DRAFT SYLLABUS, version 18 Nov. 97
Investigative Research on the Social Impact of Science
Peter Taylor, Lang Visiting Professor
Biology 9, Soc/Anthro 23 Spring 1998

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor
Email: ptaylor1; Phone: 690-6858
Classes: Martin 213, TuTh 11.20-1.10
Office Hours: Pearson 102, Tu 1.30-3.30


Scientific developments are central to many current social issues: use of biotechnology, prenatal screening, fetal tissue transplants, municipal waste disposal, toxic wastes, epidemiology of AIDS, sex differences in math. tests, and so on. While non-scientists defer to the technical expertise of scientists regarding these developments, most scientists are too specialized to evaluate the social implications of their work, yet they resist moves for active democratic participation in directing science.

This course is based on the premise that science can be appreciated critically without expertise in technique and detail. You will be required to choose a current controversy that concerns you and to work through the various stages of investigation of that issue:
-- define the issue;
-- do background research into who has interests in the issue, its history and comparison with similar issues;
-- define a manageable project
-- establish contacts with specialists who can interpret the science and identify where you might pursue studies in greater depth;
-- establish contacts with activists who can help you interpret the science and politics;
-- identify the arguments and counter-arguments of the different sides;
-- explore avenues of public participation and define proposals for action; and
-- make and revise written and spoken presentations.
The syllabus describes the sequence of activities and assignments along the way.

The class is run as a workshop. This means that you:
i) practice in class and in peer groups the techniques, e.g., interviewing, that are introduced;
ii) learn about each other's projects and help each other by acting as critical reviewers of those projects;
iii) clarify your own projects, ideas and arguments by making presentations at different stages in the research process, and then
iv) direct your remaining research efforts accordingly. (In this regard, note that you begin the process of writing and revising your reports before spring break.)

My role as instructor in a workshop is to:
i) help you understand the science (as much as I can) through written comments and during one-on-one conferences;
ii) guide you to literature, resources, contacts and possible future internships;
iii) "think on my feet" during class in order to identify what needs clarification and find ways to guide you into solving the problems yourselves;
iv) distribute regular handouts providing more detail about the assignments and readings ahead;
v) schedule student conferences after every class (from 12.40-1.10), enabling me to take stock with each student of developments (or lack of developments) in their project at least once every three weeks; and
vi) arrange guest speakers, discussion of articles and case studies to illustrate points about explanation, argument, modes of research, experts, ways of knowing, and what can be achieved in research and action.
(Note: I keep to a minimum required readings concerning the social impact of science because I have found that these distract students from pursuing their own research. However, I encourage you to ask me for readings if you are ready to learn more history about the social impacts of science and to develop a systematic framework for analysis of these impacts.)

My experience is that teaching this course entails many challenges in supplying contacts and other resources for a large number of different projects. But an even greater challenge has been to get the students into their research and keep them moving along. Some of you will have not previously been given so much responsibility for directing your own learning, interacting with the adult world outside college, and producing original written work of the length that this course requires. The process will be demanding for most of you. Many of you will get "researcher's block" at one point in the course or another, often over seemingly simple tasks such as making a phone call to find out some information or arrange an interview. In response to and in anticipation of such difficulties I have instituted a number of changes since I first taught the course. For example, I will require you to identify and make an appointment without delay with an initial faculty informant. (I provide a letter of introduction so these faculty appreciate the purpose and expectations of having these meetings so early in the your projects.) My special goals for this year are to encorage you to i) make direct contact with the participants in science-based controversies, that is, to take your research off campus; ii) identify a specific constituency you want to influence; iii) develop a proposal for action directed at that constituency; and iv) design your research -- especially if you are a social sciences major -- in greater detail and with more attention to methodological problems in interviewing, surveys, etc.

Assessment: This is divided into two parts: Contribution to workshop, one-third; Written assignments and presentations, two-thirds.
For each part, 80% of assignments satisfactorily completed earns a B. The idea in not grading assignments and other work is that more time and attention can be given to comments and other teaching/ learning interactions. (Below 80%, grade is pro-rated, i.e., 0% gives D-; 70% gives B, except that if workshop contribution is less than 2/3, the overall grade cannot be higher than the workshop contribution grade. The idea is that completing assignments cannot substitute for workshop contribution.)
To have a chance (but not a guarantee) of getting more than B, additional work is taken into account.

