Science, Technology & Society

SC/NATS 1760

Science, Technology & Society


Essay 2

Paper copies: no electronic copies accepted unless arranged in advance with the Professor(s).

Value: 20% of course grade

Word length: 2250 words

Format: Essay format (introduction, essay body, conclusion, bibliography)

ï 1.5 or 2.0 spaced
ï Title page with interesting title + your details + class details
ï Consistent referencing (the format, APA/MLA/Chicago, is less important than the
fact that it is consistent)
ï Thesis statement in your first paragraph (your introduction)

Requirements if essay is to be marked:

ï Proof of sourcing: attach a copy of your two primary sources to your essay. Try to
save paper though – print double sided, two or four-up. We ask you to do this for two
reasons. First, to demonstrate the essay is your work; second, to show you that you
have done enough research for this essay. That is – when you have found two quality
primary sources, you can stop and not worry that you need to do more.

Late penalty: 25% immediately if not handed in on 18 March at beginning of class, followed by
10% per day. No essays accepted after 14 days. Drop Box for Late Essays outside 218 Bethune.



STEP 1) Choose one of the main class topic modules: energy, climate change, nuclear power,
vaccinations, genetics and genetic engineering. Consult the course kit for ideas. You can
write about the topic you did for the first essay, or choose a different topic.

STEP 2) Find two primary sources dealing with a controversy about your chosen topic. As with
Essay 1, a primary source is something that takes a stand and/or side in the controversy. But
unlike Essay 1, your two sources MUST oppose one another; take opposing stances, occupy
different sides. The more specific the controversy, the better your essay will probably be.
Ideally your sources will have been published in a peer-reviewed journal or book, though
sources appearing on the professional webpages of organized advocacy groups are also
acceptable. In either case, the sources should contain references and set out an argument. Do
NOT use newspaper (online or print), Wikipedia, or encyclopedia sources, and nothing that
looks like a blog. You are University students; demonstrate good research practices.

o For example, the primary source written by ìSmithî says that GMO ìGolden
riceî is wonderful for feeding the poor in developing countries; the other
primary source written by ìKhanî says that ìGolden riceî is really terrible at
feeding the poor and will lead to problems, etc. etc.

ï You may use a secondary source to learn more about the issues, to get your research
or thinking going, or because it contains references to primary sources. If you use a
secondary source for such purposes, use a peer reviewed one – this means the source
is filtered by someone in the know and assures you the piece is reputable.

STEP 3) To figure out the arguments of your two primary sources, make notes: summarize the
main claims of each source; outline the sourceís thesis and the evidence used to support that
thesis; ask how and why the sources differ; record quotes & page numbers.

STEP 4) Are the primary sourcesí arguments closer to Beck, or to Douglas, on the question of
risk? To answer this question, start by re-reading the sources again, looking for points that
take up the issue of risk, especially the chapter by Matthew David (Chapter 17). What is the
ìhuman intervention in natureî at issue, and what are its perceived or possible
ìconsequencesî? Is the ìrisk consciousnessî you see in the sources caused by ìawareness of
self-generated ecological riskî plus ìsocial insecurityî, or just ìsocial insecurityî? Is the
solution that each source proposes to this risky situation closer to sub-politics (greater public
involvement and a push for reflexivity about and by experts), or that we just need to re-
establish trust in experts?

ï Answering Step 4 will be easier if ask the proper research questions:
o Step 4a) Take notes on your sources, thinking like Ulrich Beck on risk. See the
Matthew David article, Chapter 17, where Beck and Douglas are compared with
regard to risk. Is your sourceís argument about risk – what it is, how it arises, and
what to do about it – similar to Beckís? (In your notes, do it properly – write down
exact quotes and page numbers).
o Step 4b) Then switch perspectives, reading your sources by thinking like Mary
Douglas on risk. Use the Matthew David chapter (Chapter 17), plus the Douglas et al
chapter (Chapter 14). Is your sourceís argument about risk similar to Douglasís (i.e.
the grid/group discussion)?

STEP 5) Are the primary sourcesí arguments closer to Kleinman, or to Collins & Evans, on how
to resolve the tension between expertise and democracy? Reread the sources by looking for
points on who should get involved in the issue, and how decisions ought to be taken about
the issue.

ï Answering Step 5 will be easier if ask the proper research questions:
o Step 5a) Take notes, reading your sources from the perspective of C & E on expertise
and democracy (Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 29), focusing on their three types of experts,
their periodic table of expertise, and their two phases of a controversy. Think: when
each of your two primary sources suggests who should get involved in the
controversy, what type of experts are they talking about (Non, Interactional,
Contributory)? Are your sources suggesting specific political and technical phases?
o Step 5b) Take notes, reading your sources from the perspective of Kleinman on lay
publics (Chapter 1). Think: who is the lay public in this controversy? Does either
source suggest that lay publics might actually help know the technical issues better?
Does either one suggest that lay publics ought to be involved in political decision-

STEP 6) Formulate a thesis, in a two-step process:

