Leh 300: Paper requirements

Paper 1, due March 31
Paper 2, due May 12

Each paper should typed, double-spaced, 2000-2500 words of body copy (plus references & notes), and include both a list of references and either foot- or end-notes.

As to the general substance of the papers themselves:
Given that this is a course on the ethics and politics of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research and assisted reproductive technologies (ART), your papers, unsurprisingly, should explore some aspect of the course material. What, exactly, you choose to focus on is up to you.

And it is important that you choose to focus on some, specific, topic. We’re covering a range of issues regarding hESC and ART research and practice, far too wide a range for you reasonably to write on. Thus, slice off a portion of one of these issues: DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING.

For example, a number of chapters in Liza Mundy’s Everything Conceivable deal with a specific aspect of infertility and ART; you could explore in further detail a topic raised in one of those chapters. Or you could look at the President’s Council on Bioethics Reproduction and Responsibility, which also explores various implications of ART,  Similarly, different chapters from Enhancing Human Traits, from NBAC’s Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, and from the PCB’s Monitoring Stem Cell Research raise a variety of issues regarding hESC research in particular and biotechnology in general. Finally, I or one of your classmates may bring up an issue or asks a question which grabs you; feel free to grab it and center your paper on that issue.

Pick an issue which matters to you, which interests you, which puzzles or provokes you; pick something which you want to learn more about, and on which you are willing to do additional research.

Yes, you will have to do additional research. The course readings can help you to get started, but it its expected that you will explore your topic in greater depth. This means research of materials beyond the syllabus. Again, it’s not that you have to read everything that’s available on your specific issue, but you should make an effort to educate yourself sufficiently to be able to reflect intelligently on the complications of that topic.

Finally, while your two papers will be linked, they are nonetheless distinct. Thus:

Paper 1: In this first paper, examine a particular line of research or a specific practice and lay out exactly what is involved in this research or practice.

Depending upon the research or practice, you may explore the history of the work (including any seminal discoveries initially or in the course of investigation); questions under active investigation as well as any questions which are considered crucial to advancement of the work; the current status of the work, including whether it has advanced to animal or human clinical trials, and/or whether it is currently in use in medical or commercial practice; any scientific or medical problems associated with the work; or, if you are working on, say, surrogacy, the technical-legal aspects of the practice.

In short, lay out the scientific, medical, and/or technical elements of the research or practice.

Paper 2: This paper builds on the work done in the first paper, with the emphasis this time around on the social, ethical, legal, and political implications and controversies surrounding the work.

Exactly what gets covered will depend upon the initial topic. For example, a great deal of work has gone into considerations of policy concerning hESC research, along with explorations of the moral implications of both the research itself as well as its possible uses. On the other hand, ART has for the most part not been regulated, and there has been less organized effort to examine either the various technologies or the implications of those uses. Thus, someone writing on, say, ICSI may end up focusing on a different set of social and moral issues than a person writing on, say, the medical and social implications of regenerative medicine developed out of stem cell research.

Again, the social and ethical implications of a practice may be far too large to encompass in this paper; thus, concentrate on that portion of the debate which most intrigues you.


Further notes on sources:

If you’re not sure where to start in terms of sources:

  • Start with the required course readings. Run a search on the author(s) of any particular article, either in a general search engine or within the library’s electronic databases.
  • Check out the references of the required readings. Almost all of the course materials include references or a bibliography. These are very very good leads for further material.
  • Check out the list of journals and books on the “Bioethics sites & docs” page. You are not limited to these journals, but, again, these are good places to start.
  • Check out the various links and organizations on the “Bioethics sites & docs” page. There is good information contained in these links, and some of the sites (such as StemGen) are explicitly set up to help you find further information.
  • Run general searches on your topic. I have two caveats about this: One, do not rely upon any one source that comes up in a search—check it against other sources. Two, while Wikipedia is a fine resource, it is not definitive. You may start with Wikipedia (especially to find other, external sources) but do not end there.

As for citations and references: Yes, you have to cite material in foot- or end-notes, and include a reference page or bibliography.

Foot- and endnotes: You use these when you cite material directly (e.g., statistics), quote material directly (which you should put within quotation marks), or paraphrase material you find in a particular article.

If you are unsure of whether or note you need to cite the material—cite it anyway. Better safe than sorry.

As for citation method, you may. as noted, use foot- or endnotes; check the “Notes” sections of the various Enhancing Human Traits chapters for guidance, or run a search on “citation methods” or “style guides” for further information.

References: There are any number of acceptable styles to use in referencing: MLA, APA, scientific notation, etc. The Chicago Manual of Style lists any number of styles, and if you search “style guides” online you’ll find a number of other sources.

Or you could look at the “Bibliography” in Mundy’s Everything Conceivable and simply copy that style. Do note that while she separates out her sources according to subject matter, you should not do so. Instead, simply list the references in alphabetical order, by author last name.

Remember to list ALL references, including those which you read but did not cite directly in the foot-/endnotes. Consider the references the set of all sources, and the foot/endnotes, the subset.

Finally, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you write out the title of any website you use, the author of the post, or, if no author, the sponsoring organization, as well as the date (if listed) of the webpage. I don’t want to see any naked URLs!


About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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