How will sociable robots change care-giving?

Research Project:

Explore an ethical or social issue surrounding some aspect of information technology

Overview and Final Draft Specifications

You will develop your Research Project in a series of clearly-defined, manageable steps over the four weeks of the course.

One of our course objectives in ILR 260 is to “explore ethical and social issues surrounding information technology”, and your research projects—pieces of which you will share with classmates—will serve this objective and become part of the content of the course.

Often students will select projects that relate to their academic majors or current jobs, but this is not a formal requirement. The most important thing is to pursue a research question that genuinely interests you. Information technology now touches just about every area of life.  The point of your paper will be to craft a response, however preliminary, to a real question about some aspect of information technology.  A “real” question is one that has no single, straightforward answer, and that will require you, in addressing the question, to draw upon and synthesize information from a variety of sources.

Questions that lend themselves to simple explanatory or “how-to” answers (for example, “What is Twitter?” or “How can people protect their computers from hackers?”) will not work for this assignment.

Questions that will work for this assignment appear at the end of this document.  Choose/modify one of these for your own Research Project. Or, if there is nothing on this list that engages your interest or that can be modified to engage your interest, go ahead and propose a question that does not appear on the list but that addresses some other ethical or social issue related to information technology.

In interpreting one of the questions below, or in crafting a new question, make sure that your inquiry is not overly broad. Ask yourself:
* Could an entire book potentially be written on this question?  If so, the question is too broad for a short research paper.
* Does the question contain multiple components? If so, select one component to focus on in your paper.  (Hint: If your question includes a comma, it is probably too broad.)

As you develop the project, keep in mind that our focus in ILR 260 is inquiry, not argumentation. Argumentation is a worthy area of study and is a focus of other courses you may take at the university.  In your ILR 260 research project, however, your primary goal is to explore your research question with depth and sophistication rather than to persuade an audience of a particular viewpoint. While you will need to propose some sort of answer to your question in the final version of your project, that answer may be tentative. It may, for example, point in the direction of further questions and further research. It may identify contradictions in your research that are at this time irresolvable. Again, in writing this paper, focus on exploring, interpreting, and synthesizing ideas rather than on “defending” a thesis.

Keep in mind, too, that you will carry out your research using published information and opinions. You should not try to do primary research of your own, such as surveys or experiments. (This kind of research is specialized, varies from one discipline to the next, and is beyond the scope of ILR260.)

As you progress through each stage of the project, you might find it helpful to keep in mind that the skills you are practicing have applications well beyond this course, and also beyond the academy. Whether you are writing a college paper or a workplace report, or just trying explain something to another person, you will want to be able to connect ideas in logical ways, to illustrate those ideas with clear explanations and examples, and to explain the nature of any sources you’ve consulted.

For an example of a completed ILR260 Final Research Project written by a past ILR260 student (and shared with the student’s permission), see

http://nu.adobeconnect.com/sample-res-proj/ – Final Research Paper PDF

Components of the Research Project:

Project Introduction  (due end of Week 1)
Library Research Report  (due end of Week 2)
Draft of Research Project  (due end of Week 3)
Final draft of Research Project (due last day of class)

Final Draft Specifications

Length: 900-1200 words (not including citation page)

Format: Please use APA citation style. (If you are majoring in English, you may use MLA instead.) Your paper should include one data visualization (such as a table, chart, or line graph–we’ll work on this together during week 3).

Your final project will not include an abstract (but if you’d like an abstract-writing help resource for the future, here is one you might want to check out:  How to write a research abstract )
Audience: Address your paper to a general audience. Your ILR260 classmates have a wide range of backgrounds and academic interests; assume this kind of broad readership when you write your paper. Assume that your readers are not specialists in your topic area. Ideas must be fully explained and made accessible to a general readership.

Sources: Your research should emphasize peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles from the NU library’s databases. (Be assured that the NU Library skills you develop will be transferable to other academic research environments, as academic libraries are set up very similarly and draw upon the same database vendors: ProQuest, EBSCO, etc.). Reference as many sources as needed in order to substantively explore your research question (but no fewer than 4).

Final papers will be assessed according to the following rubric, which has been adapted from the COLS Grading Criteria for Writing Assignments.

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