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Bioethics Research Paper Guidelines
Dr. Dennis Sullivan

Objectives for Bioethics research papers:

  • To apply, compare, and contrast different ethical theories in regard to a given issue.
  • To strengthen your ability to reach an ethical position based on sound reasoning and critical thinking.

Topic: Your instructor will assign the overall topic for each paper. Your approach to the topic may vary.


1. All papers must be typed and double-spaced.

2. There must be a minimum of three(3) full pages, not counting title page and references.

3. Papers should NOT exceed four (4) pages, not counting title page and references.

4. The title page should include the title, student name, and course number (BIO 4710).


1. Please use the APA format for in-text citations and a bibliography. If you do not already have it, you should obtain an APA guide from the Bookstore (one example is listed in the syllabus), or use a Web site on APA from the Internet (some examples are listed on this site).

2. Each term paper should have a minimum of four (4) references, not counting the Bible.

3. You may use as many references as you wish. Most of your references will come from the required and optional reading for the course, but you may use your own (must be scholarly references).

4. Feel free to use more popular-level references (Newsweek, People, etc.) to add background to your papers, as long as at least four come from more scholarly sources.

5. References may include books, journal articles, or online sources. Unlike strictly scientific writing, we will not observe the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” sources.

Grading Criteria

I will use the following criteria to grade each paper:

  1. 40% -- Organization, flow, content
    • Is there a logical development of concepts?
    • Is the tone appropriate to the subject?
    • Does the paper read easily, and flow from one idea to the next?
  2. 40% -- Critical thinking, logic, and appropriate use of references
    • Do you give evidence that you really understand the topic?
    • Did you support your assertions with references?
    • Are your conclusions well reasoned and defensible? By the way, this does NOT necessarily mean that your instructor agrees with you, just that you have used sound reasoning.
  3. 20% -- Grammar and syntax
    • At the very least, I will expect spelling to be correct (hint: use a spell-checker, and look up technical terms).
    • Punctuation and grammar should be correct.
    • Keep your sentences short, but vary the length (improves readability). Paragraphs should have one main idea.
    • You should use the correct format (APA) for references.

Some comments on grammar and style:

  1. Try to avoid use of the passive voice.
    • A certain amount of passive voice is unavoidable.
    • However, extensive use of passive voice hurts the readability and flow of most writing.
    • Examples:
      • This theory was first introduced in 1948 by Dr. Smith (passive).
      • Dr. Smith first introduced this theory in 1948 (active – better).
  2. You may use the third person (impersonal style) or the first person (your opinion, based on reasoning). Avoid use of the second person (I use second person in this writing guide, which is appropriate here).
  3. Your paper is not just a survey of an issue or controversy (although it may include this). You must reach a conclusion as to your own position, and defend it.
  4. If you use abbreviations, always define them first.
  5. Use new paragraphs when you change the subject.
    • Be sure to have a good topic sentence for each paragraph.
    • Multiple short paragraphs are preferable to one long one.
  6. Make sure your sentences are complete – PROOFREAD your paper (have a friend or roommate help)!
  7. Always give a reference for any factual information. Short direct quotes are appropriate. The citation should include the page number ONLY if a direct quotation is used. Avoid excessive use of direct quotes (the paper should represent your own work, primarily in your own words).

Policy on Plagiarism

  1. Plagiarism is "presenting someone else's work, including the work of other students, as one's own" (source).
  2. For purposes of this class, this includes:
    • purchasing papers from website "paper mills"
    • using another student's work, and submitting it for a class assignment
    • using one's own paper previously written for another class (unless it is an expansion of a previously-written idea, with explicit instructor approval)
    • significant usage of published work without attribution of the source
  3. For purposes of this class, this does not include:
    • group projects
    • casual "good faith" editing of one another's papers (actually, I would encourage this!)
    • casual "good faith" discusion of paper ideas with other students
    • simple attribution errors, due to lack of familarity with APA format or with research writing in general
  4. Plagiarism will result in a grade of zero on that project, and a report to the student's academic dean (you have been warned).

CedarEthics Online

  1. Some truly outstanding papers may be published in our online bioethics journal (CedarEthics Online).
  2. This is by invitation only, and would involve editorial review.
  3. I hope this may give you some incentive to “aim high” in your writing efforts, and may foster ongoing academic work in bioethics.

May the Lord bless you as you work on your papers. I am available to help!

Dr. Sullivan


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Page Last Updated 08/19/2011