Politecnico di Torino
Politecnico di Torino
Politecnico di Torino
Academic Year 2017/18
Communication and Writing Techniques
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Aerospace Engineering - Torino
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Mechanical Engineering - Torino
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Automotive Engineering - Torino
Teacher Status SSD Les Ex Lab Tut Years teaching
Santarcangelo Vincenzo       60 0 0 0 3
SSD CFU Activities Area context
L-FIL-LET/12 6 D - A scelta dello studente A scelta dello studente
Subject fundamentals
The course’s purpose is to examine the interaction between engineering and architecture’s epistemology and practices in the area of rhetoric to see what scientists and rhetoricians can learn from each other. Engineering and architects, as with many scientists and technologists, do not think that they are arguing for an interpretation of the reality or convincing an audience when they write, but believe instead that they are simply conveying data or describing reality. They have this perception because of the epistemologies and ideologies of their disciplinary communities. Even though the engineering and architecture students become more aware of audience and that their writing tasks demand that they convince those audiences, they resist the notion that they are thinking and writing rhetorically, particularly early in their co-op experiences. Examining the writing that architects and engineering produce, the course will aim to underline that their writing is indeed rhetorical – persuasive in that to accomplish work it must change something in the world’s states of affairs – and audience sensitive in that engineers and architects’ relationships with their audiences are interactive and recursive.
The Five Axioms of Engineering Argument (Irish 2016) will be analyzed:
1) A Claim does not stand alone
2) Putting the Claim first is strongest
3) Interpretation is more valuable than analysis
4) Logic is best, but rarely works alone
5) Arguments follow recognized patterns

The outcome of the course is to create a website hosting databases of texts written and collected by students. Examples are interactive databases such as Wrise (Write Reports in Science and Engineering) and MC-Mapping Controversies (mappingcontroversies.net).
Expected learning outcomes
Students will acquire knowledge about disciplines that contribute to shed light on the nature of language, viz. ordinary language, scientific language and their contexts of use. At the end of the course, students will be able to identify and map controversies emerging by the use of both ordinary and scientific languages. They will be able to produce texts based on the Five Axioms of Engineering Argument. These text will be stored in an online database developed during the course.
Prerequisites / Assumed knowledge
No pre-knowledge required, but a basic disposition to reading theoretical texts and to develop critical thinking is needed.
I. Rhetoric and Scientific Language (15 hours)
The main questions addressed in this part are the following:
• Which is the link between ordinary language, rhetoric, and scientific language?
• What causes controversies in ordinary and scientific languages? Which is the role of context rules in causing them?
• Is there a peculiar way of solving scientific and technological controversies?
II. Strategic uses of language in scientific controversies (15 hours)
Different uses of languages in solving controversies are presented, to demonstrate how strategic uses of written language and its structures (i.e. syntax and argumentation) are key to the success of every conceptual negotiation.
III. Scientific Language Networks (20 hours)
The metaphor of scientific theories as nets is introduced. Students begin to collect and to write sample texts that will build a dedicated platform designed on the web.
IV. The Pragmatics of Explanation (10 hours)
An in-depth context-of-use analysis about scientific languages is introduced. Contexts play a crucial role in determining what we accept as an explanation. Some case-studies will be analyzed in order to reveal some social conversational implicatures emerging from the use of scientific and technical language.
Delivery modes
In the first part of the course students will be given a series of texts (excerpts from scientific literature, architects and engineers’ protocols, newspapers and magazines’ articles) to be analyzed. In the second part of the course, students will begin to write scientific texts that will be stored in an interactive database
Texts, readings, handouts and other learning resources
Further bibliographical indications and lecture notes will be provided during the course. A preliminary list of references is the following:

Guardo R., Telve S., Linguaggi specialistici, Carocci 2012
Irish R., Writing Engineering, Oxford University Press 2016
Latour B., Science in Action, How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Harvard University Press 1988
Winsor D., Writing Like an Engineer: A Rhetorical Education, Routledge 1996
Assessment and grading criteria
Written texts and an oral discussion. The final examination mark will be the result of a weighted average between the mark of the written texts and the mark of the oral discussion.

Programma definitivo per l'A.A.2017/18

© Politecnico di Torino
Corso Duca degli Abruzzi, 24 - 10129 Torino, ITALY
WCAG 2.0 (Level AA)