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There are three sorts of homework assignments beyond the weekly quizzes: a series of written homeworks, weekly reading commentaries, and a term paper.


Each week there will be a quiz based on the material covered that week.  The quizzes will be short, and the questions will usually be of a form that can be auto-graded on canvas (i.e., true/false, multiple choices, etc.).  The quizzes will be time limited, and due at the end of the week.


The details of each home will be in the assignment description on Canvas.

Homework Due Date Weight Toward Grade
HW1: Therac and the Boeing 737 MAX Feb 1 3%
HW2: The Politics of Computing Feb 8 3%
HW3: Applying Ethical Frameworks to a Dilema Feb 22 3%
HW4: Fair Use Mar 8 3%
HW5: New ACM Code Mar 29 3%
Term Paper Proposal Mar 1 5%
Term paper Outline Mar 22 5%

Reading commentaries

The goal of reading commentaries are twofold: to give you an opportunity to practice (i) thinking critically about readings; and, (ii) communicating your thoughts about how to apply what you've learned in this class. The goal is not to summarize the readings.

Some examples of appropriate topics to address in a commentary are:

  • connections between the readings and your own personal experiences
  • why the reading does/doesn't seem important
  • disagreements you might have with the asserted viewpoints
  • why the reading is/isn't effective at getting its message across
  • how the reading has changed your opinion or outlook on a topic


Each week, there will be a reading commentary assignment on Canvas. You should write a commentary for the specified assigned reading(s).

Each reading commentary should be a short paragraph (~4 sentences) for each reading, and should end with a question or discussion prompt, related to the reading, that you would like to have covered in your discussion section.  The TA will try to look through the commentaries before the discussion section.  You should be prepared to discuss your question during your discussion section, even if the reading(s) in question are not part of the planned discussion (i.e.., if there is extra time, in that case).

Commentaries are due an hour before the scheduled class time on the day the reading is scheduled to be discussed; this will be the deadline on canvas, even if the class is not synchronous/live.


Commentaries will be graded either as a check, check-plus or check-minus, according to the following rubric:

  • Check Plus: The commentary is very detailed and engages with the intellectual content of the reading deeply. The discussion question is compelling and relevant.
  • Check: The commentary is sufficiently detailed and engages with the intellectual content of the reading at a moderate level. The discussion question is relevant, but lacks depth.
  • Check Minus: The commentary is inaccurate, shallow or insufficiently detailed. The discussion question is missing and/or irrelevant.

If you only get "checks", you will end up with a 90 (9/10 on the "commentaries" part of the class grade). The more "check pluses" you get, the higher your grade. Likewise, the more "check minuses", the lower your grade.

Term Paper

The details of how the paper will be graded will be in the assignment description on Canvas.

For your term paper, you will research an issue about computing and society that you are initially undecided about. In your paper, you will take a position on that issue and support that position. Your paper should be approximately ten pages long. Don't worry if it's a bit longer or shorter—just make sure to cover your issue well. (Just please don't go significantly over the suggested length.)

Try to be balanced and fair in your presentation of evidence. You don't necessarily need to take a strong stance on the issue. If as you research you find you are really undecided, you may instead write about why there is currently not enough evidence available on your issue. You can review all the existing evidence, and in your conclusion outline what sort of empirical research would be desirable to fully understand the issue.

Quality of writing counts. Please try to make your prose clear and readable. Do not use overly formal language, but also do not use colloquialisms. Your textbooks are reasonable models for the desired writing style.

To the greatest extent possible, all statements in your paper should be supported by appropriate references. If you include personal opinion or other sources of data, mark those clearly. Your bibliography should be in APA style.

Please avoid citing the same reference over and over. Sometimes we get term papers that are essentially a summary of one source. This does not make a good paper.

Please do NOT write about sharing music and other files online, without special permission of the instructor. You may not write about privacy implications of RFID tags, because so many students have written about this in the past and there are old term papers circulating on campus. Your submitted term paper will be compared to an archive of past term papers.

Reference format

Please use APA format for all references. APA format is described here.

Term Paper Presentation

You will be required to give a 5 minute presentation on your term paper on your last recitation day (11/18 for Wednesday sections, 11/20 for Friday sections and 11/23 for Monday sections). Don't overthink it. You should cover key points from your paper. You can pick format—you may do a powerpoint, a video, or just speak to you discussion group live. Some points you might consider including:

  • Description of your topic and why you found it interesting.
  • Perspectives on the topic that you found through your sources.
  • Ethical considerations — appeals to one or more of the ethical frameworks we covered in class.
  • Your stance or opinion, and your justification for that.

You will notice that the presentation is the week before the paper is due.  This was done so that you have time to take any feedback you get when you present, and incorporate it into your final paper.

Banner image: "Term Paper Galore"by Bright Green Pants is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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