Course overview

What is a "science essay"?

Homework 1 (PDF)

Read 1st set of essays, reflections on science: Lightman, "Smile"; Thomas, "Crickets, Cats Bats and Chaos"; Doyle, "Joyas Voladoras"; Weed, "106 Science Claims . . ."

Letter to me


Audience: grabbing the reader

Literary techniques: scenes, imagery, characters . . .

Voice and tone

Science and life—the "non-quantifiable"

Homework 2 (PDF)

Read 2nd set of essays, on "doing science": Kanigel, from The Man Who Knew Infinity ; Hirsh, "Signs of Life"; Sacks, "Remembering Francis Crick"; Kolbert, "Crash Course"



Why do science? Who does science?

The writer as a "character" in his essay

Homework 3 (PDF)

Essay 1: reading response


Workshop essay 1

The home science essay; Natalie Angier, "Red"

Homework 4 (PDF)

Essay 2: home science

5 Workshop essay 2

Homework 5 (PDF)

Cover sheet for essay 2 workshop responses (PDF)

Read 3rd set of essays, on scientific controversies: Orr, "Devolution"; Shreeve, "The Other Stem-Cell Debate." Note: These essays are for discussion in Lec #7

Prep for workshop with Malden High School

6 Workshop "home science" with Malden HS

Homework 6 (PDF)

Read 4th set of essays, on scientific myths: Gopnik, "American Electric"; Singham, "The Copernican Myths"; Gould, "A Division of Worms." Note: These essays are for discussion in Lec #8.

Select a book to review—title due next class


Writing scientific controversies

The question of fairness

Making complexity clear

Asking the right questions

Homework 7 (PDF)

Revise essay 2


Science v. myth

What's at stake?

Making complexity clear

Prewriting for essay 3, life/science or social impact . . .

Homework 8 (PDF)

Read 5th set of essays, on the challenges of medical science: Patterson, "The Patient Predator"; Gawande, "Desperate Measures"


Public health and individual patients

Involving the reader

Homework 9 (PDF)

Read 6th set of essays, on the social impact of science and technology: Gladwell, "John Rock's Error"; Lightman, "Prisoner of the Wired World" and Seabrook, "Fragmentary Knowledge." Note: These 2 essays are for discussion in Lec #11.


The Pill: TV program as science essay, part I

Discuss The Pill and "John Rock's Error"

Homework 10 (PDF)

Prepare to present paragraph proposal for essay 3, life/science or social impact. . .


Technology and culture

Hear proposals for essay 3

Homework 11 (PDF)

Essay 3: life/science or social impact. . .

12 Workshop essay 3 Work on essay 4
13 Workshop essay 3 (cont.)

Homework 13 (PDF)

Read 4 book reviews [handouts]

Finish reading your chosen book


Book review as essay

Tight focus and wide significance

The language of judgment

Homework 14 (PDF)

Revise essay 3

Cover sheet for revision (PDF)

Read Overbye, "Remembrance of Things Future" and Pollan, "Unhappy Meals"


Strategizing the longer research essay

Questions about essay 4, book review?

Homework 15 (PDF)

Essay 4: book review

Essay 4 books list (PDF)

16 Workshop essay 4 (PDF)

Homework 16 (PDF)

Proposal for essay 5

17 Workshop essay 4 (cont.)

Homework 17 (PDF)

Work on essay 5; revise proposal


Present proposals for essay 5

Homework 18 (PDF)

Revise essay 4 - due next class

Prepare to present proposal paragraph for essay 5

19 TV program as science essay, part II: Origins (video and discussion)

Homework 19 (PDF)

Outline essay 5 or write introduction


Share outlines/intros in small groups

Individual conferences for essay 5

Homework 20 (PDF)

Essay 5; complete draft to be emailed to class before the next class

21 Workshop essay 5 (PDF) Breathe!
22 Workshop essay 5 (cont.)

Continue to work on essay 5

Respond to your classmates workshop comments in writing

23 Work on re-revision

Homework 23 (PDF)

Re-revise one essay from essays 2-4

Cover sheet for re-revision (PDF)

24 Guest speakers: Robert Kanigel and Marcia Bartusiak of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing

Work on revision of essay 5 and re-revision of essays 2-4 as needed

Begin pulling portfolio together

25 Watch science documentary: Amazon logo Leonardo's Dream Machines. PBS Home Video, 2006.

Homework 25 (PDF)

Re-revise essay 5 for Portfolio

Write portfolio cover letter

Bring 1-2 paragraphs of science writing — writing from a science essay — that strikes you as especially good. Prepare to read it aloud and explain what you value in the writing. Your excerpt may be from something we've read from class, or not.


Hear favorite essays and discuss

Course evaluations