I. Summary

For this assignment you are asked to write an article for Viterbi Conversations in Ethics (VCE), an online publication run by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Engineering Writing Program. VCE “was conceived at the USC School of Engineering as a way to showcase undergraduate student writing about ethics in the engineering professions and to highlight the important role of ethics in engineering.” Moreover, the Engineering Writing Program “believe[s] that our students must begin to see themselves as professionals within a larger community of thinkers and writers, and this is an opportunity for these students to enter into the larger professional conversation about ethics and to invite comment from other students and professionals” (

II. Real-World Context

Engineers need to be aware of ethics-based issues related to their field—the bit of ethics theory and the research that you’ll have to do for this assignment will not only expose you to some of the issues but also require you to think and write about them in a way that engages engineering students, faculty, and practicing engineers. In other words, your article is meant to be part of a much broader, profession-wide conversation about engineering ethics. Use at-least 4 scholarly sources.

III. Assignment Requirements

Your article should be 1,800 to 2,500 words in length, and the word count should appear at the top of the first page. You should use 12-point font, double-space your text, label and title at least 3 visual aids, and document the use of all sources using the IEEE Citation Style. Finally, be sure to include page #s. Be clear and concise; you will not be rewarded for padding your word count with unnecessary words and sentences.

IV. Topic Guidelines and Requirements

As we will discuss in class, ethics deals with proper professional conduct and with how to “do the right thing” when faced with an ethical dilemma. Doing the right thing, however, can be a difficult task because of the complexity of engineering work and because of all the stakeholders surrounding that work. For instance, engineers have obligations to the general public and to their employers, and those two stakeholders don’t always share values, needs, and desires. As a result, doing the right thing oftentimes means making a decision that minimizes negative impacts. When it comes to questions of design, ethical practices require not only those engineers design a product that accomplishes task X but that they design it in a way that accomplishes task X by the most ethical means—in other words, by minimizing negative impacts.

For your article, you are asked to identify an engineering product or process (current or future) and to discuss it through the lens of engineering ethics. This means that you have broad possibilities, but at all times keep in mind that both the topic and article need to be thoughtful, relevant, and of interest to real engineers.

Since notions of equity—or lack thereof—have been in the news, you might want to consider the following questions:

How might technological advancements close or widen inequities in society? How might technological advancements make people more or less vulnerable? How might the practice of engineering promote or reduce biases? Opportunity? Access? Success? Equality? What are the ethical obligations of engineers to promote equity or to reduce inequity?

Also, as one of my colleagues put it, “The better articles tend to exhibit the following:

  • Deep knowledge of the subject matter
  • Deep thoughtfulness about ethics
  • A clear purpose [thesis]
  • Strong analysis
  • Knowledge and use of ethical codes, theories, and frameworks
  • Familiarity with your discipline’s professional code(s) of ethics
  • Both broad and deep research material appropriate for professional readers
  • Relevance to your audience
  • Value for your audience”