Unit 1: Writing in the (PPE) Sciences

“Science says the first word on everything, and the last word on nothing.” ~ Postcritum de Ma Vie, Victor Hugo

Popular science writing bridges the gap between scientific literature and political and cultural discourse, designed to capture accuracy of science by investigating the methods, results, and implications of recent scientific developments or to explore how science can help us better understand our world. The goal of popular science writing is to make science more accessible to an audience outside its limited sphere, but its purpose is to persuade readers of the validity (or lack of validity) of scientific observation. Popular science literature can be and often is written by non-scientists, though these writers must attain expert knowledge of the field, topic, or discourse through careful research and analysis. Thus, they must have a basic understanding of the field’s research methods in order to dispense scientific knowledge ethically. Take, for example, the work of Eula Bliss, whose recent non-fiction book, On Immunity, explores the cultural fears swirling around the practice of inoculation. Or look at Mary Roach, a popular science writer responsible for several best selling popular science books: Stiff (2003), Spook (2005), Bonk (2008), Packing for Mars (2010), Gulp (2013), and Grunt (2016). But some scientists write popular science too. Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, for example, published a ground-breaking study (The Mismeasure of Man) exploring the political and cultural motivations undergirding the belief in biological determinism and exposing the problematic statistical methods used to reproduce the “data” used by scientists like Samuel Morton to support his racist claims about the biological superiority of the Caucasians.

For this unit, you and your group members will identify a scientific or technological innovation or phenomenon to investigate through not just scientific, but also philosophical, political, and economic lenses. You and your group members will take on the persona of a think-tank (such as The Brookings Institute, which has projects like the USC Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy that explores the social, economic, and political concerns driving/thwarting innovations in the medical and health sciences), which means you will need to cultivate expertise in a variety of fields, most notably the sciences but also Political Science, Economics, Public Policy, Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology. You must thoroughly understand and explain the methods and mechanisms of the innovation in question through careful research and thoughtful analysis and synthesis. But you will also have to explicate and evaluate the political, social, and economic impact of this innovation on our society as well as its ethical implications. The final product of this unit will be a think-tank website (for your institute and its initiative) showcasing your findings through expert articles, written by you and your group members, as well as additional audiovisual content, including (but not limited to) one 8-12 minute podcast (embedded in website) created by you and your group members explaining its significance.

Unit 1 Feeder 1: Annotated Bibliography
Length: 20-35 sources with annotations (MLA, APA or CSE format)

Prepare a list of 20-35 sources that you will use for your Unit Project. Your sources should mainly come from recent scientific journals, although you may include articles or chapters from 1-2 books, or other scholarly criticism, philosophical arguments, or journalism as appropriate. These sources should cover three main issues: 1) the science 2) the ethics 3) the politics and 4) the economics of the innovation or discovery in question. Do not use Internet websites unless they are particularly credible, official, or important sources of information on your topic (i.e., official government websites, or vetted non-profit organizations). For each source, write a brief summary and evaluation. When writing these annotations, consider these questions: What is the main claim or finding of the article? What is the significance, if any, of these findings? What are its methodologies? What use does this article have in your investigation? How effective is it as a source? What potential biases may influence its findings? What questions does it answer? What questions does it leave unanswered?

Unit 1 Feeder 2: Research Article
Length: 3-6 600-800 word articles with informal in-text citations + links, visuals, and formal works cited

Using the research you gathered for the first feeder assignment, each member of your group must compose a brief article exploring different aspects of this scientific or technological innovation in an appealing manner that is accessible to a broad audience. The primary focus of this unit is to explore/explain the science behind the innovation but the secondary and tertiary focuses are to examine its social, political, and ethical implications, as well as its economic costs.

1) rigorously researched in-depth explanations of the scientific or technological innovation or discovery
2) rigorously researched explorations of the social, political, and economic causes and/or consequences related to the innovation or discovery
3) rigorously researched commentary on the ethical or philosophical questions that arise in relation to this innovation or discovery

Unit 1 Final Project:  Institutional Think Tank Website Project Page
Length: Multimedia Website ~2000-4000 words

This website should showcase your institute’s first project looking at the social, political, economic, and ethical implications of a particular scientific or technological innovation or discovery.

Basic Rubric

Website Rubric

Unit 2
Writing in the (PPE) Social Sciences
Supply Chain Project
Product Analysis

How Did This Get Made? Why Did This Get Made?

In the world of Business and Economics, supply chain management aims at improving competitiveness of the supply chain as a whole, by integrating organizational units along the supply chain and by coordinating material, information, and financial flows in order to fulfill consumer demands for a particular product. The object of supply chain management is to identify the costs (time/money/labor) of a product from conception to consumption in order to appropriately price and market a product for consumers that ideally makes a reasonable (or extravagant) profit. Supply chain management reports calculate these costs and find ways to streamline production in order to maximize profits.

