21W.777 | Spring 2017 | Undergraduate

Science Writing in Contemporary Society


This schedule is our road map for the semester. Use it as a guideline for when essays are due and for our workshop days. Assignments are due at the next class meeting, unless otherwise noted. Please see the Readings section for corresponding readings for certain assignments.


Class overview and introductions

Writing in “Contemporary Society

Assignment #1

Write: Letter to instructor


The pleasures and challenges of science writing

Context(s): Getting at the bigger picture

Assignment #2

Write: Being Reading Journal; select science website to follow & email website choice to the instructor before next session


Different approaches to similar material

The “human element” (Hancock)

Assignment #3

Considering audiences, and persuading them

Telling a (good) story; explaining concepts; clarity, liveliness

Introduce Investigative Essay assignment

Assignment #4

Write: Proposal for Science in/and Culture Essay (Essay 1); select book for Book Review & email to the instructor before next session


Culture and science

Organizing a long essay

Discuss proposals

Assignment #5

Write: Science and/in Culture Essay 

Prepare for next session’s Workshop

6 Workshop Essay 1 (3 writers)

Assignment #6

Write: Proposal for Investigative Essay (Essay 2)

Prepare for next session’s Workshop

7 Workshop Essay 1 (3 writers) Assignment #7

The conundrum of reporting on climate change

Representing complexity (without losing readers)

Feedback on Science and/in Culture Essay

Discuss Research proposals

Assignment #8
9 Complexity, controversy, context

Assignment #9

Write: Revised Proposal and Annotated Bibliography for Investigative Essay


Representing thinking

The role of ethics in an engineer’s education

Progress reports on Investigative Essays

Assignment #10

Making the familiar fresh

Putting language front and center

Assignment #11

Reaching a “popular” audience

Handling a hot topic

Update on Investigative essays

Assignment #12

Write: Investigative Essay

13 Pre-writing for the Investigative Essay

Assignment 13

Prepare for next session’s Workshop

14 Workshop 3 Investigative Essays full class

Assignment #14a

Respond online to group members


Feedback on Investigative Essays

The online environment for readers and writers

Assignment #15

Begin preparing for presentations

Work on revision of Investigative Essay

16 Organizing a longer article; incorporating sources and voices

Assignment #16

Prepare for presentations; work on revision

17 Watch sample TED talks

Assignment #17

Prepare for presentations

Revision of Investigative Essay due one day after Session 17

18 Presentations on websites Assignment #18

The Book Review, an important genre

Making a review an essay

Assignment #19
20 The classic science essay

Assignment #20

Write: Book Review Essay (Essay 3)

21 Preparing for Book Review Essay

Assignment #21

Prepare for next session’s Workshop

22 Workshop Book Review Essays Assignment #22

Feedback on Book Review Essays

Calls to action – but what kind?

Assignment #23

Begin to prepare portfolios

24 Guest speaker: Amanda Gefter

Assignment #24

Continue preparing portfolios

25 Work on revision issues Assignment #25

Final class

Share favorite writing; summing up & reflecting

Evaluations: Bring laptops to class

Portfolios due in class or no later than noon, one day after Session 26

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments