Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session



Course Overview and Goals

Throughout the course, we will discover how the successful communication of science to the public relies on many factors beyond grammar, including the expectations of the audience, the purpose of the writer, as well as the context and genre of the communication. By examining these factors we will improve our rhetorical knowledge, and develop strategies for succeeding in a variety of communication events (known as “rhetorical situations”). We will gain experience in generating and researching article ideas, interviewing scientists, and most importantly, translating complex scientific and technological developments into clear and engaging stories for the public. Ultimately, improving our writing, speaking, and rhetorical knowledge will help us succeed at MIT and beyond.


MIT’s Undergraduate Communication Requirement specifies that you must write at least 5,000 words over the course of the semester. A word count will be provided along with the criteria for evaluation for each assignment. As you complete each article, check the word count to make sure that you are meeting the requirements. The following items form the basis of your overall grade:

Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis of a News Article 15%
Assignment 2: An Engaging Translation* 15%
Assignment 3: The “Awesome” Profile* 20%
Assignment 4: Proposal for Investigative Research Article 10%
Assignment 5: Investigative Research Article* 25%
Participation: Class discussions, bringing in readings and notes, experiments, and written reflections 15%

Late Papers: Each day an article is submitted late, the grade is lowered by one-thrid of a letter (e.g. B to B-). For example, an “A” paper submitted ten days late becomes a D-. *The absence or tardiness of a first draft also lowers the revised article grade.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights