Final Paper & Presentation
This final assignment will have two different components:
- You will turn in your assignment as a final, 5-page paper due on Friday, May 5, via email.
will also present the same material to the class in a short
presentation (10-15 minutes for your presentation, 5 minutes for Q &
I want to give you a
lot of freedom to choose a topic that will work for you. With
that in mind you have a few options for the content of this final
Choose a literary work (like a novel or a short story) or a thoughtful
film that depicts a scientist, or depicts science's interaction with
culture. Write an essay in which you analyze this work in terms of the
materials and themes we have discussed in this class.
Note that you do not have to choose a work of "science fiction".
It can be anything that thoughtfully contributes to the material
of this class. An "A" paper will carefully fit this new work in
with the other things we have read, and extend our understanding of the
key issues of the class.
Choose a scientific theory or a technological advance. Write a research paper
in which you explore the cultural dimensions of this theory or
technology. For example, you can research how it was accepted (or
resisted) as a scientific revolution (as in Kuhn) or breakthrough (as
in Willis). Or you can examine the way the culture at large
reacted to it (as in Miller). An "A" paper will be thoroughly
researched (beyond Wikipedia!) from a number of sources, and will bring
this material to the course issues in a focused, meaningful way.
Something a little more creative than an analytical or research paper which engages the material of the class as deeply as the first two.
Do you want to make a film? Write your own play? It
might seem like this is the easiest of the choices, but it may actually
be the hardest, because you will have to clearly demonstrate an equal
level of analysis and/or research as would be present in a 5-page
paper. An "A" project of this sort will present a nuanced argument that
fits better in a creative work than it would in a paper.
Something else. A website? A statistical study? If you have a totally different idea, pitch it to me.
You need to send me an email by Monday, April 17,
in which you let me know what you will be writing/presenting on.
Proposals for the first two topic choices can be brief.
Proposals for the second two choices will obviously need to be a
lot more extensive. I will either OK your proposal, or suggest
a revision. The sooner you get these to me the better.
Working with a Partner or in a Group:
may choose to do this final project with a partner or a small group,
although bear in mind that this will not reduce your workload.
For example, if you work with a partner, you will be responsible
for a 10-page paper and a 30-40 minute (total) presentation, if you work
with a group of three, you will be responsible for a 15-page paper and
an hour long presentation, etc. Planning and writing a
good 15-page paper is a lot deeper and more involved than
writing 3 individual 5-page papers.
That said, collaboration can be more exciting than working
individually, so if you want to work together, I'd like to encourage
you to do so.
If you choose to work with
other students, you need to give me a detailed breakdown in your
proposal of who will be responsible for what in the final product.
You will each receive an individual grade based on your
contribution to the final project (not a group grade).
minutes goes faster than you would think. If you just read the
text of your 5-page paper aloud, it would probably take about 10
minutes or a little longer, but is that the best way to use your time?
Think of the best way to organize your material for an oral
presentation. This might be different from how it's organized in
your paper. Remember that we will need to hear background
information about your material, but the main focus should be on your
argument or analysis.
You may use Powerpoint if you like for your presentation (or Google Slides, or other presentation software), although this is not required.
If you do choose to use presentation software, only put your main
points, charts, diagrams or illustrations on your slides.
Nobody wants to watch you read big blocks of text off your own
slides. You may show a clip from a media source you bring with you or online if you are
talking about a movie, but this should be no more than 2 minutes--you
wouldn't want to take away from your presentation time by filling it up
with clips. Ideally, rip the clip you need to a file ahead of
time. Let's not spend class time watching copyright notices and
menus. Carefully choose the best clip(s) to illustrate your
points (not just the movie's trailer)! A warning about technology in our classroom:
sometimes the projector doesn't quite work. Sometimes other
techological mishaps make the classroom computer not as friendly as it
Bottom line: Feel free to use whatever technology you want,
but don't competely rely on it.
Arrive early on the day you are
presenting. Ideally, copy all your presentation materials to the
classroom computer, so that you don't waste your presentation time
setting up your technology. If you are not
presenting, remember that you still need to be in class as good, attentive
audience members for your classmates' presentations. Think of
questions during your classmates' presentations to ask in the Q &A.