ENG 240: Technical Writing
Spring 2008
Section 1: Mon. 1:00-1:50, Room 203
               Wed. 1:00-2:50, Room 102

Technical Communication: A Practical Approach, 6 ed.

Brian T. Murphy
Vaughn College of Aeronautics
Schedule and Office Hours
e-mail: bmurphy@Brian-T-Murphy.com
or brian.murphy@vaughn.edu

 

Work Assigned as of Monday, 5 May

 

see:

Online Quizzes

In-Class Writing

Short Papers

Reports

Miscellaneous

 

 

 

Online Quizzes:

Chapter 1 Quiz: Process: Monday, 28 January

Chapter 16 Quiz: Style: Wednesday, 30 January

Chapter 2 Quiz: McDuff, Ethics, & Globalism: Wednesday, 6 February

Chapter 3 Quiz: Organizing Information: Monday, 11 February

Chapter 4 Quiz: Page Design: Wednesday, 13 February

Chapter 8 Quiz: Informal Reports: Wednesday, 20 February

Chapter 12 Quiz: Graphics: Wednesday, 27 February

Chapter 5 Quiz: Patterns of Organization: Wednesday, 4 March

Chapter 6 Quiz: Process Descriptions and Instructions: Wednesday, 11 March

Chapter 9 Quiz: Formal Reports: Wednesday, 26 March

Chapter 14 Quiz: Technical Research: Monday, 31 March

Chapter 7 Quiz: Letters, Memos, and Electronic Communication: Monday, April 7

Chapter 15 Quiz: The Job Search: Wednesday, 16 April

 

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In-Class Writing:

In-class Writing: Letter of Introduction: Wednesday, 23 January
Using block format (see p. 597), write a formal letter of introduction to the instructor, explaining (1) who you are; (2) your writing experience, including personal writing, academic writing, and professional or technical writing, if any; and (3) your concerns about or expectations for the class.

In-class Writing: Style: Wednesday, 30 January
After reading Chapter 16 (Style), refer to exercises 1 through 6 (pp. 624-626). Following the instructions and the guidelines in the chapter, complete only the first question in each of the exercises. That is, complete and hand in 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a, and 6a.

In-class Writing: Ethical Issues on the Job: Wednesday, 6 February
In your chosen profession or future career, identify at least three specific ethical problems or issues that you can anticipate may arise. What are they? and how would you handle each one?

In-class Writing: Page Design: Wednesday, 13 February
Working alone or in small groups (two or three students), analyze and revise the sample document
using the guidelines in Chapter 4, Page Design. Change the layout and design of the document only; do not alter the document's content, although you may make small changes for style (e.g., changing sentences to phrases or otherwise revising for parallel structure).

In-class Writing: Informal Reports: Wednesday, 20 February
After reading Chapter 8 (Informal Reports), refer to Topic 7 on page 275: Report Based on Internet "Surfing." Your
Informal Report, due Wednesday, March 5, will be based on this assignment topic. However, your In-Class Writing Assignment for today is merely to complete the Planning Form from Chapter 1 for your projected report (see p. 10, Figure 1.5; also available as a Microsoft Word document here or in an alternative Fill-In form). Be certain to include the projected report's Purpose, Potential Readers, including their individual needs and expectations, and an Outline of the structure and major points of the document.

In-class Writing: Graphics: Wednesday, 27 February

Being able to create good, clear graphics requires that one be able to read and understand graphics. Examine the following graphics (class handouts, or available online); then answer the questions on each one. Note: If you are doing this at home or in the computer lab, use the Microsoft Word (fill-in) form, here.

    1.  Roberts, Graham, and Mike Gröndahl. "Making a Martin (diagram)." New York Times 22 Feb. 2008: F9.
         A. What parts of the guitar are made of rosewood?
         B. What is intended "to counteract string tension and prevent the neck from bending upward"?
         C.  How is the guitar's neck attached to the body?

    2.  Gröndahl, Mike. "A World Presence (graphic)." New York Times 22 Feb. 2008: F9.
         A. Of the Corolla, Camry, or Tundra, which had the highest 2007 unit sales in Asia?
         B. Which of the three had the highest total unit sales?
         C.  Which of the three had the highest growth in unit sales from 2006 to 2007?

