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Writing Across the Curriculum

HSD 269: Biostatistics
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Mary Huynh

Role of Writing

This course has been designated as a writing-intensive course. Each class session will include a short (10-15 min) informal writing assignment based on assigned readings. Homework assignments will also include writing components. The class project is a research report that will include a brief literature review, a summary of the methods and results, and a conclusion. At the end of the semester, students should be able to communicate results clearly and concisely from various biostatistical tests, articulate a research hypothesis, and summarize research literature for a variety of audiences. Writing is used in this course not only to help students perform statistical research, but also to help them understand statistics so that they can explain or "translate" statistical data into meaningful information.

Disciplinary Writing

In this course students will gain facility with the following genres or types of writing:

  • Summaries of journal articles and popular media articles will provide the opportunity to practice distilling the major components of a 3-5 page article into a one-page summary.
  • The survey assignment will give the students an opportunity to develop a hypothesis and practice writing appropriate questions to collect data for research projects.
  • Homework assignments which translate statistical results into language for a lay audience, in order to demonstrate students’ understanding of the concepts.
  • The culminating project, a technical research paper, will integrate concepts from the textbook and lectures with the skills and information learned from the earlier writing assignments.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Complete frequent informal assignments including weekly homework assignments (to practice statistics and interpret results) and in-class exercises interpreting the ways statistics are used in news articles. The informal assignments are 10-15 minute exercises based on assigned readings.
  • Compose a formal research paper that has been broken up into smaller parts to be completed throughout the semester. Students will work in groups to devise research questions in the area of health sciences, and then create survey questions that they revise based on peer feedback. Students will then (using dummy data provided to them) choose the appropriate statistical tests to run, and write up an analysis of the results in language that a non-statistician would understand.
  • Participate in peer review/revision and group work on the large research assignment.
  • Present clear ideas and interpretations in formal writing assignments.
  • Learn to translate statistical results into everyday language.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course the instructor will:

  • Offer written feedback on homework, tests, and writing assignments.
  • Work with students on revision in/out of class, which includes helping them devise viable research questions, survey questions, and result analyses.
  • Teach by giving examples of problems and then engaging students as a class in helping to figure out which tests to run, how to run them, and interpreting the results.
  • Provide many opportunities throughout the semester for students to practice understanding statistics individually, and then to bring their questions/problems to the class.
  • Make time in class for students to work on their research projects and get feedback from each other and from the instructor.
  • Provide clear expectations for assignments.
  • Provide opportunities for the students to revise and edit their work with feedback from the instructor.
  • Provide clear grading rubrics for each type of assignment that prioritizes the required components and indicates the point values associated with each component.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

The rubrics will cover the following general criteria:
  • Does the student address the purpose of the assignment?
  • Does the student demonstrate an understanding of the material?
  • Does the student articulate a clear thesis?
  • Does the student synthesize information into a cogent and coherent argument or position?
  • Does the student’s writing demonstrate correctness in its grammar, punctuation, word choice, and spelling?