CSIT285L

Taught by A. Potasznik

2 Write-ups

All write-ups must be fully created/written in Google Docs and submitted via blackboard: course materials > weekly write-ups > correct # as both a file and an “editor” link. Creation and submission tutorial here.

Examples of good write-ups, with annotation by the professor, are available here.

Write-ups should be a minimum of 1 page, double spaced, not including headings, titles, and references. Write-ups should not be longer than 6 pages.

Topic

Choose a topic. Scan the news for a story that has something to do with the intersection of society and technology. If you are having trouble choosing a topic, you can select one from the list provided by the professor: useful links. Remember that the news event must be current (published within the last 3 months at the time you submit your paper). The story must be based on a NEWS event, not a review of a product, an opinion piece, or a general information page (i.e., a terms of use page for a website). Do not use the same article for multiple write-ups. You can use multiple sources for write-ups; just make sure the main source was published less than 3 months ago. Secondary sources may be older. Your paper should be an ethical analysis and not a summary or how-to guide. The basis for the paper must be in article form from a reputable news site (YouTube videos, tweets, and other non-journalistic sources may be cited but cannot be the primary source). All source material, including the primary article, must be in English.

Background

Gradually introduce your topic. Give background information and explain why this news has interesting ethical implications. Don’t start too general (“technology really develops fast these days!”): the background should span what is important for your particular topic. For example, if you’re writing about Instagram, the background should start with social media photo sharing platforms, not on the invention of computers. Read critically: point out cognitive biases or logical fallacies present in the story, avoid them in your own analysis. Include brief explanations of any major developments between the state of the issue before it was newsworthy and the present. By the end of the introduction, the reader should have a basic knowledge of the context for the event, as well as a specific indication of what exact event you will be analyzing. Do not explain every detail and minor event included in the article. Your job is to read carefully, then identify the ethical element within the article, and provide background information that pertains to it. Specific names, quotes, and comments in your paper should be included only when they are immediately relevant to your ethical analysis (and of course they should be cited). Certainly do not include the full article title or publication source in the body of your paper – that information will be obvious in your in-text citations, which lead the reader to the relevant portion of the references section.

Analysis

Provide multiple points of view – more than just your own interpretation of the news. Whose views are represented in the article? Which perspectives are not mentioned but may be affected by the event? Justify the reasoning behind each view. Identify strengths and weaknesses of these perspectives, weighing them for validity and relevance. This amount of analysis justifies a separate paragraph for each viewpoint.

Sharing multiple perspectives does not always mean discussing just two sides of an event. For example, when discussing the cyber attack on a water system in Florida, of course you will analyze how such an attack would affect citizens as one viewpoint. But the alternate view doesn’t need to be defending the hacker. Instead, you could focus on the viewpoint that such systems should not be connected to the internet at all. From there you would weigh pros and cons about such connectivity. Notice that the article never mentioned such an idea – you think and reflect on the problem yourself.

Conclude with your own opinion and why it is the best approach to the topic. Yes, there are other viewpoints, but why does yours make the most sense? The opinion need not be prefaced by “I think,” since it should be obvious to the reader after presenting multiple views that this one is your own.

DO NOT end the paper with a line similar to “I guess we will have to wait and see.” Your paper should have a clear argument with evidence behind it, not speculate on neutral issues. Likewise, do not idly suggest that “the government should do more” or “companies should take steps to ensure…” etc. Be specific. Who should do what, exactly, and why?

Personal reflection

In a separate paragraph, connect the article and ethical analysis to your own personal history and experiences.

Format

The paper should be in 12-point Times New Roman black font, double-spaced, left-aligned (not justified), with normal (1”, 1.25”) margins. It should be at least one page long, not counting the heading, title, and references elements; you are allowed to have a paper over one page long. There is no maximum number of pages, only a minimum. The heading should be no more than 2 lines long and include your name and section number. You must include in line (as you use) citations and a References section at the end of your paper. The entirety of the paper must be drafted and created in a Google Doc.

APA citation format should be used. If you don’t know how to cite things, please review the citations workshop provided on Blackboard, or do some research on your own. If you use material from outside sources without attributing it, you risk a 0 for your assignment and the course due to plagiarism. Note that APA formatting applies only to citations: headings must not exceed 2 lines (even though, for example, APA papers usually have a 4-line double-spaced heading), and there should be no title page. Any statistics or specific information in the write-up must have an in-line citation that connects to the References section.

Quotes of more than 40 words a) should be in a block quote, according to APA guidelines and b) are not allowed for this assignment. When a paper is only one page double-spaced, including an entire paragraph for someone else’s ideas is not appropriate.

Your paper should not include images. If you would like the reader to see a certain image, you can add a link to it in the text comment portion of the submission along with the editor link.

Extra citation instructions

Of course, cite outside sources correctly (explanation here if needed). But also, regardless of your topic choice,  papers must include citations for definitions/quotes that originated in our class. 

I will allow this be done as a website citation rather than a powerpoint citation as a time-saving shortcut. Obviously, this shortcut does not transfer to other classes. For example, I am not the author of the Utilitarianism Theory of Ethics, so usually you would cite those authors (Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) instead. In this class I am allowing citation of slides as a time-saving measure. Websites are cited this way in APA. You should include the class day number in the in-line citation. Generally, citing my slides in the reference section might look something like this:

In your essay:

If the social media site had even a single user in Europe, and were to sell users’ information to third party advertisers, they could be punished under the General Data Protection Regulation, a law in the European Union that restricts such data sales (Potasznik, Day 5).

