ILR260 Final Research Project: Explore an ethical or social issue surrounding some aspect of information technology in an analytical research paper.


ASSIGNMENT instructions

ILR260 Final Research Project:

Explore an ethical or social issue surrounding some aspect of information technology in an analytical research paper.


Last day of the course.


You will develop your Research Project in a series of clearly defined, manageable steps over the duration of the course.

One of our course objectives in ILR260 is to “explore ethical and social issues surrounding information technology,” and your research project—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 research project; an issue is any claim or statement that is called into question. A significant 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 it this way: there should be a worthwhile purpose for taking the time and effort to research and write about it.

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 it does interest 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 ILR260 is inquiry, rather than argumentation. Argumentation is a worthy area of study and is a focus of other courses you may take at the university. In your ILR260 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 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 simply explaining 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.


Please see the Sample Annotated Paper in APA Style for an example of correct APA formatting of an academic research paper. [Note: This APA-annotated sample paper is not an example of a research project completed in ILR260; however, there is such a sample student paper available in Module 3 Course Resources.]


1.   Final Research Project Introduction  (due end of Module 1)

2.   Library Research Report  (due end of Module 2)

3.   Rough Draft of Research Project  (due end of Module 3)

4.   Final Research Project (due end of Module 4)


900-1200 words (not including title page and references list)

Please use APA Style. (If you are majoring in English, you may use MLA instead.) Your final project will not include an abstract (but if you would like help with how to write an abstract for future reference, please see the document, “How to Write a Research Abstract” in the Library Research Guide for Module 1).

AUDIENCEAddress 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 research project. Assume that your readers are not specialists in your topic area. Ideas must be fully explained and made accessible to a general readership.

SOURCESYour 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 journals or articles as needed in order to substantively explore your research question, but no fewer than 4. For additional guidance, see the source-selection criteria included in the Module 2 Library Research Report assignment.

A table of the grading criteria appears in the final section of this document; the Grading Rubric for the Final Research Project that will be used to evaluate your work is located in Module 1 and Module 4 Course Resources.



ILR260 RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Topic Selection List

Law and Society

1.    Do people still need public libraries?

2.    What is the future of the United States Postal Service?

3.    What is the future of predictive policing?

4.    How is the dark web challenging law enforcement?

5.    What is the future of military robots?

6.    What are the most significant repercussions of a possible nationwide cyber-terrorist attack?

7.    What is the future of facial recognition technology?

8.    Should humans use identity chips?

9.    What is the future of cryptocurrencies?

Media and Culture

10. Can competitors challenge Big Tech’s market dominance (Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft)?

11. Does video-game violence, or media portrayals of violence in general, desensitize people to real-life violence?

Health and Healthcare

12. Can therapists effectively deliver psychotherapy over the internet?

13. How will sociable robots change caregiving?

14. How effective is virtual reality therapy in the treatment of _______?  (choose a focus–for example, PTSD or phobias)

15. How do electronic medical records affect the quality of patient care?

16. How does social media use affect school performance?

17. Do fitness trackers improve health?

Interpersonal Communication / Relationships

18. How does online infidelity affect relationships?

19. Is face-to-face communication still necessary for forming bonds with others?

20. Does texting or using social media lessen our in-person communication abilities?

21. Should we be concerned about people forming emotional attachments to robots?

Education and Parenting

22. How does extensive internet use affect the lives of young people?

23. What should be the role of schools in preventing cyberbullying?

24. Does internet pornography affect the sexual attitudes and behaviors of adolescents?

25. Should parents use surveillance technology to monitor their children?

26. Will online learning ever replace traditional models of education?


27. How will/does [identify specific information technology] change [identify specific occupation]?

28. Should telecommuting become the norm for people with desk jobs?

29. Should employers use social media profiles in hiring decisions?

The Ethics of Technology and Information Media

30. Considering the abuse of manual labor in some foreign markets, at whose expense does this technology empower me?

31. How does the use of technology affect our treatment of others in the online space?

32. Does technology automate or outsource labor or responsibilities that are better served by the “human touch”?

33. What possibilities for action does technology open up (or foreclose)? Is it good that these actions are now possible (or no longer possible?)

34. How does the use of technology shape my vision of a good life?

35. Does using technology require people to think more critically?



Grading Rubric

[Note: Points will be deducted for deviations from assignment requirements/specifications. Greater deviations will result in greater deductions. Per course policy, scores of 50% and higher are reserved for submissions that attempt to meet assignment requirements/specifications. Rubric starts on next page…] 







Focus is clear, specific, and sustained.

