To better prepare students for undergraduate science courses, first year composition instructors can:
- assign more transactional and information genres, such as specific types of reports, proposals, and plans: i.e. policy report, field report, grant proposal, project plan
- encourage students to begin research with a question, not a thesis, and then formulate conclusions or claims based on what the research indicates
- help students to analyze differences between genres in different disciplines or professions
- develop meta-level genre analysis skills that students can apply to all genres
To help students perform better on these assignments, science instructors can:
- include specific descriptions of all writing assignments on the syllabus
- use specific genres as names for assignments, as opposed to “research paper,” which can mean different things in different courses (such as analyzing an issue, reviewing secondary research, or reporting on empirical research): “policy report” or “field report” is more informative than “research report” or “research paper”
- help students to analyze the genres they are to produce, using student or professional models
- share what kinds of writing they do on a regular basis, as experts in the field
Most of the goals are shared by first year composition instructors, albeit not always in the context of science assignments. To encourage transfer of skills, then, instructors can:
- refer to these goals and explain to students how they transfer between disciplines. For example, how is analyzing a text similar to analyzing data? How do researchers in the sciences search for and employ secondary sources, compared with those in the humanities?
- look up undergraduate course syllabi for the sciences (and other undergraduate areas of study), pointing out to students what communication skills and assignments are required.
- practice applying strategies learned in one assignment (say, a rhetorical analysis) to another type of analysis (say of data, or a public science issue)–and articulate the similarities between both exercises