The study of material culture focuses on the physical aspect of culture in the objects and architecture that surrounds people. It includes usage, consumption, creation, and trade of objects as well as the behaviors, norms, and rituals that the object(s) create(s) or take(s) part in. The term is commonly used in archaeological and anthropological studies, specifically focusing on the material evidence that can be attributed to culture in the past or present.

For this unit, then, you will be expanding upon your (2-3 person) group’s interdisciplinary expertise focusing on business and economics with an additional interest in looking at objects as material cultural artifacts – with the aim to break down the supply chain costs for a particular product or commodity of your group’s choosing while exploring the social and cultural work of this object. You will be asking not just how your product got made – how much it cost to get made, but why, where, when, and to what social, political, cultural end? You’ll thus be concerning yourself with Marx’s main concerns: 1) Means of production – which include not only the physical instruments of productions (tools, machines, space) but also the methods of production (skills, modes cooperation, divisions of labor) and the knowledge that can be applied to production (science). 2) Modes of production – which include the economic and social structures within society that define individual modes of living encompassing both the means of production and the relations of productions. 3) Relations of production – which concerns the necessary social, economic, and technological relations between people (and/or institutions) and commodities and the value (use-value, social use-value, exchange value).

But this project, in turn, will also concern the means, modes, and relations of consumption of this product as well.

Unit 1 Feeder 1: Annotated Bibliography
Length: 10-15+ sources with annotations (MLA, APA or CSE format)

As you learned from Unit 1, every effective project begins with research! For this unit, you’ll be researching all the things that comes into play between a commodities production and final consumption. But you’ll need to be able to answer a few key questions about your product and its manufacture:

  1. Direct Materials (all materials used during manufacturing of a product)
  2. Direct Labor (labor of individuals working on manufacture of product)
  3. Manufacturing Overhead (related directly to the manufacturing process as well as indirect labor costs)
  4. Period Costs (all other costs not directly related to manufacturing of product – costs incurred to sell the finished product – including management of the company

The final cost of a product on a unit basis is typically derived by compiling the costs associated with a batch of units that were produced as a group, and dividing by the number of units manufactured. The calculation is:

(Total direct materials + Total direct labor + Consumable supplies + Total allocated overhead) ÷ Total number of units = Product unit cost

But that’s not what it sells for because there must be some form of profit.

Unit 1 Feeder 2.0: Institutional Research Articles
Length: 1-2 600-800 word articles with informal in-text citations + links, visuals, and formal works cited (depending on group size – 1 for groups of two and 2 for groups of 3).

The essay(s) should cover the social and cultural history of the product. They should be brief but informative for a broad audience.

Unit 2 Feeder 2.1: Visualization & Data Visualization –
Length: 1 data visualization chart/infographic (using spark or illustrator or photoshop or some other visualization platform)

For this second feeder, you will working on how to do data-visualization to craft a series of visualizations or infographics for your product: commodity production, economic costs, labor costs, social values, geographic boundaries, etc.

  • Product supply chain flowchart from raw materials to commodity
  • Economic Structure of the Product
  • Maps

Unit 2 Final Project:  Product Supply Chain/Cultural Artifact Website using SPARK
Length: Multimedia SPARK Website ~600-1600 words + works cited/resources

This website should showcase your product by looking at the economic, social, political, scientific, and ethical implications of the creation of said product. It should have a clear focus (mission statement) as well as contributing author bios and be visually pleasing, easy to navigate, and most important, informative on the topic being analyzed. Your infographic/data visualization should be a prominent part of this piece!

Unit 3 Project: Professional Development

Finding professional experience beyond coursework during your undergraduate studies at UNC is crucial for progressing in any profession. The shape and scope of this unit will be dictated by you and will require a little leg work of your own to find the right opportunity to best fit your academic and professional needs.

Unit 3 Feeder 1: Assessment and Profile of the Internship Program, Research, Professional, or Volunteer Experience
Length: 50-150 Words
Submission format: printed and submitted to instructor in class

Unit 3 Feeder 2a: Curriculum Vita
Length: as long as it is
Manuscript preparation: Format Flexible (word, pages, etc)
Submission format: printed and submitted to instructor

Unit 3 Feeder 2a: Resume
Length: as long as it is (but shorter than a CV for sure)
Manuscript preparation: Format Flexible (word, pages, etc)
Submission format: printed and submitted to instructor

Unit 3 Feeder 3: Personal Statement or Cover Letter
Length: 1-2 pages (Personal Statements should be under 1 page single spaced, Cover Letters should be 1-1.5 pages single spaced)
Manuscript preparation: Format Flexible (word, pages, etc)
Submission format: printed and submitted to instructor

Unit 3 Final Project: Final Project has TWO PARTS
1. Personal Statement/Cover Letter
2. CV or Resume (you pick which one to revise for final)
Length:  2-3 pages
Manuscript preparation: Format flexible but final should be PDF
Submission format: EMAILED TO INSTRUCTOR as ONE SINGLE PDF (not two documents)

Interdisciplinary Writing