or books. Quote where appropriate. Give citations for facts and quotations, indicating the sources for the material you are using. However, you should not just copy paragraphs from other sources. Explain the material as clearly as you can in your own words.

The organization of your paper will depend somewhat on the topic you select. However, the organization of a typical paper might look like this: FORMAT OF TERM PAPER SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS.

  • Cover page, with title, your name and email, course and instructor
  • Overview of topic and issues discussed
  • Background, history, and/or importance of the topic
  • Explanation of issues related to the course material, detail arguments on all sides of the issue, include counter arguments where appropriate
  • Your analysis and evaluation on some issue about which there is disagreement
  • Summary and conclusions
  • List of references used and cited

Warnings and Reminders

  • Start early. In the past a few students waited until late in the semester to get started, and then discovered that it was difficult to find enough material on their chosen topic.
  • Write an outline. One of the most common problems with papers is poor organization. Organize your thoughts. You may want to use section headings to indicate the topic or purpose of sections of the paper.
  • Pay attention to the quality of your sources. If you use articles from the Web as sources, give the URL and the organization sponsoring the site. There’s a lot of junk and unsupported opinion on the Web.
  • Plagiarism. Now and then a student hands in a paper he or she did not write at all, or in which large segments are copied from other sources. Please don’t do this. It is dishonest, unfair to your fellow students, and unpleasant for both you and me. Cases of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course. Write in your own words. Ask me if you have any questions about what is appropriate.

Grading Criteria

Grading criteria include:

  • following instructions for the assignment (including submitting the title/topic description and outling)
  • discussion of background or history of the topic
  • presentation of issues related to the course material
  • quality of argument and analysis
  • structure and organization
  • clarity of writing
  • sufficient references
  • originality
  • meeting deadlines.


Reference:  Sarah Baase, Gift of Fire



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