Life: Knowledge, beliefs, and cultural practices
Writing assignments and paper guidelines
A 6-9 page paper is due in class on March 9; this paper forms a response to the readings so far. It can be a critical discussion of one text, a comparison of positions taken in two or more texts, or an in-depth exploration of a particular cultural attitude towards life. Your final project (due Friday April 28 by 5 PM) is an independent research project, executed in collaboration with 2 other students, that explores in considerable depth a controversy about life. In addition, you send me a brief, discursive (a few complete sentences, no bullet points) reading response by noon each Tuesday. Before each Tuesday class you send me a brief, discursive response to the readings: give me a quote that struck you and explain what it means, why it struck you and how it relates to the theme of the week.
Brief, but intelligent weekly response to the readings and discussions in this class. A response may contain a critical note on the text of the week; a quote and your thoughts about it; a summary of an outside source that you find relevant (but explain why!). Email me your weekly response by noon on Tuesday. Cite sources correctly and provide all necessary bibliographic information. Reading responses are an opportunity for you to collect your thoughts before class discussions and they form a way to contribute to class content; they also give me a sense of your understanding of the readings. "Working knowledge of readings" represents 10% of the grade; your score is mainly based on the insights you present in your reading responses.
Individual paper; a 6-9 page critical analysis/response to a selection of the assigned readings. Due March 9; 20% of grade.
1. Paper. An independent research project, carried out in a team of 2-3 students. Due April 28, 25% of grade.
In this paper you identify, describe, and analyze a controversy that concerns technical and scientific interventions in/reflections on "life." The final report on your research includes, roughly:
- description of the controversy - what is it about? And how "alive" is it? What is its relevance/importance?
- lay of the land - who are the players and what are their positions?
- unraveling these positions (main body of report) - how did players arrive at their positions, what is "in" these positions. This part of the report is based on collection and analysis of written materials, identification of players, interviews with players
- list of resources (including interviews)
Possible topics include: Stem cell research; Organ transplants; Gene therapies; AIDS in Africa; Reproductive technologies; Abortion; The human genome project - reading the "book" of life; Aging as a disease; Cloning.
2. Milestones. Throughout the semester you will hand in work that builds towards your final project: an initial description of topic and team; a research plan; an annotated bibliography based on library research; a progress report. Collected milestones represent 10% of the grade. Pacing of the project is as follows. On 2/2 you submit team composition and research topic; on 2/16 you submit a detailed research plan. This plan entails a brief summary of the controversy, a list of players, a list of literature and materials found to date, and a detailed plan for interviews or other research activities. On 3/2 you submit a progress report and preliminary bibliography; on 3/23 you hand in a complete annotated bibliography. An outline of your research paper is due on 4/6, and I expect the final research report on 4/28. Adherence to these deadlines will positively influence your grade; when you are not able to make a deadline, it is your responsibility to let me know.
Resources: A (non-exclusive) list of places to look: (on-line) newspapers (New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post); weekly or monthly publications (Economist, New Yorker, Newsweek, New York Review of Books, Nation, Heath, Psychology, Scientific American, Nature); scholarly journals (Social Studies of Science, Science, Technology, and Human Values, Configurations, Medical Anthropology, Medical Sociology); course books.
all writing assignments you should keep in mind the following. You
seek to persuade your reader of your argument.
Be certain that your writing is organized around an argument or thesis; this
argument should be interesting and provocative; also be sure that you have the
materials and information to support it. Refer to Hacker A
Writer's Reference (pp. 79-81) to refresh your memory on how to craft
a thesis. In each paper, you must incorporate and refer to at least one of the
texts (books/articles/chapters) we read in class. References should conform
to an acknowledged style format (again, see Hacker). The following summarizes
what I expect to find in a paper:
1. The paper addresses a topic you care about
2 . The paper makes sense and addresses the topic of the course in thoughtful manner
3. You choose your words carefully, using them effectively and concisely; you have proofread the paper several times, and have asked yourself if every one of your sentences is necessary, contributes to your argument, and conveys what you want it to say
4. The paper is concrete and concise and uses examples
5. The paper is built around a provocative and insightful thesis, entails a clear argument, and effectively expresses an opinion or makes a point
6. Your writing mobilizes reliable resources and is built upon verifiable information; it avoids speculation or rampant fantasizing
7. This information is made traceable and traceable; you give the reader access to your sources by painstakingly referencing them
8. Your prose is carefully checked and corrected for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and flow of the argument. When in doubt, consult Diana Hackerís A Writerís Reference
9. The paper ends with the works cited; use an established reference format, for instance CBE or APA as described in Hacker (1999, section M). Hacker also provides a proper way to reference electronic sources (1999, pp. 339-341)