Writing for Biology Majors:
Course Description: The readings and assignments for this course are intended to help you draw connections between your interest in biology and your need to be a strong reader and writer. The texts that you will read in this course will give you the opportunity to develop a more complex and interdisciplinary way of thinking about biological issues. Specifically, we will focus on two themes through our reading: the spread of epidemic diseases throughout the world and the way that thinking about the natural environment has evolved in America in the past 400 years. Both of these themes will help you to accomplish two primary goals. First, we will explore how conceptions about both disease and nature are "socially constructed." That is, we will come to understand how societal ideas about a particular disease or environmental issue are the result not only of scientific research, but also of human reactions and opinions. Second, many of the writers we will read present complex, detailed, scientific information to their audience in ways that make this information understandable and compelling to people without a scientific background.
The materials and assignments we will work with are meant to compliment and broaden the kind of work you will do in your biology course. This means that you will be asked to do many different kinds of writing throughout the quarter, including creative writing, lab report writing, research writing, and deliberative writing. This will require you to use writing for a variety of purposes, including to explore, analyze, and critique complex ideas, to inform and entertain others, and to persuade others that your perspective is well thought out and has validity. In much of this writing, you will need to demonstrate a belief in the value of listening to different views, asking questions, and recognizing the complexity of issues.
Attendance: Since all writing demands that authors consider seriously what others believe and have to say about a given issue, attendance and participation in class discussions and activities is very important. Absences, therefore, will automatically hurt your grade, and more than two absences will put you in danger of failing the course. Please talk to me if this becomes a problem for you. If you must miss class, you are still responsible for turning in any work that is due on the day you are absent, as well as on the day you return, so contact me to make arrangements.
Grading: You must complete all assignments to receive a passing grade in this course. The two categories of work that figure into your final grade are class participation and writing assignments. Class participation means reading the assigned readings and fully completing responses, coming to class prepared and with all necessary materials, being an active group member, and contributing to discussions both in class and on the NetForum. The types of writing assignments we will do are discussed below. I do not assign grades to the formal assignments as I consider them works in preparation for the final portfolio. Your writing grade will be determined through holistic reader response outlined in your Guide to Succeeding on pages 15-19. Since this grading system may cause some anxiety, you will be given a midterm grade review and we will discuss your progress during conferences in the fourth and ninth week. Additionally, you can ask me about you current standing at anytime during my office hours, and I will inform you if a particular assignment is below passing level so that you can revise it.
Major Writing Assignments: In addition to the Biology lab project report you will do for Dr. Glime, you will complete three other major writing projects: a childrens story for a local classroom about the organism you observe in lab; a deliberative project in which you explore an issue related to medicine or the natural environment and argue for a complex, reasonable position; and a writing portfolio that presents polished drafts of all your work, along with a cover memo that explains your work in the course.
Reading Responses: You will have approximately 10 to 12 written responses due over the course of the quarter. For some of these responses you will post your writing to a Web-based program called NetForum (I will provide instruction for how to use this program). Most of these writings will be in response to assigned readings and will be about one to two pages in length. I will generally provide questions or prompts. These are NOT summaries of the material unless explicitly specified. These writings are exploratory responses to the readings and the ideas they present. They should be attempted thoughtfully and seriously. They are often designed to get you thinking about issues associated either directly or indirectly with your essay subjects. You will be asked to share your writing with others. Completion of all responses is expected.
Late Papers: It is in your best interest to avoid turning papers in late. If you miss a deadline for a rough or final draft you will be required to meet with me during office hours. More than one late essay will seriously affect your grade.
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