Times: MWF 5 (11:45-12:35)
Classroom: Turlington 2354
Office: Turlington 4413 or Image Lab on the 5th Floor of Rolfs
Office Hours: Directly after class or by appointment
Mailbox: Turlington 4th floor
Class Website: www.clas.ufl.edu/users/cmartin
Class Gradebook: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/~cmartin/gradebook/
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Technical Communication (seventh edition) by Mike Markell (at Goerings)
Custom textbook (at Goerings)
Writing handbook (Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph
The aim of this course is to prepare you for writing and designing documents
in technical and professional discourse communities. You will produce
a number of technical genrescorrespondence, reports, a proposal,
and instructionsfor various technical and lay audiences. Some
of these assignments are taken from cases based on real-world situations
and present you with a set of rhetorical considerations and constraints.
Other assignments ask you to help identify actual situations to which
you will respond. In both cases we will approach technical writing rhetorically,
discussing such topics as organizational conventions, visual design,
and style in the context of specific rhetorical situations.
Class will usually take place in a discussion
or workshop format in which you will at different times discuss assigned
readings, complete in-class writing and other exercises, critique sample
documents, critique peers documents, and even lead discussions.
Come to class prepared to interact. Because technical writing in the
workplace is often collaborative, you will write the last three assignments
in small teams.
This course satisfies the requirements of the
Gordon Rule if all assigned work is completed.
Understand some of the features and processes of technical and
professional discourse communities.
Specify and adapt to the constraints of specific rhetorical situations,
including audiences, purposes, and uses.
Develop strategies for accommodating multiple audiences in one
document and for accommodating both technical and lay audiences.
Learn strategies for making documents accessible and user-centered.
These include setting the context and creating pathways through a document.
Learn to strategically orchestrate elements of document design,
including type, spacing, and color.
Design and integrate tables and figures in a user-centered way.
Develop individual and collaborative writing processes appropriate
for technical documents.
Learn superstructures and conventions for common technical documents
such as correspondence, reports, proposals, and instructions.
Refine writing style for more strategic clarity, concision, coherence,
cohesion, and emphasis.
Critique and revise your own documents to insure that they fulfill
Form a community of writers with your peers in which you provide
one another with extensive written and oral feedback.
Assignments 2 and 3 come out of cases developed from actual workplace
situations. Each case presents in narrative form a problem that needs
to be solved, positions you as an employee and technical/professional
communicator, and presents you with specific writing tasks that address
the problem. Each case narrative provides all the necessary technical
and rhetorical information.
1. Job Application Package
For this assignment you will design a cover letter and two versions
of a resumeone print and one electronicfor a job or internship
in which youre interested. I encourage you to actually send your
application materials. The cover letter, directed to your initial contact
in the organization, should be 1-2 pages, and the print resume should
be a page. In addition, you will write a 2-3 page memo to me describing
the job, analyzing your audience, and explaining how you accommodated
your audience in your application materials.
Well use this assignment to start thinking
about document design and different considerations for print and electronic
texts. Stylistically, well emphasize concreteness when writing
the resume and concision when writing the letter.
2. Four Oaks Case
This assignment comes from a case titled Four Oaks Pavilion: Solving
More than Noise Problems, appearing in a special issue of the
journal Business Communication Quarterly. In the case you work for the
firm of Kramer Associates, which manages and maintains the Four Oaks
Pavilion entertainment amphitheater. Your firm must respond to reported
noise problems and related public relations problems that have caught
the attention of the City Council. Your assigned task is to write an
informal report to the City Council recommending solutions to both sets
of problems. The report should be in letter form and should be about
3-4 pages long.
In addition to learning about report structures
and conventions, well learn how to set the context and otherwise
create accessibility in a technical document. Well practice writing
problem statements, something well also do in the next assignment.
This assignment also presents the challenge of accommodating multiple
external, non-technical readers with differing agendas.
3. Heated Sidewalk Case
The Heated Sidewalk Problem case is taken from Scenarios
for Technical Communication by Teresa C. Kynell and Wendy Krieg Stone.
In this scenario you are a newly hired technical writer at the engineering
and architectural firm of Michaels and Greenwall Associates. Youre
faced with the task of writing a sales letter to a potential buyer about
the features and benefits of the Hot Blocks sidewalk heating product.
You also face an ethical problem when asked to misrepresent the testing
data about the products efficacy and safety. Your choices are
to write the letter to the client as asked, write a different, more
honest letter to the client, and/or to write a memo to someone in the
company expressing your ethical concerns. In addition, youll write
me a cover memo that explains the ethical principles guiding your decision
Well use this assignment to discuss the
ethics of technical communication and to learn strategies for improving
the clarity of our writing.
This assignment is the first of three related, collaborative assignments.
