CPS 49S Final Project

The purpose of the project is to research a topic of your choosing (which you submitted for my approval before the Thanksgiving break) and write a medium-length paper/website about it. Your project is due on Thursday, December 13 at 5:00 PM. An automatic extension is granted to Friday, December 14 at 9:00 AM if you need it. No further extensions will be granted.

The simplest way to turn in your project is to e-mail me a single HTML file as an attachment, just like last time. Since this is the 21st century and your presentation is Web-based, you may include images or graphics or hyper-linked structure as you see fit. To do this, you will need to create a website and e-mail a link (URL) for it, rather than sending me the content itself as an HTML file. This is not required, but it is worth ``extra credit''. Here is some information about how to create your own website in your Duke account. For example, if your Duke e-mail address is grok, and you save a copy of the file myproject.htm in the subdirectory (folder) public_html of your Duke ACPUB account, then the url http://www.duke.edu/~grok/myproject.htm will allow me (or anyone else) to access your project over the Web. If you click on that link now, you get a 404 from Duke's Web server because there is no user grok who has created such a file.

This is a research project. Your goal is to gather and present information that is interesting and informative to the reader--me. In the course of your research you will learn much more than I know about your topic. I am looking forward to reading your work to educate myself about your topic.

You should seek out multiple sources of information about your topic. There is useful information available on the Web: try some carefully chosen searches on Google or another search engine of your choice. However, your choice of sources should reflect your awareness that the quality and credibility of Web sources is highly variable. Dig around and follow links to find the most authoritative sources for your topic. Find and use primary sources whenever possible, e.g., documents or statements from governments, individuals, or corporations involved directly with the ideas or events you are writing about. Go to the library and look around in the stacks for books or periodicals relevant to your topic. Your sources should include at least one book so that I can be sure that you have been in the library at least once during your first semester at Duke.

Treat this project as a serious writing assignment. Whatever sources you use, your work should follow accepted guidelines for scholarly citation and quotation. All unquoted writing must be your own, and it should be your best writing. By now you know my standards for writing quality: avoid passive voice, choose your words carefully, be precise, structure your writing so that each paragraph or section has a unified focus, keep paragraphs ``bite-sized'', hyphenate correctly, use an appropriate and consistent level of formality, minimize unnecessary words, prefer simple and direct constructs to more complex ones, use "which" and "that" correctly, don't lean on fluff words like "very" or "extremely" to strengthen your points, use a spell-checker, use active voice, avoid redundancy, etc.

I expect that the material you turn in will be about double the length and ``weight'' of your wiretap statement. That is, you should plan to write about 3000 words, and to choose those words carefully to make them count. I detest fluff, especially when my job responsibilities require me to wade through it looking for the good stuff. Make me proud. Note: this guideline document has about 600 words.

Choose a presentation style that is appropriate for the topic, and stick with it. If you are writing about a controversial issue, then take a position, state it persuasively, and support it with specifics in a balanced way: professors always like to see that you are thinking, and also that you understand the basis for alternative points of view. If you are writing to convey information about historical events or recent developments then a more neutral presentation may be appropriate.

In all cases, structure your presentation to highlight what is interesting about the topic. Lists of facts are dull. To hold the reader's interest, dress them up with more thoughtful content. For example, strive to relate the material to the themes, issues, and topics of the course. Look for opportunities to draw comparisons or contrasts to other specific topics from the course. Look for trends or principles. Generalize from specifics. Look for underlying factors or forces driving the events or issues you are writing about. Look for areas of disagreement or differences in perspective or approach. Make predictions. Be explicit about why the events, ideas, or issues are interesting and important. Speculate on the most important implications.

Teach me!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask by e-mail, or stop by my office. Unfortunately, I will be out of town from 12/8 through 12/11, and possibly through 12/12, although I may be in e-mail contact during this period. I also invite you to stop by my office next semester or at any time to say hello and let me know how you are doing. I will be happy to discuss your project and/or give you feedback on your work after the semester is over.