Term Paper Guide
GUIDE TO TERM PAPER WRITING
Imagine you wish to describe a controversy surrounding a particular topic
within some field of computers, and their effects on society, to a person who
has no preliminary knowledge of what you wish to discuss. In addition, you are
trying to convince this person that your view is the correct one by logically
arguing for your side and then presenting and refuting the arguments for the
other side. This is the way in which the term paper for this course is to be
written. Your paper should be designed such that it:
- familiarizes the reader with
the general topic that the paper is discussing
- describes how computers
relate to the topic
- presents some controversy or
debate regarding computers and/or their use in the area
- presents arguments for both
sides of the issue
- gives accurate evaluations of
the opposing arguments
- argues for a particular side
of the debate, correctly and effectively refuting opposing views
- concludes with an accurate
and logical explanation of your recommendation as to a solution of the problem.
A correctly composed paper should reflect competent research, clarity, and
imaginative analysis. Do not write a book report. The intent is for you to
produce a paper that shows the conflicts within your chosen research area and
use convincing argument and evaluation to reach a conclusion.
An acceptable term paper must follow several general guidelines:
- Length: 2500 words,
- Stapled in upper, left-hand
- First (unnumbered) page must
be the term paper Evaluation Sheet
- Second page must be your
The term paper must have a title page consisting of the following:
- Title (see below)
- Author's Name
- Course name and secton number
The title may be one of the topics provided in the
Term Paper guide, or you may propose your own. From inspection one can see that
the title is in the form of a question that clearly indicates the subject being
treated. This question must be a debatable one, in that it presents a debate or
controversy within the topic and asks a question that could satisfactorily be
argued on either side. No one has ever received an improved grade by having an
exceptionally witty title, so do not attempt to create an original one.
Any item missing from the title page may affect your
grade under the third Basic Requirement (See the Evaluation
The actual term paper text must have the following
sections contained within it. In addition, each section must be labeled within
III. Discussion of Research
The thesis of a paper is the paper's raison d'tre,
or "reason to be". Therefore, your thesis should be a statement of
the topic being addressed, the controversy within the topic being presented,
and some idea as to the goal of the paper. The reader should be able to discern
what the paper will be about given the thesis, and will read the paper in light
of its goals. Be very careful when writing the thesis. It is worth 14
(9+5 quality) of the paper's 100 total points.
Here is where you must present some sort of hint as
to the direction of your paper, how you will go about proving your thesis, and
possibly (though not necessarily) an idea of which side of the conflagration
the author will be advocating. The actual topic being discussed, as well as an
explanation of the debate being addressed and its importance, should be
presented. In addition, a general description of the arguments for one side -
and then the other - should be cited to show that the paper is indeed
addressing a real-life, debatable, non-trivial social concern. One or two
examples of actual cases that have occurred in the real world (either for or
against the thesis) can also be presented.
Important: Do not ignore this section of the
term paper. The paper as a whole is meant to show that you have:
- analyzed how
technology is being used in society
- found an area in which
there are both positive and negative (legal or social) results from the
use of technology
- conducted a thorough
research into the pros and cons, as well as examples and real-world
incidents, on both sides
- correctly and
convincingly compared and argued the possibilities and come to a logical
conclusion as to the correct path to follow.
An inability to compose an introduction that
presents all the material above may indicate that you have failed to address a
topic in a way necessary to produce an acceptable paper. In general, this may
lead to an obscure, unstructured, and confused term paper that does not make
any clear argument and fails to reach a logical conclusion based on relevant
evidence. This in turn would result in a less than satisfactory evaluation of
the term paper.
This section is worth 9 of the paper's 100 points.
III. Discussion of Research
It is this section that will comprise the bulk of
the term paper. Here is where you would present the actual research and
analysis you have performed. You must clearly present all sides of the issue
being discussed, and convincingly evaluate and argue each side, offering both
evidence and examples of your claims. This section should at a minimum include
- Detailed description
of the debate and current views of it, including at least five (8)
different citations of those authorities within the field who hold these
views (see bibliography guide).
- Explanation of the
positive and negative effects of the issue on society, as well as
examples of these effects.
- An organized structure
of description and evaluation so that the debate is clearly explained and
- Valid argument in
support of one view along with reasonable refutation of opposing views.
