The Science of Staying in Shape

Before you get started, please read our Welcome Letter!

I. Course Info

II. Student Writing Assignment

III. Course Calendar

IV. Feedback

Course Information

Anyone who has taken a P.E. class has learned about the importance of stretching and warming up before exercising or playing a sport. These practices, we’ve been told, prevent injuries and improve performance. But some research published in recent years challenges this and other conventional wisdom about exercising. For example, some scientific reports suggest that stretching before exercise has no effect on injury rates. And one recent studypublished in the journal Health even claims that stretching may decrease jump height.  Students in this course will examine the scientific evidence behind such commonly held beliefs about exercise.  
This course will begin with an emphasis on research skills focusing on how to locate the most relevant scientific sources. Next, using select principles of health science research and statistical data analysis, students will practice careful, skeptical reading as they draft and revise reviews of scientific research reports. Finally, building on (and citing) the prior work of their classmates, students will write scholarly scientific essays on a current controversy in exercise science. Audiences for student writing will include both classmates and health-science professionals. Prior course in statistics is helpful but not required. Note: this course involves a considerable amount of collaborative work; students should have schedules and attitudes that will allow them to work extensively with classmates outside of class time. 

Here is information about the kind of writing students will be doing in this course and the expected context for that writing. This should help both students and their readers understand the aims of this particular writing task.

Context for student writing assignment

What are students writing? Commentary (scientific essay)
For whom? Health professionals
Where would such writing typically be found? Health sciences periodical such as Nature and clinical journals
Why would someone usually read it? To get a thoughtful, scientifically informed, and up-to-date opinion on exercise.

Course Calendar

Jan 27: Student Sign-Up ends.

Jan 31: Student-Reader matches are announced.

By Feb 5: Students and readers schedule their Introductory Meeting.

By Feb 10:  Introductory Meeting completed.

By March 31: Student sends rough but coherent draft to reader; reader gives feedback ASAP but within one week.  (Please see note on Feedback  below.)

April 7: Students and readers to meet (via webcam, skype, phone…) to discuss revisions and feedback.

Between April 21-27: Students and readers to meet (via webcam, skype, phone…) for follow-up meeting.

May 4: Final paper due to professor and to reader.

Note to Students: The earlier you submit the drafts the more time you will have to make use of reader feedback before turning in your work to your professor! You can also ask whether your reader will be available to give you less formal input at other points in the process, such as when you are considering options or developing particular ideas or wording.

Note to Readers: While you should provide feedback at the stages outlined above, you may also offer to give feedback  or chat informally with the student about the work in progess at other moments during the student’s work on this paper. At some point,  feedback should be given either in person, webcam or phone to allow for discussion.


Giving feedback for students in the Reader Project requires special considerations.

READERS: Here is what we suggest you do before you look at a draft:

  1. Read our guide to giving feedback
  2. Let the student know what form of feedback you plan to use.
  3. For your real-time “think-aloud response,” please see How to Do a Think Aloud Response before you begin. For those using Webcams and would like technical assistence, please contact the project Manager.  For your written feedback,  we would greatly appreciate it if you would also send a copy to Project Manager to help with our assessment of the project!


  1. Please read “How to Use a Think-Aloud Response: A Guide for Students.”
  2. It is crucial that you maintain ownership of the document. This means that you should take the reader’s comments seriously, but that you should decide on (and take responsibility for) all changes to your document. When in doubt, ask your instructor.

Leave a Reply