You will work in a group of three or four to propose an approach to
the next assignment. Your group will identify a problemin this
case a task (from your job, course work, daily life) that requires instructions
or needs better instructionsand then propose a solutionin
this case a set of print or online instructions that would make the
task easier and safer to perform. Your proposal of 3-5 pages will also
involve explaining how the problem and solution fit the requirements
of the instructions assignment and explaining (in a management section)
how your group will actually produce the solution.
This assignment will, of course, expose you more
thoroughly to the genre of the proposal. In addition to learning proposal
superstructures and conventions, well work on creating a more
cohesive, coherent arrangement and style. Well also continue working
with visual aids, including an organizational chart and timeline.
Now your group will actually carry out what you proposed in the last
assignment (provided I approved your proposal). The instructions will
be around 5-8 pages long and include visuals including figures showing
the task being performed. Your audience should have little to no experience
performing the task. Our invention for the instructions will include
a task analysis for the step-by-step section. As with the job application
package, well emphasize document design, including the integration
of visuals; to that end the invention process will also include designing
thumbnail sketches and document grids. In terms of style, our focus
will once again be on clarity of action.
6. User Test Report
Your final major assignment is a follow-up to the instructions and introduces
you to an increasingly important component of the document production
processusability testing. Working as a team of document design
consultants, your group will administer and report on a usability test
of another groups instructions. After learning about strategies
for user testing, your group will design a user-testing guide and then
test another groups instructions on a small number of prospective
users. After conducting the tests and gathering as much feedback as
possible, your group will write a 3-5 page empirical research report
to the other group that describes the tests objectives and methods,
summarizes your findings, and outlines recommendations for improving
their instructions. Youll also need to attach your testing guide
as an appendix.
At the end of the semester, each group will have
the opportunity to revise their instructions based on the user test
report they receive. The original and revised grades will then be averaged
for a new grade.
Job Application Package 15%
Four Oaks Case 15%
Heated Sidewalk Case 15%
User Test Report 10%
Professionalism and Participation
(includes performances in discussions, in-class work,
and writing workshops) 10%
When grading, I will ask two overriding questions:
1) how well do you accommodate your audience and otherwise adapt your
text to its situation?; 2) how likely would your text achieve its desired
effect in the workplace? I will also pay particular attention to the
arrangement, style, and visual design of your documents. The specific
criteria for each assignment will be clarified in the assignment sheets,
class discussions and exercises, and writing workshop guides.
For the two collaborative assignments, you will
be evaluated based on your final product, my observations of your performance
in the group, and the self and peer evaluations you complete. If you
do not give 100% to your group, your individual grade will likely be
All assignments, including visuals, should be computer generated.
Bring two copies of the assignment to the writing
workshop. Drafts for writing workshops should not be rough,
but complete and polished. You will be graded on this.
Writing workshops are mandatory. I will not accept
a final text that has not been workshopped. If you miss a workshop,
it is your responsibility to arrange for a make-up session with your
classmates and/or tutors at the Writing Center.
Submit all drafts of assignments with the final versions in a 10 x 13
envelope (not folder). In the upper left corner of the envelope, write
your name, the course name, number, and section, and my name.
All assignments are due the beginning of the
class indicated on the schedule. Late assignments will be penalized
at least one letter grade per day unless you have made arrangements
with me in advance.
Promptness and attendance are imperative in a discussion/workshop class.
It should go without saying that you should arrive to class on time
and well prepared. Tardiness, like sporadic absences, disrupts the class.
Dont enter the class more than ten minutes after it has begun.
Being tardy three times will count as an unexcused absence. Your letter
grade will be lowered one full letter grade after the fourth unexcused
absence (university-sponsored events and documented illnesses are usually
excused). Additional absences may cause you to fail the course. If you
miss class, you are responsible for getting any assignments and making
up any work.
A low grade on a single assignment will not prohibit a good course grade
if your work improves. You should first discuss grade complaints with
me. After doing this, if you still have grade complaints about multiple
assignments and have received a final course grade that is lower than
you expected, contact the Director of Writing Programs in the Department
of English to contest final course grades.
Unless it is specifically connected to assigned collaborative work,
all work should be individual. Evidence of collusion (working with someone
not connected to the class or assignment), plagiarism (use of someone
elses published or unpublished words or design without acknowledgement)
or multiple submissions (submitting the same paper in different courses)
will lead to the universitys procedures for dealing with academic
dishonesty. All students are expected to honor their commitment to the
universitys Honor Code [available online at http://itl.chem.ufl.edu/honor.html].
Every student in this class is expected to participate in a responsible
and mature manner that enhances education. Any conduct that disrupts
the learning process may lead to disciplinary action.
I encourage you to see me during my office hours, especially when you
have questions about an assignment, need help with a particular writing
problem, want extra feedback on a draft, or have questions about my
comments on your work. Of course, we can also correspond via e-mail.