Basic work=
For Workshop contribution: Attendance (two non-excused absences allowed), and Feedback on presentations.
Written assignments assignments and presentations (see schedule below): Submitted by due date and resubmitted until accepted as satisfactory. Last date for resubmissions is two weeks after each due date.

Work used in considering whether more than B is to be given=
For Workshop contribution: Active participation and Briefing on research issues (see end of syllabus).
For Written assignments: Final research report and Portfolio (to be decribed later course).


1. Independent work on your project outside class steadily throughout semester. (I may ask you to keep a work log and will review your workbooks during the semester.)
2. Co-operation (pre-reading, attendance, discussion, contact about non-attendance above two classes, and contact about late work).
3. Participate in your peer group, which should consist of students with related projects. These groups will meet at 12.40-1.10 at the end of each class, so that you can make presentations, discuss your projects, and etc.
4. Wordprocessed assignments (so you can revise & update them).
5. Assignments on due dates (often we'll discuss them in class on the due day).
6. Volunteer to make class presentations, which in some cases require completion of assignment before the rest of the class.
7. Resubmit assignments when requested.
8. Keep an eye on what's ahead so you give yourself time to prepare. (Assignments due are marked in this syllabus with a *A*)

Texts and Materials:
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford University Press.
A xerox reader will be provided. (To help you appreciate what is required in, for example, a narrative outline, the reader includes different examples of student work from previous years. These are not all gems - note comments made on them -- so do not slavishly copy any one of them.)
Compilations of final reports from previous years will be on reserve in the Cornell library.
On reserve in the Cornell library: Williams, C.T. & G.K. Wolfe. 1979. Elements of Research: A Guide for Writers. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishers.
You need also to buy a workbook with detachable 3 hole punch pages, dividers, and pockets to store loose materials.
Course fee: $8 for production and postage of a book of everybody's research reports. Payable to Peter Taylor.

Suggested changes welcome

Additional information about classes and assignments will be provided in regular handouts.

Tu20 Introductions, expectations, resources, the workbook.
Analysis of a previous student's investigative research (Tamara Clark on male contraceptives.)
Verbal reports on projects
Sense of Place Maps I
Prep for next class: Prepare 5 questions to ask a guest student during the next class about the experience of doing investigative research.
Post-reading: Appendix to Aint No Makin' It.


Th22 Getting going
Interview student who has done similar investigative research about the experience and mechanics, and through this begin to imagine yourselves in a similar role.
Inclduing: Who are the informants, guides, experts?
More on workbooks and organizing research material
Sign-up for conferences & class presentations
Asmt: Identify an initial faculty informant, make contact, deliver letter of introduction, make appointment for a time before Feb. 3rd.

Tu27 Pre-reading: Chap. 1 Elements, Elbow, chaps. 1 & 3.
Discussion of initial descriptions
Initial formulations -> controlling question
Exercise: General area & specific questions
Other issues: Ambiguity, Lack of definition, Discovering subject/ Inventing subject, Subject, purpose, audience
First peer group meeting -- "share" initial descriptions
*A* Asmt due: Title and initial description of proposed research (1 page)

Th29 Pre-Reading: Chap. 2 Elements
Meet in Cornell library lobby for a session on Reference material in the libraries
Manual and computer searching
Asmt: Use the on-line catalogs or databases to locate articles or sections in books describing a controversy related to your issue. Submit with a paragraph describing the different sides and indicating how the pieces connect with your proposed research. Submit revised title and description if it has changed. Due: Tu3

*A* Asmts due: Verbal reports on appointment with faculty informant (see 1/22);
*A* Paragraph on controversy (see 1/29).
Argument and counter-argument
Pre-reading: Xerox handout on cloth vs. disposable diapers.
Class exercise: summarize the different positions regarding your issue
Asmt: Continue class exercise in preparation for next class.

Th5 Free writing -- an opportunity to evaluate where you want to go with your research. Who do you want to convince? Of what? What obstacles do you see ahead?
Pre-reading: Elbow, Chap. 2

Note: No assignments due this week, but watch out for the bunch coming at the end of the month.