    3.  "Sector Snapshot: Energy (chart)." New York Times 22 Feb. 2008: C8-C9.
         (Note: If you are using the online interactive graphic instead of the handout, your answers may vary. Therefore, please print out a copy of the current graphic you are using.)
         A. Which company is furthest ahead of the S & P 500 over the last week?
         B. Which company is furthest ahead of the S & P 500 over the last year?
         C. What is the approximate one-year price return for Murphy Oil?

In-class Writing: Patterns of Organization: Wednesday, 5 March
After reading Chapter 5 (Patterns of Organization), especially the guidelines and examples for Description and Definition, choose one of the following topics and write a single well-developed paragraph. You may include illustrations, if necessary. As always, your writing should be grammatically correct, free of errors in mechanics, grammar, usage, and spelling.

    1.  Choose a specific tool, device, or piece of equipment used in your chosen profession or future career, one with which you are familiar,
         and write a one-paragraph technical description of the item. Be sure to review the guidelines for Description (pp. 142-146) as well as
         Figures 5-2 (p. 166) and 5-3 (pp. 168-170) before you begin.

    2.  Choose a specific word or term commonly used in your chosen profession or future career and write a one-paragraph extended definition.
         The word or term you are defining may refer to a process, object, or concept particular to the field, but it should be one with which you are
         familiar. Be sure to review the guidelines for Definition (pp. 137-142) as well as Figure 5-1 (p. 142) before you begin.

In-class Writing: Process Descriptions and Instructions: Wednesday, 12 March
After reading Chapter 6 (Process Descriptions and Instructions), go to the Technical Communication website for Chapter 5 and complete Portfolio Activity 5: Writing Instructions for Cell Phone Usage

Many of us misplace instruction manuals to common electronic devices rather quickly, which can cause problems if someone else needs to use the device. Write a short instruction manual for your cell phone. (Please do not consult your phone manual for this exercise.) Include the most commonly used functions and outline the steps in enough detail that a friend could use your phone for a day. Include [at least two of] the following topics:

         How to Make a Call
         How to End a Call
         How to Change the Ringer Settings
          How to Mute Calls
         How to Turn the Phone On and Off
         How to Recharge the Phone

Use terminology that your friend will understand and use a reader-friendly format that will allow the reader to find the essential directions quickly.

My modifications to this assignment: use Memorandum format, from you to me, and include at least two of the topics listed above (you do not need to do all of them).

In-class Writing: Formal Reports: Wednesday, 26 March
After reading Chapter 9 (Formal Reports), refer to Part I: Short Assignments in your textbook (308), and complete #3. Executive Summary:

Choose one of the seven project sheets included at the end of chapter 2 [pp. 70-76]. Write a brief executive summary for the project [using Models 9-7 (p. 319) and 9-9 (p. 325) as your guides]. If necessary, provide additional information or transitional wording not included on the sheet, but do not change the nater of the information already provided.

In-class Writing: Letters, Memos, and Electronic Communication: Wednesday, 2 April
After reading Chapter 7 (Letters, Memos, and Electronic Communication), refer to Part I: Letters in your textbook and complete #5. Negative Letter—Declining a Request.

Assume that you work at the McDuff office that completed the Sentry Dam (see the first project sheet at the end of chapter 2 [p. 70]). Word of your good work has spread to the state director of dams [i.e., me]. He has asked you, as manager of the sentry project, to deliver a 20-minute speech on dam safety to the annual meeting of county engineers. Unfortunately, you have already agreed to be at a project site in another state on that day, and you cannot reschedule the site visit. Write the director of dams—who is both a former and, you hope, a future client—and decline the request. Though you know he expressly wanted you to speak, offer to send a substitute from your office.

The letter should be from you to me, so use my name as the name of the director of dams, and use Vaughn's address for my address. Refer to the Guidelines for Letters on pp. 210-214, and specific information about negative letters on p. 216. See also Model 7-1 (p. 239) and 7-3 (p. 242).

In-class Writing: Letters, Memos, and Electronic Communication: Wednesday, 9 April
After reading Chapter 7 (Letters, Memos, and Electronic Communication), refer to the Technical Communication website for Chapter 7, specifically Portfolio Activities, and complete Activity 2: Progress Update Memo:

Write a memo to your instructor, advising him or her of your status on the completion of your final writing project. In the memo, be sure to include completed tasks, uncompleted tasks, any changes to your project since the original proposal, and an updated timeline for completion.

