ECS 188 – Ethics in an Age of Technology – Project Information

Your project is to be based on either on a book or a topic. Here is a list of example books. They are just examples. I will refrain from giving a list of suggested topics so that you can better let your mind wander. Topics only need to have nonvoid intersection with ethics-and-technology. Don’t select an overly overly broad topic. I suggest to discuss your book or topic with me early on. In recent terms, I have seen more books being selected than topics. This is somewhat unfortunate, as I think topic-based projects tend to be a bit more interesting.

There are two pieces to your project: a paper and a presentation.

1. Paper

The paper should be 2000-3000 words (about 8-12 pages), excluding references. Please indicate the word count and group number (eg, group 103) at the beginning of the paper. Number all pages. The paper should be written with an intended audience of me and your classmates. Write something that you yourself would want to be given to read. And, in fact, you will be reading one another’s papers, which must be sent to so that I can drop them to the web. If you don’t want your last name on this (publicly available) document, for reasons of personal privacy, please reduce it to a single letter.

Your paper should be carefully written, and will be graded for writing quality. Give full references in the bibliography (author, title, journal, publisher, pages, date; a URL alone does not a reference make). Include all necessary citations and footnotes. Prominently include the project number on the first page. Order authors alphabetically by last name. Follow standard stylistic conventions (any fixed set of conventions you select). If you don’t know standard conventions, check with a source like Strunk (The Elements of Style). Use justified text (no ragged-right margins). Use a pleasant-to-read font — no Arial or any other sans serif font. Do not write stuff off the top of your head, so to speak—you need to do some genuine research here. Do not include gratuitous references to materials covered in class. Think, organize, think, and organize. Write and rewrite.

The paper is a research paper—research in the sense of learning some of the scholarship for some particular area, not research in the sense of doing creative scholarship of your own. Make sure your sources represent actual scholarship, not random web pages, blogs, or the like. While it might not sound nice to say, the truth is that I am not terribly interested in reading page after page of your own ideas on some topic—I want to learn what those who have spent years of effort on the issue have come to understand. Yes, you are quite welcome to include your personal opinion, but please make sure it is clearly distinguishable from the opinions of authors you are citing.

Write in a clear, direct style. I have a strong aversion to incoherent student prose.

Both Milestone 2 and your final paper must be turned in, as pdf, as an assignment on Canvas. You upload one copy per group. I will take care of distributing your final paper to the rest of the class (also on Canvas). Name the file as p followed by the number assigned to you on the list of student projects followed by .pdf; for example, p106.pdf. If you write the paper in Word or LaTeX or whatever, you are responsible for getting it converted to pdf.

Paper due dates are as follows:

The deadlines above are the minimum needed to ensure that your classmates and I have time to read your paper. As such, late papers will be severely penalized.

2. Presentation

The presentation should be 15 minutes. It should be well-rehearsed and all team members must participate, roughly to equal extents. Most students should use prepared slides. Either bring in your own laptop to class or use my Windows-based one. Unless you have embedded media, I recommend the latter, to minimize the time spent fussing with the machines. Even if you plan to present from your own machine, email me your presentation ( at least six hours before class. The file me must be of type .pdf, .ppt, or .pptx. Name it as in t106.pptx (or t106.ppt or t106.pdf) and put that as the subject heading as well. Note that an effective presentation does not look like a sequence of bulleted lists. I will spend a bit of time in class talking to you about giving talks.

Presentation will occur during the last two class meetings and during the scheduled final-exam slot (except for a single presentation on Monday for one of the sections).

Presentations should have content somewhat different from what’s in your paper; the audience will have read your paper and they won’t want to listen to the exact same stuff again. Besides, what works well in a talk is usually quite different from that what works well in a paper.

3. Further Information

You will work in a team of two on your project. Larger teams won’t be permitted unless we end up with an odd number of students in our class, in which case there might be one team of three. Each team will do one writeup and one presentation. All team members get the same grade.

If you are a non-native speaker of English, you are strongly encouraged to parter with a native speaker of English. This is not to imply that native speakers of English necessarily write better than non-native speakers of English. They don’t. But the rule may reduce the number of projects written in ungrammatical English. In the past, such projects often get the lowest grades and are the most painful to read.

They’ll be two milestones preceding giving your presentation and paper:

  1. Milestone 1 is the project proposal. In it you’ll identify the book or topic you want, and with whom you’ll work. For a book-based proposal you need only to identify the book and your group; for a topic-based proposal explain the scope and conception in about a paragraph, identifying some key sources you will use. Please send Milestone 1 by email (no hardcopy). You must copy (cc) your partner in this email. Indeed you should copy your partner in any (non-personal) email concerning your project. If there’s a problem with your proposal, you’ll have to try again. Leave time for that possibility; sometimes it takes several tries. The most common reasons for my rejecting a proposal are: (a) the book or topic is already taken; (b) it is unclear if there is good scholarship in the area; (c) the topic or book might not have both an ethics-related and technology-related aspect.
  2. Milestone 2 is a rough draft of your paper. The draft should be most of your paper—any omitted portion should be modest in breadth and the unfinished portion clearly circumscribed. The fact that Milestone 2 is a non-final draft does not mean that it need not be well written; it should still be careful, grammatical, and organized. You will have time to rework parts and incorporate feedback, but your paper should already have taken on a reasonable form. You will turn in Milestone 2 on Canvas. Name the file as in d106.pdf (the d for draft). Include a word count at the top of your Milestone 2.
The most important thing in choosing a project is to find something that you’re genuinely interested in. The scope of what I’ll approve—almost anything that legitimately has to do with both ethics and technology—is vast enough that you really ought to be able to find something that you’re actually interested in.

4. Academic Honesty

As a course in ethics, it would be particularly ironic if people are dishonest. But the temptations are there. Any suspected problems will be reported to SJA.

No-double-use policy: Your project should be something “new” for you. In particular, you may not select a project topic that largely intersects with a project you already used for another course in the past, or that you will use for another course this term. Both partners are considered to be in violation of the policy if either is.

New-for-you policy: Relatedly, you may not choose a book that you already read, even for fun, before this class. Please find something new. If you loved some book you read before and that you think is on-topic, you might try reading another book by the same author.

Plagiarism: You may not use, modify, or refer to any related presentation or paper from a former student or professional service. Any material used that is not your own work should be properly credited to its source.

5. Final Comments

The project is a good opportunity to explore something interesting and of your own choosing. Learn and have fun.