WRITING 101: Interrogating New Fad Diets

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Cary Moskovitz

At the University of Chicago, one scientist is conducting experiments on what the BBC has called “a whole new way of fasting”—eating one’s regular diet every other day and eating minimally the other days. The BBC, which aired “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” last February, claimed that such a diet has “powerful results on the body and rolls back the decades, and it’s also good for the brain”—reducing one’s risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And then there’s the “paleo” diet—low carb, high in protein in fat. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of hits in just the last few years. These diets are big news, with coverage from news outlets such as U.S. News, the L.A. Times and NPR to blogs like WebMD, Huffington Post, and wikiHow. But we’ve seen such sweeping claims made for diets many times before— diets that ten years later didn’t live up to the hype. Are the new ones different?

In this section of Writing 101, we will investigate the hype and science behind current fad diets such as intermittent fasting as the focus for developing skills in academic reading, writing and research. We will begin with an emphasis on research skills, learning how to locate the most relevant and useful sources for an academic project. Then, using select principles of health science research and statistics, students will practice careful reading, effective summary, and skeptical analysis as they draft and revise reviews of recent experimental research reports on different types and possible benefits of alternate-day dieting. Finally, building on their own work and that of their classmates from the first half of the term, students will write scholarly scientific essays discussing some aspect of the current science of alternate day diets. Audiences for student writing will include both classmates and health-science professionals. This course will involve a considerable amount of out-of-class group work, especially in the first half of the semester. Prior coursework in statistics useful but not required.

Student Writing Assignment

What are students writing? Review of journal article and commentary (scientific essay).
For whom? Health professionals.
Where would such writing typically be found? Health sciences periodical such as Nature, clinical journals.
Why would someone usually read it? To get a thoughtful, scientifically informed, and up-to-date perspective on health science topics.

Readers needed: Health care scientists or practitioners with a professional interest in diet and health.

Course links:

**Important Reader Project info for this course**
What Readers and Student partners need to know about the Reader Project. Includes information and suggestions on giving feedback.

Course Information
General information about Prof. Moskovitz’s writing courses.

Review Assignment
Description of the “Review” assignment, the first document the student will share with their Reader.

Commentary Assignment
Description of the “Commentary” assignment, the major essay that the student will share with their Reader.

Example Reader Feedback

WR 101 (Moskovitz) sample with feedback