Assignment Details

14 Mar


One of the primary functions of a university education is to instill within students a good sense of ethics. Ethics, simply put, are notions of right and wrong, but they are not universal and not nearly as well-defined as most people would like. You should learn about the consequences of their actions and appreciate the difficulty of making ethical decisions. This project is designed to teach you about ethics and how to write persuasively about making an ethical decision.

Assignment Details

For this project, we will use the CQ Researcher available through the SCSU Library. To access this database, you must login to CQ ResearcherYou must use CQ Researcher in your paper.

Browse through and select one of the many Reports available at CQ Researcher. You can either select a Recent Report, or browse through the older reports by TOPIC or YEAR. When you find a report, you will see an ABSTRACT of the issue. Click “OVERVIEW” to see the report. When you select a topic for your essay, make sure that you read the entire report and familiarize yourself with all of the relevant facts. Whatever topic you choose, your CQ Researcher article must be no older than 3 years old.

This page lists the articles by years:

Please choose one that was published recently.

Write a 1000-1200 word essay in which you take a position on one of these issues. For example, if you select “Are Stronger Anti-Doping Policies Needed?” your essay will either argue YES or NO, and provide plenty of supporting evidence for that ethical decision.

Suggested thesis structure:

___ is ethical because X, Y, and Z.

Implementing stronger anti-doping policies is ethical because doing so would promote fairness in sports, reduce injuries associated with steroids, and prevent college athletes from becoming negative role models for children.


___ is unethical because X, Y, and Z.

Implementing stronger anti-doping policies is unethical because doing so would violate the athletes’ privacy, give an unfair advantage to students with better genetics, and potentially ruin many promising careers.

Remember, you are not merely presenting the facts; you are arguing about the RIGHT thing to do given these facts.

You will need at least 3 peer reviewed sources in addition to your CQ Researcher article for your essay (peer reviewed journal articles or books only; not random websites or blogs!). You may cite other non-peer reviewed sources in your essay (newspaper/magazine articles, reputable websites), but these will not substitute for the required three peer reviewed sources. Most of the sources cited at CQ Researcher are available at the library and accessible online. If you are having problems finding a source, use the ASK-A-LIBRARIAN feature to get help.

Examples of peer reviewed sources:

Nature, Science, New England Journal of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Examples of non-peer reviewed sources (okay to cite, but won’t count towards your 3 peer reviewed sources):

Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report

Examples of heavily biased or questionable sources (don’t rely on sources like these!):,,,

Use MLA citation method to cite your sources. If you’re using Microsoft Word, it can cite sources for you. See this page for information on how to do this.


Please do not write about the following topics for this paper: abortion, gay marriage, gun control, capital punishment, or legalizing marijuana. I’ve read too many papers on these topics.


Your AUDIENCE for this essay will be a group called the SCSU Student Scholar Community. Each year this group publishes a journal called SCSU Scholars that contains well-written, carefully researched, and provocative essays relevant to current ethical issues.

Collaboration Bonus Option

Instead of working alone on this assignment, you may partner up with up to two other students in the class. You will need to form the group on your own (perhaps by posting a notice in the discussions part of this site), and then notify me with the name of each of your group members. You will get a 5% bonus for partnering up with one person, and 10% for two.


  • Researchingat Wikitext
  • Sample portfolios (see the “files” section of this site)

Tips and Suggestions

Do not choose a topic about which your mind is already made up. These papers usually end up as rants, with little desire to explore the issue with any real depth or objectivity. Find a topic or issue that you are unsure about and can thus maintain an open-mind as you do the research.

Take some time to explore CQ Researcher and find an issue that you aren’t already familiar with or don’t already have a strong feeling about. For example, the “Future of Public Universities” page looks more interesting to me than recycled high school topics like gay marriage and gun control. Why not take this opportunity to learn about something new?

Make sure that you have at least three peer reviewed articles in your paper in addition to your CQ Researcher article. These should be cited in-text (the paper itself) and included in a works cited page at the end. I explain the difference between peer reviewed and unacceptable sources in my lectures (Part 5: Research Essays). Here’s a handy chart to help you determine what is scholarly vs. trade or popular sources. If you are still confused after watching these videos and looking at the chart, the Ask-a-Librarian tool or The Write Place can help.

Be sure to use MLA style for citing sources, not APA! If you’re not clear on the difference, review my lectures on citing sources or visit the Write Place for a tutorial and/or handout on MLA.

Here’s how to cite a CQ Researcher article using MLA:

Price, Tom. “Student Debt.” CQ Researcher 18 Nov. 2016: 965-88. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

You can find this info at the bottom of each CQ Researcher article; just be sure to change the formatting to “MLA.”

Beware of pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is using scientific-sounding language to defend non-scientific practices or beliefs, such as magnet therapy or homeopathy. Defenders of such beliefs may employ words and terms that sound scientific, but really aren’t grounded in good science. They typically employ non-academic techniques such as poisoning the well, the appeal to nature, and weasel words. My advice would be to avoid choosing a topic that would have you arguing against the weight of the scientific community, since, more often than not, you’ll end up relying on pseudoscience. I strongly recommend listening to Brian Dunning’s podcasts on logical fallacies: A Magical Journey through the Land of Logical Fallacies: Part 1 and Part 2. They’re fun, and you’ll probably learn some very valuable critical thinking techniques.

MLA formatting can be tricky for many students. Watch my lectures carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Again, have the Write Place review your paper if you’re in doubt about your citations or formatting.




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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in Academic Writing


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