Term Paper FAQs:

1. What should my paper be about?

It can be on any topic that falls within the subject-matter of the course. We recommend you write on some controversial moral issue, where there are arguments for more than one position on the issue, such as the ones we are discussing after the midterm.

2. May I write on an issue that we did not discuss, such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, or pornography?

Yes, but if you do, you should consult the Prof. or the TA for help in crafting your topic, and in finding appropriate readings.

3. What sort of structure should it have?

It needs to contain the following three elements, but what order you place them in is up to you: A clear statement of what the issue is. A clear statement of your position on it. Arguments for your position. Arguments for the other side, together with your replies to those arguments. If you do a thorough job of this, it will take six pages.

4. If I write on one of the topics we discuss in class, do I need to do any additional reading, beyond what is assigned in the syllabus?

That really depends on what you say in your paper. The most important principle to keep in mind is: You need to justify every statement you make that is not absolutely common knowledge. In some cases, this will require you to look at empirical (eg., scientific) evidence for some claim you want to make. Sometimes this will mean going to the library or online to find studies. Be sure you give enough bibliographical information to enable us to check your references and quotations, if we need to.

5. What system of bibliographic citation should we use (eg., footnotes, in-text citations in parentheses, etc.)?

Use whatever you prefer or are used to, as long as it conveys the information needed to check what you say.

6.  What about plagiarism?

Yea, what about it?  Ok, seriously, plagiarism is defined as follows:  use of the words of another writer, ranging from a few phrases to a whole paper, without quote marks and without attributing them to their real author. 

If someone is proved to be plagiarizing in this class, the best thing that can happen is this:  they will receive a "F" on the assignment and, if the plagiarism consisted of isolated passages and we think the student just didn't "get" that this is indeed plagiarism, they might be asked to rewrite the paper for a normal grade.  From this point, the possible penalties and consequences go steeply downhill.  Nobody wants to go there -- including me!

Plagiarism is actually fairly rare in this class, amd I bet I know why.  Constructing solutions to controversial problems is a very interesting thing to do.  Why let the assholes at term paper mills have all the fun -- and pay them to do it!  Sounds like a obviously dumb idea, doesn't it?

LHH