Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


Research Project Assignment

This week might be a good time for you to look around for a research topic that will be interesting to you. Since there won't be any duplication of research topics, when you find one that you like you'll want to get dibs on it right away. The way you do that is to

a.) sent me an email with your proposed topic. (Please send the email to my private NSCC email, not through the Angel email system.)

b.) gotten an email back from me saying that topic would be a good one (or not), and asking for a list of the books (with authors, titles, and publishers) you plan to use in your researches.

c.) sent me an email with four things listed on it (your name, topic title, your proposed books, and the date you'll post your completed paper to the class.

d.) perhaps gotten an email back from me asking you to find more or different books for your research, or

e.) finally gotten an email from me saying that yes, your topic, sources and date has been approved.

Once I write you that note formally OKing that topic, sources, and date, then from that point on your topic has been OKed and you've got dibs on it (but not before that point).

f.) Finally, you post a note to the classroom telling your classmates what research project you will be working on in the coming weeks.

That entire process needs to be completed before 6pm on the last day of week four (before the end of week three if you're in the summer session).

From that point on you've got dibs on that topic.

I'll then ask you to post a version of that same note to the classroom also, just so everyone can see what everyone else is planning to do their research on. People may be interested in each other's topics, and may even be able to help point each other to resources that they happen across in their own research.

So here's the process:

Hunt and discover a topic or thinker that sounds like it could be interesting to you, research that topic or thinker, then post a short written report to the whole class (in the Research Projects forum) on what you have learned about that topic. The report can be as short as you like, even one page if you can cover your material in that short space, but the maximum length you can have for the presentation is approximately five pages (at approximately 250 words per page), or roughly 6-7 screens.

Here are a few possible topic areas:

You may choose to research:

  1. a philosophical principle in the world of bioethics (e.g., benevolence, autonomy, etc)
  2. one of the main thinkers in the world of bioethics (e.g., Daniel Callahan, Albert Jonsen, etc), focusing on the ideas of that thinker
  3. the origins and underlying concepts in one of the central bioethics documents (e.g., the Hippocratic oath, the first AMA statement of ethics, the Nuremberg Code, the WHO human subjects research document, various human rights documents, etc)
  4. bioethics as seen from within one of the world's spiritual traditions (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, etc)
  5. a specific school of bioethics (feminist bioethics, virtue ethics, multicultural bioethics, etc)
  6. a specific problem or issue in bioethics (research ethics, reproductive technologies, DNR orders, embryonic stem cell research, etc)
  7. bioethics within a certain area of concern (psychological research, vaccines, among military recruits, etc)
  8. analyze a specific case in bioethics
  9. or any number of etc etc other possibilities

The requirement is that your project be in some way related to bioethics. That's a very broad range of concerns, so the main way for you to tell whether the topic you're thinking about is related to bioethics or not is to just ask me.

This project is not just to do a book report; it is expected that you will use at least three or four sources in your research.

You may wish to work together with another person or two, perhaps creating a kind of online "panel," or perhaps each of you presenting different viewpoints on the same general theme, or whatever. Working with another person or two can be fun and fruitful.

How to get ideas for your project

You might get ideas about various topics by going to the bioethics section of a bookstore -- the UW bookstore has a good section -- or library and just browsing through the books there, or by paging through some medical ethics/bioethics textbooks, or by browsing around some of the websites I've linked to various parts of the class website, including the Online Resources page of our website (there's some great stuff out there). Exploring these things may reveal something that sparks an interest in you.

Let yourself get creative here, and find something that sounds like it might actually capture your interest. Your idea needs to be OK'd by me prior to your starting on it, though, so propose the idea to me early so I can say yea or nay. You need to get it OK'd by me (via private email) before the end of week four (or earlier), and then it needs to be finished and posted to the online classroom before the end of week eight. (If you're taking the course in the summer session, though, your project needs to be OK'd before the end of week three, and posted before the end of week six.) You may want to underline those dates and circle them in red to remind yourself.

You'll definitely want to get these assignments completed on time -- both getting it OKed and posting the completed project paper -- because there are onerous consequences to one's grade if any part of this assignment is completed after the deadlines.

Click here to see more important project details and information
about those odious consequences

More research paper details

This paper has no minimum length. I want folks to think in terms of “How can I best communicate to the class what I’ve learned about this topic,” rather than "How am I going to fill up three pages (or whatever). So you can make your paper as short as you like as long as it does the job of telling your classmates what you’ve learned about the topic you chose.

There is a maximum length, though: 1500 words. It can be less than that but no more. You can put footnotes and bibliographic materials on top of that, but the body of the paper can have no more than 1500 words max.

Your paper should be directly addressed to your fellow classmates. English instructors and writing coaches tell us that it's important, when writing anything, to have in mind who our audience is. Your audience in this paper is your fellow students, the ones in this class who have read and discussed the same books, case studies, codes and lectures you've been reading. So the paper should be directly addressed to them.

It's also important that, in writing your paper, reference be made to at least some matters we've discussed already this quarter. These references will hopefully be made in a way that will illuminate the ideas you're writing about in your paper.

I hope this helps clarify your writing assignment.

Project self-evaluation

Then after your research project has been presented to the class, you will then need to write a self-evaluation of your project. See the web page on research project self evaluations that has the guidelines for how to do that and when to post it.

I hope your research becomes an interesting and learningful (?) project for you.