Science and Pseudoscience Response Papers

Some thoughts on writing a response paper:

We will assume that you’ve done the reading, and you should assume that we’ve done the reading.  The purpose of the response paper is for you to react to the material.  It’s not a book report, and you should keep the summarizing to a minimum.  Instead, provide a context, and use the rest of your space to contribute something to the discussion.  Your reactions don’t have to be negative, just be sure that you have something to say. 

A really good paper will make a point and be relevant to the material under consideration.  It will reflect an intellectual effort and some attempt to integrate the content areas with the philosophical position in Longino (or some other position).

Remember, reactions are the amount of material that will fit on a two page, double-spaced, typed document.  They can be handwritten or emailed, but that's still the maximum amount.  Part of the exercise is for you to get right to your point and justify it briefly.  Additional sources are welcome (besides the core texts), but we'd prefer some element of empirical research.  So, if you see something in the newspaper and want to react to it, try to track down the original research.  Or, find some research that supports or refutes the information in the newspaper and discuss that. 
What will get us excited about a response paper: 

•    React based on something else you've learned in the class ("when we discussed x, you said...but this reading said...")
•    React based on something you've learned in another class ("in my abnormal class we discussed schizophrenia, and this topic reminds me of that because...")
•    React to the methodology.  In particular, how does the reading illustrate some of the science issues we will discuss?

What won't get us excited about a reaction paper: 

•    "This article was really easy/hard to read/understand."
•    Two pages of summary followed by "I really liked this article."

Try to average one response paper a week (extra reports can replace lower grades on earlier reports).  If you have no ideas one week, but two good ideas the next week, that’s OK.  If you crank out 10 papers in the last week of the semester, that’s not OK.

Science and Pseudoscience Response Papers
Will Langston
Mary Magada-Ward

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