Degree Details and Courses
Each course in the MA in Science Writing curriculum is classified as a core, workshop, elective, or Residency. MA students enroll in the same courses as Graduate Certificate students. To earn the nine-course MA, students take two cores, two workshops, two electives, one onsite Residency, and another course of their choice, plus a thesis/careers course. (Graduate Certificate students take five courses.)
The core courses focus on fundamental skills in reporting and writing, a broad understanding of contemporary science writing forms, a foundation in ethics and professional principles, and an overview of career options in writing and editing. In writing workshops, students submit their own writing and revisions for peer review and editing. Electives usually focus on reading-as-a-writer skills or specific forms or topics such as voice, structure, or nature writing. Internships and Independent Studies also are available. At least one onsite, face-to-face Residency course is required for the MA degree. The degree program concludes with a capstone course, Thesis and Careers in Science Writing, in which students revise their best, most publishable work from earlier courses and prepare a formal career plan for success in the field.
Master of Arts in Science Writing
Nine courses, including a residency and thesis:
1. Techniques of Science-Medical Writing
2. Contemporary Science-Medical Writing: Creative and Professional Forms
3-4. Two Science Writing Workshops (any course with Workshop in the title)
5-6. Two Science Writing electives
7. One Residency course (onsite; location and topics vary each year)
8. One Student Choice course: Another workshop, elective, residency, internship, independent study, or (with special permission) a course in other AAP Programs (including the Environmental Sciences and Policy, Communication, Biotechnology, and Government programs)
9. Thesis and Careers in Science Writing (final course)
If possible, MA students should complete Techniques of Science Writing before enrolling in a workshop or Residency. Exceptions are granted to this guideline with advisor approval. Students may take a second (or, with permission, a third) residency; an additional residency may be counted as the student choice course or as an elective. Thesis and Careers in Science Writing should be taken in the last term of studies, although exceptions are allowed for students who need to complete a residency after the Thesis term. Students usually take one or two courses per term, and they may take one or two terms off as personal schedules require. Students have five years to finish their degrees, with extensions and leaves of absence possible.
Note: Under AAP guidelines, only three Certificate courses can count toward the MA in Science Writing. Certificate students who become interested in the MA degree should declare their interest early to avoid the need to complete extra courses.
Students taking this course will compare a range of material representing contemporary climate change communication from books and magazine/newspaper articles to literary journal essays to gain an understanding of how science writers engage, inform and inspire the public. Students will also evaluate social science research that attempts to explain and overcome the challenge of engaging a public that can be in denial, disengaged, disheartened and frustrated. Students will practice effective journalistic methods for gathering information and will experiment with pitching ideas and translating those ideas into articles. They will demonstrate their own strategies for assuring accuracy and for gauging the credibility of their sources.
The course includes a lot of assigned reading as well as writing and writing-prep exercises, and extensive class discussion on Blackboard. This is not a course on the history of climate science, and nor is it a comprehensive survey of the field of climate science. The overall purpose of this course is to produce writers who can generate exceptional articles and essays about climate change. Course activities will help students publish their writing about climate in newspapers, magazines, podcasts, broadcasts, and other venues for the lay public.
With its snow-capped mountains, icy trout-filled streams, glaciers, bison, and grizzly bears, Montana is a land of rugged natural beauty. It is also home to a unique set of environmental concerns. Those glaciers are melting. Invasive species threaten native habitats. The range and population of the grizzly are hotly debated. Climate change appears to be increasing the size and intensity of wildfires.
Students in this residency course will meet with scientists -- wildlife biologists, ecologists, and wildfire management experts -- who use Montana’s lakes, mountains, forests, and animals as their laboratories to explore such issues. The class will take field trips to sites of active research, with possible excursions to a world-class ecology research station on a 30-mile-long lake; a fire science lab where scientists model fire behavior and develop tools for wildfire management; and the Clark and Blackfoot Rivers, site of a Superfund success story and the inspiration for Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It.
During the onsite portion of the course, students will practice reporting skills and gather story ideas, engage in craft discussions and creative writing exercises, and be invited to take part in an open mic. Discussions will explore how writers can explain complex, nuanced environmental issues to broad groups of readers, and how writers can evoke the region’s lyricism in their prose. For inspiration, the class will study works by the many literary greats (Maclean, David Quammen, Rick Bass) who have used Big Sky country as their muse.
The class will be based at the University of Montana in Missoula, noted for its beautiful campus and as the nation’s premier institution for the study of wildlife biology.