MA in Science Writing
Science writing explores and explains how our world works. The best science writing inspires a deeper understanding, a sense of wonder, or a need to act. The online/low-residency Science Writing program at Johns Hopkins strives to guide the next generation of writers and editors who will help the public comprehend the increasingly complex issues of science, medicine, and technology that affect their lives. Students choose from a nine-course Master of Arts or a five-course graduate certificate. Eligible applicants may take only a course or two of special interest as non-degree students. A brief residency course, required for the degree and optional for the certificate, provides intensive face-to-face study to complement the group and personal interaction of online courses.
The program recognizes that contemporary science writing involves journalism, communication, multimedia, and the literary arts. Our typical student hones journalistic and creative writing techniques to craft enticing, understandable prose for digital or print venues, from magazines and books to social media and websites for companies, associations, agencies, or others. Along the way, students acquire communication skills to promote viewpoints and develop expertise to thrive in the digital universe. Our writers and editors are also challenged to monitor science itself, to disclose how research can falter or be misused.
Johns Hopkins Science Writing students have visited a research island in Maine, control rooms at NASA, historic museums in Italy, and world-famous genetics and biotech labs in Washington and Baltimore. They have observed surgeons in the operating room, sailed with biologists on the Chesapeake Bay, heard from Nobel and Pulitzer winners, and met with science writers from The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, National Geographic, Discover, Science, Nature, and other institutions. From space and the oceans to nanotechnology and climate change, from cellphones and robots to fitness and genetics, the ever-changing topics chosen by our science writers are essential to an enlightened citizenry of the 21st century.
Students in the Science Writing program do not focus on creating scientific research reports, journal articles for peer review, or other scholarly/academic constructs, nor do we teach technical writing for instruction manuals or complicated textbooks. Our curriculum also is not designed to help scientists or others who need remedial help or instruction in English as a second language. Science Writing students aim to translate the complicated information and trends of science, medicine, and technology into meaningful, perceptive prose for a broad audience.
PROGRAM SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS
In addition to the materials and credentials required for all programs, the Master of Arts in Science Writing requires:
- Writing samples, including some works of science writing, demonstrating the applicant’s current development as a writer. The samples should total 10 to 20 typewritten, double-spaced pages, or about 2,500 to 5,000 words. A combination of several shorter pieces rather than a single, lengthy piece is recommended. Applicants lacking samples about science, medicine, or technology may submit writing about other topics; explanatory writing is especially appreciated. Any factual form or combination of forms, including news or feature article, commentary/blogs, memoir, travel, essay, review, profile, book chapters, and creative nonfiction, is permitted. Applicants may submit published or unpublished works. Digital writing samples should be submit in their entirety, not as links. The majority of an applicant’s samples should be no more than five years old. Academic papers, peer-reviewed research reports, technical writing, or government documents are not recommended as writing samples; the samples should be journalism, communication writing, creative writing, blogging, etc. Applicants may submit uncompleted work if they label it as such.
- Techniques of Science-Medical Writing
- Contemporary Science-Medical Writing: Creative and Professional Forms
- Two science writing workshops
- Two science writing electives, approved by advisor
- One residency course
- One student choice: Another workshop, elective, residency, internship, independent study, or (with special permission) course in another AAP program1
- Thesis and Careers in Science Writing
|AS.491.658||Techniques of Science-Medical Writing||4|
|AS.491.750||Contemporary Science-Medical Writing: Creative and Professional Forms||4|
|AS.491.696||The Nature of Nature||4|
|AS.491.697||The Literature of Science||4|
|AS.491.701||Communicating Climate Change||4|
|AS.491.707||Prizewinners: The Best Writing about Science, Technology, Environment & Health||4|
|AS.491.719||Technology Tools, Multimedia and Digital Publications for Science Writers||4|
|AS.491.748||Principles of Editing||4|
|AS.491.752||Advanced Reporting & Writing in Science||4|
|AS.491.758||Current Issues in Science Writing||4|
|AS.491.807||Independent Study in Science Writing||4|
|AS.491.808||Internship in Science Writing||4|
|AS.491.673||Science-Medical Writing Workshop||4|
|AS.491.674||Science-Medical Writing Workshop||4|
|AS.491.675||Science-Medical Writing Workshop||4|
|AS.491.680||Writing the Tech Story Workshop||4|
|AS.491.754||Science Narratives Workshop||4|
|AS.491.755||Science Personal Essay and Memoir Workshop||4|
|AS.491.757||Science Profiles Workshop: Writing About People||4|
|AS.491.691||Science Policy, Funding and Politics||4|
|AS.491.708||Medicine in Action||4|
|AS.491.709||Science in Action||4|
|AS.491.710||In the Field: Science Writing in the Woods, Coasts, & Labs of Mt. Desert Island||4|
|AS.491.751||Marine Science & Science Writing on the Emerald Isle||4|
|AS.491.781||On the Bay: Exploring the Chesapeake||4|
|AS.491.785||In the Wild: Science Writers Explore Montana’s Wilderness and Wildlife Biology||4|
|AS.491.802||Thesis and Careers in Science Writing||4|
The MA in Science Writing curriculum starts with core courses that focus on fundamental skills in reporting and writing, and a broad understanding of contemporary science writing forms. Students then enroll in workshops and electives, with internships and independent studies available under certain circumstances. 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 nature writing or literary science writing. The MA in Science Writing requires an on-site residency course, which may be completed at any time during a student's course of study. The degree program concludes with a capstone thesis course in which students revise a portfolio of their best, most publishable work produced in earlier courses and prepare a formal career plan for success in the field.
Students should take Techniques of Science-Medical Writing first, if possible, and should complete that course before enrolling in a workshop. Exceptions can be granted to this guideline with advisor approval. Thesis and Careers in Science Writing should be taken in the last term of degree studies, although exceptions can be made for students who need to complete a residency following Thesis.