Final Paper & Presentation

English 128

This final assignment will have two different components:  

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 project:


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.  A good 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).  A good 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. A good 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 15, 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:

You 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).

Presentation Guidelines:

10-15 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 could be.  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.