Explore an ethical or social issue surrounding some aspect of information technology

RESEARCH PROJECT ASSIGNMENT
ILR260 Research Project Assignment
Explore an ethical or social issue surrounding some aspect of information
technology

DUE:
Last day of course
OVERVIEW:
You will develop your Research Project in a series of clearly-defined, manageable steps
over the four weeks of the course.
One of our course objectives in ILR 260 is to “explore ethical and social issues surrounding
information technology,” and your research projects—pieces of which you will share with
classmates—will serve this objective and become part of the content of the course.
Often students will select projects that relate to their academic majors or current jobs, but
this is not a formal requirement. The most important thing is to pursue a research question
that genuinely interests you. Information technology now touches just about every area of
life.  The point of your paper will be to craft a response, however preliminary, to a real
question about some aspect of information technology.
A “real” question is one that has no single, straightforward answer, and that will require
you, in addressing the question, to draw upon and synthesize information from a variety of
sources. Another way of saying this is that you will be addressing a significant issue in
your paper; an issue is any claim or statement that is called into question. A significant

ILR260 Research Project Assignment

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issue is one that might be considered controversial; that is, reasonable arguments may be
advanced for opposing or alternative positions on this issue. While you will not be
presenting an argument for one position or another, it is helpful to keep this in mind while
deciding on and researching your question.
Questions that lend themselves to simple explanatory or “how-to” answers (for example,
“What is Twitter?” or “How can people protect their computers from hackers?”) will not
work for this assignment. Neither will questions that have obvious or commonly known
answers. Think about this way: there should be a worthwhile purpose for taking the time
and effort to research and write about.
Questions that will work for this assignment appear near the end of this document.
Choose one of these for your Research Project. Don’t worry if a classmate selects the
same question. Each of you will inevitably turn up different kinds of sources and produce
very different final projects.
If none of the questions interest you…
There should be at least one question on the list that interests you, or that you can modify
so that the question interests you. But if you’d like, you may propose a question not
included on the list. Make sure the question you are proposing addresses an ethical or
social issue related to information technology. Also make sure it is not overly broad. Ask
yourself:
* Could an entire book potentially be written on this question? If so, the question is too
broad for a short research paper.
* Does the question contain multiple components? If so, select one component to focus on
in your paper. (Hint: If your question includes a comma, it is probably too broad.)
As you develop the project, keep in mind that our focus in ILR 260 is inquiry, not
argumentation. Argumentation is a worthy area of study and is a focus of other courses
you may take at the university. In your ILR 260 research project, however, your primary
goal is to explore your research question with depth and sophistication rather than to
persuade an audience of a particular viewpoint. While you will need to propose some sort
of answer to your question in the final version of your project, that answer may be
tentative. It may, for example, point in the direction of further questions and further
research. It may identify contradictions in your research that are at this time irresolvable.
Again, in writing this paper, focus on exploring, interpreting, and synthesizing ideas rather
than on “defending” a thesis.
Keep in mind, too, that you will carry out your research using published information and
opinions. You should not try to do primary research of your own, such as surveys or

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experiments. This kind of research is specialized, varies from one discipline to the next,
and is beyond the scope of ILR260.
As you progress through each stage of the project, you might find it helpful to keep in mind
that the skills you are practicing have applications well beyond this course, and also
beyond the academy. Whether you are writing a college paper or a workplace report, or
just trying explain something to another person, you will want to be able to connect ideas
in logical ways, to illustrate those ideas with clear explanations and examples, and to
explain the nature of any sources you’ve consulted.
EXAMPLE
For an example of a completed ILR260 Final Research Project written by a past ILR260
student (and shared with the student’s permission), see  https://tinyurl.com/y7ek5zjc
COMPONENTS OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT
1. Project Introduction  (due end of Week 1)
2. Library Research Report  (due end of Week 2)
3. Draft of Research Project  (due end of Week 3)
4. Final draft of Research Project (due last day of class)
FINAL DRAFT SPECIFICATIONS
LENGTH
900-1200 words (not including citation page)
FORMAT
Please use APA citation style. (If you are majoring in English, you may use MLA instead.)
Your final project will not include an abstract (but if you’d like an abstract-writing help
resource for the future, here is one you might want to check out:  How to write a research
abstract )
AUDIENCE
Address your paper to a general audience. Your ILR260 classmates have a wide range of
backgrounds and academic interests; assume this kind of broad readership when you write
your paper. Assume that your readers are not specialists in your topic area. Ideas must be
fully explained and made accessible to a general readership.
SOURCES
Your research should emphasize peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles from the NU
library’s databases. (Be assured that the database search skills you develop will have
applications beyond NU.)  Reference as many sources as needed in order to substantively

ILR260 Research Project Assignment

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explore your research question, but no fewer than 4. For additional guidance, see the
source-selection criteria included in the Week 2 Library Research Report assignment.
The GRADING RUBRIC appears in the final section of this document.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Law and Society
 How does anonymity affect online debate?
 What is the future of military robots?
 Should public libraries filter internet access?
 Is internet shaming a legitimate mode of social criticism?
 How is the dark web challenging law enforcement?
 Is a catastrophic cyber terrorist attack imminent?
 What is the future of the United States Postal Service?
 What is the future of predictive policing?
 What is the future of facial recognition technology?
 Should humans use identity chips?
 How effective is internet mediation compared with face-to-face mediation?
 Why are internet connection speeds in the United States slower than those in many other
developed countries?
 What is the future of cryptocurrencies?
 What is the future of brick-and-mortar retail?
 Do we still need public libraries?
Media and Culture
 How does the digital divide affect low-income communities?
 Should everyone consider internet access to be a basic human right?
 How is online advertising changing?
 Will local journalism survive in the internet age?
 Can competitors challenge Google’s market dominance?
 Can Facebook’s market dominance be challenged?
 Can Amazon’s market dominance be challenged?
 What is the future of television technology?

ILR260 Research Project Assignment

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 What has been the effect of declining traditional media coverage of local issues?
 Do media portrayals of violence desensitize people to real-life violence?

Health and Healthcare
 Can therapists effectively deliver psychotherapy over the internet?
 What motivates people to fake illness online?
 How will sociable robots change caregiving?
 Do internet-based workplace wellness programs lead to improved health?
 How effective are telemedical interventions in the treatment of _______? (choose a focus )
 How effective is virtual reality therapy in the treatment of _______?  (choose a focus–for
example, PTSD, or phobias)
 What is the future of network-based patient-driven medical research?
 How does electronic medical record (EMR) use affect office visits?
 Are electronic medical record systems adequately protected?
 Do electronic medical records improve the quality of patient care?
 How is “big data” changing the management or treatment of _______ ? (choose a focus).
 How does social media use affect school performance?
 Do fitness trackers improve health?

Interpersonal Communication / Relationships
 How does online infidelity affect relationships?
 Is face-to-face communication still necessary for forming bonds with others?
 Do texting and social media lessen our in-person communication abilities?
 What are the social consequences of texting while in the company of others?
 Should we be concerned about people forming emotional attachments to robots?
 What is the future of sex robots?
 How has online dating’s dramatic expansion of choice altered the mate-selection process?

Education and Parenting
 Is the internet affecting the attention span of young people?
 How should school authorities treat “sexting” among teenagers?
 What should be the role of schools in preventing cyberbullying?
 What should be the role of memorization in internet-era education?
 How has internet pornography affected the sexual attitudes and behaviors of adolescents?
 Should parents use surveillance technology to monitor their children?
 Will MOOCs replace traditional higher education?

ILR260 Research Project

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