Anything else in the way of information (such as
statistics) or arguments that help to expound on the nature of the controversy
being addressed should also be included. However, be sure to adhere to the
particular topic in your writing. Presenting information that strays off the
topic, or that does not address the debatable aspects of the subject is
detrimental to your overall argument, and will result in a lowered score. Be
sure you are accurately and completely addressing the topic as it appears in
As a side note, how convincing your overall
argument is can be significantly affected by the paper's quality of grammar and
spelling. Poor spelling, incorrect usage of words, and awkward sentences are
not only comical, but suggest incompetence and incorrectness of thought, both
of which lead to disbelief in an argument on the part of the reader. Try to
ensure that you are saying what you want to say in a paper, and that any reader
can easily understand your argument. The use of ten-dollar words can be a detriment
when used incorrectly.
This section accounts for 20 (10 + 2*5 quality points) of the paper's 100
You should present here a summary of the arguments
you have made, as well as your final statement as to the solution to the debate
and the proper "side" to take. Describe briefly (do not go into a
lengthy re-hash) how the evidence, examples, and arguments previously presented
work to support this final claim.
Back in the history of the United States, in the
very beginnings of Congress, statesmen would passionately argue issues and laws
in an attempt to justly shape the future of the nation. There were, however,
those senators and congressmen that would merely walk on both sides of a
controversy and never come down on one side or the other. These
fence-straddlers came to be known as mugwumps. Do NOT Mugwump. Clearly state
your conclusion by choosing a side of the debate that you have supported with
argument and evidence. You may present an analysis and criticism of existing
views, and even come up with a new one, but you must make a decision. It is of
course, quite possible that someone could just as easily argue the opposing
view of the topic. However, the idea of the term paper is that you have
performed enough research, and have adequately addressed and refuted the
opposing view so that your conclusion is not just simply "your
opinion", but in fact is the reasonable choice derived from logical
analysis. In truth, if the topic addressed by the term paper is one in which
there is a concrete answer, then the term paper has been incorrectly written
and has addressed an unacceptable topic.
The paper must contain a bibliography at the end.
See the bibliography guide for specific instructions concerning how to write
the bibliography and the method you are to use to cite sources within the
paper. In general your bibliography should do the following:
- Start on a new page
with the word "Bibliography" cantered and at the top.
- Have at least eight
- Contain a variety of
sources from different types and titles of sources
- Reflect research into
a wide range of areas (not just "Time" magazine)
- Contain recent
sources(the majority should be less than three years old)
- Not contain entries
that are not cited within the text
Margins, Paragraph Spacing, Fonts, and Other
Your paper should have one-inch margins on all
There are two basic methods for paragraphing formal
papers. The first method requires that all text is aligned along the left
margin and a single line is skipped between each paragraph. For the second
method no lines are skipped between paragraphs and the first line of the
paragraph is indented one tab space. Since the first method is most commonly
reserved for technical works, you should use the second method.
Many word processing programs and printers allow
the user to choose from many fonts (print styles) and font sizes. Some fonts
can be attractive and add life to a paper; however, some fonts are far too
fancy and make the paper difficult to read. If you have the ability to choose a
font, please choose one that is readable. Courier, Times New Roman, Arial, and
Univers are common and easy to read fonts.
Font sizes that are too big require more space, and
sizes that are too small are hard to read. Please choose a font size that is
between 11pt and 12pt.
Graphical figures can be included in your paper if
you feel that they are required. Since these items are not text, there must be
enough extra text to replace the space that the figures displace.
Clip art can be fun, but it is not appropriate in
the body of a formal paper. If you wish to use it, do so only on the title
Quotes: Quotations are an invaluable tool for
research papers. They allow you to substantiate your ideas with the exact words
of an expert or otherwise knowledgeable person. Following is a list of rules
regarding the use of quotations:
- Quotations that
require 3 lines or fewer should be enclosed in quotation marks and
included in the paragraph in which they are referenced.
- Quotations that are
longer than 3 lines should begin on a fresh line and be indented one tab
space. Do not enclose with quotation marks, and the text should only be
- Since no one else
should be summarizing your paper, quotations are not appropriate in the
- The quantity of
quotations should be limited such that the bulk of the text is written by
Personal Pronouns: All formal papers should
be written solely in the third person (he, she, it). The only section of the
paper in which you may do otherwise is the conclusion where first person (I) is
allowed. The use of second person (you) should never be used because you (the
writer) would be making assumptions about the reader that may not be true.
Contractions: Contractions (can't, doesn't,
etc.) are a form of informal speech that should never be used in a formal
Conjecture: We are assuming that you are not
an expert on the topic that you choose to write about. For this reason your
personal opinions, conjecture, or any other forms of editorialization do not
belong in the Discussion of Research section. Your opinions should be withheld
until the conclusion in which they will be backed by evidence brought up in the
Discussion of Research section.
