21A.302J | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

Dilemmas in Bio-Medical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good?



Prepare the readings for each class in the following manner: Analyze each in terms of their argument, research methods, data (evidence marshaled to support the argument), methods of data analysis, theoretical contributions, and conclusions. How does each reading frame their topic? For readings based on fieldwork, is the ethnography convincing? Why or why not? Could the text be improved? How does the writer’s style influence the strength or weakness of the argument?

For each set of readings, upload one or two questions for discussion to the class website by 11:59 pm the night before class. These questions will aid our discussants in their presentations and will help you prepare for class.


Through the course of the semester each student will make at least one 15–minute presentation of the main arguments contained within that day’s readings in order to guide class discussion (in the case of books, the chapters may be divided among more than one student). The presentations are intended to give the class subjects to debate in the discussion period.

Provide some background on the author(s) for that day’s reading (please search beyond Wikipedia!), then give a brief summary of the reading. Highlight important analytic concepts or points, and raise some provocative questions for discussion. Prepare an outline of your presentation and bring sufficient copies for distribution to the class. Outlines with discussion questions must be emailed to the instructors by 9 am on the day of class.

Guidelines for Reading and Discussion (PDF)


There will be three 2500–word papers (not including notes and the bibliography) due during the course of the semester. The topics will be announced in advance. Please take advantage of the Writing and Communication Center at any stage in your writing.

Paper 1 (PDF)

Paper 2 (PDF)

Paper 3 (PDF)

Note on Grading of Papers

A crucial aspect of how these papers will be evaluated is the articulation of a strong thesis statement that is supported by a cogent argument. Arguments cannot be solely polemical, but must derive from a clear, well- supported evaluation of the readings, lecture materials, videos, films—or in the case of research papers, a diverse set of sources, materials, or original data that are applied to an original topic, but also build on the materials in this course. In all papers (except for the reading responses), use the citation style of the American Anthropological Association Style Guide (PDF). Do include a bibliography in your formal papers.

D-range or Failing Papers (we won’t have any of these right?), do not have a clear thesis, fail to demonstrate that the writer has completed the majority of the readings (or source materials for a research paper), tend to be repetitive, and are often based on opinion rather than careful assessment of the materials consulted for the paper. The paper’s structure is frequently hard to follow and its conclusions lack clarity.

C-range Papers tend to have a thesis that is too general or vague to posit a clear statement of what the author will argue (and may also be polemical or based on opinion rather than empirical or textual evidence). The paper tends to ramble, drawing superficially from a minor selection of materials or writings (or sources for a research paper) for comparison and contrast, and is difficult to follow. A reader may have to read a sentence or paragraph several times to understand its meaning. Conclusions may actually fail to demonstrate what the paper’s analysis has conveyed to a reader or its implications for broader considerations of the topic.

B-range Papers present an interesting thesis that demonstrates that the writer has read and understood the arguments of the majority of the readings (or source materials for a research paper), has mastery over theoretical concepts, thoughtfully evaluates empirical evidence and provides sound evidence for assertions, and gives a strong conclusion. The papers are well written and clear, and without major technical errors.

A-range Papers, in addition to the criteria for the B-range papers, have a clear thesis that is innovative, and demonstrates that the writer has gone beyond a summary of materials, but rather, challenges, expands, extends, and supports a consideration of the topic in an original or exciting way. Typically, these papers are well-organized, analyze all of the readings or a variety of sources, rather than a more limited selection, and the writing style and flow of the argument are elegant, and memorable for a reader—easily explained and recalled.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2013
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments