For your final paper, you’ll tackle the cryptography question of our time: security vs. privacy. Should our government be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance in the interests of national security, even if that means citizens’ privacy is not always respected? This is a question we’ve explored in every offering of this course. Thanks to Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about the National Security Agency, it’s now part of our national dialogue. We have explored this question from many angles this semester. This paper is your opportunity to spend time thinking critically about the question and crafting a well-supported answer.

Actually, the question above is just one way to frame the topic. You’re welcome to respond to that very question, but you’re also welcome to go in some other direction. You might propose something very concrete, perhaps a response to the recent Paris attacks, or you could take a more abstract approach and analyze the rhetoric used in this debate (“security”? “versus”?). You could look broadly at securing the US from terror attacks, or you could shift the focus to a different context—say, surveillance in schools. Your task is to come up with an interesting thesis that addresses some aspect of the security, privacy, and surveillance discussion, then defend your thesis with arguments and evidence.

You’re welcome to use our Diigo group as a source of ideas, examples, and evidence. You’re also welcome to bookmark new sources to the group as you work on your paper. Although you’re not allowed to collaborate on writing your papers, sharing sources via Diigo is approved and encouraged.

Your paper will be graded on the strength and clarity of your arguments, as well as the quality of your sources. See the rubric for details.


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.


You aren’t required to turn in an outline or rough draft of your paper, although if you send me an outline or draft by Monday, December 14th, I’ll give you a little feedback.

Your final paper is due via Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16th.


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.