Environmental Ethics ~ Critical Essay Guidelines


In this assignment you will write a 1,500-2,000 word critical ethical analysis of an environment-related issue. 


In order to ensure your success with the assignment there are mandatory steps in the development of the essay:


1)    11 October or preferably, earlier: submit prospective title, abstract, and initial sources.  MANDATORY Email to course teaching assistant (or faculty if no TA) this title and a 100-200 word abstract that states what the issue is and, if you think you are ready, explains the type of argument you expect to make.  Additionally, you will provide a list of at least five scholarly sources (not already assigned in class) that you will read and analyze that are pertinent to your chosen issue. By scholarly sources I mean university press books and articles in scholarly journals.Some such journal articles can be found online but generally speaking, this will require library literature searches.  Wikipedia and other internet sources are good for providing leads and for background, but for this assignment, you will need to draw on peer reviewed (high quality) sources.

Your professors will review and must sign off on your plans.  To help you get started brainstorming, see list of possible critical essay topics.


2)    20 November: Last chance to present to your instructors a summary of the arguments in the above-mentioned sources.  MANDITORY. These summaries may be in outline or narrative form.  Like the weekly reading assignments, you should address these sorts of questions:

    What are the central argument(s)?

    How do the author(s) build their argument(s)?

    What evidence do they cite?

    What do the authors think is at stake? 

    With whom are the authors in contention and why?

Your professors must sign off on this part of your assignment.


3)   23 November: last chance to turn in a draft of your paper for evaluation and suggestions. OPTIONAL. These should be emailed to Professor Taylor.


4)    30 November: Critical Essay is due.  With it you must turn in your subject statement (#1, above) and your article summaries (#2, above), which have the signatures of one or more of the course professors on them, showing this part of the project has been completed.  The penalty for not having done either of the first two steps is 10 points (each), or an entire grade.


When you list scholarly sources, including in your final paper’s reference page, you can use any standard referencing style, including MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago (shorthand for the publication standard Chicago Manual of Style, which has forms close to MLA and close to the ‘author/date’ style of the APA). One must be very careful to consistently follow the format you choose. Suggestion: put the citation in the text, using the simple, author date style, like this: (Taylor 2010: 5). With this example, the author’s last name is followed by the date, a colon (or comma), then the page number(s), which is needed if the citation is for a direct quote. With this style, there are few if any footnotes or endnotes, and these are primarily for discursive purposes (elaborating points in the text), although they may include citations, as well as commentary. With this approach, and what is available at the convenient Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide, you will have most if not everything you need to know to properly reference your paper. But one more thing: to save paper, make your papers single spaced and 12 pitch font, even if some style guide asks for double spaced text or a larger font (type character size).

Do not confuse the search engine names (Academic Source Premier, Business Search Premier, EBSCO) with article, journal, book titles. Whatever citation format you chose, your complete reference must include titles for the article and source (journal, book, magazine, newspaper, etc.), and page numbers for the entire article. Journal articles must also include volume numbers (and usually issue numbers also). Book titles must also include the publisher name and its location (City/State, sometimes Country if this is not obvious). Sources are italicized in most citation methods and articles are usually in quotes. You may include a URL if ths source is online, but this is not essential for sources traditional, printed sources.

Non-scholarly sources, such as magazines and newspapers and websites may be cited but the do not count as your required scholarly sources. With web sources, in text or a note, you should generally explain who the author(s) are because this helps readers to evaluate their credibility.

Summary: with journal articles and book chapters (and articles in magazines & newspapers) cite the author, article title, journal/magazine/newspaper title (usually in italics) (including volume and number if any), publication date, and pages. It is unnecessary to cite the search service but you may provide the URL (world wide web address). If a source is only found on the web, give the title, name of the website, URL, and date accessed (e.g., “accessed xx June 20xx”). Finally, do not fail to consult Bron Taylor's writing well guide, and perhaps as well, the other one at the bottom of your online syllabus.