In your References section:

Potasznik, A. Spring 2024, CSIT285L. Day 5 slides. Retrieved from https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.umb.edu/dist/7/3673/files/2018/05/Day-5-2fehnts.pdf on March 11, 2024.

Have a look at this page for more citation examples.

If you elected to purchase the textbook, you may also cite that as a source as opposed to my website and/or slides.

Vocabulary/Terminology

Use at least one class term. Define it and apply that definition to your current topic. The term(s) should be one that has already been explained in class, but is not limited to the previous week’s notes (i.e., you can use “deontological” as a term even for WW6 if you correctly define and apply it). You can use the same class term in multiple write-ups, but try to avoid using the same term over and over again. A list of all class terms that may be used can be found on the class site. Put the class term in bold for the first use; subsequent uses should not be in bold. Terms must be cited; see the teal print below. Pretend that the reader has never taken this class before, and has no understanding of what the class terms mean. The reader doesn’t even know what common class terms such as freedom of speech are, or what they mean. Define them so that there is no doubt that the reader understands your meaning. Apply every element of the definition of the term explicitly to the topic you are discussing. That means that some of the words from the definition should be repeated in the application.

  1. Example: Utilitarianism-based ethics are justified when despite questionable decisions along the way, the final outcome results in the most good for the highest number of people (Potasznik, Day 2). Waymo can be considered to be applying utilitarianism in the design of its self-driving algorithm since in this case, the driver of the vehicle was sacrificed in order to avoid a larger collision that would have killed a small crowd of pedestrians. The good of the individual, the driver, is sacrificed for the good of the higher number of people, the pedestrians in the crowd. The sacrifice of the driver is questionable, but justified since the resulting outcome results in the most good for the larger group.

Avoiding a 0

When you submit, the paper must be a .docx file generated from the Cloud Submission, include an editor link in the comments, and be uploaded to the correct folder on blackboard (course materials > weekly write-ups > folder). Note that blackboard allows for other file types (.rtf, .pdfs, cloud links, etc.), but those are not accepted for this class. The grader can only access and comment on the paper itself if it is in the correct format.

There are no exceptions to stated policy or make up attempts granted for plagiarized papers. You will receive a 0 at the very least if you copy work from another source and submit it as your own.

You are permitted 2 submission attempts for each write-up. If you use both, your first submission will receive a 0 and the grade from the 2nd submission will be recorded. If your first submission is graded, you may not use your second submission (if you do, it won’t be graded). Even if the first submission is on time, if the second submission is submitted late, late deductions will apply. Please check to make sure you are uploading the correct documents.

Students should not change their Google Doc after submission. Submissions with differences between the submitted file and the Google Doc will be flagged.

To sum up…

Here is the outline I suggest that you use when writing this paper:

Background on article topic
Introduce details of current article topic at hand
Analyze one viewpoint regarding the topic, including class terms as appropriate. Weigh viewpoint strengths and weaknesses.
Analyze another viewpoint regarding the topic, including class terms as appropriate. Weigh viewpoint strengths and weaknesses.
[continue as needed for all viewpoints]
Personal reflection
Conclude: Given the pros and cons, which solution do you think is best for this issue? Why?

Please check the examples of weekly write-ups available for review on the class site.

A note on corrupted/unreadable files and mistaken/incomplete submissions: As CS/IT students, you probably know that corrupted files are very rare in the wild. Sites and methods that corrupt files intentionally, however, are not rare at all. Some students have decided that they should submit corrupted files in order to buy more time to complete write-ups (and in some extremely unfortunate cases, final papers). YOU are responsible for uploading your files correctly. If you make a mistake and contact me within a reasonable amount of time, I can manually clear attempts so you may try again. Leaving corrupted or mistaken files submitted and only addressing it when you receive a 0 for the grade will not grant you the same (or any) leniency. Submitting the wrong file on time, then trying to submit the correct file late, depends on the assignment. This is permissible for write-ups if you are still within the late window and can use your second attempt to correct your mistake via blackboard submission. No final papers (even corrected ones) are accepted late, ever.

All papers, even late ones*, must be submitted on Blackboard. No emailed papers will be graded. There are no exceptions to this rule.

*The late policy does not apply to final papers, which must be submitted on time.

Avoiding deductions

Here is a summary of common writing mistakes that CS/IT285 students make. Mistakes will be highlighted in each write-up where they occur; repeating mistakes that have been corrected in prior write-ups will lead to a higher deduction on subsequent write-ups at the discretion of the grader, as mentioned on the rubric.

More resources

If you are having difficulty with Blackboard, please visit the IT help desk (Healey Library, 3rd floor) or visit the help site.

Examples of good weekly write-ups can be found here. The rubric can be found here. Note that if you repeatedly make the same mistakes, or basic mistakes, the deductions for those issues will grow throughout the semester. These deductions may go beyond what the rubric stipulates for point values.

  • I will not read entire papers in order to “check” them or proofread them before submission. I will however, be happy to provide answers to targeted questions.
    • No: “Can you read my paper and tell me what to fix?”
    • Yes: “At the end of my second paragraph, I’d like to make sure I cited my source correctly. Can you confirm that my in-line citation is accurate?”
  • I need time to answer such questions, so please plan to ask when there are still business days in between your request and the due date. Please do not expect prompt answers to complex questions on the same weekend that the paper is due.

Syntax” comments on your paper? Not sure how to avoid plagiarism? Visit the Umass writing center and sign up for free tutoring sessions.

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A word cloud generated from the submission of over 4,000 write-ups in CS/IT285L.

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