Critical Analysis of Science

Download the Critical Analysis of Science assignment (.pdf)

Due

  • Peer-review draft: March 10, 10:00 PM
  • Peer-reivew: March 22, 10:00 PM
  • Instructor-review draft: March 28, 10:00 PM

General Assignment

To date our focus has been on the rhetoric of science, in understanding how scientific and technical writing is rhetorical, and how scientists and engineers make use of rhetoric to produce effectively persuasive discourse designed to meet the needs of their audience in a given situation. As Charles Bazerman argues in A Rhetoric of Literate Action, Vol. 1 and in “What Written Knowledge Does,” effective communication exists within activity systems that have their own specific forms of historically situated discourse designed to carry out specific functions for specific occasions, what we know as genres.

As scientific and technological fields are driven by research that is typically shared through writing, it is important to learn how to analyze scientific and technical writing within the context of its genre, both to evaluate the quality and usefulness of existing published research and to learn the genre conventions necessary to effectively meet your own communication needs.

In this assignment, you will analyze and report on the genre conventions and rhetorical strategies used in one of two different forms of scientific and technological writing: a report published in the 2014 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems or a successful National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant Proposal.

Objectives

  • Practice analyzing and evaluating scientific writing
  • Outline genre-specific conventions of an example of effective scientific writing
  • Survey and learn from the rhetorical strategies of scientific writing
  • Learn how to successfully target a conference proceeding’s Call for Participation (CFP) or a grant-funding organization’s Request for Proposals (RFP)
  • Practice rhetorical conventions and compositional strategies that we have covered to date, including analyzing audience and aims, revision and document design.

General Requirements

You will write a multi-sectioned report totaling several pages. The sections and their requirements are explained in the Tasks section below. Please use headings and subheadings to distinguish sections and help with readability. Keeping in mind that this is a 500-level writing-intensive course, your report should reflect the conventions of good academic writing, including the appropriate use of summary, paraphrase, quotation, and citation of sources.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need to choose whether you wish to analyze a report published in the 2014 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems or a successful National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant Proposal. The two texts, both of which are required readings for Week 7, are:

  • Qi, Jie, and Leah Buechley. “Sketching in Circuits: Designing and Building Electronics on Paper.” CHI ’14: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 26 – May 1, 2014. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 2014. 1713-1721. (Available in Blackboard)
  • Nathan Lemoine’s National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant Proposal.

Tasks

Section One: Addressing the CFP/RFP

Read and analyze the CFP (for Qi and Buechley’s “Sketching in Circuits”) or RFP (for Lemoine’s DDIG Proposal) to which your chosen text responds. Write a summary that identifies the major goals and criteria in the CFP/RFP and then identifies where and how your chosen text addressed those goals and criteria. Cite examples from the report or proposal.

For Qi and Buechley’s CFP, pleae see the Association of Machine Computing’s 2014 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CFP for Notes & Papers. For more information on the conference itself, see the conference web site.

For Lemoine’s RFP, please see the NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the Directorate for Biological Sciences Request for Proposals.

Section Two: Summary and Analysis of Organization

In this section, you will first summarize and then analyze the organization of your chosen text. Each of these two tasks should be presented as two different subsections.

Subsection One: Organizational Summary

Using separate paragraphs, identify and summarize each major section of your chosen text. Use subheadings to identify each of your paragrpahs. For instance, Qi and Buechley’s report begins with an Abstract followed by an Introduction, and so on. For Lemoine’s grant proposal, begin with the Project Summary section, then the Table of Contents, and on through the Data Management Plan. Each paragraph should identify what was contained in that section of the report or proposal.

Subsection Two: Analysis of Organization

After you have summarized each section, write an additional few paragraphs anayzing the reasons as to why the report or proposal is organized the way it is. Keep in mind that as sucessful examples of scientific writing both conform to their specific genre convetions, so the question is not whether or not they are organized well but why the genre convetions dictate that they be organized as they are.

Section Three: Crafting Rhetorical Appeals

Read and analyze the rhetorical appeals of the sucessful report or proposal. How did the author(s) use logical, ethical, and emotional appeals? In what sections do you find each of these appeals? How did the author(s) present their ethos? How and where do the authors or author build ethos for the project? How may the author or authors target the needs, concerns, values, and/or social conventions of the audience? What kind of tone do the author or authors present? What level of expert/non-expert knowledge have they presumed the audience may have? What kind of content do the author or authors define and explain for an unfamiliar audience? Keep in mind that information from chapters 11 and 13 of The MIT Guide to Science and Engineering Communication will be relevant here. Cite specific examples from the report or proposal.

Section Four: Crafting Arguments

Read and analyze the argumentive claims used in your chosen text. Summarize the arguments; identify if you can whether they are arguments of fact, of value, or of policy; and explain where they appear in the text and the kinds of evidence used to support them. Do you find that particular kinds of arguments seem to predominate in different sections of the text?

Section Five: Lessons Learned

Given what you have learned about targeting the CFP or RFP, crafting rhetorial appeals and arguments, write a few pararaphs explaining how you might use genre analysis and similiar rhetorical strategies and arguments when composing your own report or grant proposal.

Format

Keeping in mind the required sections above, your report should adhere to the general guidelines for the citation system of your choice.

Peer-review Draft

Your peer-review draft should be a complete, revised, and edited draft of your project.

Please submit your peer-review draft via Blackboard using the File Exchange tool to within your assigned Critical Analysis of Science Peer-review Group.

Peer-review

Using the discussion forum in your Critical Analysis of Science Peer-review Group, please provide feedback to your peer-review group members.