Note the following changes to the assignment: the memo should discuss not your final writing project, but your progress in the class to date. Therefore, include the following:

Completed tasks: what work has been completed;
Uncompleted tasks: what work was missed (and why);
Any changes to your project since the original proposal: what you have submitted since Sunday, April 6 (the last printout date);
An updated timeline for completion: your current plans for the remainder of the semester.

In addition, send a formal email to your professor, at bmurphy@Brian-T-Murphy.com, indicating your progress in the class to date, and directing the reader's attention to the attached memorandum. Note: send the email as if you are attaching the memorandum—i.e., refer to it in your email as an attachment—but do not attach it if you already handed it in during class!

In-class Writing: The Job Search: Wednesday, 16 April
After reading Chapter 15 (The Job Search), refer to the Technical Communication website for Chapter 15, specifically Interactive Editing and Revision, and complete Assignment 1: Revising Andrew Williamson's Chronological Resume:

This exercise asks you to review and revise Andrew Williamson's résumé. Because this document is interactive, you can roll a cursor over sections of the résumé to see questions and comments in the pop-up boxes designed to help you improve the résumé.

Andrew Williamson wants to send out his résumé to some businesses that have placed want ads. Before he does, however, he would like you to help him improve it so it can be as good as possible when it reaches the desks of potential employers.

Read his résumé and identify any errors in content and format, using your textbook as a guide and looking at the interactive comments and questions that pop up when you run your cursor over sections of the résumé . Then revise his résumé , making sure that it is properly formatted and contains the information that employers are interested in.

You may complete this exercise at home or in the computer lab, or do it in class. If you complete it at home or in the computer lab, the assignment must be typed; use the Microsoft Word document, here.

In-class Writing: The Job Search 2: Wednesday, 23 April
After reading Chapter 15 (The Job Search), assume that the cover letter  and the  résumé that you have already drafted have gotten you an interview at the company to which you sent them. Although the interview went well, the company will be interviewing several more candidates in the next few weeks before making a final decision. Following the textbook instructions, pages 583-584, draft a formal follow-up letter. Your letter should express appreciation for the interview, reiterate your interest in and/or appropriateness for the position, and end with a positive message (or "Please-er"). For Formal letter structure and format, see Chapter 7, especially Models 7-1 (p. 239), 7-3 (242), 7-7 (246), and 7-9 (248).

 

 

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Short Papers

Short Paper 1: Due Monday, 4 February
After reading
Chapter 16: (Style in Technical Communications), complete Assignment 10 from page 628-629, Editing Sample Memo. Replace "Leonard Schwartz" with your name, and using the guidelines in the chapter, edit the memorandum. Change the style of writing only, however: do not alter the memo format. You should be able to make the essay roughly half as long, and as much as three times clearer!

Short Paper 2: Due Monday, 18 February Wednesday, 20 February
After reading
Chapter 3 (Organizing Information) and Chapter 4 (Page Design), choose one of the following assignments:

1.)  You have been asked by your boss to review the textbook, Technical Communication: A Practical Approach by William Sanborn Pfeiffer, for possible use in a Technical Writing class. Your are asked to consider especially the following factors: cost, comprehensiveness, readability, and additional online resources, if any, and decide whether to recommend adoption of this textbook for next semester. While other factors may also influence your recommendation, be certain to address those already mentioned as your main factors, and identify any others as "Other," "Additional" or "Miscellaneous Factors".

2.)  The college is considering teaching a Technical Writing class entirely in the computer lab next semester, and you have been asked by your boss to explore the possibility from the perspective of the students. Specific factors that might be considered include available space, visibility of the board, potential distractions or other problems. Other factors may also influence your recommendation, and may actually be more important from a student perspective; be sure to categorize and order your factors appropriately.

Regardless of which topic you select, your final report should take the form of a one- to two-page memorandum summarizing your conclusions. Make certain your memo is organized correctly, following the prescribed ABC format (Chapter 3), employs an appropriate style (Chapter 16), and demonstrates effective page design (Chapter 4). Refer to Model 3-1 (pp. 99-100) for formatting assistance.

Short Paper 3: Due Monday, 3 March
After reading Chapter 12 (Graphics), complete the following assignments from your textbook, pages 482-3. Note: If you are doing this at home or in the computer lab, you may use Microsoft Excel or another program. Otherwise, use a compass, protractor, and ruler, if you have them, or neatly draw freehand.

