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Syllabus for Natural Science Writing Unit (July 14-18, 2014)

July 14, 2014

I was offered to teach one week of a larger writing course mainly addressed at freshmen and incoming freshmen on the topic relating to writing in the natural sciences. So, instead of making it into a comp class, which I have no experience of ever doing or teaching, I decided to make it into a science communication and writing class, where I can draw on my actual experience as a professional writer and scholar. I have them look at everything from academic research articles to curated tweets and blog-posts forms of popular and news writing. Oh, we also listened to some rap music and will watch some awesome videos. Then, they are going to use their writing skills to present, orally, their ideas, and try to sell their science ideas to myself and their classmates. We also did a bit of history of science.
Weekend before class: Watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Episode 1, and the new Cosmos series with Neil Tyson de Grasse in preparation for class discussions on Tuesday and Friday. Prompts to guide viewing will be provided on Sakai by Friday (7/11) at 2 pm.

7/14 Introduction to the session.
Lecture 1: Different Modes of Science Writing: Past and Present.
Group work (getting into groups of 3): Text diagnosis and presentation.
Homework: Read only the abstract (if available) and the introduction of two academic science pieces: one historical and another based on the present-day. Use the same article that I have provided you in class (or, you are welcomed to choose another topic and paper of interest to you. Google scholar or your library’s science databases will guide you. I will provide you a list of databases you can investigate. The topic of the historical and current day articles need not be similar. Then produce a 200-word (250 words max) diagnosis comparing both articles based on the elements discussed in the lecture and from class practice. Print and bring to class. I will post links to sites where you can obtain articles published before the 1950s. Only research articles (no letters, or review essays, or news reviews, even if they might be of an academic nature) such as the ones you have seen in class are acceptable for the purpose of this exercise.

7/15 Class discussion, free-writing, and peer-reviewing.
Homework: Group work (group will be formed before the end of class). Each group will select a theme that their members can agree upon, then each member of each group will find an article that will work in relation to the theme that their respective groups have decided on. Come to class prepared with a summary of the selected article.

7/16 Lecture 2: Science Communication: In and Beyond Academia
Discussion of the Carl Sagan Cosmos episode.
Group work: get into the groups that were formed the day before and discuss selected articles among group members in preparation for group presentation the following day. Guidelines for the presentation will be posted on Sakai the day before.
Homework: Meet with your group members to complete the presentation. Presentation can take any form, but involves communicating and selling your ideas to the instructor and coursemates.

7/17 Class Presentation. A jury of your peers will judge your group. A rubric for evaluation will be provided.
Homework: Complete a draft of a piece of 500-800 words writing (it can be in any of the format we would have discussed in the past few days and during lectures). You can revise from the writing you have already done on Monday, or produce writing based on your group presentation that is independent of the presentation material. Also, watch the Degrasse Tyson Cosmos episodes if you have not done so already in preparation for the next day.

7/18 Work-shopping of the drafts – first 30 minutes.
Final discussion of the Cosmos Episodes – tweetchat or chalkboardchat – the students decide.
Wrapping up class.
Homework: Finalize the drafts and hand them via Sakai’s dropbox before midnight of the same day.

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