IDS 260W: Women Naturalists
Rose, Loers, Long
28 January 04

Nature Writers at Work


Please choose one of the following topics for this essay:

a. Select one of the women nature writers in our text At Home on This Earth and conduct research about her life in order to learn about her opportunities and experiences in science, her life choices, her rewards and challenges, and her accomplishments. Produce an essay based on your research.

b. Select one of the women nature writers in our text and create a piece of nature writing based on her style of writing. Research about your selected writer and careful nature observation of your own will be necessary to complete this assignment.


Length: 5 - 8 double-spaced pages, approx. 1500 - 2000 words

Documentation: Use MLA style for documentation of sources

Due Dates:

First Draft due: Friday, March 5.

Bring three copies, two for your peer group and one for the faculty.

Writing Workshop with Peer Review: Friday, March 12. Bring revised draft copies for peer group.

Final essay due: Friday, March 19. With the final essay, turn in your draft, your peer feedback, and a cover reflection (1-2 pages) about the process of writing the essay. (This reflection might include comments on the process of research, stylistic strategies you tried in the essay that worked or didn't work, things you would especially like comments one, things you learned from peer feedback, etc.)


This assignment will require careful reading and research. Our library workshop (Feb. 6) will help you to select an appropriate writer as topic or model, and the reference librarians will help you in your search for sources. A biography should strive to present a lively portrait of your subject as well as a thoughtful analysis of some issue or issues in gender and science. A piece of nature writing should show conscious reference to stylistic traits of the person you choose as model. You should consider the following guidelines as you research and write:

1.Give adequate attention to the scientific work of your subject or to the observation you incorporate into your nature writing. Remember to think about the relation of your selected nature writer to the formal structures of science.

2. Use direct quotes where possible. Try to incorporate the direct voice of your subject where you are able to find work in her own hand or other contemporary records that carry her opinions and ideas.

3. Be accurate in your references and quotations. Be sure to take careful notes as you do your research. Record the publication information for every source you look at, even if you think you may not use it in your writing. Record page numbers for any material that makes it into your notes. These simple habits will save much heartache in the later writing process.

4. Give thought to how your own voice will appear in the essay. You will have choices to make about voice in this essay. You may certainly use the personal voice, but you will want to be thoughtful about how you present yourself in the essay, how you articulate your interpretations, how you portray you evaluation of the subject.

5. Define your audience. It will perhaps be easiest to think of our class as your audience, a group of readers who have been thinking about issues of gender, science and nature writing and who have some knowledge of the history of women in science. However, you will want to make your important insights accessible to a broader audience who may not share all of our background; be sure to contextualize your generalizations and interpretations adequately. Depending on your choice of subject, there may be technical information in your biography which will require explanation even for your classroom audience.

Criteria for Evaluation:

Your final essays will be evaluated with the following criteria in mind:

1. Characterization: You present the subject as a character with depth; direct quotes and/or details are used effectively to provide a candid portrait of the character.

2. Focus: Issues of gender and science are brought out clearly in your analysis of your subject; adequate attention and detail is given to the scientific work of the subject.

3. Selection: Selection of events and details is fair and does not bias the interpretation or response unnecessarily. Selection of natural observation is effective in the organization of the essay.

4. Incidents and details: Specific incidents and details are used to help show character traits and/or to support your analysis and interpretation. Sufficient context is provided to make the incidents comprehensible.

5. Significance: The character is shown as an important person in the context of her life; specific examples are used to illustrate that importance; the significance of your natural observations is clear.

6. Organization: The essay is thoughtfully organized to bring out interpretive points. Elements such as background, description, anecdotes and analysis are woven together throughout.

7. Point of view: The author reveals his/her own point of view in the writing and strives to identify contemporary, personal, and historical assumptions about the subject.

8. Voice and Tone: The writer's voice is present in the essay; choice of words, details and incident suggests the writer's attitude clearly and consistently. Stylistic elements of nature writing are clearly present.

9. Accuracy: Attention is paid to the accuracy of quotes and details; the researcher attempts to discover important details of background and context where possible.

10. Mechanics: The writer has control of the mechanics of grammar and has proofread carefully; documentation is accurate and thorough; the text is free of mechanical error.

Willamette University

Writing Center

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Back to Top