Assessment 1 – The essay:
You are required to write an essay of not more than 3,000 words, critically discussing the application of ethical theories or approaches to the ethical dilemma in your chosen case study.
Your essay must be submitted via Turnitin by Week 12
See Evision for the exact submission date & submit by 3:00pm on that date.
Weighting: 60 %
In the written assessment students should:
Writing a good ethics essay – Tips
For this assessment, you are required to critically analyse a ‘case-study’ containing an ethical dilemma. Some of your case studies are based on real-life situations. However, for the purpose of your essay, use the case-study as it is presented. This is an abstract exercise with no one right answer, so if during your research you find out what decision was actually made in a particular case, this will not help you in constructing your own argument. If you feel, while working on your essay, that there are facts you would need to know which aren’t included in the case study, make sure that you highlight these in your work. Part of the exercise is for you to be able to recognise what extra information you would need to be able to make a reasoned ethical argument. So if, for example, your chosen case study has not specified the age of the patient, and you think that this is essential for making an ethical judgement, you could write the following:
‘In this kind of situation it would be essential to know the age of the patient because….’
And/or you could make an assumption (see below for more detail about assumptions)
about the patient’s age to support your argument:
‘The age of the patient is a morally important factor here, for the following reasons …. For the purposes of my argument I am assuming him to be 45, and will base my argument on this assumption.’
Many people struggle with spelling, grammar and punctuation, whether or not they are native English speakers. In essays where analytical arguments are important, the good use of English is essential. If we cannot understand what you mean, you won’t do as well as you could have done. Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation very carefully. Read your sentences through and ask yourself if they are clear and make good sense. Make sure you know the meaning of every word you use. If there are some you are not sure of, look them up in the dictionary, or replace them with words you are more familiar with. Essays which are clear and well-written will receive better marks than those which rely on obscure words or jargon.
Reading is essential for writing a good essay, but try to ensure that your essay is not simply an amalgamation of different quotes. References should be used judiciously to support your argument. If you include a quote, ask yourself if it is relevant. If not, get rid of it! You should work out your argument before deciding which quotes to use. An essay which contains many references, but does not make a coherent argument will receive a lower mark than an essay which is well-argued but contains very few references.
In our ethics class we have looked at a number of moral theories. These theories can be useful tools for analysing problems. However, you should not feel obliged to cover all of these theories in your essay. Some may be more relevant than others. If the argument you are making in your essay does not fall neatly into one of the moral
theories we have addressed in class, don’t worry: as long as you argue it well, and show your awareness of counter-arguments, you will get good marks.
The word limit is 3000 words. Stick to it!
Argument and assumptions
The main purpose of the essay is for you to demonstrate your ability to make a moral argument. This is the single most important consideration to bear in mind. It is not about demonstrating knowledge, or having read a library-full of books… these things may help to make a good argument, but they are not the most important factors. A good argument is clear, concise, and takes account of the opposition. Think through the points you want to make, and ask yourself if there are counter-arguments to your position. If so, strengthen your argument by addressing these counter-arguments and saying why you think they are wrong. If you think abortion is wrong, for example, imagine that you are talking to someone who takes the opposite position. Would they agree with your argument? What claims might they make?
The most common mistake people make is to rely on unsupported assumptions in their essays. There is nothing wrong with making assumptions, but you should acknowledge that this is what you are doing, and be aware that this kind of assumption does not help your argument. For example, if your essay title is ‘Is animal testing morally acceptable?’ it is not sufficient to say
1) ‘Animal testing is morally acceptable because animals are less important than human beings.’
This kind of statement does not explore the topic, and would be penalised in an essay. How does the writer know that animals are less important than human beings? There is no evidence or argument to convince the reader. However, she could say:
2) ‘If we accept that animals are less important than human beings, it is possible to argue in favour of animal testing as follows…’
3) ‘I believe that animals are less important than human beings, but for those who don’t agree with this, the following arguments may be relevant…’
In examples 2 and 3, the assumption is still unsupported, but its position in the argument is changed. The writer does not use the assumption to provide an answer to the question, but uses it as a starting point for her argument.
Sometimes unsupported assumptions can be hard to spot:
4) ‘Animals are less important than human beings because they are not capable of reasoning.’
Here, the statement ‘animals are less important than humans’ is supported by the claim that ‘they are not capable of reasoning’. This goes some way towards explaining why the writer thinks animals are less important than human beings. However, another assumption is embedded here: namely, that the capacity for reasoning is morally relevant. To improve her essay, the writer would need to justify the link between reasoning and moral importance.
This could be approached by supporting the claim made above, e.g.:
4) ‘Harris et al argue that the capacity for reason is an essential ingredient for moral worth…’
Or by referring to empirical research:
5) ‘Scientific research demonstrates that the capacity for reasoning is directly linked with the capacity to feel pain …’
Statements 4 and 5 would need to be backed up with references. Be careful about making these kinds of claims. They must be rigorously researched and backed up. Try to make sure that your reference really does support the claim you are making. Note that example 5 contains a further embedded assumption: that is, that pain is connected with moral importance. Again, if the writer wanted to get good marks, she would need to examine the link between pain and moral importance.
Nearly all statements contain embedded assumptions. The challenge when writing an essay is to identify which assumptions you need to support. To do this, it is very helpful to imagine a critical friend looking at your work and asking questions. Your essay must answer those questions.
Remember that a good discursive essay should include an introduction stating what you aim to do in the essay, a main body where the essay task is explored and addressed (developing your argument), and a conclusion where points made in the body are summed up, and your final argument presented. N.B. You may use the first person or
the third person pronoun to write this essay. Either is acceptable.
Use the Harvard referencing style. For guidance on how to cite accurately in the required style please see the information on the library website.Order Now