Grading for CSC 299:
Social Implications of Computing

Spring 2018

Grading in 299 will be based on a combination of

There will be regular (potentially lengthy) reading assignments.  Class sessions will consist primarily of open discussion of the reading.  You must come prepared, and ready to participate.  We may also have a few more structured mock debates. 

Several class sessions will be devoted to guest speakers.  A few will be devoted to student presentations.  I do not currently plan to give exams. 

Late Assignments

In most of my courses, I have a strict policy of not accepting late assignments.  For this course I have a looser policy:  I’ll accept late assignments, but with a penalty of 10% per day. 

Upper-level Writing

If you are a CS major, you can use this course for upper-level writing credit, but you must tell me at the beginning of the semester.  (You may also be able to use it to satisfy writing requirements in other departments; talk to your academic advisor.)  I will pay additional attention to writing style when grading your assignments, after which you will be required to revise and resubmit them.  As a general rule, please try to complete the revisions within one week of when we get the original back to you (promptness will be particularly important for the end-of-semester project).  Please turn in using the same mechanism used for the original assignment.  Come talk to me if you want more details. 

Grading of Essays

Unless otherwise noted, essays will be graded on a 10-point scale, with 7 points for content and 3 points for presentation (quality of writing).  For the content portion of the grade, your essays must fully address the question posed, and should be factually correct and logically sound.  They may certainly express opinion (in fact, this will often be required), but they must not unreasonably discount opposing points of view.  For the presentation portion of the grade, your essays should be grammatically correct and of a style appropriate to scholarly writing.  Among other things, this means that you must cite sources for any information that is not common knowledge, and identify any direct quotations with quotation marks or block offset (see academic honesty policy below).  For the purposes of this class I won’t be picky about bibliographic style, but I recommend something like the following, which is typical of published articles in computer science: 

Because their distance from the Earth can be easily calculated using period and luminosity, Cepheids are often used to gauge the distance of neighboring star clusters [1].
[1]  B. Carroll and D. Ostlie.  An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics.  Pearson/Addison Wesley, 2007. 

A variety of other stylistic guidelines can be found on Prof. Scott's list of writing tips.  You may on occasion see references to these as circled numbers in the margins of your graded essays. 

In previous offerings of this course, students expressed concern at having received feedback on grammar and style more than on content.  Please be assured that this is not because I felt that grammar and style were more important than content—quite the contrary.  It’s simply that mechanical issues are easier to mark and easier to fix.  As noted above, 70% of the grade on every essay will be based on content. 

Academic Honesty

Student conduct is governed by the College Academic Honesty Policy.  I helped to write this policy personally; I’m a big believer in the rules, and will enforce them aggressively. 

The following are specific details for CSC 299. 

The goal of the course is to familiarize you with the breadth of social issues created or intensified by computer and network technology, and to get you to think about these issues deeply.  I encourage you to talk to anyone—including your classmates—who can help you do this better.  When it comes to assignments, however, unless you are working on a team (with my explicit prior knowledge and consent), everything you turn in must be your own work.  In particular, you cannot copy text from anywhere—even a fragment of a sentence—without explicitly quoting it and providing formal citation.  Everything else must be your own words.  It sounds almost trite to say this, but the way to avoid any accusation of copying is: don’t copy.  In particular, do not use the copy-and-paste mechanism provided by your computer, and close any windows containing source material before you start to write.  Any violation of the no-copy rule will automatically invoke the procedures of the College Honesty Policy.  Penalties for a first infraction typically include not only in a zero for the assignment in question, but also a significant additional reduction in the final letter grade for the semester. 

I work under the assumption that students are honest.  I will not go out of my way to look for exceptions.  If I discover one, however, I will come down on it very hard. 

Last Change:  02 February 2018 / Michael Scott's email address