Technical writing is an advanced writing course and generally has prerequisites for undergraduates. The course combines current theory with actual practice to prepare students as technical writers. Students will analyze complex communication situations and design appropriate responses through tasks that involve problem solving, rhetorical theory, document design, oral presentations, writing teams, audience awareness, ethical considerations and ethical issues.
Unlike most academic writing, in which students demonstrate their learning to a professor who already knows the subject, in technical communication, the writer is the expert and the readers are the learners. In professional life, you may be writing for supervisors, colleagues or customers. You might be explaining a problem, a product, an experiment, or a project. The format may be a proposal, abstract, report, email, user manual or even a website or presentation. This course covers techniques to adapt your writing to different audiences and purposes.
SAMPLE SYLLABUS as used at NJIT for English 352 (a hybrid course section)
Textbooks and Readings: I am a proponent of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Textbooks. There is no required textbook to purchase for this course section. Reading assignments will be taken from the two sources below and from specific online resources as noted in Moodle.
Online Technical Writing, David A. McMurrey (open online textbook) Reading assignments will refer to the numbered Table of Contents provided in Moodle and at http://www.prismnet.com/~hcexres/textbook/
Professional & Technical Writing Wikibook This guide to technical writing was created by and for students enrolled in Technical and Professional Writing courses. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Professional_and_Technical_Writing
The content is student-generated, with occasional feedback and guidance from course instructors and professional technical communicators, and in meant to be useful beyond the classroom as a writing guide.
Additional Optional Textbooks and References
Tebeaux, E. and Dragga, S. The Essentials of Technical Communication, ISBN-13: 978-0-19-989078-1
Rubens, P. Science and Technical Writing. ISBN: 978-0415925518
Beer and McMurrey. A Guide to Writing as an Engineer. ISBN: 978-0470417010
Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual, 1999. ISBN: 9780312406844.
The Rhetoric and Composition Wikibook – another free textbook for undergraduate composition programs (not specifically technical writing), written as a guide for bringing writing up to the level expected by many professors. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Rhetoric_and_Composition
COURSE CONTENT specific information for each week will be available in the course Moodle section. Some lecture materials (slides etc.) will be available in Moodle the day after a class session.
The following topics are generally covered each in a week; however, note that some topics bridge multiple weeks, so the numbers below may not align with calendar weeks.
- HISTORY, MODES, METHODS and MEDIUMS
READINGS: McMurrey 4, 37-42 and Wikibook Chapter 6 for information on types of technical correspondence
ASSIGNMENTS: complete or update your profile;
- CORRESPONDENCE; ongoing discussions
- THE PROCESS | Audience Analysis
READINGS: McMurrey 26 & 27; Wikibook Chapter 2
- THE PROCESS | Research | Audience Analysis
READINGS: McMurrey 26 & 27; Wikibook Chapter 2
ASSIGNMENTS: (Audience Analysis) Job Requirements
- THE PROCESS – Organizing data for readability | Information Architecture |
READINGS – Wikibook Chapter 5 – McMurrey 12, 28,29, 36 – Web Style Guide Chapters 2 & 3
- Writing a Technical Description
- Using Visuals in document design; data visualization; infographics
McMurrey 22, 23 – Wikibook Chapter 5
Turnitin Assignment: Tech Definition
- Visuals in document design
ASSIGNMENT: go over Eight Questions assignment
Infographics on colleges & 7 Things About App Development
- Writing abstracts and comparative analysis
McMurrey 14, 50
Assignment: Comparative Product Analysis
Assignment: Abstract (TED)
- Document design; Working with templates
McMurrey 16-20, 23-25
- Writing for the Web and Media
READING: Writing for the Web File
- USABILITY (everyday things, web pages, user interfaces etc.)
