Format for TMP 352 Discussion Papers

Format for TMP 352 Discussion Papers
Anita Jones -- February, 2008
One course objective that I have for the 8 discussion papers that I ask you to
write is to hone your skills in writing analytic prose. These papers are not really
technical papers, but they are not fiction. They need to exhibit careful argument
development and sound analysis. They should be precise, not vague, in their
If you want to read a style manual, the long established book called The
Elements of Style [Str79] is very readable.
Length: Papers should typically be 3 to 4 pages in length. The subject and
how much you have to say will dictate length. Papers should be succinct and
written in good English.
Overall Structure:
You papers should reason through arguments, both pro and con. These
arguments should be organized by you. Do not narrate the pro and con
arguments that you found in the text readings. To say this differently, do not
structure your paper as a narration of someone else’s arguments. This paper
should state your own analysis and your own integration of the material that you
read; it should not be a litany of someone else’s views. However, you can
certainly attribute an argument that you give in your paper to some other paper’s
authors using citations.
Avoid slang: What follows is a list of slang that some students have used in the
past. You are engineers. You should speak precisely and avoid using vague,
slang phrases. Some examples of (unacceptable) slang phrases:
 xxx comes into play
 xxx would be a stumble by society
 xxx is a huge issue
 the bottom line is xxx
 people have a tendency to have a short fuse when it comes to xxx
 stake their claim on several fronts
 if you compare xxx to yyy, it would not even come close
 xxx could pose a big problem... (say what the problem is, specifically)
 people are afraid of this, because this is new territory
 on top of that …
 this concern holds a lot of clout
Avoid content free phrases and sentences: I want you to write succinct prose
that addresses the issues. Each sentence should convey an idea. Don’t write
prose that is vague and so general that it does not contribute any idea to your
paper. One example of a vague statement:
 XXX “has its advantages and disadvantages” for use in agri-business. In
this case, start telling the reader the main advantages and disadvantages.
Define your terms. If you use a term (like transgenic crops), define the term at
first use.
Bibliography: Each paper should have a bibliography at the end that lists the
sources that you consulted. There should be at least four. Two can be the “pro”
and “con” article in the class text. Cite those articles, not the Taking Sides book
itself as your source. Entitle your list as Bibliography or References. If you
want to use something else, send me email pointing me to the style book that
says that your title follows acceptable practice.
Also, the bibliography should ascribe a bracketed set of letters and date that you
can use for citations in the prose body. I do expect to see some citations in all
papers. If an idea is not your own, then cite your source. For these discussion
papers you will have likely gotten ideas from the articles and web-sites that you
The bibliography can be on a separate page at the end of your paper.
Alternatively, if it fits entirely on the last page of prose, putting it on that same
Citation: There should be citations to credit arguments to your sources – where
appropriate. The form of a citation ought to give you some information about that
source. My preference is to use the first 3 letters of the author’s last name
followed by a two number date, as in [Bri98]. Some people spell out the entire
last name of the first author. For web sites, you may not be able to find a useful
date; make up the best short sequence of letters, possibly numbers that you can
think of.
If you don’t like my suggested format for a citation, then follow a form that is used
by some journal in your field of engineering. The first time that you do this, put a
note to me at the bottom of your Bibliography and tell me what journal’s style you
are following. However, I particularly do not like using [1], [2], [3] for the citation
format. The citation itself, sitting in the running prose should tell the reader
something about what you are citing. Conveying the order of articles in your
bibliography is less useful to the reader than suggesting the last name of the
author. When you are an expert in a field, typically you will know a) who the
author is (because your read their papers before), and b) what the author was
focused on in the time period of the paper cited – e.g. “1995” versus “2004”.
Citations are typically enclosed in square brackets, not encased in parentheses.
The form of the citation for a particular source needs to appear in the
bibliography itself to relate the full description of the source to the citation. See
example bibliography at the end of this paper.
Do not use superscripts for citations. Those are for footnotes, which you may
also use, but footnotes are different from citations to items in your bibliography.
Footnotes appear at the bottom of your page and provide additional information
that you do not want in the prose body itself. Embed the citation, or put it at the
end of a sentence. Either is acceptable, just pick one style and be consistent.
If you take material verbatim from a reference, then quote it and cite (e.g.
[Brin98]) the reference. Add page numbers if you wish (e.g. [Bri98] pages 66-67)
or [Brin98, pages 66-67].
Consistency : Pick a style and (re)use it consistently – whether it is font for
headers, use of white space to frame section headers, whether to put a comma
after the next to last list item (just before the word: and) or not, etc.
Avoid sweeping generalizations. As an engineer, you never want to make an
assertion that one exception will prove false. Use of terms like “all cases” or
“any” put you at risk of being flat wrong when even one exception is found.
 There won’t be any risks concerning human health in the future.
[Bri98] Brin, David. The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to
Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Perseus Books, 1998.
[Chi03] Chiu, M.S.Y. and J.R. Dyer. Licensing, Design, and Construction of the
Yucca Mountain Repository, The Bridge, NAE, Fall 2003.
[Str79] Strunk, Jr., William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. Third
Edition. MacMillon, 1979.
[Tuc05] Tucker , William. “The Sober Realities of Manned Space Flight”
reprinted in Easton, Thomas A. (ed) Taking Sides; Clashing Views in Science,
Technology, and Society. McGraw-Hill, 2005.
[Wei05] Weinberg, Steven. “The Wrong Stuff” reprinted in Easton, Thomas A.
(ed) Taking Sides; Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society.
McGraw-Hill, 2005.