The Laboratory Report as a Rhetorical Act (plenary talk)
The field of science education has paid considerable importance in recent years to what students might write in their lab reports. From the Workshop Physics project at Dickinson College to NCSU's LabWrite, students have been offered many approaches to learning about and writing about science in the undergrad laboratory context. However, comparatively little attention has been given to thinking about lab report writing as a rhetorical activity--one intended to communicate particular ideas to a particular audience for a specific purpose. This is unfortunate, since labs remain students' primary experience with scientific writing in the undergraduate science curriculum--especially in mathematically-heavy fields such as physics. The rhetorical experience of the typical lab report reinforce student misunderstandings of scientific writing they often bring from high school, rather than helping them develop a more sophisticated and effective understanding of effective scientific communication. This talk invites us to reconsider the experience of the undergraduate physics lab report--for students as writers and instructors as readers.