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BY100, GS222, FM200 Science Journalism: Reporting and Writing about the Natural Sciences

Block 1 - GS 222/FM 200, Diane Alters

Block 2 - BY 100: Boyce Drummond

This two-course sequence introduces students to the fundamentals of reporting and writing about the natural sciences, with an emphasis on writing and analyzing journalistic and academic science writing.  Boyce Drummond, a biologist and ecologist, and Diane Alters, a lecturer in journalism and a former writer and reporter, will each teach one block of the two-block course. 

General Studies/Biology-GS 222 (FM200)/BY100 Science Journalism:  Reporting and Writing about the Natural SciencesDuring block 5 (Alters), students will learn basic news forms and social media tools, writing news stories and reaction papers on scientific subjects.  We will focus on writing about complicated, even arcane, subjects, and will start with the work of influential writers who report on the natural world. Students will also focus on writing well about numbers, statistics, and important discoveries, as we discuss the importance of finding good sources, verifying information, and remaining skeptical of claims of breakthroughs and new discoveries. Included in the first block will be classes on social media, online writing, and news and feature writing as well as interviewing and evaluating sources, especially for unproven or controversial claims.   Class visitors may include the editor of an important science journal and a prominent science reporter. Class discussion, peer review of papers, and group projects will be included in class-time work.  Over the course of Block 5, students will lay the groundwork for an in-depth writing and reporting project due at the end of Block 6.

During Block 6 (Drummond), students will read and analyze a variety of different kinds of technical science articles in peer-reviewed journals, focusing on the peer-review system and the editorial process in scientific publication.  We will learn to critically evaluate the findings of scientists by analyzing their research methodology, data presentation, and conclusions; to impartially interpret and summarize their findings; and to accurately – and engagingly -- report to the public the importance, ramifications, and limitations of the research using the techniques developed in Block 5.  We will also explore the role of scientists as interpreters of their own work.  Integrating the techniques learned in both blocks, students will complete the in-depth writing and reporting project begun in block 5. 

Both courses must be taken together as a unit, but each block will be graded separately.


  • Field trips will include a visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to sites of past forest fires, and some time at the Baca campus as a transition from Block 5 to Block 6.
  • This course can count as one unit of Introduction to Journalism, a requirement for the journalism minor.