http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/ (section on IA) –
McMurrey 7 & 8
- Proofreading vs. Revision vs. Re-visioning
McMurrey 30 – 35
- Group Collaboration – Brainstorming, Divergent Thinking
- Ethics and Cultural Considerations
Online: Ethics and Cultural Considerations in Technical Writing
The point of this class is not really to produce academic papers, and my most important role as a writing teacher is not to read and edit your work. The assignments and my comments are meant to produce better writers; not better products. Comments and suggestions on drafts are very useful, but generally, comments attached to a final graded paper are not useful if the paper will not be rewritten. It makes more sense to me to give feedback and suggestions during the prewriting and drafting part of the writing process when it can help you improve your writing (and thus your grades). The assignments are based on real-world writing tasks in technical communications, and so generally will not resemble “academic papers.”
Both formal papers and any short assignments are due in class in hard copy on class session due date given and must also be submitted on time electronically to the class Moodle site.
Assignments should all have a title, your name, ENG 352-001 and the date of submission. Use a twelve point standard font (Times, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial) and one-inch margins all around and MLA or APA formatting, unless other document design specifications have been given. The electronic version should be in either Microsoft Word or RTF format. Electronic files should be names as follows: yourlastnamefirstinitial-assignment.docx, such as ronkowitzk-proposal.docx
I will comment on and grade the on-time electronic submissions in Moodle by the next in-class date. I will not return the hard copies.
All assignments have a due date for submission and cutoff date through Moodle. The upload timestamp is the proof of on-time submission. Assignments received within 48 hours of the due date will be accepted, but will receive a lowered grade of at least one-half letter grade.
Formal papers – (40%) Grades on the longer or more complex formal writing assignments will each carry up to 50 points and the total of these will determine that portion of your grade.
Shorter papers (20%) Shorter assignments will have a point value of 20-25 points and the total of these five will determine that part of your final grade.
Participation in all discussions within Moodle and in class and in-class writing (20%) Participation in Moodle Forum discussions is also required and responses receive 0-4 points per response. The median score will be determined by the overall participation of the class, but ultimately will be converted to 100 points.
Attendance (20%) Due to the reduced number of face-to-face sessions in this hybrid section, regular class attendance is expected and recorded, including partial session attendance. Full attendance at all class sessions is worth 100 points.
The grade of “A” generally means the student understood the assignment and was able to reinterpret it, adding a high degree of personal style and insight. Voluntarily goes beyond the requirements when possible. The writing is essentially without mechanical flaws.
B = Understood and was able to reinterpret the assignment. Went beyond the minimum the assignment called for. Better than average from a mechanical point of view.
C = Reasonable understanding of the assignment. Visible effort to fulfill all the minimal requirements of the assignment. Adequate level of mechanical competence.
D = Flawed understanding of the assignment. Fulfills some but not all of the requirements, or has an unacceptable number of mechanical/stylistic/formatting errors.
F = No serious effort made to understand or complete the assignment. Very high number of mechanical errors.
0 (zero) = Assignment not submitted during the acceptance period.
NG – On rare occasions—if a paper demonstrates that work has been done but it does not fit the assignment, it will be given “No Grade,” which means the assignment must be re-written and re-submitted in order to receive any credit. This is not an “incomplete.” If not re-submitted, it receives a zero.
Students in the PTC program will include selected assignments from this course in their portfolio.
Using someone else’s language and/or ideas without proper attribution is academically dishonest. As members of this class and the larger scholarly community, you are expected to abide by the norms of academic honesty. While collaboration is expected in and out of class, failing to acknowledge sources or willfully misrepresenting the work of others as your own will not be tolerated. Everything you submit must be your own work, written specifically for this class. Any evidence of cheating in any form, including plagiarism, will be dealt with according to the honor code of NJIT. At least some of your work will be checked using turnitin.com for proper citation and originality. See ist.njit.edu/teaching/turnitin/ and njit.edu/academics/integrity.php for additional information.
The best time to meet with me face-to face is after the class session (or before with prior arrangement). If you need to meet with me, notify me via email ASAP. Otherwise, email or Moodle chat may be utilized.