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3030 - Writing on Science & Society Course Descriptions

The following list is alphabetical, by instructor's last name. Course offerings below are for the Fall 2017 semester. Check the current Course Schedule.


This course asks the questions: How is science communicated in the public sphere and how is it used rhetorically in discussions about environmental, social, economic, and political issues? We’ll focus on representations of science in news media, in artistic/cultural works, in public policy, and in industry.

Because the ways we perceive and choose to interpret science significantly shapes our understanding of our world and how it works, the work of this course will better prepare you to be more savvy, more informed, and more intentional readers and writers so that you can engage in the important political, environmental, economic, and social challenges of our time. Over the course of the semester, we’ll look at various texts to explore these questions:
  • How is scientific knowledge rhetorically constructed/presented?
  • In what ways is science a form of economic, political, material, and social power?
  • Whose science counts?
  • How do we navigate/interpret contradictory scientific accounts?

In this course, we will work on developing your writing and communication skills while adding to your rhetorical knowledge. Because WRTG 3030 courses are directed toward science, engineering, and technology majors, we will pay special attention to the language used in scientific communications. We’ll assess various science-related works to see how successful the writers are at conveying their messages while developing your ability to use a professional language that is acceptable in your field and easily understood. We’ll examine various writing genres, that is, types of communication required in different situations, and to transfer, taking what you learn in this class and applying it to other courses and professional situations. Our subject matter will largely focus on sustainability: we’ll look at and discuss key sustainability concerns and how science and the media present those concerns.

Students will write four major papers with at least two drafts of each; one of the papers will require peer-reviewed research. You’ll also write response papers, both in class and online, in which you reflect on readings and discussions, communication practices in your field, and other topics. You’ll also do two digital presentations. You will be engaging with your colleagues and me regularly, and you’ll do reading quizzes and various worksheets.

As a semester-long project, you will write ONE of the following: an essay on science, technology and public policy; a preliminary draft of an honors thesis; a post-UROP paper; a UROP, Capstone or other research proposal; an engineering or product licensing proposal; a curriculum reform proposal. You will choose a topic and genre, and then compile an annotated bibliography. Midway through the semester you will begin drafting your paper. At the end of the term, you will convert your paper into a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation. While you are doing preliminary research for your project, you will write a brief essay on ONE of the following topics: research ethics, professional ethics, creativity in science or engineering, truth in science, the social effects of technology. This essay will prepare you for your term project by teaching you how to define terms, clarify unstated assumptions, present evidence in support of an assertion and respond to likely objections.

As a future professional in the sciences or engineering, you will be expected to write and speak clearly and convincingly to audiences not only in but also, and especially, outside your field. The purpose of this course is to provide you the opportunity to practice techniques for communicating analytically and persuasively, to further develop your creative- and critical-thinking skills, and to consider how your field relates to other fields and to the civic arena. As a way of pursuing all of these objectives, you will complete a service-learning project for which you will tutor local high school students for a total of 10-12 hours in math, the sciences, or a variety of other subjects. (The hour requirement depends on where you tutor.) We will use this experience to examine, among other things, the relationship among doing, teaching, and learning a field; the sociological, political, and institutional factors shaping education in math and the sciences; and the various rhetorical norms involved in scientific pedagogy and practice.

Most of the material we will work with in class will be produced by you, discipuli extraordinaria. You will collaborate with one another, write with one another, teach one another. Count on staying busy each and every class period. In addition, we will analyze the characteristics of persuasive writing about and in the sciences and education for a variety of audiences. The course will include brief units on logic and visual rhetoric. At various points in the semester we will discuss the craft of writing—e.g., writing strong, beautiful sentences that capture audiences, filling them with awe and admiration and wonder. You will complete a number of informal writing assignments. You will write two professional career documents: a personal statement and an exit message, both addressed to your service-learning partners. In groups you will write children’s books for local first graders. You will write fallacious dialogues. You will create a series of posters that teach the CU campus community about Shakespearean-era science. And you will put together an annotated bibliography that will prepare you for your final project: a piece of writing that uses book arts to share research in math or the sciences with a public audience.

Writing on Science and Society will develop your writing, speaking, and information literacy skills that enable you to participate in science discussions and larger civic debates. The course develops your analysis and argument skills essential to success in science-related professions. You will write on issues germane to your interests in science. This course provides an interactive environment in which you are expected to identify your learning aspirations and assess your progress.