ENGL 199 A: Interdisciplinary Writing/Natural Science

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:00pm - 4:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
ENGL 199 B
Tyler Chen
Tyler Chen

Syllabus Description:

Interdisciplinary writing link to Astronomy 150 (ENGL199 A/B)

Instructor: Tyler Chen (chentyl@uw.edu)

Office Hours: Wednesdays 6:00-7:00pm, Thursdays 11:30-12:30pm , by appointment (email me or message me on Canvas) (zoom link)


Accommodations and Accessibility

While participation in and engagement with the course are necessary, I recognize that not everyone has the same learning needs, and that certain aspects of the current course structure not be suitable for everyone. This is especially true in light of the additional challenges brought on by remote learning. I am happy to work with you directly, or with you in conjunction with the Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS), to accommodate your needs.

Course Description

Welcome to English 199A/B, a 5 credit writing course linked with Astronomy 150 "The Planets"! In this course, we will take what you are learning in Astronomy 150 and use it as the basis for series of writing projects designed to help you practice and develop practical writing related skills. The course will be interdisciplinary; in addition to using science as the topic of our writing, we will think about the importance of writing in science, as well as how both writing and science influence other aspects of our world. Throughout the course you will work closely with your fellow classmates through guided peer review activities which I will facilitate. These will give you the opportunity to build essential practical skills around giving and receiving feedback, as well as to meet other students in a small group environment.

Course Goals

  1. To gain a deeper understanding of your own writing process
  2. To develop comfort with an iterative revision process
  3. To develop the rhetorical awareness to make effective writing choices when writing about Astronomy and other technical subjects
  4. To give effective and constructive feedback on the work of others
  5. To receive the feedback of others, and to determine how this feedback can be used to improve your work
  6. To think critically about the interplay between writing and other disciplines, especially the sciences

Course Format

There will be three major projects, and each project will be broken down into a sequence of smaller assignments.
Roughly speaking, the scheduled course time will be used in three ways:

Lecture and skill building

Some classes will be devoted to going over new assignments, learning about relevant writing techniques, and skill building exercises. Relevant portions of the class will be recorded and posted on Canvas, so its up to you whether you attend these classes in real-time or watch the recordings later. Any skill building activities will have an in-class version and asynchronous version. The asynchronous version will typically be posted several hours after class so that I can set up groups based on who attended in real time.

Iterative revision and peer review

Other classes will be devoted to the iterative editing and revision process. At the beginning of each project you will choose (by filling out a form on Canvas) from one of the following two options:

  • attend designated peer review classes online in real-time (this will involve participating in collaborative small group activities and peer review sessions)
  • participate in asynchronous discussion board activities on Canvas

You may switch options for this type of class between projects, but cannot switch during a project. I will clearly mark which dates will be designated for real-time peer review activities on Canvas at the start of each project.


Towards the end of each project some classes will be cancelled to make time for one-on-one writing conferences.
I will schedule conferences individually with you.

Class Policies

Expectations for Interactions

This course involves a lot of peer interaction, and I expect these interactions to be respectful and constructive. Please keep in mind that everyone is coming into this course with different levels of writing experience, and what may be common knowledge to you might be new to someone else. At the same time, recognize that even if you are a less experienced writer, you inevitably have experience in other areas and that your perspective is still valuable.


Your course grade will be determined by a grading contract. You will also get peer feedback throughout each of the projects as well as individual feedback from me.

Academic Integrity

Please don't plagiarize! I expect all of your work in this class to be original. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism please reach out to me for clarification.


The course is based around three large projects, each of which will have several smaller components to help practice and develop skills. More details and due-dates are given in each module.

Project 1: Science and pseudoscience

In this project we will discuss what astronomy tells us about the validity of a related pseudoscientific theory, and why, despite conflicting with significant amounts of scientific evidence, there are large groups who believe (or have believed) your chosen pseudoscientific theory.

Project 2: Non-conventional media

In this project we will explore sharing scientific information via a form of media other than an written essay, article, etc. Possible projects include a series of social media posts (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, etc.), podcast, short video, etc.

Project 3: Broader audiences

In this project we will write an expository essay on a technical topic indented for a broad audience of non-experts.  Explaining a complex and technical topic to people unfamiliar with what experts would consider standard concepts and terminology is no easy task. Indeed, doing so requires distilling complex ideas into more broadly accessible forms, while still maintaining accuracy and scientific validity.

Other Information

The IWP & Anti-Racist Pedagogy:

The Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) is committed to engaging with anti-racist pedagogies. These pedagogies may take various forms, such as curricular attention to voices, communities, and perspectives that have been historically marginalized inside and beyond academic disciplines; inclusive classroom practices; discussions of racism; and consideration of other forms of prejudice and exclusion. We believe that countering the cultures and practices of racism in an academic institution is fundamental to developing a vibrant intellectual community. The IWP is happy to talk with you about your questions as well as to support student-led initiatives around anti-racist work, and we invite you to contact IWP faculty member Rush Daniel at daniej9@uw.edu or Carrie Matthews at crmatthe@uw.edu. If you’re interested in how teachers of English as a professional community have taken up anti-racist work, check out the National Council of Teachers of English Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning at http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/antiracisminteaching

Religions Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).

UW Wellbeing

good starting point for finding (physical and mental) health related information:

https://wellbeing.uw.edu/resources/Links to an external site.

Catalog Description: 
Expository writing based on material presented in a specific natural science lecture course. Assignments include drafts of papers to be submitted in the specified course, and other pieces of analytical prose. Concurrent registration in the specified course required.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
March 5, 2021 - 11:22pm