Being a chemist. Oops, science is POWERFUL!

ENGL 390, 390H, and (sometimes) 398V  Class Journal


Friday: ABT and rain gardens

From Randy Olson's twitter feed this ABT critique of the mission statement for upcoming Science March.

Audience scenario for this memo: Here is Jane, our boss. She asked for the memo at the end of our last staff meeting. 

irst up! What is a memo?  

 By the way, the OWL website at Purdue is a fabulous resource for writing. Memos also have a standard format:  See the image to the left.  Also, look at the email heading in your software.  This electronic message is based on the memo format.  Bonus question:  what is the difference, traditionally, between a memo and a letter.

Topic Sentences: A list of qualities for you to strive for


  • Usually a short direct sentence (think announcement)
  • Signals the topic in the paragraph (think preview)
  • Hooks the reader by 1) raising a question or 2) provoking thought
  • Can be placed anywhere, but early on in the paragraph is the best default strategy for most professional documents; in other words, at the beginning of the paragraph
  • Contains an element of transition from the previous paragraph


Note:  topic sentences can be implied in tightly coherent prose (for now, leave this subtle technique to the professionals!)

Let's look at examples of topic sentences useful in the rain garden memo:

Rain gardens, or bioretention ponds, are a kind of low impact development.  Low impact development....

Rain gardens have two components:  layers of percolation material and carefully chosen plants.

Rain gardens protect the local environment by absorbing water run-off from impervious surfaces and by sequestering pollutants.

Dr. Allen Davis studies rain garden effectiveness.  Davis, a civil engineering professor, has been studying bioretention for more than twenty years.

Let's also think about sentences generally.  General advice to you?  Write shorter sentences than those you are familiar with in literature and many of your textbooks. 

Now, let's think about sentences: 

Sentence Patterns

Buffy and Sentences

Pitch the Verb

And, on to paragraphs:

Paragraph Definition: think Architectures

Paragraph Types

Posted on Friday, February 3, 2017 at 07:54AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

For Friday

Some preparatory readings.

  • Whiteside article about scientific writing, focus on IMRAD article
  • Washington Post news article about federal employee responses to Trump Administration
  • Poke around on Twitter for "alt,"rogue," and "ungagged" federal accounts (spend 15 minutes)


Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 08:00AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Welcome to ENGL 390

for spring 2017.  Here are the readings for the first week.

John Bohannon (molecular biology)

  • Created “Dance Your PhD” contest (exercise in public audience communication). Here is the 2016 winning piece on biomedical invention. He explains more about why dance as a “text” for communicating complexity to lay people in this >

  • TED method on a talk using dancers instead of Power Point (Here is the talk, in 11 minutes)

  • Blogs at Science Magazine, including this really important fake paper experiment that exposed trouble in peer review/open access publishing.


Katharine Hayhoe  (atmospheric scientist)

  • Part of her public communication of science is to reach a resistant audience about climate change. She uses many venues, including Youtube and Vimeo, as well as an excellent

  • facebook page. Heyhoe really understands her audience, which is why she is rather successful in keeping this conversation civil and ongoing.

  • Her “Global Weirding” YouTube channel is a series worth looking at.   

  • Read more about her work at the Slate Bad Astronomer blog by scientist Phil Plait.


Randy Olson (marine biologist and filmmaker)


Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 07:34AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | Comments Off

Last day! Thinking about titles

Your title should reflect the scope of your content and address the audience. 

In class, I will note the chief lapses in documents at the end of the semester:

  • poor citation (please, seriously, do this well, with either formal citation as fits your field or natural language citation.  Some documents will use a combination of citation. For some of you, hyperlinks are a support to citation as well as courtesy to readers)
  • document is out-of-control, in size.  You should have scoped that with me over the last two weeks.
  • not adding the additional sources -- say two or three -- that you need to complete the argument.  You do not need to annotate new sources.
  • making claims without evidence.  Support your document with the logos of evidence, including cases (these also invoke the subtle but powerful pathos of storytelling.
  • changing your document without tell me.

Please, include your final audience analysis on the front of the document.  You can combine this with the cover sheet, if you like.

I would also like you to underline (pen or pencil) your thesis or problem statement.  This way, I am helped to see what you are doing NOW in this document, as this project has evolved.

Office hours this week:

Monday 12-12:45

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11-1

Monday, December 19:  11-3.  I leave at 3 with all the folders, to go home and grade.









Posted on Monday, December 12, 2016 at 07:32AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Last small assignment -- Abstract and reader's response

Post here, by midnight.

Pay attention to citation style: one through the document or changes in the document.

Range is formal -- author-date parenthetical citation -- to less formal -- natural language citation.

If you will use hyperlinks for a web-based document, see me.


Posted on Friday, December 9, 2016 at 09:24AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment