WRTG 3030 Writing on Science and Society

Instructor Contact:

Christopher R. Ostro
email: chos5074@colorado.edu
Skype: Christopher.ostro
Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/2141002530

About the Course:

The upper-level writing courses at CU are designed to advance your experience writing various types of papers at the college-level.  Throughout the course you will read and write in various non-fiction genres.  Furthermore, I am a firm believer that a good writer is, more than anything else, a good reader.   With that in mind, we will practice close analytical reading together as a class.

This WRTG 3030 course delve into the complexities that arise when writing scientific arguments for a variety of audiences.  We will explore rhetorical techniques for communicating with both people in your field and also people outside of it. To this end, we’ll look at the current state of scientific discourse in the public sphere, with a focus on the growth of pseudo/anti-scientific movements on the one hand and the sudden explosion of pop science media on the other.  Aside from just being interesting, this will hopefully enable us to be more thoughtful in how we present our own ideas.

But this is an Upper-Division writing course, so the onus of the class will be placed on improving your writing.  The Upper-Division writing courses at CU are designed to explore a topic interesting to you, while also giving you a chance to really hone your writing and revision skills.  You will have regular writing assignments throughout the course.  Furthermore, I am a firm believer that a good writer is, more than anything else, a good reader.   With that in mind, we will practice close analytical reading together as a class.


This course aims to grow your…

  • Disciplinary and Specialized Discourse: WRTG 3030 exposes students to disciplinary and specialized discourse by stressing the role of genre in scientific and engineering communication. The course promotes an understanding of how specific genres help scientists and engineers respond to and shape the professional and social contexts that influence and mediate their work. The coursework introduces students to the conventions of scientific and technical writing as well as the conventions of writing for policy makers and other lay audiences that may influence the students’ future professional practice. In addition, the course focuses on the constitutive role of language in professional and lay discourse.
    • This course will explore the ways various disciplines communicate as well as a metadiscussion of the rhetoric and efficacy of these strategies. Ultimately you will be encouraged to look in your own discipline and examine how scholars communicate and practice that in this course.
  • Rhetorical Knowledge Develop specialized disciplinary rhetorical knowledge and effective communication strategies, drawing on texts from relevant disciplines, critically analyzing disciplinary or specialized discourse, composing messages for specific audiences and purposes, and adapting content and form to the needs of a broad range of stakeholders in the discipline.
    • In this course we will analyze a variety of texts, with a specific eye towards their rhetorical situation (that is to say their audience, their author, their context, etc). Ultimately, we will examine the rhetoric which various thinkers (in various disciplines) have used to attempt convince a variety of audiences of their findings.  We will also pay specific attention to the ever-challenging idea of “genre” and how various genres try convey scientific thought in different ways.
  • Genre Compose in genres used in the discipline that is the focus of the course, selecting and adapting genre conventions as appropriate, and meeting audience expectations in features such as style, format, documentation, and specialized vocabulary.
    • This course will examine a number of genres and also look at texts in a variety of media. We will always have an eye towards the conventions of these genres and a discussion of what works and why.
  • Process Hone your writing process, using multiple strategies to generate ideas, to draft and revise your writing, to control features of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, to critique your own and others’ work, and to reflect constructively on your practice.
    • Each piece of writing in this course will have a lengthy process that includes drafts, peer reviews, annotated bibliographies, presentations, and other scaffolding assignments.
  • Information Literacy Develop specialized disciplinary information literacy, critically identifying the issues and stakeholders involved in a given conversation; how authority, influence, and expertise are constructed among participants in the conversation; and the range of genres driving the conversation.
    • As this course is so heavily focused on audience and stakeholders, information literacy will be central to this entire course. Students will be expected to parse out the difference between a successful and failed academic piece and ultimately explain why they succeeded or failed. This will include discussions of authoricy, bias, expertise, etc.
  • Critical Thinking Foster critical thinking skills, evaluating the sources of and support for claims; applying a reasoned skepticism to all claims and beliefs, including your own; posing questions that lead to sustained inquiry and innovative thinking; and framing an issue and developing a stance based on evidence and sound reasoning.
    • WRTG 3030 is a course that relies heavily on critical thinking and, on a meta level, a discussion of how to firmly and convincingly state one’s skepticism. The discussions in this class will often start with sustained inquiry and end at a discussion of how to best frame one’s ideas for maximum effect.
  • Digital Literacy Develop digital literacy, analyzing how visual and aural persuasion contribute to the effectiveness of messages in the discipline, and using a variety of technologies to compose messages that include these modalities and to examine how such messages circulate.
    • This course will require you to use multimedia technology to both collaborate and to share ideas. You will be expected to present things in the way that is most effective and, ideally, practicing these techniques now will help you in your home discipline.

Required Texts:

Readings will be posted on Canvas.

Grading (out of n points):

The class will be out of 1000 points and distributed thusly:

Weekly Discussion Posts:                       15%

Peer Reviews:                                         15%

Paper 1                                                     5%

Paper 2:                                                  10%

Paper 3:                                                  10%

Week 4 Presentation                              15%

Final Paper:                                            30% (5% pres, 5% RD, 5% Ann.Bib, 15% Final)


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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado