Welcome to WRTG 213 - Writing and the Sciences

Instructor:  Christie Hinrichs -

The goal of WRTG 213x is to help each student learn to read, write, and think with an analytical and critical eye. We will explore ways in which each student can become a better, more confident, and more proficient writer of scholarly scientific essays. To achieve this goal, you will read and respond to a number of essays from  The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017,  and the book  Grunt  by Mary Roach.  To support your research writing, you will need  A Writer's Reference  by Diana Hacker. Along with readings and discussions, you will write three major essays and a research paper. You will need to plan well for your research and writing time. Weekly coursework will include posting substantive comments on discussion topics, responding to other students’ posts, reading the assigned reading, and writing a weekly reader response.

Course Goals & Student Outcomes:

The goal of this course is to teach you how to both  read closely  a wide variety of literary genres and criticism and  respond  to these forms of writing by writing your own well-researched papers.  You will demonstrate your ability to reach these goals by submitting 3 well-written short papers and one longer well-researched and highly polished research paper about literature.

Instructional Methods and Technical Competencies:

This is an online course through UAF eCampus.  It combines readings in the texts, online essays, and online assignments. Because of the online nature of the course, students are required to have easy access to a computer with word processing capabilities and regular access to the Internet.   A number of assignments may benefit from photo editing software.  Ideally, students will also have the ability to record and edit video (using a smart phone, camera, or other recording device); however, accommodations will be made for students who do not have access to this technology.

English/WRTG 111x is a prerequisite for this course. Please contact your adviser immediately if you do not meet the course prerequisites. Students who do not meet course prerequisites may be dropped.

Although we are not in a physical classroom, we can still share ideas and communicate with each other through discussion boards and emails.

Required Texts:  

  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017, Editor Hope Jahren
  • Grunt,  by Mary Roach

Course Schedule:

See  Calendar of Assignments.

Classroom Policies, Participation, and Late Work:

Although this is a distance course, there are regular weekly deadlines that students must meet.  Please see the course schedule for deadlines.   Participation is crucial, late work is not accepted.

Reading Responses

All of your Reading Responses must be substantive to earn full credit. Here's some advice on how to write good questions and comments for 213x:

1. Read carefully and annotate vigorously. You need to seek out moments in the text that made you think. Maybe you were blown away or driven to confusion. Maybe a few lines made you feel angry or frustrated. Mark those passages so you can return to them later. Your annotations are your signposts to substantive thoughts.

2. When you're done reading the essay, return to those spots and choose a passage from the the text to which you will refer in your question. Introduce your Response with the text and be sure to note the page number so your classmates can refer to it themselves. Be sure to put the quote in context for your readers. It will require a little (just a little) summary here and there.

3. Reflect on why you chose that particular passage. What appealed to you? It is perfectly appropriate to use first person in your comments, so feel free to make it personal here.

4. Next, analyze in detail the issues that your passage brings up. What does it make you think about? Consider it in terms of the essay as a whole that you're discussing. Consider it in terms of the possible political issues in the text you're discussing. Consider it in terms of humanity, science, society, or philosophy. Finally, consider it in terms of science as a whole.

Good Responses will do two things: 1) refer to the essay's writing and argumentation by exploring the specific, and 2) refer to things outside the essay which affect our daily lives. The best Responses will strive for a deeper understanding of ideas and issues brought up in the essay.

A substantive Response is one that would spark animated, intelligent discussion in class.

Course Requirements:

All assignments must be completed to receive a passing grade.  All work submitted for this class must be your own and written exclusively for this class. Sources must be properly documented. If you are caught plagiarizing on ANY assignment, you will receive a failing grade for the entire course.

  • 3 Essays (100 points each).  Each of these essays will be 4-6 pages (1,200-1,800 words) in length. Topics will be posted as the assignment approaches. Turn in to your drop box folder.
  • 1 Research Paper (300 points total for Topic Proposal, Final Draft).  This paper will be 6-9 pages (2,000-3,000 words) in length, and will require at least 8 sources. Turn in to your drop box folder.
  • 11 Reader Responses and Comments (330 points total).  After you complete each week's reading assignment, write a 300-500 word response and post it on the discussion page of our website. A Reader Response should not be a summary of the reading. You should approach the text analytically. Do you agree or disagree with the point of view in the reading? Why or why not? What point(s) did you find to be the most fascinating, disturbing, or disappointing, and why?   You can also discuss the way the essay was written. Did you like the writing style? Why or why not? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the writer's style?   What would you do differently if you were going to write this essay yourself? These are just ideas to help you get started, but you should not feel limited to answering only these questions. Remember that you should have a clear thesis statement. Don't just note the 5 most fascinating things in the reading; delve into one of them, and explain in detail why it is so fascinating to you. Don't summarize any more than is absolutely necessary.  (All reading responses will be posted on the class blog for everyone to read.)  You're also required to post a comment to a classmate's response.    These will all be posted on our class blog in response to other people's Reading Responses. Each student is required to contribute one comment for each assigned reading we discuss on the blog. This is where the most student interaction is going to occur. This is your chance to voice your ideas and opinions in an informal setting, and your chance to listen to what others think about the same things. Writing "I liked it" or "It was dumb" will not fulfill this requirement. See the Assignment Page (in the menu on the left) for a sample and advice for writing substantive questions and responses.
  •  Additional Assignments: (25 points each).  Near the end of the semester, I'll ask you to do a special assignment and a quiz will be given on the assigned readings. The function of these assignments is to ensure that you are reading and comprehending the required lecture material. These quizzes will be posted  on blackboard.

Grading Scale:  

This is a graded course using a +/- grading scale as follows:

  • A       93-100%
  • A-     90-92%
  • B+   87-89%
  • B       83-86%
  • B-     80-82%
  • C+   77-79%
  • C       73-76%
  • C-     70-72%
  • D+   67-69%
  • D       63-66%
  • D-     60-62%
  • F         0-59%

A note on plagiarism: Remember that all work for this class must be your own, original writing. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the entire course.

UAF Student Support Services:

The Student Support Services (SSS) program, located in 512 Gruening Building, provides opportunities for academic development, assists students with college requirements, and serves to motivate students towards the successful completion of their degree program. Contact them at (907) 474-6844.

 Students With Disabilities:

UAF has a Disability Services office that operates in conjunction with the UAF Community and Technical College.  Disability Services, located in 208 Whitaker Building, provides academic accommodations to enrolled students who are identified as being eligible for these services.   If you believe you are eligible, please visit on the web or contact CTC’s Student Assistance and Advising Center at (907) 455-2800.  You can also contact Disability Services on the Fairbanks Campus at (907) 474-5655.

Tech Help from UAF eCampus:

You can get technical help from eCampus by going to

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