The following list is alphabetical, by instructor's last name. Check the current Course Schedule.


Our course will immerse you in the study and practice of writing scientific arguments for expert and non-expert audiences. You will learn to recognize and analyze the rhetorical dimensions of scientific and science-related texts, and you will use this knowledge to hone your own writing and communication skills. We will read foundational scientific articles and papers, journalistic writing, and texts that foreground, clarify, and investigate the rhetorical dimensions of science writing genres. We’ll also explore scientific rhetoric in other forms of media, from the video and webcast to the meme. A considerable portion of our science-focused reading concerns sustainability issues. These readings will provide common ground for our discussions, and compelling subjects for our rhetorical inquiries. Sustainability also matters to our collective and individual futures. Being conversant in sustainability initiatives has potential professional advantages, and actively participating in such initiatives might just help you to “save the world.”

WRITING ON SCIENCE & SOCIETY, Dr. Christine Macdonald

In this course we will examine the rhetoric of science and how it circulates in the general news media.  Students will produce a variety of assignments aimed at different audiences as we examine and practice strategies for conveying specialized knowledge to non-specialized audiences. We will focus on communication strategies in a variety of formats, including multimodal work.  The course includes a unit on visual rhetoric and how to communicate your professional autobiography to potential employers.


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. One way you will pursue these objectives is through a service-learning project, for which you will tutor local high school students for a total of eight hours in math, the sciences, or a variety of other subjects. You will use this experience to examine 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. Of course, you will do more than the service-learning project this semester. Most of the material you will work with in class will be produced by you, discipuliextraordinaria. You will collaborate with one another, write with one another, teach one another. Count on staying busy each and every class period. Together, we will analyze the characteristics of persuasive writing about and in the sciences and education. 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, fallacious dialogues, and 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.


Flexible. Responsive. Agile. These are words often used in academic and business articles that describe the type of communication skills employers are seeking. Why? We know that we have many more options now for how we communicate than we did two decades ago—how does this change the way we think about writing? How does the expansion of formats, modes, and technologies make effective communication both easier and more difficult? What are the questions and concepts you can use to adapt your message for specific purposes and a broad range of audiences? How can you better understand how power operates through both the medium and the message? 
We’ll explore these questions in this course, using an innovative hybrid structure to help you identify, practice, and critique communication.


This course is a rhetorically informed introduction to science writing that hones communication skills as we examine the relationships among science, engineering, and society, and the manner in which scientific and technical information moves across different rhetorical contexts and becomes relevant to a variety of audiences. The course is intended for upper-division students in Engineering and for students in Arts and Sciences majoring in the sciences. Taught as a writing seminar emphasizing critical thinking, revision, and oral presentation skills, the course focuses on helping students draw on their technical expertise while engaging audiences beyond their own disciplines. The course draws on broad rhetorical principles for cogent writing and speaking and applies them to the demands of communicating in the fields of science and engineering and in the work environments of organizations.


Since the seventeenth century, modern science has refined humanity's powers of perception by teaching us to methodically consider empirical phenomena to better understand how the world works. Over time, scientific disciplines have proliferated, each taking up particular objects of scrutiny and developing field-specific practices, protocols, and terminology. Science is a collaborative undertaking on a planetary scale, and scientists communicate their findings with each other in writing. In our own time, science writing has become highly specialized, and to participate in the sciences students must master the unique conventions that structure each scientific discipline. One the one hand, these compositional strategies allow scientists to communicate very precise ideas to each other. At the same time, the complexity of this language often alienates non-scientists, who are not trained to use these special languages. Because scientific findings inform public policy, though, a supplemental industry of science-writers and translators has developed to make scientific discoveries more accessible for common people.

In this course, we will examine how scientists communicate with each other and how they adapt their writing for the public. We will treat science writing in all forms as rhetorical: scientists write for various audiences; they make claims; they adopt conventions to make those claims persuasive; they organize evidence and analysis to augment its effectiveness. To place articles in prestigious journals like Science or Nature, scientists must convince editors of the value of their research and its capacity to make an impact on society. To convince politicians and the public to devote limited resources to the sciences, they must reconstitute their research in a more accessible idiom for public consumption. Over the semester, we'll journey from the specialized pages of peer-reviewed periodicals to the wider world of public controversy so we can understand the many dimensions of science writing.


