Conservation Writing Pro
Conservation Writing Pro
Communicate your conservation message with clarity!

Argument for Scientists

Scientists are trained to be neutral, dispassionate, and objective. However, environmental scientists write in contexts that require they take a position, and they write documents that require them to be persuasive.

Cardboard-and-duct tape sign reading "Science, isn't ... you know, just, like, your OPINION, Man!"

(Image taken by Mobilus in Mobili, on April 22, 2017)

The techniques that comprise good science and those that comprise good persuasion seem to be so far at odds that environmental scientists struggle to find an appropriate tone; resort to passive and bureaucratic forms of communication; and state their agencies’ positions in ways that feel obscure, unclear, or even contradictory to their readers.


This class outlines the difference between the argument strategies that are used (oftentimes unethically) in advertisements or popular media and the legitimate modes of discourse that are employed in government and scientific writing. These strategies constitute the basis for decision-making; thus, they aid both policy-makers and constituents in understanding how the science informs the policy.  


You will learn how an understanding of your audience, your purpose, and your context helps you structure your document. You will see how to modify “cut and paste” to flow with your document and bolster your argument. We will cover drawing conclusions from data, experts, and examples. Together, we will analyze causes and effects while delineating cumulative effects, coordinate effects, and correlations. Ultimately, you will be able to show the implications of your position—what can and should be done to protect America’s natural resources—which is the heart and soul of the work that you do.


Course Objectives

  1. Gain tools to deepen your understanding of your audience, your purpose, your context, and your role as the document’s author. Apply these tools throughout the writing process for a more effectively written document.
  2. Differentiate among scientific discourse and various argument types, and understand how to apply each in a regulatory context.
  3. Differentiate among opinions, facts, evidence, and analysis. Understand when and how to deploy each in effective scientific and regulatory writing.
  4. Research in the agency context and synthesize your research findings succinctly.
  5. Select from among various argument strategies—including description, comparison, and cause—based on the document’s content and context. Think critically about and write each strategy effectively.
  6. Draft clear, concise paragraphs and sentences.
  7. Refresh your understanding of grammar and mechanics.

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