This section features the short assignments, memos, essay assignments, and guidelines for the peer review workshops. Sample student papers are also available under essay assignments.

Short Assignments

Reading Response

Read Alvin Weinberg's "Can Technology Replace Social Engineering?"

Write a one-page response: The author discusses a number of practical obstacles to using technology to solve social problems. Ignoring these, are there any ethical obstacles that would, or should, prevent technology's capacity to solve social problems? Why or why not?

Base your response on a particular social problem of contemporary society for which one or more technological solutions exist, and discuss whether the technological fix is also ethical or not.

Cover Letter & Resume

Write a one-page letter suitable for an academic or professional environment. The letter can be an application letter for a job, internship, or an undergraduate research position. Also prepare a resume to go along with this letter. Please single space this assignment.


Read Kevin Warwick's "Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics."

Write an abstract for the article based on the guidelines we discussed in class. For this case, it should be between 100 and 200 words. We will look at the actual abstract in class on the day this assignment is due.

Presentation Visual Aid

Bring an example of a complex visual aid and be ready to give a one-minute explanation of it.


Memo 1: Environmental Memo

Read Rachel Carson's "The Obligation to Endure."

Assume the role of an employee of one of the large chemical corporations that manufacture pesticides.

Your task is to evaluate Carson's essay and prepare a memo to a team of managers that responds to the essay and recommends specific actions-either in support of or in opposition to (or a combination) Carson's points. Be sure to summarize Carson's key points in the memo.

Memo Sample and Instructions (PDF)

Memo 2: Course Progress Report Memo

Write a one-page Memo in which you respond to the following:

  1. In what ways are you benefiting from the class? And, in what ways are you not, but would like to?
  2. What areas of writing do you perceive to be your strongest? Weakest? (e.g. organization, grammar, style…)
  3. What aspects of the course have you found most useful so far? least useful? Explain.
  4. Any additional comments.

Memo Sample and Instructions (PDF)

Memo 3: Proposal Outline Memo

Write a one-page memo in which you present an outline for your final proposal assignment (see Formal Paper 4: Proposal below).

Memo Sample and Instructions (PDF)

Essay Assignments

Sample student papers are featured below. They are provided courtesy of the authors and are used here with permission.

Formal Paper 1: Definition Paper

In a short paper (two pages), define a technical concept. For example, one could define fusion and discuss its possible place in energy production. The paper must be suitable for the intended audience: an interested and well-educated, but not technical audience. It should be written in standard academic style.

Formal Paper 2: Critical Review

Instructions and Topics (PDF)

"The GM Debate" by an anonymous student (PDF)

"Stem Cell Research" by an anonymous student (PDF)

Formal Paper 3: Literature Review

Instructions and Possible Topics (PDF)

"Overpopulation in Developing Nations" by Amudha Panneerselvam (PDF)

"Nuclear Waste Management Dilemma" by Jose P. Perez (PDF)

"Perspectives on Global Warming" by an anonymous student (PDF)

Formal Paper 4: Proposal

Instructions (PDF)

"Final Proposal" by Andrew Hsiao (PDF)

"Proposal for an Earth System Initiative Lecture Series entitled 'Geoengineering: Will it save the world?'" by an anonymous student (PDF)

Peer Review Workshops

A number of the above assignments were subject to peer review workshops conducted in class. Below are handouts given to students to guide them through the workshopping process.

Reading Response Workshop (PDF)

Critical Review Workshop (PDF)

Literature Review Workshop (PDF)

Introduction to Proposal Workshop (PDF)

Proposal Workshop (PDF)