Science Writing offers students an opportunity to refine their skills in presenting technical and scientific issues to various audiences while they critically examine social aspects of scientific information. The course examines new opportunities for covering science (especially on the Internet), the skills required to produce clear and understandable prose about technical subjects, important ethical and practical constraints that govern the reporting of scientific information, and the cultural place of science in our society.
The class features several written assignments and close discussion of readings from various media. The final grade for the course will be based upon a portfolio of writings (including a review of online sources, a news brief, a book review, a scientist interview, a story based on an interview, a news summary based on research, and a feature story for a news or Internet source). Revision will be rewarded, and students are encouraged to seek publication for some of their work.
Deborah Blum and Mary Knudson, eds., A Field Guide for Science Writers
Jerome Groopman and Jesse Cohen, eds., The Best American Science Writing 2010
A copy of The New York Times, Science Times section, due in class every Wednesday
Various current online sources, to be assigned.
*Do not buy these books; anything you need from them will be provided.
Sharon Friedman, Sharon Dunwoody, and Carol Rogers, eds., Communicating Uncertainty: Media Coverage of New and Controversial Science
Victor Cohn, News and Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Related Fields
Jane Gregory and Steve Miller, Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility
Grades should be based on a review of the student's portfolio, collected at the midterm point and at the end of the semester. They are required to submit about 25 pages of revised work, not including rough drafts, group work, or peer revision. You are responsible for developing your own grading criteria and presenting it to the students at the beginning of the semester, based on your individual assignment choices. Here is one version of how the grade could be calculated:
Feature Story (and preparatory work): 35%
Book Review (and preparatory work): 20%
Interview Story (and preparatory work): 25%
Online Review: 5%
News Brief: 5%
Group Presentation (and preparatory work): 5%
Other discretionary issues (attendance, preparation,engagement with the material): 5%