ENGL 299 C (Winter 2014)

ENGL 299 C (Winter 2014)

[last revised on March 11, 2014]

This syllabus and many other files used in this course are based on materials previously developed by Brian Buchwitz. I am grateful to Dr. Buchwitz for sharing his resources so generously.

Description: ENGL 299C: Intermediate Interdisciplinary Writing for the Natural Sciences (instructor: Greg Crowther) is linked with BIOL 220A: Introductory Biology (instructors: Jessica McAbee and Tom Daniel). Although the two courses complement each other, they have distinct goals, instructors, activities, and assessments. Our focus in ENGL 299C is on the creation and communication of knowledge in science through writing. We will (1) read and analyze biology texts and (2) outline, draft, comment on, and revise our writings as biologists do.

Why might you want to take this course?

  • To improve your ability to write about biology and other topics.
  • To improve your ability to read papers about biology and other topics.
  • To enhance your understanding of BIOL 220.
  • To receive "C" or "W" credits toward graduating from UW.

Learning goals: (common to all Interdisciplinary Writing Program courses!)

  • Read texts by academic and professional participants in the discipline, identifying these writers' purposes and recognizing rhetorical principles that underlie genres in the field.
  • Analyze writing tasks assigned in a disciplinary context.
  • Identify and generate material relevant to discipline-based paper assignments; draft and revise arguments as a participant in your disciplinary context; and respond to arguments by other participants.
  • Use critical comments on your work, and writing activity itself, to extend and refine your thinking.
  • Grasp, employ, and pursue implications of new learning in the discipline lecture course (i.e., BIOL 220).
  • Become more fully aware of the factors that affect your success in reading and writing. (The fancy term for this is “metacognition.”)

How exactly will this course help me improve my writing?

Here is one framework for thinking about effective writing:


Each of the 3 big-picture GOALS can be hard to define and hard to achieve. However, good HABITS allow progress toward SUB-GOALS, which in turn  bring the GOALS into reach.

We encourage good habits through frequent "low-stakes" homework and in-class exercises. "Low stakes" means that these exercises are graded gently and/or have a very small impact on your final grade.


  • Participate fully in course activities. This includes preparing for class, asking questions and contributing during class, and completing assignments on time and with your best effort.
  • Show respect for all individuals and demonstrate responsibility in groups. Many activities in science and writing are collaborative in nature.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to incorporate feedback and to grow as a scientist and writer.
  • Communicate clearly and regularly with peers and the instructor.
  • Conduct yourself with academic honesty. Do not deprive yourself of opportunities to learn.

Instructor: Gregory J. Crowther, Ph.D. (crowther@uw.edu)

Website and assignments: Check the course website (https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/881524) and your email regularly for announcements and assignments. You will submit some assignments electronically using UW Canvas. Additional instructions will be provided by the instructor.

Recommended books:

  • A Pocket Style Manual (Sixth Edition) by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers
  • Biological Science (Fourth Edition) by Scott Freeman


  • Classes: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 10:30-11:20 AM, Bloedel 286.
  • Conferences: By appointment.
  • Office Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00-10:15 AM, Padelford B-26, and by appointment. (Some appointments may be in room E691 of 750 Republican St. at the south end of Lake Union.)  Please note that all questions and requests for help with ENGL 299C should be directed to Dr. Crowther. BIOL 220 instructors and teaching assistants are not responsible for ENGL 299C and should not be consulted about ENGL 299C, simply because their BIOL 220 duties keep them plenty busy already!

Participation: In-class activities cannot be completed at another time. If you are unable to participate in class due to an illness, family emergency, or UW-recognized event, email the instructor before class or as soon as possible. An excused absence from participation may require appropriate documentation.

Grading: Your final grade will be determined from three papers (collectively worth 70% of your grade) and homework and participation (collectively worth 30%). You must retain all course materials, including in-class activities, assignments, and comments.

Additional resources: Check the Pages section of the course website for guides to Avoiding PlagiarismCollaborating OnlineSearching for Scientific Literature, and Supporting Your Learning & Writing.

Organization and schedule of topics and homework: This course consists of four modules: (1) Preliminaries, (2) Writing a ScienceNOW Article, (3) Writing a Scientific Journal Article, and (4) Peer-Reviewing a Scientific Journal Article. Modules 2 through 4 include the drafting and revision of a 3- to 5- page paper. The daily schedule of activities and assignments will be adjusted and revealed as the quarter progresses, but key dates are shown in the calendar.

Course Summary:

Date Details
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