WRT333—Scientific and Technical Writing, Fall 2013
Section 0004
Assignments & Grades | Office Hours | Dr. Logan
Dr. Patrick Logan, 108 Davis Hall
Department of Communications Studies, URI, Kingston RI 02881
Phone: 401-874-2970 | Fax: 401-874-4722 | Email: mayfly@uri.edu


We study communication within science discourse communities and between scientists and the public. We look at how scientists write and the skills needed to present scientific and technical information in several forms and for a variety of audiences and purposes. As a URI general education "English Communication" course, we will discuss research, speaking, and composition as we write about science and technology. Outcomes include


You are expected to have a core discipline in the sciences, engineering, or a technical communications field to be used as subject matter for class assignments. Our focus is on "scientific" and "technical."


All materials are downloadable through links from this syllabus (about 110 printed pages). There are also links within the text to supplementary readings.


Class sessions include lectures, discussions, and in-class workshops.


If you miss classes, you should explain, get any handouts from me, and make up the missed work. Notify me in advance of absences for religious holidays, athletic participation, or other university-sanctioned events. For absences, contact me as early as possible or at the following class. Absences that are not university-sanctioned or approved by me may lead to a deduction from your grade.


Grades are based on writing assignments, participation, and attendance. If you do not contribute to class discussions in a meaningful way, this may be reflected in your grade. There will be a variety of in-class and out-of-class writing assignments, both formal and informal. (assignments)

PLAGIARISM (academic honesty)

The penalty for plagiarism is a zero for the assignment and a report to your academic dean, who has the option to fail you for the course. In addition, the charge of academic dishonesty will go on your record in the Office of Student Life. If you need more help understanding when to cite something or how to make clear your references, ask!


Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact me as early in the semester as possible so that we may arrange reasonable accommodations. See also, Disability Services, Office of Student Life, 330 Memorial Union. Phone: 401-874-2098 (for TT access call R.I. Relay at 1-800-745-5555); email dss@etal.uri.edu.

SCHEDULE (Fall 2013)

MWF 9:00-9:50, 219 Quinn Hall
Teaching and Office Hours

You may also use the Writing Center. Call 874-4690 for appointment. (more)

Week 1 (Sept. 4 - 6)
Introduction: Setting Out Expectations

The course: Goals, syllabus, assignments, schedule, procedures.

Texts: A Writer's Bookshelf (references)

Scientific Writing: The nature of scientific and technical writing; what we will cover this semester.

Simple Definitions: Wikipedia on "genus-differentia"

Assignment (Wednesday, due Friday): Defining Yourself.

Job-Applications: Resume and application letter (notes)

Assignment: Resume and Job Application.

Week 2 (Sept. 9 - 13)
Scientific Communication 1: Structure in Journal Articles

Origins: What is science? (notes)

The Introduction: What belongs (or doesn't) and why? (notes)

Paring Down an Introduction: Day's suggestions applied in the real world. (an exercise)

Methods, Results: Science, reproducibility, proprietary rights, ethics. Reporting what you saw. (notes)

Discussion: Answering the question and reflecting on what it meant. (notes)

Review Articles: Secondary research to focus on a particular topic (notes)

Assignment: Structure and Content of Scientific Journal Articles (2 parts) | (Sample scientific articles)

Week 3 (Sept. 16 - 20)
Scientific Communication 2: Style, Presentation, Argument, and Scientific English

Evolution of the Scientific Article: Historical development of distinguishing features of scientific english—written style, presentation, and argumentation (notes)

Science speak: Analysis of scientific style—objectification, passive voice, specialized vocabularies. (notes)

Week 4 (Sept. 23 - 27)
Style and Readability

Style and Readability—I: How to recognize and find alternatives to science-speak.

Assignment: Style and Readability (2 parts) | Sample Style and Readability Errors

Week 5 (Sept. 30 - Oct. 4)

Style and readability—II: Punctuation.

Assignment: Punctuation

Week 6 (Oct. 7 - 11)

The Spectrum of Writing Forms (Genres) in Modern Scientific Research: Politics, priorities, plans, proposals, performance, publication, popularizing.

Definitions: describing new developments or technologies in discrete fields (notes)

Week 7 (Oct. 14 - 18)
Technical Writing: Definitions, Strategic Plans, Feasibility Studies

Oct. 14 is Columbus Day and classes do not meet. (Monday classes meet on Wednesday.)

Strategic Planning for Career Development: An introduction to strategic planning through development of an educational and entry-level career plan. (notes)

Defining alternatives: The Feasibility Study (notes)

Assignment: Formal Strategic Plan, Feasibility Study, or IMRAD article (choose 1 of 3 options)

Week 8 (Oct. 21 - 25)
Grants and Leadership

October 21 is mid-semester!

Proposals: Selling your best ideas to get the funds to carry them out; Traditional granting versus outcome funding (notes)

Collaboration: Leadership style for successful groups and collaborative writing (notes).

Week 9 (Oct. 28 - Nov. 1)
Writing Science for the Public

The Popular Press. The Critical Need for Effective Translation from the Scientific to the Public Sphere. (notes)

Whale song: Variation in forms and styles for popular writing. (exercise)

The Lead and the Ending: The special needs of popular press introductions and endings (notes)

Assignment: Popular Press | instructions on preparing for in-class editorial review | Review sheet with instructions for in-class editing.

Week 10 (Nov. 4 - 8)
Writing for Speaking

Oral Presentations: How Writing is Different from Speaking; why bring up speaking in a course on writing? (notes)

Power point: Why Edward Tufte blasted Power Point; suggestions for how to use Power Point nevertheless. (notes | selection from Tufte's "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint" | In Defense of PowerPoint | Expert tips on using Powerpoint)

Week 11 (Nov. 11 - 15)
Editing and Rewriting

Veterins Day is observed Nov. 11. Class DO NOT meet. Offices are closed. No make-up day.

Purpose Analysis. Thinking after you've written. Analyzing what you said and what you wanted to say. A strategy for moving, adding, or deleting pieces of writing. (notes)

Editing: The editor as Vishnu (the maintainer or preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer or transformer). (notes)

Week 12 (Nov. 18 - 22)
Writing for the Internet

Blogging: Academic, Professional, Personal web logs. Content and technology.

Writing for the web: Writing in cyberspace using html, css, etc. What do I have to learn and how is web development done? How is writing for the web unique? (notes)

Week 13 (Nov. 25 - 27)
Writing With Technology for Print and Web Media

Nov. 28-Dec. 1 is Thanksgiving Recess.

Page Design: Why learn page layout? (notes). How to learn page layout technology? (notes)

Week 14 (Dec. 2 - 6)
Teaching Writing and Using Writing to Learn

Writing Across the Curriculum. Should you teach writing? Why, and how? (notes)

Evaluations: In-class discussion of what worked and didn't this semester.

Assignment: Course Critique

Week 15 (Dec. 9)

Classes end Dec. 9

Return of all materials handed in on time. Last day to submit materials.