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Volume 35, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0034-527X
  • E-ISSN: 1943-2348


The purpose of this research was to examine both what it means to teach writing and what it means to write in a first-year university course in the history of science. More specifically, I investigated what students learned about writing when the focus was mainly on subject matter and only secondarily on writing and rhetoric. A number of converging methods of research were used to address this issue: audiotaping classroom discourse and taking field notes, interviewing students and collecting retrospective protocols about their responses to a writing assignment, and analyzing students’ texts. The analyses indicated that classroom discourse focused primarily on framing concepts that brought into focus different and conflicting conceptions of the scientific method and the ways authorship in history is colored by writers’ subjectivity and perspective taking. Although students’ interpretations of the writing assignment were not very detailed, the texts they wrote revealed some understanding of how to use comparisons as a tool for analysis in writing history, the importance of attending to context in examining a given historical phenomenon, and the extent to which writing history is both interpretive and rhetorical. Yet neither the focal students nor the other students participating in this study responded uniformly to the assignment. The data raise the question of whether disciplinary courses in writing provide an authentic alternative to the space general writing skills courses currently occupy, particularly if such classes exist as sites where students are introduced to critical thinking and argumentative writing in college.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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