Tu10 Organizing research material
Note-taking and summarizing
Bring your workbook with any material and notes derived from research to date

Th12 More towards controlling question
Creative and critical aspects of any phase of research and writing
Mapping (student presentation, with audience probing)
(Where is the issue/ controversy happening?; Who is implicated?; What changes are envisaged?; Arguments for change & counter-arguments; What related questions have other people investigated? Background vs. focal issues; Research holes; Provisional proposal; Categories & definitions; Need for primary vs. secondary research)


Tu17 Meet in Cornell lobby for a session on using the WWW, prefaced by minilecture on:
Different approaches to research & different sources of information
(Questionaires, interviews, snowballing, statistics; Primary vs. secondary material)
Introduction to information available on the WWW.
Pre-reading: Chapter 3 Elements.

Th19 Explanation (incl. use of jargon)
Reading: James Jeans "Why the Sky Looks Blue" & student explanation of neurotransmitters
In class exercise on explanation for layperson.
*A* Asmt due: For in-class exercise bring material (books, xeroxes, etc.) related to a principle that is important and/or difficult in your area of research.
*A* Asmt due: Annotated bibliography of reading completed or planned

Discussion of one person's draft research design

*A* Asmt due: Research design
Argument (structure, main points, connections, steps; contributing & hidden arguments)
Analyze one student's arguments and sketch out your own.
Asmt: Outline of arguments implicated in your research. Due Th5

Tu3 Interviewing and getting people to speak about/explain what they usually don't; dealing with experts.
Prepare questions and practice interviewing
Guest speaker (who will also observe your practice interviews): TBA
*A* Asmt due: 5 questions you would like someone to answer for you


Note: This section of the course does not presuppose that you will have finished your research. In fact, you could continue to do research up until the day you submit your final report. At this point in the course we expect that you will still be rethinking the direction and scope of your research. Nevertheless, because writing is an excellent way to work out your ideas, your research will be helped by starting to plan your writing now.

Th5 Freewriting on your report's structure and content
*A* Asmts due: a) Update: Additions or revisions to research design and to bibliography
b) Submit workbook (pick up after 4.30pm from Pearson 102)
c) Outline of arguments implicated in your research.
Mid-term self-assessment/ discussion (gap between where you are and would like to be).

Spring break
During the break read "Exploring your writing preferences"

Tu17 Review writing preferences and identify strengths and issues to work on
Direct Writing & Quick Revising (towards outline)
Reading: Elbow, chaps. 4 & 5; reread chapters 1-3.

Th 19 More on arguments

Tu24 Paper outlines
Reading: Elbow, section II

Th26 Student presentation of paper outlines followed by class evaluation
*A* Asmt due: Nested and connected table of contents or see Tu31-Th2

Tu 31-Th2
More student presentations of paper outlines followed by class evaluation
*A* Asmt due: Narrative outline


Tu7 Revision and evaluation of each other's narrative drafts
-Th9 Reading: Elements, chaps 4 & 5; Elbow, section III
*A* Asmt due: Narrative draft of paper or see Tu14


Tu14 Visual presentations
*A* Asmt: First draft of research report
Reading: Elbow, section IV.

Th 16 Practice presentations to class (10 minutes each student), Peer evaluations.

Th23 Public presentations (including action proposals)
-Tu 28


Th 30 Taking Stock of the Course
Sense of Place Maps II
Possible overflow of student presentations.
*A* Asmt due: Draft of research report (returned with comments M4)
Reading on Documentation: Elements, pp. 129-153

*A* Portfolio due for students choosing to do this
*A* Asmts due: Final version Research Report (2 copies, laser printed), with addresses for sending the book of reports to you after mid-May.
*A* Workbook, to be picked up after the weekend
Deliver both by 4pm at Pearson 102 or 5.30 at my house (401 Walnut Lane)
Review Ain't No Makin' It
5-7.30 Dinner (supplied by PT), discussion, video
Where to go from here? More feedback on course.
Video on participatory research


All students, preferably working in pairs, will select a topic on which to prepare a research briefing, i.e., a summary (2-4 pages) in written form that gives other students in the class a quick start when they face that research issue. These briefings should provide or point to key resources, i.e., key concepts, issues and debates, references, quotes or paraphrases from those references, faculty on campus, relevant courses. I will provide initial suggested resources for each topic, but look forward to learning from the briefings you compile.

Proposed topics:
Interviewing is not just asking questions and receiving informative answers.
Whistle blowing can be hazardous for your livelihood and life.
When science gets subject to adversarial procedures (e.g., in courts or in government inquiries).
Moving down to or in with the grassroots.
Participatory action research.
History of science and public policy in the United States.
Student activism concerning science in the United States.
How not to be mislead by what is on the WWW.
Community based research networks, in the United States and elsewhere.