ï First come up with a series of general thesis statements that read like answers to the
questions specified in Step 4 and Step 5. Call this your provisional thesis-idea (even
though it is a set of sentences). It may not be a single ìgolden sentenceî, but may take the
form of a few sentences capturing the gist of your thinking about those Step 4 and Step 5
questions. Many of these sentences will form the backbone of the structure of your
paragraphs 3, 4, 5 and 6 (see below).
ï Second, once you have provisional thesis-idea, in the form of a set of general thesis-like
statements, polish it by making it a more specific and precise thesis. This thesis will
probably not be a golden sentence: instead it will take the form of a series of sentences
that answer the two questions articulated below. The thesis appearing in your final essay
will be more refined and precise (and shorter) than what you first come up with.
o Remember the first order and second order distinction? We DONíT want your
thesis to take a side in the debate (a first order thesis), but a thesis that analytically
answers the Step 4 and Step 5 questions (a second order thesis).

Confused? To put it another way, the essay is answering two questions.

Question 1 is from step 4 above on risk: which side is each primary source closer to? Is
each one closer to how Beck understands it, or how Douglas understands it? Why?

o For example, you might say that ìwhile Smith is closer to Douglas, seeing fears
about the risk of genetically modified golden rice being rooted in social
insecurity, Khan’s position is closer to Beck’s, because he sees the risks of golden
rice as being real.î

Question 2 is from step 5 above, on the tension between expertise versus democracy. It
can be broken down into several smaller queries.

o a) what are the main types of experts each source thinks should be involved in this
controversy (use Collins and Evansí classification here).
o b) what are the way(s) in which the issues are ìframedî (that is – are technical or
political views of what is at stake given equal weight or different weight?)
o c) are your sourceís claims about who should get involved and how decisions
ought to be taken closer to the recommendations of Kleinman, or to Collins &
o This section will take the form of a series of short answers to these
questions. This will turn into part of your thesis.
o For instance, you might say ìIn considering the controversy over
golden rice, I will show that both Smith and Khan call for contributory
experts in this issue – specifically, chemists. Meanwhile, while Smith
frames the issue as one of technical understandings about genetically
modified food, Khan frames it as one of ethical understandings. And
where Smith is closer to Collins & Evans in arguing that expert
knowledge is relevant to why golden rice is valuable, Khan is more
like Kleinman in calling for greater public involvement in this issue.î

ï NOTE: don’t just promise to ìexplore the issueî. Make sure that you have a thesis,
but that you are not choosing sides on the merits of the issue (that would be a first
order thesis). Instead, you are making an argument concerning the arguments of the
two sources – this is why we call it a ìsecond orderî thesis.

STEP 7) Take a day off if you can.

STEP 8) Sit down and lay out the structure of the essay. Use the following, very specific,
structure (you may end up with more than eight paragraphs; use this structure as a guide):

Paragraph 1: Thesis

Paragraph 2: Summaries of the two sourcesí main claims: be succinct, to the point.

. Be precise, by referring to each source by the author’s surname – we do not want you
to vaguely say ìone sources says.î
. A good way to think of paragraph two is that it should contain a nicely succinct
summary of the main claims of your sources. You can think of paragraph two as
summarizing your sourceís claims. Now you know that your other paragraphs should
not be summary.

Paragraph 3: Answer Question 1 from Step 6. Talk about risk as it is discussed in your

Paragraph 4: Continue to answer Question 1 from Step 6. Talk about risk, as it is discussed
in your sources.

. You get to decide on your strategy in this bit: should each paragraph take up one
source and discuss how and why it is closer to Beck or Douglas? Or should it have
an overall argument – illustrated by some main claims – which are spread over two
paragraphs? You decide. This is where your skill as a writer comes in, where your
purposes matter. We are grading you on how you chose to proceed and whether you
made a well-argued claim in an understandable fashion.

Paragraph 5: Answer Question 2 from Step 6. We suggest you cover the mini-questions
concerning types of experts and framing in paragraph 5.

Paragraph 6: Continue to answer Question 2 from Step 6. We suggest you cover the mini-
question about whether your sourceís claims, about who should get involved and how
decisions ought to be taken, are closer to the recommendations of Collins & Evans or to

Paragraph 7 and 8: We know you have been just dying to tell us your personal view on the
topic you chose to discuss, as well as relate some other insights you have about science,
technology and medicine in our modern world. We stopped you writing an essay on
those things because it would not have been ëanalytic enoughí and would not have
allowed us to test your understanding of key course concepts. But now you have free
reign – tell us your personal view.

Think of paragraph 7 and 8 as your conclusion. A good conclusion to an essay typically
does two things. It very briefly states what you believe you have proved, and then offers
some insights that usually go beyond the scope of what you said in your introduction you
would prove. That is, you had a thesis and you said you would prove it. But we often
have insights about something that maybe cannot be proved just yet or the evidence that
it would take to prove them would break the bounds of word length. But we want to
articulate those insights, to show we are thinking about things. Bad essays have insights
for a thesis that never actually get proved, leaving the essay a case of ìhand wavingî.

Mediocre essays have conclusions that just repeat what the introduction says. Good
essays have a thesis the writer provided evidence for, and roll out additional insights in
the conclusion to cap off the essay in an interesting way – icing on the cake.