Focus is clear and sustained focus.

Focus is basically clear; some content may
deviate from stated focus.

Focus is unclear and/or unsustained.

Lacks focus; lacks coherence.

Approach is sophisticated.

Approach is appropriate to college-level
research writing and to the ILR260 project specifically.

Approach is somewhat simplistic and/or
somewhat too broad.

Approach is overly simplistic and/or overly

Approach is inappropriate to college-level
writing and/or the assignment

Source selection meets assignment requirements; sources are strong and
skillfully chosen for direct relevance and for the substance and complexity
they bring to the inquiry.

Source selection meets assignment requirements;
sources are strong and relevant to the inquiry.

Sources meet assignment requirements. A
small percentage of the sources may exhibit problems such as insufficient
currency, relevancy, or depth.

Source selection suggests attempt to meet
assignment requirements, but a significant percentage of sources exhibit
problems such as insufficient currency, relevancy, or depth.

Sources mostly do not meet assignment
requirements. Many source-selection problems.

Source identification (Who?) is precise and smoothly handled.

Source identification (Who?) is competently

Source identification (Who?) may be
imprecise or awkward in places.

Source identification (Who?) is imprecise
or awkward, and occasionally missing.

Source identification (Who?) is mostly
missing, or is mostly incorrect.

Explanation of source content (What? How? So What?) is complete,
accurate, and concise.

Explanation of source content (What? How?
So What?) is complete and accurate.

Explanation of source content (What? How?
So What?) is sufficiently well-developed and sufficiently accurate.

Some source content (What? How? So What?) is
misrepresented or is not sufficiently well-explained.

Most source content (What? How? So What?)
is misrepresented or is not sufficiently well-explained.

Strong source integration; research project demonstrates sophisticated
sense of when to use a direct quote versus a paraphrase versus a summary, and
of how to incorporate source material into sentences and paragraphs.

Good source integration; research project
demonstrates a good understanding overall of when to use a direct quote
versus a paraphrase versus a summary, and of how to incorporate source
material into sentences and paragraphs.

Uneven source integration. For example,
occasional excess use of direct quoting, or incorporation of sources in ways
that are occasionally unclear or that make the material difficult to

Poor source integration. Overall, research
project demonstrates an inadequate understanding of when to use a direct
quote versus a paraphrase versus a summary, and of how to incorporate source
material into sentences and paragraphs.

Sources are not incorporated effectively in
most or all of the research project.

Strong synthesis; research project makes a contribution to knowledge.

Good synthesis of ideas.

Synthesis is present, but underdeveloped,
or may take form of an overly simplistic structure (such as a pros-and-cons

Minimal synthesis.

Compiles rather than synthesizes.

Strong organization.

Good organization.

Some problems with organization.

Poor organization.

Minimal organization.

Clear and well-crafted transitions.

Clear transitions.

Some transitions are unclear, or

Most transitions are unclear, or

Weak or lacking transitions throughout.

Strong conclusion.

Good conclusion.

Some problems with the conclusion (for
example, overly abrupt, or not well-aligned with the body of the project).

Significant problems with the conclusion.

Inadequate conclusion.

Confidence in use of Standard English, language reflects a practiced
and/or refined understanding of syntax and usage.

Conveys a good understanding of Standard
English; the writer is clear in his/her attempt to articulate main points,
but may demonstrate moments of “flat” or unrefined language.

Presence of sentence-level errors and
awkwardness of expression, but not of such frequency and severity as to
significantly impede understanding.

Awkward expression and sentence-level
errors occur frequently, often impeding understanding.

Awkward expression and sentence-level
errors occur throughout the research project and significantly impede

Adheres to APA Style (MLA for arts/humanities majors).

Adheres to  APA Style (MLA for arts/humanities majors);
occasional citation errors are minor and at level of presentation. The
errors would not prevent a reader from being able to connect in-text and references
list, or from being able to independently track down the references; they
would be unlikely to detract from the author’s credibility.

Evidence of attempt to adhere to APA Style
(MLA for arts/humanities majors), but with some errors in presentation and
content that might detract from the author’s credibility or prevent readers
from being able to understand or locate sources.

Insufficient adherence to  APA Style (MLA for arts/humanities majors);
significant/communication-impeding errors in presentation and content

Major deviations from APA or MLA Style.