Science Writing

COM320-001/COM520-001 Spring '17-18; Wednesday, 6:00 pm-8:50 pm
Lawrence Souder, Ph.D. Voice: 215-895-2730
Classroom: Academic 107  Office Hours: Wednesday, 5:00 - 6:00 pm; PISB Glass Tower
Office/mailbox: 3201 Arch Street, Suite 100
E-mail: LS39 @


Description: Scientists convince the world of their ideas and secure credit for them largely through writing. This course will guide you in exploring the conventions of the various genres of scientific writing. In particular it will provide the means for determining what features distinguish one genre from another, how each of these genres is composed, and why they are so designed. Once you have defined these conventions generically, you will explore them in your specific scientific areas of interest. Ultimately you will use these conventions for developing your own rhetorical processes to communicate effectively and responsibly in your field. Among the genres of scientific writing to be considered are: research reports, research reviews, research proposals, and writing for lay audiences. Special emphasis will be placed on adapting scientific information for the general reader. This course will also show an articulation between scientific writing and writing in general.

Objectives: If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:

*Relevance to Drexel Student Learning Priorities

Text: Penrose, Ann M. and Steven B. Katz, Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse, Third Edition, New York: Pearson, ISBN-13: 978-0-205-61671-8. 

Assignments:  The writing samples produced for this class become the primary basis for your grade and will constitute a portfolio that you can also use for career development in the field. If you already have professional or academic experience in science writing, please consider modifying the guidelines for the writing projects to reflect your specific interests and abilities.

We will use the text to explore the conventions of scientific writing, which is the primary goal of this course. Our secondary goal is to explore the recent attempts to challenge those conventions. For this goal we will read and discuss supplemental readings. Students taking this course for graduate credit are required to present two of these readings and conduct the relevant class discussions. These readings are listed at the end of the relevant study guides. See presentation guidelines for details.

Grading: In this course you can receive a maximum of 1000 points. Your final grade will be computed on the basis of the following components:

Class participation, in-class writing (Undergraduate) 100 points
Quizzes (Undergraduate) 300 points
Presentations (Graduate) 400 points
Project 1100 points
Project 2200 points
Project 3 or Project 4300 points

Grading Scale: Scores and grades will be computed as follows:
A+: 1000 – 967 points = 4.00C+: 799 – 767 points = 2.33
A:   966 – 933 points = 4.00C:  766 – 733 points = 2.00
A-:  932 – 900 points = 3.67C-: 732 – 700 points = 1.67

B+:  899 – 867 points = 3.33
D+: 699 – 667 points = 1.33
B:   866 – 833 points = 3.00D:  666 – 600 points = 1.00
B-:  832 – 800 points = 2.67F:  599 – 0  points  = 0.00

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade.

Punctuality: You are expected to be on time for all classes. Late arrivals are disruptive to the instructor and your fellow students.

Academic Honesty: It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own will be considered plagiarism. See the University's policy on plagiarism--a form of academic misconduct. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, and submitting papers written in previous semesters. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action.

Assignments: Each class meeting will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late. See the Assignment Schedule for details. Click on the chapter designators for study guide questions to help you focus on the key concepts. Expect a short quiz on each chapter as a check of your understanding of the concepts. Click on the project designators for specific details on the writing assignments.

This course presumes you have successfully completed English composition or its equivalent. All written assignments should be typed and should conform to standard American English. Your resources for writing the assignments should include an English composition handbook and a manuscript style guide. Also, consider some of the resources for writers on the internet including Purdue's writing center.

Special Needs: Students with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVLs are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS. For additional information, contact the ODS at, 3201 Arch St., Ste. 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, V 215.895.1401, or TTY 215.895.2299.

Other resources for students with special needs are available from the following:

Course Add/Drop/Withdrawal Refer to the University's policies to add/drop or to withdraw from this course.

Assignment Schedule

Week Topic Presentation Writing Due Reading Due*
1 Social nature of science   in-class sample ch. 1
2 Technology
  ch. 2
3 Research Reports I



ch. 4-1 to 4-6;
ch. 9 (pp. 247-249);
ch. 10 (pp. 307-311)

4 Research Reports II


Project 1 ch. 4-7 to 4-12;
ch. 9 (pp. 249-250);
ch. 10 (pp. 311-312)
5 Research Reviews I



ch. 5-1 to 5-6;
9 (pp. 234-243)

6 Research Reviews II


  ch. 5-7 to 5-9
7 Research Proposals I


ch. 7-1 to 7-5;
ch. 11 (pp. 278-294)
8 Research Proposals II


Project 2
ch. 7-6 to 7-10;
ch. 11 (pp. 294-306)
9 Public Audiences


Ex. 8.3, p. 207 ch. 8
10 Ethics     ch. 3


Project 3 or Project 4  

*All chapters are in Ann M. Penrose and Steven B. Katz, Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse, Third Edition.