Experimental Biology - Communications Intensive

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 7.02CI (Spring 2005)
Course Title: Experimental Biology - Communications Intensive
Course Level: Undergraduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Department: Biology
Course Instructor(s): Dr. Neal Lerner
Dr. Marilee Ogren-Balkema 
Course Introduction:
Syllabus Good Scientific Communication

If the goal of science is to contribute to our understanding of the natural world, then the goal of scientific writing is to communicate that understanding with precision, accuracy, and economy.

In this portion of the course, you will develop your skills as a writer of scientific research, skills that will contribute to your learning of course material and to creating your identity as a scientist. Writing exercises - both in class and out - will have you explore the genre of the research article and its components and develop your grasp of the material you are learning in the 7.02 laboratory.

In this way, writing will be both a tool of communicating and a tool of learning. In addition, you will develop your skills as a writer, reviser, and editor - working with your peers and your instructor - and, ultimately, develop a solid foundation for writing up your future independent research.

Course syllabus (PDF)

Instructors and Class Meetings

Students in 7.02, Experimental Biology and Communication select a Scientific Communications ("SciComm") section, each taught by an instructor from the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies department at MIT. SciComm sections meet six times over the course of the semester. Each session consists of lectures and in-class activities as described in the Class Methods section below.

Class Objectives

At the conclusion of this class, students will be able to:

Understand the seven components (title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion/conclusion, tables/figures) of a laboratory research paper.Understand the writing process and its application to scientific writing.Understand the importance of communicating in writing as a scientist.Apply an understanding of scientific writing to their subsequent independent research.Class MethodsIn-class Activities

During each class session you will be engaged in a variety of writing activities that use self-editing, peer-editing, and instructor feedback to develop your skills. The goal of these exercises is to limber you up and make you more flexible as writers, revisers, and editors. They will also prepare you for the out-of-class writing assignments.

In addition, during each session three or four students will be responsible for a brief (no more than 5 minutes each) oral presentation on a particular aspect of an assigned research article. The four assigned roles for these presentation are to 1) summarize the article, 2) analyze the article according to the goals of that particular component of a scientific research paper, 3) analyze the article according to the pitfalls of that particular component of a scientific research paper, 4) act as a discussion leader and ask two to three open-ended questions to class.

Out-of-Class Writing

Out-of-class exercises will put in-class experience to work on scientific content. You will experiment with the relationship between audience and style/format, as well as explore and critique writing the readings assigned for each class. Further descriptions of out-of-class exercises will be provided during each class meeting.

Long-Term Project

In addition to various in-class and out-of-class exercises, you will be asked to choose one on-going writing project. Each choice will require that you turn in sections of the whole at each class meeting and regularly revise those sections based on instructor and peer feedback. You will then hand in a final version of your project at the end of the semester. Please note: The first section to your long-term project - the introduction - will be due before the second class meeting and some preliminary work on your project will be done at the first class meeting; thus, please make your topic choice as soon as possible.

GradingGrading TableAcTIVITIESPERCENTAGESIn-class WorkAttendance and Participation (In Discussion and In Writing Activities)Oral PresentationProvides Useful Feedback on his/her Peers' Writing (Peer Tutoring)20%Out-of-class WorkA) Professional ImprovementB) Five Non-long Term Project Writing Assignments (To be Announced)30%Long-Term ProjectA) Long-term Project (LTP) Drafts (25%)1. LTP Intro Draft2. LTP Methods Draft3. LTP Results Draft4. LTP Figures draft5. LTP Discussion draftB) Long-term Project Title and Abstract (5%)C) Long-term Project Final Draft (20%)50%Revision Policy and Grading SchemesRevision policy

A major part of the scientific writing process is revision, and thus you will have the opportunity to rewrite your SciComm "out of class" assignments and your LTP drafts. Revision will improve not only your writing but also your score on that assignment. The following guidelines govern rewrites in 7.02 / 10.702 SciComm:

One rewrite is allowed for each assignment.Rewrites must be turned in by one week after assignment is returned.Higher score of the two is recorded.Grading of Oral PresentationsGrading Table 1GRADEPRESENTATION QUALITY INFORMATION+Superior presentation. Talk has structure/organization; presenter has good eye contact/rapport with audience; speaks clearly and correctly. Uses visuals where appropriate.√+Good presentation. Requires only minor improvements in any of the areas above.√Acceptable presentation. Requires moderate improvements in one or more of the areas above.√-Poor presentation (doesn’t care or prepare)0Fails to complete oral presentation.Grading of Writing AssignmentsGrading Table 2GRADEQUALITY OF WRITING EMBODIED BY THIS SCORE+Thoroughly superior work. A model of good scientific writing.√+Good work. Requires only minor improvements in any of the following areas: organization of ideas; economy of expression; diction (word choice); grammar/punctuation/spelling.√Acceptable work. Requires moderate revision in one or more of the areas above.√-Acceptable but rough work. Requires substantial revision in all areas.-Unacceptable work.0Assignment not handed in.Additional InformationPolicy on Absences

Students are required to attend all class meetings. In accordance with MIT policy, students unable to attend classes or participate in any exam, study, or work requirement on a particular day because of their religious beliefs are excused from such activities. Students who need to miss a class session must attend another section meeting (with prior permission of the instructor) covering the same material (Introduction, Methods, etc). Absence from class due to illness requires documentation from the Counseling Dean's Office.

Late Work

All work is due on announced date except in the event of a documented medical excuse. For all final drafts, one letter grade will be deducted for each day late until a grade of F is reached.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is intentionally or unintentionally using the ideas or writings of another person without properly documenting and giving credit to the source. It will not be tolerated. Plagiarized work will receive zero credit and may result in the student failing the course. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, see one of the Instructors.