Writing in the Professions: Technical Writing
1. Catalog Description
104T. Writing in the Professions: Technical Writing (4) Lecture/discussion—3 hours; extensive writing. Prerequisite: course 1 or English 3 or the equivalent and upper division standing. Communicating effectively about technology and other technical subjects to varied audiences for varied purposes. Suitable for students entering professions that require communicating technical information to subject matter experts, managers, technicians, and non-specialists. GE credit: Wrt (cannot be used to satisfy a college or university composition requirement and GE writing experience simultaneously). Not open for credit to students who have completed course 104A prior to Fall 2012.—I, II, III (I, II, III.)
2. Course Goals
- Understanding differences between academic and technical writing
- Analyzing contexts, purposes, and audiences to determine appropriate writing style (technical, semi-technical, non-technical), as well as content, organization, and design choices, for technical documents
- Learning strategies for testing the usability and overall effectiveness of a document
- Writing clear, concise, consistent, and accurate prose
- Employing writing as a process, from researching a problem to organizing and drafting a document to testing, revising, and editing that document
- Practicing strategies for effective collaboration on large writing projects
- Employing rhetorical strategies for effective visual and document design
- Addressing ethical, cultural, international, and political issues related to writing
- Gaining proficiency in using computer-mediated communications
3. Entry Level
Students should have completed UWP 1 or ENL 3 or the equivalent and have upper-division standing. They should be familiar with the general principles of good writing, including organization, development, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.
4. Topical Outline
- Understanding the writing process
- Analyzing audiences for technical documents
- Primary versus secondary audiences
- Consumers and other product users
- Subject matter experts
- Field support personnel and other technicians
- Decision-makers, such as stockholders, potential funders, managers
- Understanding kinds and purposes of technical documents
- Technical definitions and descriptions
- White papers
- Usability tests and test reports
- Technical reports, such as feasibility reports and causal analysis reports
- Writing technical documents
- Strategies for analyzing the rhetorical situation
- Strategies for making documents clear and concise
- Effects of media on documents
- Effects of new technologies on document design, management, and production processes
- Conventions of documenting sources in technical documents
- The principles of technical communications
- Upholding principles of ethical communication
- Adjusting writing to different social and cultural contexts
- Communicating risk and safety-related information
- Working with subject matter experts
- Understanding usability
5. Criteria for grading
- The course will be graded by a letter grade.
- Grades will be based on the students' performance on in- and out-of-class writing assignments and on a final exam. Students will write a minimum of 6000 words; the number of assignments and the weight of each assignment will vary according to the instructor. The final exam will account for at least 10% of the grade, participation will account for no more than 10% of the grade, and in- and out-of-class writing assignments will account for at least 70% of the grade.
All sections will require a manual or technical report project (10-15 pages) that requires a sequence of assignments. A manual project, for example, might require a problem definition, proposal, technical definition and description, instructions, usability test and test report, and manual draft. A technical report project might culminate in the writing of a feasibility report, causal analysis, or comparative analysis and might include the following assignments: problem definition, research proposal, management plan (if collaborative), progress reports, report draft, and presentation. All sections will also require at least one assignment that integrates text and graphics. Instructors will choose remaining assignments from among the following: an introduction to technical writing assignment (2-5 pages), such as an informational report that asks students to investigate where their field of study intersects with technical communication, and a handful of technical writing genre assignments (2-5 pages), such as technical definitions and descriptions, instructions, procedures, and catalog pages.
6. Illustrative Reading
The suggested textbooks include the following: Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu, The Handbook of Technical Writing, Bedford/St. Martin’s. Gurak and Lannon, A Concise Guide to Technical Communication, Pearson Longman. Lannon and Gurak, Technical Communication, Pearson Longman. Markel, Technical Communication, Bedford/St. Martins. Graves and Graves, A Strategic Guide to Technical Communication, Broadview Press.
7. Explanation of Potential Course Overlap
UWP 104T does not overlap with any other courses. UWP 104T is distinguished from UWP 101, Advanced Composition, by its focus on writing about technology and other technical subjects. UWP 104T is distinguished from UWP 104A, Writing in the Professions: Business Writing, by its emphasis on writing geared towards helping people understand and use technology (e.g., software, hardware, new products), rather than on writing geared towards maintaining and developing relationships with people (e.g., clients, customers, employees).
UWP 104T is distinguished from UWP 104E: Writing in the Professions: Science by its focus on functional writing (writing for audiences who need to use technical information to perform work), rather than on writing in which the primary purpose is to contribute to knowledge through proposing research or conveying research results.
UWP 104T is distinguished from UWP 102E: Writing in Engineering, in two ways. First, as a Writing in the Disciplines course in the 102 series, 102E focuses on writing in an academic discipline, whereas the technical writing course would, as part of the 104 series, continue to emphasize writing for and in professional, rather than academic, contexts. Thus, engineering students intending to continue in academic careers may prefer 102E, while those intending to move into industry or other professional settings would benefit from the technical writing course.
8. Justification of Units
UWP 104T is a four-unit course. Three hours per week is lecture/discussion. An additional unit of credit is justified by the significant amount of work that students must do outside of class time to plan, draft, and revise the 6000 words of required writing. (The written amount is equivalent to a term paper.) In addition to this substantial written requirement, students will meet individually with the instructor for discussion and evaluation of their work