This course has 2 primary goals: 1) to enhance your ability to make persuasive scientific arguments for general readers, and 2) to enhance your ability to write for academic readers in your specific disciplines. To these ends, the course will be divided into 2 parts. In the first half of the course, we’ll study Aristotelian principles of persuasion and focus on the challenges of doing scientific writing for lay audiences that might not trust scientific evidence as much as you do. This part of this course is topics-oriented and past foci have included energy policy, bioethics, NASA policy, transhumanism, and government regulation of scientific research. In the second half of the course, each student will research and rhetorically analyze the academic writing of his/her specific discipline, paying special attention to stylistic conventions and argumentative technique. We’ll conduct class in both discussion and workshop formats. Among other assignments, you will compose an in-class essay, a brief argument, a literary journalism piece, an analysis of disciplinary rhetoric, and a proposal.


Science is a social enterprise though we don’t tend to think of it that way. Scientific breakthroughs might originate in one mind but are valuable and useful to society only when they’re effectively communicated to other minds. Accordingly, to be a good scientist, one must be a good communicator.

In this course, students will get practice both in formal scientific writing (how scientists communicate with each other) and more accessible science writing (how scientists communicate with the general public). Scientists communicate multimodally, so assignments will often require collaboration, independent research, writing, and presentation. Students deep-dive into each assignment, honing their skills at every stage of the writing process: brainstorming, sharing ideas, drafting, peer-reviewing, presenting, revising, and editing.


Do scientists need to be good storytellers? You bet they do.

As an upper-division science or engineering major at a major research university, you are probably more science literate than the average American. But the success of your career may depend on your ability to communicate the importance of what you do to people who don’t understand or care as much. And unfortunately, research shows that raw facts and data aren’t very good at changing most people’s minds. Instead, to be most effective, the facts and data need to fit into a compelling story.

In this class, we’ll look at how to communicate science effectively, both within the world of professional researchers and beyond it. We will seek answers to many questions: Who is qualified to speak about science? How does one tell science from pseudoscience? What is a scientific fact? How can we explain science to non-scientists, and where does storytelling fit in?

The major project in this course will be to write a feature article for a popular science magazine such as National Geographic or Scientific American in which you synthesize secondary research, incorporate material from at least one personal interview, and present data visually in at least one original graphic. Other projects will include creating or updating your resume and designing and delivering a professional conference presentation. By the end of the semester you can expect to have gained significant practice and proficiency in communicating science to a multitude of audiences.


As science-based majors, and especially as future engineers, you are required to build things: bridges, roads, robots, etcetera. However, at times crucial, essential thoughts regarding the ethics regarding engineering are cast aside. We reach a point where we build and construct without really thinking through the issue – do we need these things? Is it in fact ethical to construct them? Even though we can construct them, should we? Are some things just off limits? Etc. During our time together, we will apply these types of questions specifically to social engineering projects. We will mores specifically investigate the rhetoric of these projects, analyzing and thinking through not just the practicality of such places, but also how they are presented to us as the readers. Do our authors present a strong rhetorical case for making us want to join their worlds? This is a true test of rhetorical skill, since a well-engineered society can only succeed if it is well described, and so can only attract people to actually live there. The success of the society, you could say, depends on the rhetoric!

With PWR goals for this course, our investigations with coincide with our production of a wide variety of professional and scientific genres. You will write a report on a specific social engineering text, and present this report to the class, craft an argumentative essay, and a memo, be responsible for maintaining a “Blue Print Journal,” where you compile notes on the societies we study, until ultimately fashioning an exhaustive National Science Foundation (NSF) grant proposal for a social engineering project. This final project will be your chance to actually build a society, and you will present your findings to the class at the very end of the semester. Your ultimate goal: Persuade us that this society can in fact succeed, and that you deserve the NSF money to put it into action.

Spring 2024 courses coming soon.