This section features detailed instructions for the papers and lists all the short assignments. Please consult the calendar for all relevant due dates.

Manuscript Drafts and Submission Guidelines

Both papers and short assignments (except short assignment #4) are due in class in hard copy on the date listed and should be submitted on the class Web site, by class time, as well. Assignments should all have a title, your name (on all pages) and a date on them, twelve point type, and one inch margins all around. The electronic version should be in either Microsoft® Word or RTF format.

Workshop and Revision

On workshop days, the hard copy draft will be workshopped with your peers during class. I will comment the electronic submissions and return them to you on the class Web site. Usually, paper drafts are due on a Thursday and I will get them back to you by the following Tuesday. I will generally not comment the final, graded version of your papers, but you are welcome to see me during office hours to discuss your papers (at any stage of your writing). You may revise a graded paper (and I will then average the grades), but you must come discuss the paper with me before doing so.


Paper 1: Narrative Essay, ca. 800 words

Your first assignment is to write about yourself-about your own intellectual interests and passions. In particular, I would like you to address the question: What scientific or technological issues, questions or problems most deeply interest you, and how do you think those interests will shape your life?

Paper 2: Contrasting Technical Descriptions (2), ca. 1200-1600 words

The purpose of this assignment is to give you experience in adapting a piece of technical writing to a specific audience. The assignment consists of two short independent pieces. Choose something that you know a lot about, but which would probably not be familiar to a broad, general audience. It could be anything from an abstract concept, to a technique, a skill, an object, or an activity (e.g. a sport or a hobby). Write a description or explanation of it that is aimed at a general audience. (Characterize the audience you have in mind before you begin to write.) You could imagine that this description will be one component of a larger piece of writing aimed at that audience.

Then write another description of the same thing, this time for a more specialized audience of your peers. This audience could be people who share with you a very specific area of specialization within a field, or it could be a broader audience within that field.

Paper 3: Literature Review, ca. 1200-1500 words

This assignment links to the fourth assignment. In order to propose the creation of a course, you have to very thoroughly research the academic landscape. A successful course proposal answers a variety of questions: How will this course fit in with other courses and course sequences? Who will teach it? What texts will be used? What students can be expected to take this course? To answer these questions, you need to delve into a variety of kinds of research. These may include: examining course catalogs and syllabi at other institutions; interviewing or surveying faculty or students; reading reviews of potential texts, or reading the texts themselves; becoming familiar with Institute statutes on course creation. Your research review should consist of a bibliography of the sources you have explored, along with a narrative which briefly explains what you have found, what was useful and what was not, and what research gaps you have yet to fill before you can write the design proposal.

Paper 4: A Design Proposal, ca. 2400-3000 words

In this assignment, you will develop an idea for a course at MIT, undergraduate, graduate, or continuing education. You will then write a formal proposal describing the course and its rationale. The purpose of this assignment is for you to become familiar with the format and style of a proposal.

Individual Oral Presentation of Paper 4, ca. 10 minutes

An in-class, oral presentation of your Design Proposal. Eight minutes to present; two minutes to answer questions.

Short Assignments

Note: For short assignments 3, 4, and 7 (which are written proposals of papers 2, 3, and 4, respectively), you will write from a few sentences to a paragraph about what you plan to do. This shouldn't take much time or effort, but it is important that you complete these assignments and complete them on time.

  1. Make a list of the steps you take from the time you are given a writing assignment to the time you hand it in. Make sure that you include the more "casual" steps in your process. That is, not just "then I revise," but also, "I meditate/eat cookies/lift weights/take a walk, then I revise."

  2. Find an ad for a job that appeals to you and write a letter of application for that job-essentially a one page cover letter to go with a c.v. Bring in both the ad and the letter. You may fictionalize your cover letter but it should be serious rather than satirical.

  3. Brief written proposal of what you plan to write on for Paper 2.

  4. Brief written proposal of what you plan to write on for Paper 3.

  5. Bring in a book review from a technical journal in your field.

  6. List at least five ways in which you think the design of the course is working well and five things that you would modify, eliminate, or supplement.

  7. Brief written proposal of what you plan to write on for Paper 4.

  8. List five Web page design characteristics you find appealing and five which you find problematic.

  9. Write a short, email response to a technical problem.

  10. List at least five ways in which you think the design of the course is working well and five things that you would modify, eliminate, or supplement.

Group Presentation

In addition to the short written assignments, each student will be responsible for participating in a group presentation, with two or three other students. The following topics will essentially be student-presented:

  • Argument
  • Reviews and Critiques
  • Graphics
  • Web page Writing and Design
  • Email


One individual conference is required. A group conference, tied to the assignment above, is also required.