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3030 - Writing on Science & Society Course Descriptions

The following list is alphabetical, by instructor's last name. Not every course shown below is offered every semester. Check the current Course Schedule.

This course is focused on reading, composing, and analyzing scientific communications. The focus of our inquiry in particular will be on the overlap and divergence between writing directed to the professional scientific community and its relationship to writing about scientific concepts for “outsiders.” In your own writing, you will be asked to complete two portfolio assignments during the semester, echoing our attention to these “insider” and “outsider” groups. The first will be a series of short, rhetorical analyses of “science writing” directed to an audience of critical thinkers. The second portfolio will focus on scientific research, and will culminate in a journal-style article, and will be directed to an audience of your scientific peers.
In your work you will frequently be expected to communicate your ideas on science and technology to others--to people both within and outside of your specific field. This course will help you improve your critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills so that you may communicate your ideas effectively. You will not only gain familiarity with professional documents within your field of study, but you will also learn to apply your disciplinary expertise to broader social and ethical issues. As you analyze issues within this interplay of contexts, you’ll learn to exercise your abilities and responsibilities as individuals within the profession and as citizens within your community.
The United States has some of the lowest general scientific literacy numbers in the developed world, and many Americans reject clearly proven scientific facts. Yet American scientists, universities, and institutes are among the most respected by the global academic community. In this course, we’ll look at the ways scientists communicate, both as a means to improve our own communication skills and better understand how STEM majors can effectively convey their research and findings. We will be focusing especially on the ways scientists convey knowledge in regard to sustainability issues. Students will write four papers and do one presentation while reading weekly articles—peer-reviewed and popular press—on sustainability concerns.
Cross-Cultural Writing for International Students is a section of WRTG 3020, 3030, and 3040 that is intended for non-native speakers of English who wish to enroll in an upper-division writing course. The course is taught as a rigorous writing workshop using advanced readings and materials, emphasizing critical thinking, analysis, and argumentative writing. Course readings focus on cross-cultural communication in the arts, business, and scientific fields. Assignments will be tailored to meet the needs and interests of individual students.
As a future scientist, engineer, or researcher, you will be expected to write and speak clearly to people outside your field.  The purpose of this course is to teach you techniques for writing analytical and argumentative essays, to develop critical thinking skills, and to examine ethical issues in science.  To this end, the final project for this course is to create a document related to your field that can stand on its own in the real world.
This course is designed to improve the reading and writing skills of students in the science and technology fields. The class will be conducted in both lecture and workshop formats, and we will place particular emphasis on clarity, organization, focused revision, proofreading, and the basics of grammar and mechanics. Coursework will entail written responses to essays concerning a variety of social and ethical issues, with special attention to the analysis of differing values, perspectives, and audiences. Many students majoring in engineering or the sciences think their writing inadequate; this course will demonstrate that the task of framing an issue and developing a position based on evidence and sound reasoning is not only well within their abilities, but that the effort can in fact be pleasurable. Coursework will include a minimum of three papers, and an oral presentation.
This is a service-learning version of WRTG 3030. Students will practice communicating scientific knowledge by tutoring local high-school students. This course is a great opportunity for future scientists and engineers to gain real-world experience sharing what they know with others—and to help a few people along the way.

This section of WRTG 3030 focuses on analyzing and composing effective writing in relation to the broad topic of sustainability. While the term “sustainability” has been employed by various social and political groups in the U.S., its vague definitions and ubiquitous media presence often conceal contradictory agendas. In this course, we’ll analyze a variety of texts to investigate how rhetorical strategies both mask and reveal competing views about what it means to be “sustainable.”  Because much of the conversation around sustainability takes place in the genres of the workplace (resumes, memos, reports, proposals) and because many of you will be using these genres in your future careers, you’ll be practicing these genres throughout the semester. We’ll consider how document design and visual rhetoric play a central role in effective communication, and you’ll be expected to use principles of effective design in your writing.
This course focuses on arguments and audiences as they relate to science in modern society. We will investigate the rhetorical dynamics of scientific controversy: how scientists establish ethos, how they argue with one another, and how their rhetoric changes when they speak to the lay public in policy debates. We will tackle the issue of who is qualified to speak about science, and what ethical and rhetorical issues are faced by those who write about it. We will analyze the rhetoric of pseudoscience and those who battle it.

Over the course of the semester, you will write in several of the genres most likely to be required of you in a science or engineering career, including personal statements and CVs; letters of inquiry and proposals for funding; conference paper abstracts and Powerpoint presentations; and blog posts to disseminate scientific research to the non-professional public. Students with outside funding opportunities in mind will be encouraged to pursue them via the course assignments.

