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TOPIC: Should same-sex marriage be recognized?




    The final course requirement for Ethics is a final paper on applied ethics, of approximately 4 pages in length.  This paper should be a statement and defense of what you think about some controversial moral and/or social issue from the list of allowable topics.  If you want to choose a topic not on the list, you must clear it with me first.   It is due the final day of scheduled class.


            The final paper will be graded primarily along the following criteria:

            -Having a clear and identifiable thesis statement

            -Provision of support for that thesis statement through arguments and/or evidence.  Most of the grade will be based on this element, so be sure to elaborate your arguments and evidence fully.

            -Standard term paper guidelines.  I expect the paper to be proofread for spelling and grammar. 


            I expect the paper to be structured and organized—treat it no differently than you would treat a paper for a composition course. 

            If you need help with this, please use the Writing Center.  It is a great resource, and the people there are trained to help you at any stage of production—even picking a topic.


            Some general guidelines to follow:

            Pick a topic where you feel there is room for reasonable disagreement.  Do not pick a topic where you would consider those who disagree with you to be irrational or demonic.

            Defend what you really think.  If what you really think is ‘Capital punishment should be allowed only to punish crimes against humanity’, THIS is what you should defend.

            Bear in mind that a thesis statement does not have to be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to your topic problem.  For example, ‘The abortion debate is irresolvable’ is a perfectly legitimate thesis statement.

            Topics where you have relevant personal experience are recommended.  Your experience will often give you a perspective on the issue that others lack.

            Outside sources are required, since they are useful for providing data, arguments, and opposing ideas.  If you use outside sources, including research studies or statistical data, be sure to cite them.  APA and MLA styles are both acceptable;

            Recognizing weaknesses and potential objections will always make the paper better as it indicates the level of serious thought put into the paper.

            Don’t be afraid of admitting ignorance, especially in responding to the ideas of others.

            Avoid replacing arguments with examples.  Use examples to illustrate a general claim, not as a replacement for them.  Examples by themselves tend toward selection bias and hasty generalizations.

            I am interested in content, not clever rhetorical flourishes.  Thus, avoid filler material, especially at the beginning of the paper.  No paper should start with anything like ‘Abortion is one of the most controversial issues facing us today’ or ‘Since the beginning of time, man has wondered whether…’  Write for a reasonably well educated audience.


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