Because I been studying for my finals I totally forgot to write for my composition class. A 10% synthesis paper is due today and I thought I was done for this class after a 60% project. I know its the last minute but, I'm not so good at writing so any attempt on revising this paper is much appreciated.
Writing is not my cup of tea, but I had to take a writing class sooner or later right? CO301B or Writing in Science, at first I thought this class was going to teach me how to write like those long confusing scientific paper you see online. Not even close. Writing in Science teaches you how to write for non-expert readers meaning you will describe a scientific development or method to those who has an interest in science but not are an expert in the field. In this class you will analyze rhetorical context, and will learn great techniques on how to interpret your scientific writing to the readers so that the reader can understand and comprehend the material.
In the CO301B you will analyze articles for rhetorical context. To me, at first, I figured rhetorical context was just to make writers stick with the style they start off with in the paper; there are more to rhetorical context then that. What I gotten from analyzing all the assigned readings were of how important the readers actually are. You need to understand who you are writing for, you mustn’t overestimate or underestimate you reader’s knowledge, and you have to keep the readers interested in your paper. You will analyze great writers in this class but the writers that captivated me the most was Shapin, Hayes and Bazjek. Using rhetorical context you will then find a site partner and write for them, and this is the biggest project you will do in this class.
According the Steven Shapin, a research paper containing abundant information needs to create a “mental image” of the experimental procedure so the reader can visualize the procedure without directly witnessing the experiment. Shapin called this “virtual witnessing,” and probably all scientific writers should use this skill; if they want the public to be more involved. You probably are thinking of listing procedural list on how to start the actual experiment right? Like the one you write in lab reports, but ask yourself this: If you are the reader, would you consider reading the procedure on how to start the experiment? I’m guessing no, unless you are in a lab and actually trying to replicate the experiment. What Shapin is arguing that a document explaining an experiment should clearly describe what they have done as they clearly explain the scientific principle step by step; not just on how to start the experiment by creating a list.
In other words, when you write you should clearly explain the step on how to proceed with the experiment; adding the equipment you used and explaining how that tool can help the experiment. Explain any observation you see in the experiment without omitting any details. Conclude with the results and how that result can influence the public, so at end the reader can “witness” the actual experiment without been present at the time of the experiment. Easier way to create a “mental image” for the reader is by actually adding the image of the experiment; tools you use, data you observed, and any visual result you can conceive.
Specifically, the idea of “virtual witnessing” is very helpful for the site partner project. For the site project you might create a brochure, pamphlet, an article, or even a research paper for your site partner. With “virtual witnessing” it’s easier for readers to follow with the text because they can reflect back on the “mental image” and comprehend the material covered in the writing.
The article done by John Hayes and Diana Bazjek is probably the most compelling article I read in this class. Not only is it true, they provide experimental data to prove their argument. Now, what am I talking about? I’m talking about the “knowledge effect.” The “knowledge effect,” I believe, is the core of writing in science and most students in this class will agree with me. “Knowledge effect” is basically is not to overestimate or underestimate your targeted reader’s knowledge, and there’s one example in the article which they surveyed people by asking them to estimate from scale of 0 to 100% if the given term would be known by a college freshman and another survey for college graduates. What fascinated me were the results of the survey; you can probably guess that people would give graduate students higher percentage than those of college freshman, but what was fascinating was that if an individual was familiar with the term then that individual would estimate on an average of 35% higher to both freshman and graduates.
In short, the “knowledge effect” is a tremendous benefit for the writer if the writer can acknowledge the reader’s knowledge, and use that benefit to captivate the reader into the text. If you underestimate the reader’s knowledge then you will “dumb down” the text; with “dumbing down” the text you will likely to insult the reader. If you overestimate the reader’s knowledge then the reader will obviously lose interest in the writing and will not likely to finish reading. For your site partner project, the “knowledge effect” will aid you in what kind of writing level you should do once you target an audience. If, for instance, you target an audience who are a high scholar then you shouldn’t use terms that gets covered in college or work your way around a scientific term and confuse the reader. When scientific term or principle is used then you should clearly define the term or the principle; don’t just ramble on and on.
All in all, you will learn and get experience on how to write for the public. From this class, I believe I gotten better at writing since I enrolled into this class. The site partner project, that is going to be 60% of your grade, will take a lot from you but will give you a great experience and probably give you a taste of reality on what you may do in the future. Sooner or later you probably will have write for the public for your job, for your research, for your boss, or maybe you just wanted to write.