Instructor-review Draft

Based upon your peer-review, revise your project at least once. Please submit your essay as an attachment via the Assignments tool in Blackboard.

Acknowledgments

This assignment is modeled upon Dr. Patricia Fancher’s Rhetorical Analysis of Grant Proposal and Critical Analysis of Science assignments used at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Peer Review Guidelines

Each of you has been assigned to a four-person peer-review group within Blackboard. Please use the following guidelines to offer feedback, and using the group’s discussion forum to share your feedback with your group members.

Part I

Re-read the assignment guidelines above, keeping in mind both the intended audience and the author’s goal, then read through the essay without worrying about offering feedback.

Part II

Examine Section I of the report and answer the following questions. Please be specific and point to examples of where the author has completed the required tasks and/or where the author has not. Often, answers of just “yes” or “no” aren’t all that helpful unless you get into specifics about how and why you think the way you do. Moreover, developing an ability to articulate why you believe a piece of writing is particularly effective or not as effective as it could be is an important step in learning how to make use of effective strategies and how to evaluate your own writing.

  1. Is Section I clearly identified as such?
  2. How well does the report summarize the Association of Machine Computing’s 2014 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CFP for Notes & Papers or the  NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the Directorate for Biological Sciences Request for Proposals? Do you believe the author leaves out important information or maybe includes too much information?
  3. How accurate do you believe the evaluation of the proposal in light of the CFP/RFP to which it responds? Do you believe that there are important issues the author doesn’t address or doesn’t address effectively? Do you think the author focuses on minor issues rather than major ones?
  4. How is the writing in this section? Does the author make effective use of the active voice and write with economy? (See MIT Guide pp. 293-296.) Does the author apply the principles of effective writing discussed by Gopen and Swan in “The Science of Science Writing”? Are there any passages which don’t sound write when read aloud or which aren’t clear?

Part III

Examine Section II of the report and answer the following questions. As with Section I, please be specific and point to examples in the text.

  1. Is Section II clearly marked as such and likewise divided into two subsections that are also clearly identified?
  2. Do the two subsections fulfill their required tasks? That is, does the first section accurately summarize the structure of Qi and Buechley or Lemoine’s proposal, and does the second section provide an analysis of why Qi and Buechley or Lemoine’s proposal is organized the way it is?
  3. Do you agree with the analysis of the proposal’s organization? Do you have different ideas about the organization or questions you want to ask the author, or do you see statements that could be clarified or further supported?
  4. How is the writing in this section? Does the author make effective use of the active voice and write with economy? (See MIT Guide pp. 293-296.) Does the author apply the principles of effective writing discussed by Gopen and Swan in “The Science of Science Writing”? Are there any passages which don’t sound write when read aloud or which aren’t clear?

Part IV

Examine Section III of the report and answer the following questions. As with Sections I and II, please be specific and point to examples in the text.

  1. Is Section III clearly identified as such?
  2. Does the author effectively address the proposal’s use of logical, ethical, and emotional appeals, citing examples of each and indicating which sections of the proposal such appeals are found?
  3. Does the author effectively address how the proposal’s author(s) uses ethos to support their project?
  4. Does the author effectively discuss how the proposal addresses the needs, concerns, values, and/or social conventions of the audience?
  5. Does the author address the tone of the proposal?
  6. Does the author effectively discuss how the proposal addresses levels of expert/non-expert knowledge the audience may have and the kinds of content the proposal assumes its audience might not be familiar with?
  7. Are there any issues or concerns that you believe the author should address but hasn’t? Or do you think the author has focused on issues that aren’t of concern?
  8. How is the writing in this section? Does the author make effective use of the active voice and write with economy? (See MIT Guide pp. 293-296.) Does the author apply the principles of effective writing discussed by Gopen and Swan in “The Science of Science Writing”? Are there any passages which don’t sound write when read aloud or which aren’t clear?

Part V

Examine Section IV of the report and answer the following questions. As with Sections I and II, please be specific and point to examples in the text.

  1. Is Section IV clearly identified as such?
  2. Does the author do an effective job of summarizing the kinds of arguments found in the proposal?
  3. Has the author has properly identified each argument as an argument of fact, of value, or of policy?
  4. Does the author discuss where in the proposal different kinds of arguments seem to be raised?
  5. Do you agree with the author’s analysis? Is there anything you would change, anything you think should be discussed that wasn’t, or anything that you believe isn’t particularly relevant or effective?
  6. How is the writing in this section? Does the author make effective use of the active voice and write with economy? (See MIT Guide pp. 293-296.) Does the author apply the principles of effective writing discussed by Gopen and Swan in “The Science of Science Writing”? Are there any passages which don’t sound write when read aloud or which aren’t clear?

Part VI

Examine Section V of the report and answer the following questions. As with Sections I and II, please be specific and point to examples in the text.

  1. Is Section V clearly identified as such?
  2. Does the author focus on lessons learned from the model proposal, discussing specific issues and/or lessons to apply when writing their own proposal?
  3. Do you get the sense that the author has really learned something? Why or why not?
  4. How is the writing in this section? Does the author make effective use of the active voice and write with economy? (See MIT Guide pp. 293-296.) Does the author apply the principles of effective writing discussed by Gopen and Swan in “The Science of Science Writing”? Are there any passages which don’t sound write when read aloud or which aren’t clear?

Part VII

  1. Identify at least one thing that you believe the author did particularly well or that you think is really cool about the report. Please explain why you believe it is particularly effective or cool example.
  2. If the author only has time to make one minor revision or focus on one minor particular issue, what would you recommend they address?
  3. If the author only has time to make one major revision or focus on one major issue, what would you recommend that they address?