     1.  Pie, Bar, and Line Charts. Figure 12-34 shows total energy production and consumption from 1960 through 1987, while also breaking down both into the four categories of
          coal, petroleum, natural gas, and "other." Use those data to complete the following charts:

            A pie chart that shows the four groups of energy consumption in 1987.

            A segmented bar chart that shows the total energy production, and the four percent-of-production subtotals, for 1960 and 1980.

            A single-line chart showing energy production from 1965 through 1975.

     6.  Table. Using the map in Figure 12-35, draw an informal table correlating the five main groupings with the number of states in each.

Short Paper 4: Due Monday, 24 March
After reading Chapter 6 (Process Descriptions and Instructions), complete Writing Assignment 11 from page 194: Writing Simple Instructions.

Choose a simple office procedure of 20 or fewer steps (for example, changing a printer cartridge, filling a mechanical pencil, adding dry ink to a copy machine, or adding paper to a laser printer). Then write a simple set of instructions for this process, in the form of a memo report. Your readers are assistants at the many offices of a large national firm. Consider them to be new employees who have no background or experience in office work and no education beyond high school. You are responsible for their training.

Your report should focus on a task involving a specific device or piece of equipment. Therefore, be sure to mention the make and/or model number where appropriate (e.g., refer to "the Hewlett Packard LaserJet 5P," not just "the printer") and address the particular details of the task. For example, "open the paper drawer" would require additional details and clarification, including location and levers or knobs, depending on the model on the model. Your final report should follow memo format (see Model 6-6, pp. 204-6); be at least two and a half pages, but no more than five; include at least one illustration or diagram; contain warnings or cautions if appropriate; and be grammatically correct, free of errors in mechanics, grammar, usage, and spelling.

For additional information or instructions, please review the Guidelines for Instructions, pp. 181-186, or the Technical Communication website for Chapter 6.

Exercise: Abstract Writing: Due Monday, 7 April
After reading Chapter 14 (Technical Research), especially "Writing Research Abstracts" (pp. 550-557), complete Writing Assignment 4 from page 560: Abstract, Option A:

Visit your college library and find a magazine or journal in a technical area, preferably in your major field or future profession. Then photocopy a short article (about two to five pages maximum) that does not already contain a separate abstract or summary at the beginning of the article. Using the guidelines in this chapter, write ONLY an informative abstract for a technical audience. Submit your abstract along with a copy of the article.

Note the changes from the assignment in the book: the journal should be not only a technical one, but preferably in your major field or future profession; the article you select should only be two to five pages; and you are required to write only one abstract, an informative one, not both an informative and a descriptive one.

For additional information or instructions, please review the Guidelines for Writing Research Abstracts, pp. 555-57, or the Technical Communication website for Chapter 14.

Short Paper 5: Due Wednesday, April 16
After reading Chapter 15 (The Job Search), complete Writing Assignment 1 from page 592: Job Letter and Résumé.

Find a job advertisement in the newspaper, on the Internet, or at your college placement office. The ad should match either qualifications you have now or those you plan to have after you complete the academic program upon which you are now working. Write a job letter [...] that respond[s] to the ad. Submit the letter [...] and written advertisement to your instructor.

Note the changes from the assignment in the book: you are required to write only the letter for this assignment, not both "a job letter and a résumé." However, you must include a copy of the specific advertisement to which you are responding, as directed.

For additional information or instructions, please review Job Correspondence, pp. 574-576, or the Technical Communication website for Chapter 15.
See also Models 15-1 through 15-6 (pp. 593-604).
Useful and appropriate online sources for your job search include the New York Times and Monster.com.

Short Paper 6: Due Wednesday, April 23
After reading Chapter 15 (The Job Search), create and submit a chronological résumé that could be submitted with the job letter above or used in your future job search.

For additional information or instructions, please review Résumés, pp. 576-579, or the Technical Communication website for Chapter 15.
See also Models 15-1 through 15-6 (pp. 593-604), as well as Guide to Designing a Résumé
An imporatant and informative article is Kepcher, Carolyn. "Faulty Résumé Can Sink You." New York Daily News 3 March 2008: Money Section, 11.
Useful and appropriate online sources for your job search include the New York Times and Monster.com.

