The Department of Horticulture Science, in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), employs a 25-member faculty and, along with Agronomy and Plant Genetics, supports majors in Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (Food Systems). These two majors enroll about 150 students who will enter careers in industry, government, and academia. Plant Science majors take required courses and develop personalized programs of study in plant breeding, turf science, floriculture, production agriculture, nursery management and more. Food Systems majors learn about the social, economic, and environmental components of food systems, and what drives food system change in our communities. By the time they graduate in either program, students need to be able to communicate about complex issues ranging from genetics to sustainable agriculture to bioenergy in ways that are appropriate for diverse stakeholder audiences including interdisciplinary scientific communities, industrial communities, and the lay public.Horticulture's strong focus on public outreach and education makes a balanced approach to writing for lay audiences and writing for academic audiences particularly important.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Writing Plan

Plant Science Writing Plan

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Writing in Horticultural Science

The Horticultural Science faculty generated the following description in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”

The results of the surveys of the different audiences agreed on a number of key concepts.  These concepts were refined to the two lists presented below.

Areas of agreement across the different groups surveyed about writing in horticulture:

  • Organized in a logical sequence that is in accordance with scientific method.
  • Factually accurate, precise, and audience-sensitive in its use of scientific and technical terminology.
  • Appropriate and persuasive in the choice and integration of source information.
  • Transparent to logic and procedure, conveys replicable results.
  • Sensitive to needs and varied levels of disciplinary-sophistication of diverse audiences.
  • Appropriate to its medium (posters, web, lab reports).
  • Integrated into the process of learning in horticulture.
  • Allows students to make new contributions based on established precedents.
  • Applies understanding to the real world through connections between what they have learned and what happens in practical settings.
  • Conforms to patterns of standard academic English. 

These characteristics emerge in three different writing contexts.

Writing for scientific audiences includes:

  • Organizing writing using the scientific method.
  • Using factual, accurate, and scientifically correct terminology.
  • Conveying reproducible results.
  • Conforming to patterns of standard academic English.

Writing for lay audiences includes:

  • Conveying information at appropriate levels of scientific sophistication.
  • Integrating numerous research-based sources.
  • Using factual, accurate, defined scientific terms.
  • Conforming to patterns of standard academic English.

Writing to learn includes:

  • Comparing sources of information.
  • Making connections between academic and real-world situations.

Writing Abilities Expected of Plant Science & Food Systems Majors

The Horticultural Science faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s majors graduate?”

Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Majors:

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Writing Abilities

  • Use writing to explore a new issue or problem and examine solutions via multiple lenses/perspectives
  • Communicate ideas clearly and concisely using multiple modalities to diverse audiences
  • Communicate ideas to stimulate change or action
  • Write to share stories and share diverse perspectives
  • Use systems thinking analysis that portrays crucial elements and interactions between contextual factors, system components, events, relationships, forces, ideas, and values
  • Integrate ideas from research to gain insight into a real-world situation
  • Use critical reflection skills to assess the meaning and value of field experiences
  • Acknowledge and demonstrate a critical understanding of other points of view when characterizing data or systems
  • Identify, evaluate, and cite research and sources
  • Create logical flow in writing
  • Understand writing as a process to deepen understanding and explore new ideas.
  • Edit (team-based writing and individual writing) for concision, unity, and readability.

Plant Science Writing Abilities

Locate or generate, present and interpret evidence:

  • Identify and cite appropriate research-based sources.
  • Produce clear, efficient visual presentations.
  • Use basic spreadsheet functions.
  • Acquire, select and manage data.
  • Summarize data using descriptive statistics and represent these in figures and tables.
  • Describe relationships based on quantitative evidence and statistical tests.

Synthesize evidence to form conclusions and apply insights:

  • Integrate ideas to gain insight into a situation.
  • Interpret data accurately and objectively.
  • Acknowledge and demonstrate critical understanding of other points of view.
  • Create logical flow.
  • Use quantitative evidence to support an argument.
  • Connect data to real-world situations.

Observe conventions of professional writing:

  • Convey information at an appropriate level of sophistication.
  • Understand and respect boundaries of plagiarism.
  • Edit (individual writing and team writing) for concision, unity and readability  .
  • Use grammar and mechanics that conform to patterns of standard academic English.
  • Organize writing according to standard scientific reporting methods.

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Plant Science & Food Systems Majors

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Grading Criteria:

  1. The text identifies a central problem(s) or issue(s) and examines responses/solutions according to differing values and viewpoints.
  2. The text explicitly identifies an intended audience and shows specific attention to audience members’ knowledge, experience, and needs.
  3. The text advances an evidence-based claim to support a specific action or policy.
  4. The text uses inclusive language to summarize and integrate perspectives from multiple stakeholders in ways that foster collaboration and synthesis.
  5. The text demonstrates a broad understanding of the overall structures, patterns, and components in a system and describes systems behavior according to these.
  6. The text connects and applies research in ways that support an understanding of real-world contexts and issues.
  7. The text explores pre-existing knowledge and identifies how an experience connects to personal values, academic concepts, and civic perspectives.
  8. Text identifies analysis, reasoning, and logic that characterize different perspectives on or inferences about a particular situation.
  9. The text includes strong sources and employs a strategy for attribution.
  10.  The text is organized in a way that suits its purpose, audience, and expectations of the form (ie, features of a proposal/white paper).
  11. The text explicitly addresses students’ understanding and processing of new information.
  12. The text coheres around a central idea, is concise and clear.

Plant Sciences Grading Criteria (priority items):

  1. Integrate ideas from research to give insight into real-world situations.
  2. Identify, evaluate, and cite research and sources.
  3. Produce clear and efficient visual presentations.
  4. Edit for concision, unity, and readability.
  5. Gather and interpret data accurately and objectively.
  6. Convey information at an appropriate level of scientific sophistication based on the audience.
  7. Summarize data using statistics and represent these in figures and tables.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

The Department of Horticultural Science is working with the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics in renewed attention to writing in the Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems majors.

Faculty affiliated with Plant Science will continue to assess student writing on the criteria established in previous plans, but are placing a special emphasis on seven core criteria. Using these criteria as a guide, faculty will build scaffolded rubrics to assess these core skills in Plant Science courses. Because many of these criteria relate to the collection and presentation of data, the emphasis will be on looking at how and where instruction on quantitative reasoning and communicating with data.

Faculty affiliated with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems will continue to establish this new major and are connecting their writing abilities to department SLOs. In particular, they are working to incorporate writing assignments and activities with the aim of building collective agency. Faculty will build common rubrics around policy writing and reflective writing.Success will be measured by participation and engagement of faculty in Food Systems in workshops and meetings, short evaluative questionnaires for feedback from participants, development of meeting notes and other documents stemming from meetings and workshops, and creation of new assignments and assessments connected to our writing abilities

Finally, both departments will continue to examine and revise their internship courses to best align with the expectations of the two majors. Our goal for this Legacy Project is to identify the essential elements of an internship course and consider the merits of merging the existing internship courses. If it is not possible to combine these courses, we will clarify the writing activities in each course and determine how to communicate the unique nature of each course to students, faculty and academic advisors.