Thus, in one or two paragraphs of your conclusion, give us your personal opinion on the
topic, depending upon your word count and what you want to say.

o You might state your own stake in or view about the topic. You might discuss the
way the topic you chose, or some aspect of it, is actually illustrative of broader
issues. You might do both.
o You might also consider something we would be interested in hearing, such as those
two things just mentioned, plus how your thoughts on this issue changed due to your
research and reflection. What were they before and what are they now, and why?
Can you tie these reflections in with other specific topics discussed in the course?
Was there something in the course that led you to approach the topic you chose in a
way different than you might have, having not taken the course? And so on.

STEP 9) Polish the essay by rewriting the whole thing. This sounds excessive, but to re-write is
to re-think, and can only make your work better. As you write, ask yourself some basic
questions: Is your thesis statement sound? Are your claims backed up by evidence? Have
you fully understood what your primary sources are saying? Do you understand what Beck,
Douglas, Collins & Evans, and Kleinman are saying? Are you familiar with this step-by-step
guide and does your essay ëreadí like you followed it?

STEP 10) Further polish the essay by proof-reading. Look for grammatical errors, spelling
mistakes), and other things that might mar your argument.

STEP 11) Come up with an interesting title that is as suggestive as you can make it about the
nature of your argument. Make sure your title page contains your name, student ID number,
and the course details (NATS 1760 Essay 2).

STEP 12) Take another break. Wait a day or two and work on other things. Your subconscious
mind will be working in the background, thinking about this material.

STEP 13) Go back and proof-read a second time. Having a friend look it over might be useful.
Look back over this entire sheet – is there anything you forgot to do?

See Page 6 for some final hints about what your marker is going to be thinking . . .

Here are some of the questions your marker will be asking: does your paper….

ï …choose primary sources and have them attached (Good). Or not? (Bad, though possibly
also downright Silly).
ï …contain a thesis in the first paragraph (the introduction)? (Good). Or is it in the
conclusion, or buried in some obscure paragraph, or non-existent? (Bad).
ï …have a clear argument? (Good). Or does it have a vague, hard to find, or non-existent
argument? (Bad).
ï …get the reader involved quickly in its argument? (Good). Or does it wander around at
the start? (Bad).
ï … show youíve thought about this (Good) or does it just regurgitate material without
showing youíve thought about it (Bad)?
ï …show youíre using Beck, Douglas, Kleinman, and Collins & Evans, to understand and
situate the argument of the primary sources? (Good). Or does it look like a straight
summary of the primary sources? (Extremely Bad).
ï …show that youíve conducted enough research for this topic (Good) or done a bare
minimum of internet-searching (Bad)?
ï …have paragraphs that each contribute an important point (Good), or does it repeat itself
ï …contain clear and polished language, with few or no grammar or punctuation errors
(Good) or is it poorly written and have lots of grammar and punctuation errors (Bad)?

And finally:

ï Are you confident your marker will interpret the essay as structured around answering the
two questions set out in Step 6 (Good)? Or are you not confident of such (Bad)? Or do
you think you are such a prize-winning con-artist that your marker will not realize you
never engaged with the questions set for the essay (Extremely Bad; they will)?


PROVISIONAL Essay 1 marking criteria, NATS 1760. Circled / highlighted if this applied
Administrative stuff:
• On time

• Academic Integrity document attached
• 1750 words
• Primary sources attached
• Has title page, with interesting title
• Bibliography with all cited sources listed • Late by ____________ days: thus
________ penalty

• Well under or over 1750 words
• Primary sources not attached
• No title page / dull title
No bibliography, or one that is missing sources cited in the essay.

Argument / Thesis
• Argument:
• Exists
• Is clear
• Is easy to find and gets to the point fast (in the first paragraph)
• Gets reader involved (says why this matters) • Argument:
• Does not exist
• Is too vague or obscure (wanders around at start, "From the beginning of time…."
• Is hard to find
• Is simplistic / a bit simplistic (use of straw man)
Use of sources / research
• Shows an understanding of the arguments made by Kleinman and by Collins&Evans
• Each para & section contributes important point
• Shows reflection, skepticism, willingness to think critically • Simply summarizes primary sources’ arguments.
• Does not show an understanding of the secondary sources.
• Paragraphs are not used effectively.
• Points are repeated unnecessarily
• Does not show reflection, skepticism, willingness to think critically
Quality of research / evidence
• Demonstrates enough research done for topic / sources appropriate for topic.
• Shows care was taken when choosing sources
• Uses citations effectively.
• Uses quotations effectively.
• Not enough research done, or used inappropriate sources for topic
• Tends to regurgitate rather than judiciously use evidence.
• Uses too many quotations at the cost of student’s own interpretation of evidence
• Does not use citations effectively.
Writing, mechanics
• Language clear, polished; few or no grammar and punctuation errors
• Language is unclear and unpolished
• Language has quite a few grammar and punctuation errors
• Proof reading is inadequate
Fulfils main requirement
• Essay discusses whether each primary source is closer to what K recommends or what C&E recommends. (See Step 3) • Essay does not fulfil main essay requirement

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