In this paper, you will identify and describe one way that cryptography is (or could be) relevant to the digital life of a college student in 2015. You might address one of the ways that cryptography is embedded in the computer systems we already use (e.g. how credit card information is encrypted by websites) or explain how to better protect one’s online privacy by adopting new practices (e.g. sending and receiving encrypted emails).

Your paper will have an expository component, in which you explain cryptographic and/or mathematical processes in ways a fellow student can understand, and an argumentative component, in which you make the case for why a fellow student should care about the topic you’ve chosen. The best papers will be posted to the course blog and shared with the Vanderbilt student community.

Your paper will be graded on the strength and clarity of your arguments as well as the effectiveness of your technical explanations. See the Paper #3 rubric for details. Some of the better papers from the 2014 offering of this class are available on the course blog. (Note that the word count was much higher for the 2014 version of this assignment.)

For topic ideas, see this summary of a 2014 class discussion. See also our Diigo group. For help on identifying reputable and scholarly sources, see this 2014 blog post about sources.


Your paper should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words in length, and it should use American Psychological Association (APA) formatting for citations and references. Citations appear within the text of your paper, references at the end. Both should be properly formatted. See Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, for a useful guide to APA formatting.


A topic and outline is due at the start of class on Friday, November 20th. We’ll workshop your papers in class that day.

Your final paper is due at the start of class on Friday, December 4th, submitted through Blackboard. I’m not planning a revision cycle for this paper, so make sure this version is solid.


Please familiarize yourself with Vanderbilt’s Honor System. I’m encouraging a lot of sharing and collaboration in this course, but your work on your paper assignments should be your own. Please be careful not to plagiarize. The Writing Studio has a great set of resources on working with sources in academic writing. We’ll spend some class time exploring plagiarism and academic integrity more generally.

If your life is falling apart and you are tempted to plagiarize to save time or get a good grade, please see me instead. I would rather grant you an extension than send you before the Honor Council.