Notes about Writing.

See Rules to Write Good, for some tongue-in-cheek rules for writing well, or at least better.

The term paper is an opportunity to see how well you can write a reasoned, persuasive argument. It should not merely be a rehash of others' thoughts and analysis, as presented in the referenced papers. I shall reward imagination: in topic, in analysis, and in synthesis. Familiarise yourself with the meaning of plagiarism, and avoid it.

Due: 4pm, Wednesday, December 16th

1. Maximum length: For a single-person project: 5,000 words (about 15 double-spaced 12-point pages); for a two-person project: 9,000 words (about 25 pages equivalent); for a three-person project: 12,000 words (about 32 pages); for a four-person project: 14,500 words maximum. Additional material may be placed in appendices. Number all pages. Include the word count. Proof-read your typist's work.

2. Use whatever statistics you decide to be relevant, but always properly cite the source of any data you judge to be relevant, including tabular data and reproduced figures. (Remember, you're writing for a skeptical reader, who will want to be able to satisfy himself that you haven't misread reported data.)

3. Do not make bald assertions without presenting substantiation of the claims or evidence to back them up: the mere act of assertion does not render a statement true, or at any rate does not convince the skeptical reader. (Evidence may be simply a citation of the source of the evidence. The citations can go at the end of the essay, but you should take care to key the bibliographic entries with the references in the text with footnotes etc. Always give the URLs and dates of any Web pages.)

4. The paper will include your choices and judgments, both implicit and explicit, about content and style. It would be a mistake, then, to write in the falsely objective tone of the passive voice, without stating the actor: ``It is felt that . . . '' in the term paper--it is far more honest for you to write in the active voice, and to proclaim whose beliefs, feelings, and values you are discussing--your own or others'.

5. Be careful to distinguish description (``what is . . .'') from prescription (``what should be . . .'') in following someone else's argument, and try not to confuse the two in your own writing.

6. Include an Executive Summary at the beginning, stating your main conclusions and giving the reader some warning of how you propose to structure your argument.

7. Beware of plagiarism. Never cut and paste without quote marks and an attribution!

It may help you to write in rôle--as though you are a government official advising the Minister, or a businessman urging government action (or inaction), or a trade union official submitting a report to an inquiry, or a consultant advising a client, or a company analyst arguing a position for a superior. But beware of the pitfalls when you attempt to generalise from an example, and remember that your case is weakened if you ignore arguments against it: far better to meet them head on by anticipating and answering them.