MSc Science and Health Communication

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Communicating ideas in STM

Unit code HSTM60571
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

This assessed unit introduces students to a variety of skills needed to effectively communicate their research to a wide range of audiences, from academic conferences to school children. The unit is required on both the MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine and MSc Science and Health Communication programmes, and the case coverage will be drawn from across the disciplinary approaches covered by these programmes, with an emphasis on the shared themes of expertise and communication in science and medicine. The course will begin with a focus on how to read academic work effectively and critically, before going on to cover how to develop and strengthen your own academic writing. We focus particularly on writing academic essays, articles and presentations as a developmental and iterative process. The unit also highlights the need to consider and engage with multiple audiences outside of academia and covers approaches to communicating science and health research through broadcast media, journalism, podcasts, fiction, and social media. The exact content of the course will vary from year to year, but is likely to include some or all of the following:

  • Reading critically
  • Effectively developing your academic arguments
  • Writing and editing as an iterative process
  • Engaging specific audiences 
  • Preparing and delivering an oral presentation
  • Communicating through different media

Aims

The unit aims to:

  • introduce students to key research methodologies relating to history, policy and communication in science, technology and medicine
  • enable students to analyse critically key methods and techniques used by researchers
  • provide students with practical insights into writing, through the experience of current researchers
  • build awareness and skill in adapting writing and oral presentation style and technique to different audiences and formats
  • develop skills in drafting and editing of texts
  • develop skills in oral presentation.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

•                   Understand key approaches to effective communication in science, technology and medicine

 

Intellectual skills

•                   Critically and comparatively appraise source texts

•                   Identify and analyse critically a variety of different approaches to communicating research and argument

•                   Select and apply appropriate approaches to particular research questions

 

Practical skills

•                   Understand and begin to apply the practical skills required in professional research, from question formulation to publication.

•                   Read for research, including skim-reading, source prioritisation, and following up references.

•                   Compose and edit texts presenting the same content for different audiences, and reflect critically on the editing process and audience engagement.

•                   Give an oral presentation based on a specific case study, and respond to questions or comments from others.

 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•                   Summarise and critically interpret the results of research.

•                   Contribute to group discussion.

•                   Present findings orally in a group session.

Syllabus

This assessed unit introduces students to a variety of skills needed to effectively communicate their research to a wide range of audiences, from academic conferences to school children. The unit is required on both the MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine and MSc Science and Health Communication programmes, and the case coverage will be drawn from across the disciplinary approaches covered by these programmes, with an emphasis on the shared themes of expertise and communication in science and medicine. The course will begin with a focus on how to read academic work effectively and critically, before going on to cover how to develop and strengthen your own academic writing. We focus particularly on writing academic essays, articles and presentations as a developmental and iterative process. The unit also highlights the need to consider and engage with multiple audiences outside of academia and covers approaches to communicating science and health research through broadcast media, journalism, podcasts, fiction, and social media. The exact content of the course will vary from year to year, but is likely to include some or all of the following:

 

  • Reading critically
  • Effectively developing your academic arguments
  • Writing and editing as an iterative process
  • Engaging specific audiences 
  • Preparing and delivering an oral presentation
  • Communicating through different media

Teaching and learning methods

The formal contact time will consist of a mixture of lecture-style presentations (incorporating some group discussion around case studies) with seminar-format group discussion sessions. Readings and other support materials are delivered via Blackboard, which is also used for essay upload. Students are encouraged to raise questions about the course in class or via email, and the group email list is sometimes used to continue general discussion on course themes.

Assessment methods

One coursework assignment based on a research finding relevant to the student’s core programme/pathway:

  • Critical Analysis of a piece of history or science communication writing. This assignment includes a draft and peer review element (750 words). Weighting 50%                   
  • Two summaries of the same material prepared for different audiences (1500 - 2000 words). Weighting: 50%

Feedback methods

General comments on standard programme feedback sheet; specific notes via GradeMark; standard turnaround time applies.

Recommended reading

  • William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: a Guide for Students. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • William Cronon et al, "Learning to do historical research", online at [www.williamcronon.net/researching/].
  • Wayne C Booth et al, The Craft of Research. Third edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Howard S Becker, Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about your Research while you’re Doing It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • Sylvan Barnet et al, A Short Guide to College Writing. Fifth edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2013.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Harriet Palfreyman Unit coordinator

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