Research Paper Assignment

Project Description

The focus of this project is the production of genuine research on the topics of the course. To that end, we will focus on developing your research process and constitute the classroom as a professional community of researchers.

Your paper should address some key feature of the debates and figures discussed throughout the course. In the spirit of the interdisciplinary nature of our graduate programs, you can approach this topic from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, so long as the core interest is the role of values in science, technology, or medicine. It is my hope that your paper will also contribute to your own larger set of interests as part of your graduate program while constituting a serious engagement with one or more the issues discussed in the course. The ideal outcome is to produce a paper approaching publishable quality that can then be used as the basis for a publication, or as the basis of a dissertation proposal or chapter, a master’s thesis, or a portfolio paper.

Research Materials

In addition to turning in a finished paper at the end of the semester, you will be asked to compile a dossier of the research materials collected to produce the paper. This will include a topic proposal and refinements of the topic into a description of the research question; a full, annotated bibliography of relevant sources; photocopies or downloads of sources (preferably in PDF format); records of library and database searches; reading notes; records of your own thoughts (outlines, results of free writing, etc.).

This part of your project will be assessed separately from the paper itself, along three criteria: (1) Quantity and quality of useful information in your dossier. (2) Effort – demonstration of the effort that went into your research, whether or not it produced useful materials (i.e., you get credit for demonstrating the dead ends and seemingly “wasted” effort that you can account for). (3) Presentation – Is the information in the dossier organized and presented so as to make it easy to use in the future by someone who takes up and continues your project. (See below.)

Future Fate of the Project

This course is the first stage of an educational experiment, inspired by a similar experiment by Hasok Chang. The goal is to create an ongoing community of professional researchers in the classroom. In subsequent iterations of this course, students will inherit the work that you produce, improve it and add to it until publishable materials are produced.

If you agree to have your work included in subsequent stages of the process, you will receive authorship credit for the final project commensurate with your contribution to the project. I will do my honest best to consult with you on the final version, prior to any sort of publication.

Online Publication

The materials in your research dossier will be kept private, shared only (by your agreement) with students who choose to take up your project in the future. It is, however, becoming very common for academics to publish working drafts of their scholarship online, to facilitate a more rapid exchange of ideas. As such, final papers from this class meeting a certain standard of quality will be eligible to be published as part of a series of “Values in Science Working Papers” in an online repository. “Working Papers” are not official publications and so will not interfere with use in dissertations, future publications, etc. (Papers will only be so published by your agreement.)

Suggested Topics

All papers must address some element of the relationship between values/ethics/politics and science/technology/medicine. I conceive of papers falling into a few broad categories, and I suggest several specific topics below.

    1. Historical Analysis: These papers will create a case history in the history of science or technology and analyze the role of values in that case. E.g.,
      1. The role of values in systems of psychology
      2. Racism in the design of NYC overpasses
      3. The effect of the Cold War on mid-century economic theory.
    2. Contemporary criticism: Much like historical analyses, critical case studies look in detail at a particular case of scientific or technology, but focus on recent or ongoing developments with an eye to improving practice.
      1. Incorporating values into evidence-based medicine.
      2. Gender bias in website design
      3. The democratic potential of social media
    1. Interpretative/Exegetical: These papers focus on some philosophical project, view, or argument and attempt to explain it more clearly, and sometimes to stretch the bounds of the view. E.g.,
      1. The influence of Heidegger on Marcuse
      2. Applying Dewey’s critique of technology to emerging media
      3. The philosophical roots of Morozov’s critique of the Internet
    2. Argumentative: An argumentative paper takes up a live philosophical issue and contributes an argument about the issue, either by attempt to critique the view of another philosopher, or to defend a more original view. E.g.,
      1. A defense of the inductive risk approach to values in science
      2. Feminist standpoint theory and the critique of technology
      3. Why a new god won’t save us: A critique of Heidegger
    1. Literary Studies of Science: Such a paper would engage in a literary analysis of some scientific text with an eye to the role of values in that work, or would analyze some fictional work that has something interesting to say about it.
      1. Signs of sexism in Watson’s The Double Helix
      2. The Politics of Darwin’s The Descent of Man
      3. Science, Values, and Politics in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy
    2. If you have any other ideas, run them by me before submitting a proposal.


Project Milestones

  • Week 4
    • Receive this document
  • Week 6
    • Paper Proposals Due
    • Describes your project idea in a full paragraph (complete sentences) of 250 words max. You may submit two.
  • Week 6-8
    • Consultation w/ Professor
    • Schedule an appointment to meet with me in person to discuss your project topic.
  • Week 10
    • Annotated Bibliography Due
    • Each entry should include full bibliographic details (Chicago/Turabian format) and two paragraphs – one that summarizes the content of the text, one that evaluates the text and relates it to your project.
    • 4-6+ entries. For projects where both “primary” and “secondary” sources are relevant, you should have at least one of each.
  • Week 12
    • Abstract due
    • Summary of your argument in a full paragraph (complete sentences) of 250 words max.
  • Week 13
    • Conceptual outline due
    • Section headings and complete sentences only. Two pages, one or two columns per page. 9 point font minimum. See “Mumford Method” for an example of a good conceptual outline.
  • Week 14-15
    • Share full draft (suggested)
    • This is an out of class recommended activity. Pick at least one partner in the class and swap drafts to get feedback.
  • Finals Week
    • Final draft & dossier due

Research Reports Schedule

  • Group 1: Field, Hardee, Henderson, Jones, Lilly, Massey
  • Group 2: Cline, Fountain, Johnson, Lyons, Nightingale, Purcell, Zuber
  • Group 3: Ester, Lee, Papin, Ritchey, Saunders, Tang

  • Preliminary Report 1
    • Group 1: Week 6
    • Group 2: Week 7
    • Group 3: Week 8
  • Preliminary Report 2
    • Group 1: Week 10
    • Group 2: Week 11
    • Group 3: Week 12
  • Preliminary Report 3
    • Group 1: Week 13
    • Group 2: Week 15
    • Group 3: Week 16
  • Final Report
    • Final Exam Week