“In this assignment we would like you to explore a controversy about some aspect of the mind and attempt to resolve it.” (I will get into what I want written further down.)
1. “For each of the positions you contrast, you must read and cite at least one position paper arguing for the position, written by an advocate of that position.”
2. You must also discuss the principal empirical evidence (experiments, surveys, field studies, linguistic or anthropological reports) that have been adduced in support of each of the conflicting theories you discuss. That is, you should base your argument as much as possible on empirical findings and logical coherence rather than plausibility arguments, emotional appeal, what most people believe, what you heard on TV, what would be nice, and so on.
3. Need at least 10 sources, however, quality is more important than quantity. Poor references will yield a poor paper. The fundamental issue in citing a source is its quality. Just because someone writes something somewhere that doesn’t make what he or she says true. Scientific journals, and books or edited volumes written by scientists (people typically affiliated with a university or major hospital), are referred for quality control: people who are not the authors but who are in the same field as the authors (“peers”) decide whether the claims are well- supported, whether the experiments were properly done, and so on. You should be citing
only trustworthy sources—not Clyde’s Home Page or a pamphlet that someone once handed you.
4. No REFERENCES FROM THE WEB! You may start your search there, or cite articles that you find on the web which have also been published in an acceptable source, but you may not cite a web-only document.
5. Please avoid obscure, nontechnical, or non-peer-reviewed periodicals. The best references (most reliable information) come from technical or peer-reviewed materials.
6. The two required position paper references would best be review articles. Articles in Time, Newsweek, Life, and so on, do not count as review articles. Articles in Scientific American or in peer-reviewed journals can count as review articles.
7. Begin the article with an Abstract of 100-200 words summarizing its topic and conclusions.
8. APA format. Double spaced. Use footnotes sparingly, and only for digressions, not for citations of literature.
9. Use three levels of headings to divide your paper into sections:
A run-in, boldface, lowercase heading with a period. Note that this sub- subheading runs into the first sentence in the paragraph. Please note that you should not provide a heading for every paragraph in your paper: only those that introduce a series of paragraphs that cohere as a unit, or that distinguish the categories in some systematic listing.
Begin with a brief statement of the position (or positions) you are evaluating. Characterize them as fairly as possible. An advocate for each position should agree with the way you have stated it.
Discuss whether the position makes sense. Is it vague? Incoherent? Meaningless? Untestable? Does it violate the laws of some other science?
Discuss the major arguments and empirical evidence that have been adduced for the first position.
Evaluate any empirical evidence you cite. Do the studies have major flaws? Note: Pointing out a flaw in a study consists of showing how the findings could have come about even if the position is false. It is not good enough to complain about the study or to think of things the investigators could have done better; for example, “There were only n subjects” or “The testing conditions were artificial.”
Do the same for the alternative position you are considering.
Finally, attempt to resolve the issue in light of the evidence and arguments you have reviewed—not on the basis of your taste, gut feeling, emotional reaction, and so on. What would the evidence force a reasonable person to conclude, if anything? Your options are:
– One position is right, the other is wrong. Don’t be afraid to say so if your review convinces you that this is the case.
– They are both right, but in different ways—they are true of different parts of the phenomenon you are discussing, or are true in different ways, or each position could be sharpened or re-stated so that they no longer are alternatives.
– We can’t tell—the positions are too fuzzy, the evidence is not good enough, or both. If you go with this option, see if you can come up with an imaginary experiment that would settle the issue in your mind. If you can’t think of a feasible experiment, propose an unfeasible one just to show that you can put your finger on what would settle the issue in principle (e.g., “I am a dictator and I bring up sixty babies normally and sixty in the dark,” and so on).
In general, strive to be fair to both positions. Your task is not to advocate a position in this paper, as if you were a political candidate or advertising pitchman. Rather, you are listening respectfully to both sides, evaluating the evidence and arguments, and attempting to determine where the truth lies, or at least how much we know about where the truth lies.