Custom Writing Project Assignment

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Custom Writing Project Assignment

Postby ShawnMiller » Fri Aug 14, 2015 1:34 pm

You can do the Default Writing Project Assignment or the Custom Writing Project Assignment, which gives you have considerable latitude in the form and content of your project. Talk to me about your ideas in person or via email.

Your project must be at least 1,700 words unless you and I discuss the assignment and decide on a smaller number. Your project may need to be considerably longer than 1,700 words, depending on the genre you select, e.g., a science fiction story with exposition and atmosphere will probably need more words than a typical paper.


There can't be any single set of standards for the Custom Writing Project since they are custom. However, here are some guidelines and criteria for grading:

  • How clearly you express yourself. Are the individual sentences understandable? Is the writing well-structured?
  • Do you clearly identify the specific philosophy of biology issues that your work addresses?
  • Does your work demonstrate an understanding of these issues, e.g., if you are using the Elisabeth Lloyd article, are you representing her views fairly and accurately?
  • Does your work help the reader understand these issues in a deeper or novel way? Is it illuminating?
  • Your writing must take ideas from the course and investigate them and/or develop them further than we have in class or on the forums

Tips & Recommendations (especially for those writing fiction)

Here are some questions that you can ask yourself as you pursue your Writing Project to help keep you on track:

  • Why are you doing a Custom Writing Project?
  • What will your chosen genre allow you to express that a term paper prevents (or hinders)?
  • What is the point of your Writing Project? In the case of fiction, what is the moral or message? What is the point of view being expressed? E.g.:
    • Are you making an argument, e.g., about how we should adopt the cautionary principle when it comes to genetic engineering?
    • Are you demonstrating how a seemingly clear cut issue is more complicated?
    • Are you making especially vivid some aspect of an issue that may be (in your view) under-emphasized?
    • Are you demonstrating a flaw or weakness in an argument by illustrating, e.g., how the world would be if this view were true or adopted
  • Are you being specific? Are you engaging the details of these issues?

A Warning about science fiction and the topic genetic engineering

For the love of all that is holy, be specific and do something new!! Science fiction is lousy with dystopian visions of genetically engineered underclasses. If you plan to add to this noble subgenre, it has to be clear how your story isn't just a rehash of general anxieties about deliberately modifying our genomes. In other words, your story needs to connect specifically to the readings, forum posts, class discussions, or outside readings that you have done.

Ideas for Writing Projects that differ from run-of-the-mill term papers

  • Write a Wikipedia-style article
  • Write a "paper" as a series of 140-character tweets
  • Write a reddit-style thread (this may be easier if you work with others in the class)
  • Write a white paper
  • Write a piece of science fiction
  • Pick a non-philosophical/non-scientific topic -- e.g., professional cycling or the history of amphetamines -- and explain how philosophy of biology concepts are relevant and illuminating
  • Co-author a paper with others in the class
  • Write a forum-style FAQ
  • Write a series of newspaper-style opinion pieces
  • Write an analysis/review of a film, book, etc., in terms of philosophy of biology issues and concepts
  • Pitch me an idea!

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