Science as Narrative- Taking on the cluster busters.

I am not opposed to optimism , but I am fearful of the kind that comes from self delusion. -Dr. Martin Davis- NEJM writing about the “cure” for cancer.

My goal for this course is to enable students to read analytically and to write with clarity and focus. This class will teach you to write well in a variety of styles and to state and defend an argumentative thesis. An educated person must be able to read with in-depth comprehension and to be able to communicate complex ideas in economical and elegant prose. We will consider the ethical and social ramification of science policy and practice with “Toms River” by Dan Fagin as the main class text. It’s a great example of how to communicate complex scientific ideas to a general audience. We will also read works by Rachel Carson, Richard Preston, Bill McKibben, Dr Oliver Sacks and Dr. Atul Gawande. This class is taught as a writing workshop with peer critiques, revisions, and presentations. Since creativity is the most effective way to communicate, students will be designing a museum exhibit for a topic of their choice. Participation is an important part of the class experience. Students will write a minimum of five papers totaling 50 pages and give two presentations.

This section of Writing on Science and Society (WRTG 3030) will focus on developing the sophisticated rhetorical perspectives that will allow students to utilize a toolkit of strategies for the purpose of creating persuasive scientific writing for a range of important contemporary audiences. Selected readings from scientific journals, from the philosophy of science, from the politics of science, and from popular presentations of science in contemporary mass media will ground our investigation into the scientific method and supporting areas of observation, evidence, and experiment. Such an understanding is vital for practicing scientists, engineers, and corporate researchers, as well as for social scientists and those in humanities because of the complex ways that scientific thought makes its appeals to scientific audiences, to civic and policy-related audiences, to the business community, and to the broader target of popular culture. Upon fulfilling the course requirements, students will have developed an enhanced rhetorical awareness that will allow them to be skilful writers and interpreters both inside and outside the specific scientific disciplines that are so crucial to contemporary global society.

The goal of WRTG 3030 is to help students articulate and analyze various approaches to the world of science, technology, ethics, and engineering. We will deconstruct the views that inform our relationships to our social and physical environments, all while focusing on various ethical frameworks. The course applies history, literature, culture, and engineering case studies as a tool to understand the complexity of how science, exploration, and human values have affected each other. To this end, the course addresses two central questions: 1. What are the social, philosophical, ethical, and environmental ramifications of science and engineering? 2. Considering these ramifications, what are our responsibilities as scientists, engineers, and world citizens? You would do well to keep these questions (as well as the Course Themes (see below)) in mind as you approach class discussion and written work. COURSE THEMES: The three primary objectives of WRTG 3030 are: 1. Increased knowledge regarding how nature and our society are related to human values and how these values impact nature, technology, and our society. 2. Increased knowledge about professional ethics. 3. Increased skill in written and oral communications. We will utilize a number of these repeating, interrelated themes to help deal with this complexity.
Scientific and literary cultures have existed side-by-side but most often in parallel universes with little connection.  This has led to the humanities proceeding as if Darwin never lived, DNA was not discovered, and neuroscience never came to fruition.  As E.O. Wilson states, this “polarization promotes . . . the perpetual recycling of the nature-nurture controversy, spinning off mostly sterile debates on gender, sexual preferences, ethnicity, and human nature itself.” From the social science’s denial of a “universal human nature” to theoretical theories spun from armchair speculation, the humanities have spun numerous webs that have little or no relation to empirical evidence.  At the same time, many theorists in the humanities have tried to be “scientific,” from Jung, to Frye, to Chomsky (though failing), while others have denied the validity of science altogether.

This class will begin by examining the history of science and the humanities, while trying to find ways to bring them together.  To do so, we will be exploring human evolution, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience—utilizing these disciplines as a base from which to interpret literature.

In addition, we will examine how the pressing scientific issues of the day are often obscured because few scientists have developed effective communication skills.  As a class, we will work to create rhetorical strategies that allow some of the recent findings of science to be heard by a public often ignorant of even the most basic scientific paradigms and findings.

Writing for this class will involve numerous genres for interpreting science and literature and for propelling scientific ideas through the art of writing.

In WRTG 3030 you will learn principles, techniques and strategies that work together to aid your engagement and contribution within scientific communities of personal relevance, by examining the intersections of scientific rhetoric, ethical concern, career application, digital media and use, collaboration in problem-solving groups, and civic/community engagement -- all of this both in theory and practice. Special emphasis will be placed on developing a “marketable identity” (including applying for a real opportunity) as a prospective job seeker and contributor in and out of employment contexts.