Room for Debate (in class on Oct 3)

Today, we are going to do a mini-research project and present it to the class.

Working in groups, you are going to read the points of view presented in one of the New York Times “Room for Debate” series. Note: Because of page limit views, you might need to use a few different computers to access all the articles. Work together on that.

Before you start reading, brainstorm with your group. Make a list of the things you know and opinions you have about the topic already. This list might be long or it might be short. Publish a post here with your list and categorize it “debate”. Don’t forget an informative title that distinguishes your group from the others.

After that, read the opinion pieces about your topic. From that, you will create an annotated bibliography. Talk about each piece and come to a consensus about its main ideas. Add a post for that (don’t forget that title!).

Finally, discuss the overall effect that the opinions had on you. If you already had knowledge and opinions of the topic, did they reinforce, challenge, or change you ideas? What was the most persuasive argument? What was the most persuasive evidence? (And what is the difference between an argument and a piece of evidence in writing?) Do all the members of your group agree? How strongly do you feel? Make a final post summarizing your group’s conclusions. You will also present your findings orally (informally) to the class.

Breaking the Bias Against Women in Science

Information’s Environmental Cost

A Better Approach to Presidential Debates

College by the Numbers

Should the US Seek More Tech Manufacturing?

Final Projects

Over the course of the semester, you will be working with a group to prepare a significant final project that will include several aspects. For your project, you should identify a problem on conflict within your community or intended profession. You will study the history and status of that issue and prepare a formal report and conclusions or recommendations you have drawn about the issue. You will present your findings through a web site and give a formal presentation including appropriate audio-visual components. We will break down the overall project into smaller steps and allow time for review and revision.

Your first task is to finalize a team of no more than four, brainstorm ideas, and commit to a topic. We will spend some time in class on Sept 19 doing this. You will be expected to update the class about your topic and why you chose it on Oct 3.

Stephen Jay Gould & Natalie Angier: What makes science writing readable?

Consider this quote from Carolyn R. Miller’s “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing”:

“If the subject matter of science (bits of reality, inartistic proofs) exists independently, the scientist’s duty is but to observe clearly and transmit faithfully. The whole idea of invention is heresy to positivist science–science does not invent, it discovers. Form and style become techniques for increasingly accurate transmission of logical processes or of sensory observations; consequently, we teach recipes for the description of mechanism, the description of process, classification, and interpretation. … If we take this approach to form and style very seriously, there is not very much to teach in a technical writing class.”

On Sept 19, we are going to look at Stephen Jay Gould’s classic article “Size and Shape” together in class, along with an excerpt from Natalie Angier’s book The Canon. We are going to compare and contrast it with some examples of muddled and jargon-laden writing. We will consider how science and technical writing employ rhetoric and style to communicate and make an impression on readers.

We will also consider What Is Writing?