HC441H - Calderwood Seminars Public Writing: Neuroscience Journalism

Professor: Nicole Dudukovic

4.00 credits

  • CRN 15704: Fridays, 9:00-11:50am @ CHA 201

Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing are advanced-level, writing-intensive courses that engage students in a review of areas of special interest. These seminars emphasize public writing—the ability to translate complex arguments and professional jargon to a broad audience— which is a central feature of a liberal arts education. These seminars will have a collaborative format, with students writing frequently and rewriting their work in response to comments by their professors and input from classmates. You have learned how to write for college, now learn how to write for life.

The human brain has been called the most complex object in the known universe.  It is also, arguably, one of the most fascinating.  Over the past several decades, neuroscience research has become increasingly sophisticated and interdisciplinary.  At the same time, neuroscience findings are attracting broad appeal.  News stories, blog posts, magazine articles, and public lectures that include information about the brain or pictures of the brain are alluring and convincing; therefore, the accuracy of this information is paramount.  How can we clearly and faithfully communicate about the intricacies of neuroscience in a way that is accessible to the public?  In this course, we will grapple with this question.  We will work together in the role of science writers and editors, reading primary sources in neuroscience and hearing from neuroscientists, writing about neuroscience findings for an audience of non-experts, and reviewing and editing each other’s work.   For science majors, the challenge will likely be in eliminating technical jargon and overly complex prose; for non-science majors, the challenge might be in comprehending the original source material at a level at which you can express some of the nuances of the research.  

Together, we will tackle these challenges, engaging in a series of public writing assignments, through which we will all hone our skills as science communicators.  This workshop-style course will be fast-paced, following a tight schedule of writing and editing deadlines, reflecting the demands of science writing.  You should leave the course with a new perspective on neuroscience research and a heightened sense of self-efficacy as a writer.