Final paper

Assignment devised by Jean-François Blanchette.

Due Wednesday, March 18, by 11:59pm. Submit via CCLE as a single PDF.

1. Substance

Because of the rapid pace of evolution of information technologies, it is important to identify ways in which you can keep your skills fresh. This course will help you to identify, access and use resources (e.g., trade press, research journals and conferences, field experiences, etc.) for keeping up-to-date with the field of information technology, through writing a 4-page policy brief (Examples are available here.)

A policy brief is one of the primary sources of information for decision-makers such as politicians and business leaders. It is a short, yet comprehensive description of a certain policy challenge, event or phenomenon, about which the reader must make a decision or take a position on. For that reason, policy briefs are highly synthetic and concise, using language and graphical conventions in a manner that is easy to understand and gets the point across quickly.

In politics, policy briefs often include recommendations on which policies to adopt. The policy briefs in this course are NOT to include this kind of advice. Rather, your task is to describe your chosen topic in a way that will let the reader decide a course of action based on the information you provide. This means that you are to approach your subject in an objective and balanced manner, and argue for both the qualities and the disadvantages of the technology you have chosen to write about.

The brief will be addressed to campus leaders, e.g., members of the UCLA Information Technology Planning Board, or University Librarian Virginia Steele, or Faculty Senate Chair Joseph Bristow, regarding technologies that might be adopted on campus or, more broadly, have an impact on the future of higher education, or on the university as a place where student, staff, and faculty spend considerable time. Briefs must focus on one of the technologies listed below (examples):

  1. E-readers (e.g., Amazon Kindle; Barnes and Noble’s Nook)
  2. Word processing software (e.g., Google Docs; Microsoft Word; LibreOffice)
  3. Mapping services (e.g., GoogleMaps; Apple Maps; OpenStreetMap)
  4. Facebook
  5. Twitter
  6. Snapchat
  7. Instagram
  8. YouTube
  9. Cloud storage services (e.g., Box, iCloud; Dropbox)
  10. Activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit; Nike+ FuelBand)
  11. Smartwatches (e.g., Apple Watch, Samsung GEAR)
  12. Email clients (e.g.,; Gmail)
  13. Video chat (e.g., Skype; FaceTime; Zoom)
  14. Virtual Reality (e.g., Oculus Rift, Samsung GEAR VR, PlayStation VR)
  15. Live video sharing (e.g., Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live
  16. Peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g., BitTorrent; eD2k)
  17. Digital media players (e.g., AppleTV; Chromecast; Roku; Amazon Fire Stick )
  18. Bibliographic management software (e.g., Zotero; EndNote)
  19. Content management software (e.g., WordPress; Drupal; Joomla)
  20. Collection management (e.g., ArchiveSpace; Archivematica)
  21. Library management system (e.g., OCLC Amlib; Evergreen; ExLibris Alma)
  22. Digital collection management (e.g., OCLC CONTENTdm; ExLibris Rosetta )
  23. Digital personal assistants (e.g., Siri; Cortana; Alexa; Google Assistant)
  24. Citation and indexing services (e.g., Google Scholar; Web of Science; PubMed; Scopus)
  25. Web browsers (e.g., Safari; Chrome; Opera; Firefox)
  26. Search engines (e.g., Google; Bing; Baidu; DuckDuckGo)
  27. Music streaming services (e.g., Spotify; Apple Music; Google Play)
  28. GPS navigation software (e.g., Waze, Google Maps)
  29. Messaging and VoIP apps (e.g., WhatsApp, GoogleHangout, WeChat)
  30. Online dating (e.g., Tinder, OK Cupid, Match)

Each week, you will be asked to apply the concepts covered in class to your chosen topic, in the form of a 1000-word write-up. In this way, by the end of the semester, you will have already gathered much of the material relevant to your policy brief. However, the concision of policy briefs make them a challenging genre to master: because every sentence must do meaningful work, they require a great deal of synthesis and perfectly clear writing.

Submit your choice of topic along with a one page justification of your interest on week two.

2. Form

The brief should be 2000 words long (+/-100 words) on 4 pages, with one additional page for citations. Style for citation is left to the choice of the author, but it should be consistent with accepted standards for academic writing, i.e. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.

The policy brief is due Wednesday, March 18, 11:59pm.

The report should follow the following structure:

  1. Cover Letter: A one-page signed formal letter to your chosen campus leader, describing the context and mandate for your report.
  2. Title
  3. Overview: five bullet points with key issues addressed by the report
  4. Introduction (three to four sentences maximum)
  5. Background (1/2 page)
  6. What is/are … Technical description of the technology (3/4-1 page)
  7. Key challenges and issues: the meat of the brief will outline the 3-4 key issues facing the design, development, adoption, and/or future evolution of technology. These issues will vary depending on the chosen technology. In some cases, these will be about the structure of the market, in others, on interoperability, in others on regulation or standardization (11⁄2 – 2 pages).
  8. Future trends: How is the technology and its market likely to evolve? What particular trends (social, economic, cultural), if any, favor or impede the development and adoption of the technology? (1/2 page)

3. Resources

The Anderson Library provides access to many databases containing lots of information and examples of business intelligence reports. Here is a starting point.

In particular: Gartner Research IntraWeb & Faulkner Advisory for Information Technology Studies, eMarketer, Business Source Premier & Factiva.

Wikipedia has fairly good entries with respect to computing technologies, often a good place to start your explorations and identify key terms that can help you dig further

General technology magazines, such as MIT Technology Review, IEEE Spectrum, CNET Magazine all have in-depth articles and current news.

Tech magazines and blogs are also useful: Wired, TechCrunch, Gizmodo, ArsTechnica, TechCode often have good overviews and timely updates on the evolution of current computing technologies, but often lack critical analysis.

4. Grading sheet

Cover letter5 points
Structure/length5 points
Writing20 points
References20 points
Title, overview, introduction5 points
Background5 points
Technical description15 points
Key challenges20 points
Future trends5 points
Total100 points