Conversational Wording: The paper should be
written in a formal style. Conversational text is not appropriate. Examples:
- Well, the reason is
.......Well is not appropriate.
- The answer is, you
see ...You see is not appropriate.
- So, computers are
..........So is not appropriate.
The style items affect multiple areas of the paper.
Papers will be graded on a forty point scale.
Factors that will be considered in the grading will include, but not be limited
- Quality, quantity,
& thoroughness of research
- Adherence to topic
- Thoroughness of
coverage of the topic issues
- Relevancy and clarity
- Persuasiveness and
accuracy of conclusions
- Clarity of thesis
- Novelty of approach
- Difficulty of subject
- Correctness and
quality of works cited
- Grammar and spelling
- Adherence to
A good source for ideas on how a term paper will be
graded is the term paper Evaluation Sheet. Grading criteria
as well as associated points are explicitly described, and you may use this
form to evaluate your own paper - or have someone else evaluate it - before
turning it in.
Students who turn in their papers early will
receive extra credit according to the schedule shown under "TIMELINESS
POINTS" on the "Term Paper Evaluation" sheet.
These points can make a considerable difference in
your final grade, or may help to offset a lower-than-expected term paper grade.
You may turn your paper in to the professor in class, at his office(CSE E510),
or at the CISE Department Office CSE301, where it will be time-stamped by the
clerk on duty. Do not slide term papers under the door, as we can not verify
the time at which time the paper was turned in, nor can we ensure that the
paper will not be lost.
THE PAPER IS DUE by the date and time stated
on the Evaluation Form. Turning the paper in late (even 1 minute) results
in a loss of 25 of the paper's 100 points.This is equivalent to almost a
letter grade on your semester average. This deadline is final and
non-negotiable. Since you know about this paper from day one, last minute
problems (computer crashes, sickness, vacations, other test/projects, weddings,
athletic events, etc) will not give you an extension.
*** WARNINGS ***
Make a "backup" copy of your paper before
turning it in, for two reasons. First, I DO NOT RETURN PAPERS TO STUDENTS. Once
your paper has been graded, however, you are welcome to see your paper and
review the basis of your grade with my TAs during their office hours. The
second reason is to insure against the possibility of a paper being
Do not fall into the trap of expecting that a paper
which merely follows these instructions receives an automatic "A".
Rather, a paper which merely meets the minimum standards set forth above is a
"C" paper. In order to receive a higher grade, the paper must
distinguish itself as being substantially above these minimum requirements.
Generally, this must be done through earning "quality" points or
"timeliness" points as set forth in the attached term paper
Every effort is made to be fair and consistent in the
grading of papers.
Term Paper Topics
It is the responsibility of each student to select
a term paper topic early in the term. The following is a list of suggested term
paper topics. You should be certain of your interest in the topic you select,
as well as the availability of materials, before you commit yourself to a
particular topic. Do not procrastinate. Toward the end of the term, there will
be a substantial demand on library and computer resources, and materials may
become difficult to find, and you may have many projects to complete in other
the development (and control) of the National Information Infrastructure
(NII) be regulated by the Federal government, or should it be exclusively
controlled by private industry?
- Does the recent
feeding-frenzy of takeovers and mergers in the communications industry
presage an unacceptable concentration of electronic power?
- Should hardware and software
manufacturers be held financially liable for losses caused by bugs that
were known about prior to the public release of their products?
- Is the popular media helping
to ease society into a new high tech way of life, or is it helping to
build a general "technophobia"?
- Are the parallels between
the Patriot Act (I & II) and George Orwell's "1984"
- Is the computer age
increasing the gap between knowledge "haves" and knowledge
- Should internet
communication content be subject to federal regulation?
- Should individuals who
download copyrighted music be prosecuted for copyright violations?
- Given that computers can be
used to alter photographs, should the use of photographs in criminal cases
be prohibited or otherwise strictly limited?
- Will the proliferation of
literature on the internet make copyright laws unenforceable or
- Are software patents and
copyrights truly necessary for protection from piracy and theft, or are
they hindering progress and development in the software industry?
- Does the use of computers in
implementing electronic open government improve our democracy, or does it
actually result in discrimination against non-computer users?
- Has blogging changed American
- Are computer-mediated forms
of communication allowing faster, better communication between humans, or
are they the cause of social and psychological problems that isolate
humans from each other and damage traditional communication?
- Is a "high degree of
reliability" standard acceptable for software used in applications
which pose a risk to human life, or are the error levels and probabilities
of these systems unacceptable for use in society? Are these systems
accurate enough to be relied upon?
