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

Note: details about the mechanics of turning things in need to be updated

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 make a topic overly broad. I suggest to discuss your topic with me early on.

There are two aspects to the 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 (eg., 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. Please 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 (not 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 distinguisable from the opinions of authors you are citing.

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

The paper must be turned in, as pdf, as an assignment on Canvas. From there, I will take care of distributing your pdf to the rest of the class. on Canvas. Name your paper 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. Most students should use prepared slides for your presentation. Either bring in your own laptop to class or use mine (for ppt, pptx, or pdf based presentations). Either way, your presentation to Canvas at least two hours before class. (If you are presenting from an Apple, upload the pdf version.) Please include the presentation number on your title page. Name the file as in t106.pptx (or t106.ppt or t106.pdf). 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.

Presentations should have content substantially 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 you make a good case for it or unless we have an unpaired student. Each team will do one writeup and one presentation. All team members get the same grade.

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) and please remember to copy your partner. If I don’t like your proposal, you’ll have to find another topic. Leave time for that possibility; sometimes it takes a few tries. The most common reasons for my rejecting a proposal: (a) the book or topic is already taken; (b) it is unclear if there is good scholarship in the area that you will base your project on; (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 Judicial Affairs.

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.

Good luck and have fun.