379: introduction to professional writing
The oral component of this assignment is designed to give you experience in:
This assignment should have immediate application for job interviews, and long-term applications for ongoing work (meetings, oral presentations of proposals, etc.)
There is no shortage of controversies within larger fields of science
and technology. Areas of controversies include: cloning, bioterrorism,
global warming, stem cell research, nuclear energy, hydraulic fracturing, genetically modified
crops, privacy in an electronic age, artificial intelligence, euthanasia
and the legal and ethical issues surrounding mood-altering drugs.
In recent years students from this course have focussed on regional issues like Cape Wind. A few have ventured into debates
in areas of fringe science (extra sensory perception, UFOs and crop
circles, for instance).
You would be wise begin this assignment by finding a magazine piece on the subject that offers an overview aimed at a general audience. The New York Times Magazine is likely to have published a feature story on any controversy of note. The piece in all likelihood deals with the subject in some depth, and at the same time describes positions from many sides. It is a good place to begin. I recommend that you look to recent books for background and depth, and to recent newspaper pieces, as many of the controversies in the public's awareness are likely to have been changed greatly in a matter of weeks. A Lexis-Nexis search with appropriate keywords will allow you to generate a list of newspaper pieces in chronological order, from which you may fashion a narrative or timeline of the controversy over the course of its life.
The class divides itself into groups of four or five. The members of each group decide among themselves upon a suitable issue. On a specified date they make a formal presentation of the issue to the class. Assume 40 to 45 minutes for the presentation itself, the remainder of class time for questions and answers.
grade will be shared by all members of the group, and will be accompanied
by a written evaluation. The grade will be based 80% upon my sense of
the group's mastery of the subject's breadth and depth, and 20% upon
the professionalism of their presentation. On the latter count I will
observe four aspects:
overall organization and "smoothness,"
must use at least ten PowerPoint slides. I will supply the laptop and
projector. Other visual aids (handouts, overhead transparencies and
so forth) are optional. Please make sure that at least one member of
your group can meet me in the room fifteen minutes before class, so
that we have time to load the PowerPoint and rehearse the slideshow.