- Should colleges be allowed
to require student ID cards - magnetically encoded with personal
information - for entrance to dorms and buildings around campus, or does
this pose potential problems in the way of misuse of the information
- Computer games such as
"MUD"s, in which participants create a character for themselves
and act out roles in a real-time, virtual environment, attract worldwide
participation. Recently, a character "sexually assaulted" (in a
virtual sense) the characters of other participants. Should there be
limits set for such digital deviance, or should the users be free to
express themselves in any way they feel necessary?
- Will computers ever be able
to produce poetry with emotional impact? If so, what approach do you foresee
being used to create programs to do this? If not, why not?
- Is the sale of computer
mailing lists an invasion of privacy or is it the legitimate exercise of
the capitalist system? Does the information being sold actually belong to
the individual subject, or is it public knowledge, which is the property
of the information collecting agency by virtue of the work performed in
- Should the use of internet
be granted without cost to provide access to the public libraries and
research materials available, or should there be user fees imposed to pay
for connection costs and the services available?
- Does management have the
unrestricted right to monitor an employee's use of office computers, -
including the employee's "private" communications on his/her
account - in an effort to optimize productivity?
- Do "dive
computers" promote enhanced safety, or do they invite unjustified,
and dangerous, over-reliance on the machine?
- Should the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency have the right to decode all encrypted messages sent by
- Should an employer have the
unconditional right to monitor any employee's e-mail sent on a personal
- Should your doctor have
unrestricted access to your computerized medical records (including
records accrued outside of his/her practice), so long as his/her
motivation is to provide you with better medical services?
- Will reliance on computers
eventually stifle the creativity of graphic artists?
- Is the search for
computer-based artificial intelligence an appropriate pursuit for science;
that is, is it in the best interest of mankind to build a human machine?
- The computer has given us
the ability to diagnose fetal defects. Is this an appropriate use of
- DNA testing presents a statistical
probability that a person on trial has in fact committed the crime. Should
such evidence be admissible in court?
- In criminal cases, rich
defendants can afford to use computers to gather dossiers on all
prospective jurors. Should such information gathering be prohibited on the
grounds that it creates a playing field more level for some defendants
than for others? Or should a defendant have the right to all the justice
he can afford?
- Cable television networks
and telephone networks are based on completely different philosophies, as
well as governed by completely different rules and regulations. With
merging technology, will their philosophies, rules, and regulations also
be forced to merge?
- The introduction of complex,
expensive new technology in medicine will present incredibly tough choices
as to who gets access to these technologies and how we pay for them. Are
computers lending a helping hand in making advanced medical treatments
available, or are they causing problems of their own in creating gaps
between socio-economic groups?
- Hyperintelligence - a
dramatic expansion of the power of the brain - is made possible by global
computer networks. Will Hyperintelligence help to create a new and better
global society, or will it result in a new, priesthood?
- With a sufficiently
human-like appearance, the "super-robot" might become a sexual
surrogate? Does this pose unacceptable possibilities for abuse, such as
enslavement, and the necessity for "robot-abuse" clinics (just as
we have drug/sexual abuse clinics)?
- Should there be limits to
the connection between computers and the human body? Are bio-implants a
violation of privacy?
- Is the "information
revolution" a new phenomenon or do past revolutions provide clues as
to what a total "information society" might look like?
- Is technology broadening or
narrowing the generation gap?
- Does high technology make
- Is there a world-wide
conspiracy which is using technology to concentrate power in the hands of
a few people?
- Could Europe use technology
to become a superpower, supplanting the United States?
- Does technology free us to
explore our cultural diversity, or does it rob us of our heritage by
forcing us to adopt a new, generic culture?
- Have computers reduced our
total workload and thereby made life more enjoyable, or have they instead
created work and made life more stressful?
- Since multimedia will make
it possible for people to conference from home, do you predict that humans
will eventually not go to offices at all but work at home instead? If so,
what sorts of problems might this create?
- The Human Genome Project is
a multibillion dollar effort to analyze the entire human genetic system.
The project has already helped scientists identify genetic cause of some
diseases. Will this project ultimately benefit humanity or is it instead
an unconscionable threat to privacy?
- Should the use of computers
be prohibited as used by large stock traders to trigger sell or buy
- Do the system operators of
electronic bulletin boards have the right to censor obscene messages or
would such censorship be a violation of freedom of speech?
- What should be the
"community" used to determine a "community standard"
in a test for bulletin board pornography?
- Should government or
industry use technology to track the behavior of every American citizen?
- Assuming a need for
heightened security from terrorist attacks, how much intrusion into
personal affairs should the Government be allowed in order to protect us?
- Is the Bush “Total
Information Acquisition” program justified?