The University of Wisconsin Press

Rhetoric / Science Studies


Shaping Written Knowledge
The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science
Charles Bazerman

The immense force of scientific knowledge in our world has in recent years commanded the attention of a number of scholarly disciplines, ranging from the history of science to literary theory, from philosophy to the teaching of writing. Each foray into the language of science, however, has been motivated by the discipline and school of the researcher. Shaping Written Knowledge confronts scientific language more directly, by making its special character the real center of the inquiry. Original and extensive, this work will be of great interest to scholars concerned with the sociology and history of science, language theory, the history of literacy, the rhetoric of knowledge, technical writing, and the teaching of composition.


The emergence of the experimental article in science, Bazerman shows, is a response to the social and rhetorical situation of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century natural philosophy activated by the need to communicate findings and the exigencies of conflict that arise from communication. The appearance of the argumentative forms of scientific writing are coincident with the rise of the scientific community and the development of experimental procedures. All three interactively structure each other. Bazerman shows that later developments of the experimental article, in both the physical and social sciences of the twentieth century, have been made within the contexts of various disciplines. An understanding of what forces have shaped the experimental report, what functions the features were designed to serve, and the impact of rhetoric on the rest of scientific activity help to evaluate all statements of knowledge and increase our ability to make intelligent writing choices.


Charles Bazerman is professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author of eighteen books and over twenty edited collections, including Writing Across the Curriculum and Shaping Written Knowledge.


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Triangle over open text

November 1988
LC: 88-040187 T
400 pp.

The 1988 cloth and paperback editions of this book are out of print.

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