Tutorial Grinnell College Fall, 2008
Computers: Facts, Misconceptions, and Ethical Issues

Writing in the Tutorial

One vital objective of each tutorial is "To give special attention to writing and critical analysis". Thus, work for this tutorial includes several short research exercises, four papers, and an exercise on quotation, paraphrasing, and citation. While the research exercises will be distributed in class, the following describes the academic honesty exercise and the paper assignments in more detail. In each case, these exercises relate directly to material discussed in class.

Exercise Title and Description Due Date
Paper 1 Ethical dimensions of a computing application Due Tuesday, September 23
(Report topic by Thursday, September 11)
Practice for Quotation, Paraphrase, and Attribution Due Tuesday, September 30
Paper 2 Computer Errors and The Risks Digest Due Tuesday, October 14
(Report topic by Tuesday, October 7)
Paper 3 Computing and Public Policy Due Thursday, November 13
(Report topic by Thursday, November 6)
Paper 4 Library Research and Report Draft Due Tuesday, December 2
(Report topic by Tuesday, November 25)

Some Notes on Writing Papers

  1. Use an idea as the basis for an effective paper.

  2. Pay attention to the appearance of your paper;
    while a nice appearances does not guarantee a good grade, a sloppy paper is likely to receive a lower grade.

  3. Spend enough time organizing, writing, editing, and polishing your ideas.

  4. Write your introduction (e.g., the introductory paragraph) to identify the topic, place the topic in a context, and indicate the structure of the paper.

  5. Structure your argument, so that each paragraph has a unifying theme.

  6. Structure your sentences to make your point clearly, concisely, and forcefully.

In short, both form and substance are needed for good reviews or a good grade. One is unlikely to do well with all form with no substance, but success is equally unlikely with substance but poor form. Often there is tendency to shortchange the importance of form, but this rarely produces strong results.

Helpful Hint: For many scholars, the combination of substance and form requires at least two steps:

  1. A draft is written with the desired content given in considerable detail. Often this draft is 1.5 to 2 times the desired length for the finished paper.
  2. Edit the draft repeatedly to tighten the prose, reducing redundancy, strengthening sentences, clarifying wording, and perhaps even adding newly identified examples or details.

In this process, step A focuses on content, and the author takes care to include as much material as possible. Step B then polishes the presentation. In cases when the first draft is significantly longer than the desired final product, Step B provides a mechanism to improve the clarity, forcefulness, and flow of the presentation.

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last revised 10 July 2008
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For more information, please contact Henry M. Walker at walker@cs.grinnell.edu.