Science Writing MA

The MA in Science Writing provides opportunities for writers to grow their portfolios and hone their skills as writers and editors. As the global COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, communicating about science to non-scientists requires ethical storytelling that reaches a wide variety of audiences. The humanities provide training in both critical thinking and ethics. The MA in Science Writing offers practical courses in science writing alongside electives in literature so students are prepared to be critical thinkers and writers who can make complex information available to a wide variety of audiences.

This innovative program includes two short residencies at the Cape May Point Science Center, the former Sisters of Saint Joseph’s Retreat Center, housed in Cape May Point, NJ. The Science Center is next door to the Cape May Lighthouse, the Hawk Watch, The Cape May Bird Observatory, and within a short distance of other beautiful natural resources like Higbee Beach and the Garrett Family Preserve, providing a rich environment for writing about nature and science. During each of the two 5-day residencies, students have a hands-on opportunity to explore nature and witness the impact of climate change in one of the foremost migratory bird spots in the United States. There are ample opportunities to engage with other critical wildlife populations, such as monarch butterflies and horseshoe crabs, as well as with scientists working with the site.

The MA in Science Writing incorporates community-engaged learning into its courses in order to effectively address issues of environmental racism and environmental justice. Students have the opportunity to work with at least one of Saint Joseph’s long-term community partners (or find their own) on a practical hands-on project or project-based piece of service-learning. Students will reflect on how these hands-on projects contribute to larger issues of social justice and science, medicine, climate change or related topics. By combining real world, practical experience with a master’s steeped in the Jesuit tradition of the humanities, we aim to create ethical and reflective writers who are capable of adapting to the changing needs of the job market.

Goal 1: Acquire knowledge of the writing process and develop editorial skills.

Objective 1.1: Students will create original work by following a process-oriented approach to writing that includes brainstorming, drafting, and revision.

Objective 1.2: Students will formulate constructive responses to the work of their peers regarding stylistic choices and organizational principles in one or more genres of science writing.

Objective 1.3: Students will practice editing skills through examining their own writing.

Goal 2: Develop skills at analyzing and critiquing scientific, nature, environmental, and/or medical writing through analysis and practice.

Objective 2.1: Students will demonstrate knowledge of scientific, nature, environmental, and/or medical writing concepts, such as audience, purpose, and medium to determine what conventions will best communicate with a chosen audience.

Goal 3: Acquire knowledge of the publishing process.

Objective 3.1: Students will locate publishing venues and prepare a manuscript for submission in one or more genres related to scientific, nature, environmental, and/or medical writing, such as nonfiction, journalism, academic writing, online content, or science fiction.

Goal 4: Students will acquire knowledge of the cultural and practical aspects of scientific, nature, environmental, and/or medical writing.

Objective 4.1: Students will read, discuss, and critique a variety of scientific, nature, environmental, and medical texts for both scientific and popular audiences.

Objective 4.2: Students will think critically about how their own intersectional positions as writers affect the public’s understanding of science and health-related practices.

Goal 5: Practice community engagement.

Objective 5.1: Students will participate in hands-on community projects in a mutually beneficial collaboration with designated partners.

The MA in Science Writing requires 32-33 credits of graduate work spread over ten courses. The two residency courses will count toward four credits each. The MA in Science Writing includes a community-engaged learning component. Community-engaged learning will be embedded in two courses, or students will have the option of taking one course designated as community-engaged and a one credit community-engaged internship. Additionally, by requiring ENG 676 instead of a thesis, the MA in Science Writing will ensure that students enter the job market with articles submitted for publication and portfolios.

All students in the program will take three core courses: 

ENG 550The Practice of Writing3
ENG 620Special Topics in Lit/Culture (Science Writing (Residency Course))3
ENG 676Writing for Publication3

These courses provide breadth of perspective on all of the general issues and circumstances faced by science writers in the process of engaging an audience and making a living through the craft of language. Other courses in the program will be organized in terms of a variety of topics:

  • Climate Change Stories
  • Contemporary Literature and Science
  • Science Fiction in Literature and Film
  • Literature and Medicine
  • Racism, Science and Medicine
  • Health Writing
  • Rhetoric of Science
  • Physics Writing
  • Nature and Environmental Writing
  • Writing and Environmental Justice

All courses are designed to have writing as the center of concern, and many of the courses will emphasize science and scientific writing as well as writing for publication. Some courses may count in multiple areas of the degree. Those interested should consult the graduate director for details.