Engineering Ethics

Engineering Ethics

Your final paper for this course will be an in-depth analysis of an accident or mistake related to your engineering field. You should imagine your reader to be someone who is not a member of this class, but who has some interest in engineering ethics.  And you should be trying to convince him or her that a serious but avoidable mistake occurred.


Your paper should have the same elements as all in-depth analyses from class and presentations:


  • Briefly give a synopsis of your example (This can be your introduction)
  • Identify all relevant people involved
  • Give all the important engineering facts of the case
  • Give all the important personal decision/managerial/cultural climate/political facts of the case
  • Chose one moral theory (Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, or Virtue Ethics) to assess the example in detail. Explain the theory a bit before applying it to your case.
  • Give two pieces of advice to your classmates for how to avoid this kind of mistake in the future (This can be your conclusion) I am conversant with this topic

The paper should be 4 pages, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. The entire paper should be in paragraph form (the only exception is for a possible utility calculation).

As for topics, you may choose whatever accident or mistake you want for your paper so long it has not been discussed in our classroom. That is, it cannot be something we discussed as a class (check the syllabus), and it cannot be the same topic from your in-class presentation or any of the other in-class presentations from your class (check the presentation groups).  You do not need to have your topic approved by me (although I can certainly give you feedback if you want it).

Punctuation and Grammar counts for 1/3 of a letter grade.  For each punctuation and/or grammatical mistake, I will put a small checkmark in the left-hand margin.  If there are three or more checkmarks on a single page, then you will get 1/3 of a letter grade off for grammar.  I’ll mark this explicitly on your paper by giving you the grade you earned, then saying “1/3 off for grammar,” and then showing you your newly calculated grade.  You will get a checkmark for the following mistakes, among others: misuse of commas, semicolons, colons; subject/verb disagreement; possessive mistakes; misuse of ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’; misuse of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’; misuse of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’; spelling mistakes. 

Appropriate citation is required: If you look at a website for ideas, list the url at the end of your paper under “works referenced.”  If you paraphrase someone else’s ideas in your own words, put the url or the author’s name and article title at the end of the paragraph you’ve paraphrased.  If you cite something directly, be sure to put it in quotation marks, and put the author’s name and article title or the url at the end of the sentence.  Remember that your papers will be checked for originality at


NOTE: You may wish to consult your fellow students, parents, or friends about your assignment.  I encourage you to do so.  However (and this is crucial), any help you get must be acknowledged.  If your mom reads your assignment over to check your grammar, include a footnote or endnote thanking her for this service.  If you discuss the general ideas you have with a friend, write “Thanks to Lisa Kudrow for a helpful discussion” or something of the sort.  If you borrow a specific idea from someone, put in a footnote saying “I got this idea from Mark Improvement” or whoever.  ALSO IMPORTANT: although I’m all in favor of talking about philosophy assignments with others, you are not permitted to actually write together, or to write up shared outlines, or to share written work with one another, or even to memorize a shared answer.  Be sensible here: don’t give a copy of your essay to someone else who “just wants to get an idea” for his own paper, since you will both count as cheating. The minimum likely penalty for cheating is E for the assignment, and possibly expulsion from the university. And that would be painful for both of us!




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