Term Paper Guide

Look at the Evaluation Sheet

See also the Bibliography Guide



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:

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:


The term paper must have a title page consisting of the following:

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 Sheet)


The actual term paper text must have the following sections contained within it. In addition, each section must be labeled within the paper.

I. Thesis

II. Introduction

III. Discussion of Research

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

I. Thesis

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.

II. Introduction

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:

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 the following:

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 your thesis.

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 points.

IV. Conclusion

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.

V. Bibliography

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:

Margins, Paragraph Spacing, Fonts, and Other Graphical Items

Your paper should have one-inch margins on all sides.

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 page.


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:

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 paper.

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:

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 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 "lost."

·        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 evaluation form.

·        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 classes.


  1. Should 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?
  2. Does the recent feeding-frenzy of takeovers and mergers in the communications industry presage an unacceptable concentration of electronic power?
  3. 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?
  4. 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"?
  5. Are the parallels between the Patriot Act (I & II) and George Orwell's "1984" inescapable?
  6. Is the computer age increasing the gap between knowledge "haves" and knowledge "have nots"?
  7. Should internet communication content be subject to federal regulation?
  8. Should individuals who download copyrighted music be prosecuted for copyright violations?
  9. Given that computers can be used to alter photographs, should the use of photographs in criminal cases be prohibited or otherwise strictly limited?
  10. Will the proliferation of literature on the internet make copyright laws unenforceable or meaningless?
  11. Are software patents and copyrights truly necessary for protection from piracy and theft, or are they hindering progress and development in the software industry?
  12. Does the use of computers in implementing electronic open government improve our democracy, or does it actually result in discrimination against non-computer users?
  13. Has blogging changed American politics?
  14. 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?
  15. 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?
  16. 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 collected?
  17. 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?
  18. 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?
  19. 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 collecting it?
  20. 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?
  21. 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?
  22. Do "dive computers" promote enhanced safety, or do they invite unjustified, and dangerous, over-reliance on the machine?
  23. Should the federal Drug Enforcement Agency have the right to decode all encrypted messages sent by American citizens?
  24. Should an employer have the unconditional right to monitor any employee's e-mail sent on a personal company-issued account?
  25. 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?
  26. Will reliance on computers eventually stifle the creativity of graphic artists?
  27. 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?
  28. The computer has given us the ability to diagnose fetal defects. Is this an appropriate use of technology?
  29. DNA testing presents a statistical probability that a person on trial has in fact committed the crime. Should such evidence be admissible in court?
  30. 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?
  31. 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?
  32. 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?
  33. 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?
  34. 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)?
  35. Should there be limits to the connection between computers and the human body? Are bio-implants a violation of privacy?
  36. Is the "information revolution" a new phenomenon or do past revolutions provide clues as to what a total "information society" might look like?
  37. Is technology broadening or narrowing the generation gap?
  38. Does high technology make religion irrelevant?
  39. Is there a world-wide conspiracy which is using technology to concentrate power in the hands of a few people?
  40. Could Europe use technology to become a superpower, supplanting the United States?
  41. 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?
  42. Have computers reduced our total workload and thereby made life more enjoyable, or have they instead created work and made life more stressful?
  43. 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?
  44. 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?
  45. Should the use of computers be prohibited as used by large stock traders to trigger sell or buy orders?
  46. 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?
  47. What should be the "community" used to determine a "community standard" in a test for bulletin board pornography?
  48. Should government or industry use technology to track the behavior of every American citizen?
  49. 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?
  50. Is the Bush “Total Information Acquisition” program justified?