WRTG 3030 Writing on Science and Society

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Harrison Carpenter

Email: harrison.carpenter@colorado.edu

About the Course:

Science and technology are more than just professional specialties. They influence so much in the daily lives of everyone in our society that writers of all stripes are making efforts to help their readers understand, connect with, and value science and technology. These concepts will be discussed and applied within a range of writing formats and discussion threads.

Like all writing courses at CU-Boulder, this course is conducted in a workshop format, in which you will provide ongoing peer review of the writing produced by your colleagues in the course.  There is ample research to support the value of ongoing revision in the writing process, and revision as a requirement is built in to every stage of the writing process.

WRTG 3030 fulfills the upper division written communication requirement for graduation at CU-Boulder. Our class will function as distance education through Canvas; all class activities and communication are conducted electronically and asynchronously. You must be self-motivated and timely to be successful in an online course, willing/able to actively engage in online message exchanges and web searching, as well as watching podcasts.  Since the course is also highly concentrated in terms of the timeline and workload, it is essential that you have good time management skills.


In keeping with the learning goals set by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE), this class is designed to help you:

  • Deepen your rhetorical knowledge by teaching you to use voice, tone, format, and structure appropriately, deepening understanding of relationships between form (syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling) and content in writing.
  • Focus on rhetorical situation, audience, and purpose, such that you can write and read texts written in several genres, for specified discourse communities, including professions and/or disciplines.
  • Deepen experience in writing processes, by using multiple drafts and revisions such that you may develop strategies for generating ideas, revising, editing, and proofreading for extensive, in-depth and/or collaborative projects.
  • Learn to critique your work and others’ work, including the work of professional writers and/or scholars.
  • Learn how to analyze issues, problems and opportunities relevant to the sciences, and to apply sound reasoning to develop a valid, credible perspective based upon solid evidence.
  • Deepen understanding of writing/genre conventions, including format, structure and documentation appropriate for different writing tasks.
  • Demonstrate comprehension of content knowledge, by learning to evaluate sources for accuracy, relevance, credibility, reliability, and bias, such that you may compose messages adapted to a variety of audiences/rhetorical situations, by using a variety of technologies (communication and research tools).

Required Texts:

There is no required textbook purchase for this class; however, links to several different sources will be shared on the Modules page. I may direct you toward investigating particular mechanical errors by directing you to informative websites when responding to your Discussion posts.

Grading (out of n points):

Major Assignments

  • Engagement and Reading Journal (20% of course grade): An ongoing project, in which you exchange your ideas with your classmates and I, is writing entries into your Reading Journal (linked into our Discussions, with your name in its title) and engaging your classmates in asynchronous message exchanges. I’ll respond to a number of the posts you make, with comments/questions. You may also see a note of “like” from me (the classic thumbs-up icon) indicating I’ve read and approved of your post. Grades will be given at the ends of Week 2 and Week 5.
  • Research Project Pitch(15% of course grade): “Sell” a research project on the required topic, loosely defined, is “science.” You may approach that topic from any perspective or discipline, but your first task is to focus more sharply.
  • Library Re-Introduction Class (LibRiC) Quiz (5% of course grade): a multiple-choice quiz in which you enter your answers to questions asked about how to use CU Libraries’ resources in literate information searches.
  • Press Translation (15% of course grade): A brief essay translating a source, in order to report the key result of a study you’ve read about in your library searchesYour goal should be to explain to a lay audience what result is key and how it’s to be interpreted.
  • Blogpost(20% of course grade). A deliberative analysis to add into the discussion of an important scientific topic, posted via invitation to an active science blog
  • Webpage(25% of course grade). An unbiased, objective review of field-specific research, written for an audience of researchers and featuring embedded links and images; this will be published as a live information source.

Due Dates and Cutoff Times

We will take all major assignments through stages, during which we will exchange messages regarding your writing and how to improve it. To make it work for you, you must complete all stages of all these assignments by the cutoff times (typically, 8:00 AM) on their due dates. Note:

  • If you fail to upload a draft before the cutoff time on its due date, your maximum grade on the assignment will automatically be lowered by two-thirds (i.e., A to B+).
  • If you submit a final revision <24 hours after the cutoff time on its due date, your maximum grade on the assignment will automatically be lowered by two-thirds (i.e., A to B+). Submitting a final revision >24 hours after the cutoff time on its due date may result in a grade of F.

Late submissions must be sent to my email address. Excused “absences” will be assessed on a case-by-case basis; note that I CANNOT GIVE EXCEPTIONS, EXEMPTIONS OR EXTENSIONS on word alone. Contact me if you have an emergency come up and cannot meet a due date or cutoff time. The sooner you let me know, the more likely I can help!

How Your Writing is Evaluated

In this class, I aim to help you figure out where you need to concentrate if you want to improve your writing. I’ll do that by pointing out weaknesses, explaining them, and exchanging ideas for solution. Letter grades give quick-and-dirty info about how far you’ve come, but shouldn’t be all you think about. I give rubrics to help you set goals.

Specific rubrics are given on the Assignments pages. The rubrics are given to help you envision what things affect readers’ judgment of a paper’s quality, and thus to set goals for your writing. In all rubrics, a column is devoted to one level of accomplishment (exemplary, skilled, competent or underdeveloped), and a row is devoted to specific actions and/or portions of an assignment. Within each cell is a description of qualities/actions associated with writing seen in the text, which can be taken to indicate a level of accomplishment.

When grading, I take into account what’s said in the rubric, but as a writing teacher, I’ll make note of sentences’ grammatical and mechanical correctness. As a reader, I’ll look into the coherence of the paper’s story (arc), as well as its cohesion (flow).  As an academic, I’ll gauge how the topic fits into a social context (rhetorical situation); connects into a current conversation (stasis); and supports points with verifiable evidence, logical reasoning, and critical thinking (argument). I do not “give” or “deduct” points! All grades are given as letters only.

However, Canvas keeps track of overall grades by giving numerical values to assignments’ letter grades. An assignment’s maximum value is equal to the assignment’s percentage of course grade. For example, if an assignment is worth 10% of your course grade, and a grade of A is given, Canvas will add 10 points into the course grade; a grade of A- will lead to 9.4 points; etc. Because a grade of F is given when/if an assignment isn’t turned in (see below for more info), that leads to a value of 0 points. The calculation system defaults to allotting a maximum of 100 total points, taking into account all assignments’ point values. these values are used to assist with determining overall course grades. When class ends, this assists in determining overall course grades, by calculating what percentage of the maximum points have been achieved, and assigning that value to a letter grade in CU’s standard grading scheme:

A:       94.0 to 100%

A-:      90.0 to 93.99%

B+:     87.0 to 89.99%

B:       83.0 to 86.99%

B-:      80 to 82.99%

C+:    77.0 to 79.99%

C:       73.0 to 76.99%

C-:     70.0 to 72.99%

D+:    67.0 to 69.99%

D:       63.0 to 66.99%

D-:     60.0 to 62.99%

F:       <59.99%



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