Writing in the Sciences: Evolutionary Themes

Course Description

Science informs the world, and scientists are the primary informants. From the laboratory bench, and from the field, ideas are harvested and transcribed, creating the scientific literature.  Like science itself, “writing science” involves thought, experimentation, and revision – a process fundamental to sharing ideas with other scientists, and with society.  This semester, as science writers, we will focus on themes relating to evolution – the unifying theory in biology that supports a common ancestry to all life forms. Evolutionary theory is rooted in the literature, originating with Charles Darwin’s landmark book, The Origin of Species (1859), where Darwin introduces the idea of the mutability of species to his audience – a skeptical 19th century society.

Similarly, in this writing seminar, we explore evolutionary themes through writing adapted to particular audiences.  Our writing perspectives are: 1-scientists writing for themselves (e.g. field and laboratory logs); 2-scientists writing for scientists (e.g. journal articles, abstracts); 3-scientists writing for students (e.g. textbooks, instructional materials); and 4-scientists writing for society (e.g. essays, periodicals, books).  To inform our own writing, we read and discuss Darwin’s original works, and the writings of more contemporary evolutionary theorists, including Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, Alison Jolly, Douglas J. Futuyma, and Stephen Jay Gould all of whom substantiated, expanded upon, and forwarded Darwin’s theory of evolution.

College Writing 2 – Writing in the Sciences, is a second semester, discipline-based writing seminar that provides students with the opportunity to hone their writing skills within a field of scientific inquiry.  Because lucid writing is essential to communicating science, students will work on the clear expression of ideas within different genres of scientific literature.  In developing the science writer’s craft, students will also gain techniques applicable to other academic disciplines – since writing skills have a universal application.

Course Documents