Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

Proficiency in communicating about science and technology comes from both knowledge and practice, and this course emphasizes both. Through a variety of reading and writing assignments, we will examine general principles of good writing, as well as principles associated specifically with scientific and technical writing. We will also explore the effects of new media as avenues for communicating about science. To help you become more proficient in assessing, revising, and editing your writing, the course emphasizes the importance of the writing process—not just the final product. Class time will involve discussions of scientific articles and essays, as well as small group workshops in which you will offer feedback on each other’s writing. Assignments will include, for example, a personal science essay, a science essay for the general public, a research or service project proposal, and a review of a proposal. The topics you write on will generally be of your own choosing, reflecting your background and interests. While the primary emphasis will be on writing, oral communication will also be important in this class. You will have the opportunity to practice oral communication skills by participating in and leading class discussions, as well as through a formal presentation.


There are no required textbooks for this course. Required readings will consist of essays and articles that will be posted on the course website.

Reading Assignments

Coming to class prepared includes completing reading assignments on time. The readings provide important background for the topics we’ll be discussing and for the assignments you’ll be doing.


Grading will be according to the following distribution:


Written work

Oral presentation 15%
Attendance; preparation for and participation in class discussions 15%

I do not assign a grade to the first version of the critical review. However, the researched science essay for the general public will receive a grade for both the first version and revision (with greater weight given to the grade for the revision). For the proposal, you will receive a grade on the first version. If you opt to revise the paper, the grade you receive on the revision will replace the grade on the first version. The prospectus will be graded simply as “check” (approved) or “minus” (not approved). A “check” on the first version means you do not need to revise it. You must receive a “check” on either the first or revised version before proceeding to work on the science essay. On all papers, MIT students will receive extensive comments and suggestions for revisions from the instructor.

MIT students will also receive both a grade and written comments on the oral presentation of the proposal.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples