Honors 100: The Nature and Practice of Science

General Description

The goal of this FYS will be to try to achieve an understanding of how science works and how scientists work. We will approach this through four essential methods:
  1. We will look at problems in science for which a definitive solution has not yet been reached. We will read about the proposed solutions, the evidence in favor of those solutions, and talk about how scientists resolve such differences.
  2. We will study the philosophical underpinnings of science.
  3. We will spend some time actually doing some problems in a scientific way.
  4. We will read about the lives and works of scientists.
The goal is to introduce you to the way science is actually done and to the nature of science. Questions of truth, methods of investigation, and why science seems to have more of a claim to correctness than other disciplines - and whether it should have.

However, do not forget that this is a First Year Seminar! The purpose of FYS is to teach you the necessary skills to be successful college students. No matter what discipline you are studying, you will find that you will need the skills we cover in this course.

We also want to make it clear that although we are not faculty from the English department, we can help you improve the FYS skills. Not only did we have to do a lot of writing, discussion, and research as undergraduates, we also had to do the much more difficult task of producing original research to get our PhD's and, as part of that, write an extensive thesis and, then, defend it before a group of other specialists who made absolutely certain we could express our ideas well both in that thesis and in our presentation of the work. Further, like all academics, our professional careers require that we keep up with the literature in our fields and serve as reviewers of the work of other scientists (critical reading), write professional papers for publication in journals (writing), present our results at professional conferences (oral presentation), and take part in panels, workshops,  and other discussion groups involved in evaluating current scientific problems (discussion).

Part of the reason the science faculty at CSB/SJU approve so highly of FYS and volunteer to teach it, is that they recognize the importance of the goals of the courrse to the process of scientific inquiry. In this course you should learn:


All of these skills will be developed both by doing and by evaluating. Most of the papers and drafts will be read in class by other students who will give positive suggestions for improvement as well as suggestions about possible problem areas. In some sense, every paper will be at least in part a group activity. Similarly, speeches and group presentations will be "previewed" by other members of the class with the same idea - that is, to improve the quality through positive criticism.   Occasionally, you will bring a draft of your paper to the office of one of the instructors, read the paper aloud to that instructor, and you and the instructor will then discuss what improvements should be made and what is both positive and negative about the essay. Using the criticism you receive from your instructor together with that of your classmates, you will then produce the final draft which will receive a letter grade.

Virtually every class will be mostly dedicated to discussion. Occasionally, the instructors will also spend time talking about the skills necessary to take part in a discussion - skills like leading the discussion, helping "quiet" students take part, making certain that you do not dominate the discussion, etc. Some discussions will be individually graded - usually on a subset of the skills - and the final discussion grade will be based on a combination of those individual graded discussions and the overall evaluation of your part in discussions throughout the term.

We will spend several sessions at the library including at least one session where the librarians describe the library facilities and how to access them. There will also be library exercises as part of those sessions. Finally, the final paper of the semester will be a small research paper which will require you to hone those information literacy skills.

There will also be a few times during the semester where you will take part in group or individual presentations to improve your skill at speaking before a group.

Next: Grading

Email: lziegler@csbsju.edu    jcrumley@csbsju.edu