 

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Reports

Informal Report: Due Monday, March 10 Monday, March 10
After reading Chapter 8 (Informal Reports), refer to Topic 7 on page 275: Report Based on Internet "Surfing":

Use the Internet to collect actual information, and/or a list of sources that may contain information, about a topic that relates to your academic major. Then write an informal equipment evaluation in which you analyze (1) the ease with which the Internet allowed you to collect information on your topic and (2) the quality of the sources or information you received. Your audience is your instructor, who will let you know the degree of knowledge you can assume he or she has on this topic.

Your search should be on a specific, focused topic within your chosen profession or future career; in other words, consider something like "personnel policies and employee evaluation" rather than "management." In addition, your evaluation of sources should be careful and logical; consider either CAT Scan (Credibility, Accuracy, and Timeliness) or CARS Method (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, and Sources). Your final report should follow memo format (see Model 8-2, pp. 282-3); be at least two and a half pages, but no more than five; include at least one attachment; and be grammatically correct, free of errors in mechanics, grammar, usage, and spelling. You must also include your original Planning Form (see In-class Writing: Informal Reports, above), and—if you used one—your revised Planning Form.

*See also: Guide to Locating and Documenting Internet Sources

Formal Report: Wednesday, April 2
After reading Chapter 9 (Formal Reports), go to the Technical Communication website for Chapter 9, click on Interactive Editing and Revision Exercises, and complete
Assignment 2: Formal Report on Technology for Teachers! Study:

Technology for Teachers! (TFT) is a training center that has been in business since 1995 in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, and it has campuses in seven other cities. TFT provides training courses (six-weeks long) and workshops (one-day long) in various types of technology useful to teachers, especially computer software, and in methods for integrating technology into the classroom. The organization has completed a three-year study of the technological training courses and workshops it offers as well as the clients it serves in its Cincinnati, Ohio, campus in order to identify needs and trends and thus determine the future focus of Technology for Teachers!

Look at the section in your textbook on how to write formal reports. Notice all of the segments that belong in a formal report, such as a cover, letter or memo of transmittal, table of contents, list of illustrations, executive summary, introduction, body, conclusion/recommendations, and appendices. Then look at the formal report in this assignment for Technology for Teachers!, which is not correct. It is missing the table of contents, list of illustrations, and executive summary, and the paragraphs in the main sections (introduction, body, conclusion) of the report are out of order. Revise the report by doing the following: (1) put the paragraphs and graphics in the main sections of the report in order, (2) write a memo of transmittal, (3) write an executive summary, (4) create a list of illustrations, (5) repaginate, and (6) create a table of contents.

Because this document is interactive, you can roll your cursor over sections of the report to see questions and comments in the pop-up boxes designed to help you think about ways to revise.

The Microsoft Word form for completing this assignment is located at the bottom of the Formal Report on Technology for Teachers! Study page, or here.

 

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Miscellaneous:

Exercise: Abstract Writing: Due Monday, 7 April
After reading Chapter 14 (Technical Research), especially "Writing Research Abstracts" (pp. 550-557), complete Writing Assignment 4 from page 560: Abstract, Option A:

Visit your college library and find a magazine or journal in a technical area, preferably in your major field or future profession. Then photocopy a short article (about two to five pages maximum) that does not already contain a separate abstract or summary at the beginning of the article. Using the guidelines in this chapter, write ONLY an informative abstract for a technical audience. Submit your abstract along with a copy of the article.

Note the changes from the assignment in the book: the journal should be not only a technical one, but preferably in your major field or future profession; the article you select should only be two to five pages; and you are required to write only one abstract, an informative one, not both an informative and a descriptive one.

For additional information or instructions, please review the Guidelines for Writing Research Abstracts, pp. 555-57, or the Technical Communication website for Chapter 14.

In-Class Exercise: Usage: Due Monday, 28 April
After reading the Appendix (Handbook), complete Exercise 2 from pages 675-676. This exercise will be used as an additional writing assignment if it betters your average; otherwise, it will be treated as practice and not counted.

In-Class Exercise: Grammar and Mechanics: Due Wednesday, 30 April
After reading the Appendix (Handbook), complete Exercise 1 from pages 673-675. This exercise will be used as an additional writing assignment if it betters your average; otherwise, it will be treated as practice and not counted.

Final Exam: Monday, 5 May
The final exam is all multiple choice and true-false.  Although according to the syllabus it is worth 15 points, or 15% of your final grade, if it betters your average, it will be counted as more than 15%; otherwise, it will be counted as less than 15%.

 

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Last Revised: Monday, 25 May 2008
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