Science Communication (IPS*3000)

Code and section: IPS*3000*01

Term: Fall 2023


General Information

IPS3000 Science Communication
Fall 2023

For Course Instructor, Class Time and Location, please check CourseLink.

Calendar Description

IPS*3000  Science Communication  Fall Only  (LEC: 3, LAB: 3)  [0.50]  
This course focuses on developing the skills required to communicate science for non-specialist audiences. The principles and practices of public speaking and writing will be explored, employing a variety of media. Through multiple oral and written assignments, students will explore tailoring their message for various audience-types.

Prerequisite(s): 2.00 credits in PHYS at the 2000 level or higher  
Restriction(s): PHYS*4300  
Department(s): Department of Physics  
Location(s): Guelph  

Course description

This course focuses on developing the skills required to communicate science for non-specialist audiences. The principles and practices of public speaking and writing will be explored, employing a variety of media. Through multiple oral and written assignments, students will explore tailoring their message for various audience-types.

This is a seminar class, meaning that the works in the Bibliography below (or other reading material provided on Courselink) will not function as course textbooks. The instructor, the TA, and guest speakers will summarize the state of the art or introduce specific tools in the lectures/lab sessions. Even so, the bulk of your learning will take place in preparation for, during the execution of, and in discussion of the tasks mentioned in the section on Assignments.

In-person attendance is mandatory, unless you’ve made prior arrangements because you are sick etc.


Course objectives

  • To provide an introduction to the challenges, principles, techniques, and tools of popular science communication.
  • To help students learn how to navigate the research literature in a field outside/beyond their expertise.
  • To provide students with skills on graphical communication, data visualization, and animation.
  • To cultivate students' writing and presentation skills, in the context of both small-scale tasks and a substantial project.



  • Craig Cormick, The Science of Communicating Science: The Ultimate Guide (CSIRO Publishing, 2019).
  • Stephen Few, Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten (2nd ed, Analytics Press, 2012).
  • Stephen Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2015).



  1. Popular summary (writing)
    5% of final mark
    Due date: September 18
  2. Blog post (writing)
    15% of final mark
    Due date: October 2
  3. Blackboard presentation/Q&A (speaking)
    20% of final mark
    Due date: October 5
  4. Data visualization (design + programming)
    10% of final mark
    Due date: October 23
  5. Slides (design + writing)
    15% of final mark
    Due date: November 13
  6. Video/Q&A (design + speaking)
    20% of final mark
    Due date: November 22

An individual student's engagement during class discussions (reflecting pre-class preparation) will correspond to 15% of the final mark.

We will attempt to organize outreach events in area high schools (whether virtually or face-to-face). Students volunteering for such an activity will get a bonus of 5% toward their final mark (available only once per student).

At the end of the semester, having deepened their understanding of the physics and communication principles involved, students may choose to tweak their blog post (including graphics developed for the slides) in preparation for posting as a Feature on the Physics department website; doing this successfully will provide another bonus 5% toward the final mark.


Course Statements

Privacy, Copyright, and Recordings

Students enrolling in this course may be recorded during class activities (whether virtual or face-to-face). If a student has a specific concern in this connection, they should bring that forward to the instructor at the start of the semester.

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.

Course materials (including in-class recordings) are copyright protected and remain the intellectual property of their respective author(s). Students may not reproduce or distribute such materials without express written consent from the copyright holder(s).


University Statements

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for academic consideration.

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University’s policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff  and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community’s shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible.

E-mail Communication 

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly. E-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and areas of improvement. In addition, student assessments provide part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member’s contributions in the area of teaching. You are therefore encouraged to take the evaluation procedures seriously, and to provide feedback about this course and its instructor.

Drop date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is 1 December 2023. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.