ENGL 3030 Professional and Technical Writing

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Catalog Description

Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of the GWAR. Methods of and practice in writing professional documents, reports, proposals, and other workplace writing; emphasis on understanding the rhetorical situation and developing a clear style.

Course Description

ENGL 3030, Professional and Technical Writing, focuses on methods of and practice in writing professional documents, reports, proposals, and other workplace writing, with an emphasis on understanding the rhetorical situation and developing a clear style. Business professionals, scientists, medical professionals, engineers, attorneys and other professionals who can communicate well gain credibility and are more effective in the workplace. Central to effective communication is the ability to analyze and respond to the “rhetorical situation,” the competing demands of author, audience, and context, and so a key objective of the course is to help develop rhetorical awareness.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how people read, use and respond to documents;
  • Analyze specific audiences and situations and translate that analysis into effective communication strategies;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how text organization and the overall design of a document contributes to its effectiveness;
  • Demonstrate techniques for communicating specialist (often technical and scientific) material to non-expert audiences;
  • Demonstrate techniques for improving the clarity and concision of their prose;
  • Write in a variety of genres common in professional settings;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the writing process as it occurs in professional settings, including:
    • Working collaboratively with experts, editors, and other writers
    • Revising documents in response to feedback from experts, editors, and other writers
    • Testing documents with actual users of those documents
    • Arriving at meetings and submitting work on time

Course Outline

Business professionals, scientists, medical professionals, engineers, attorneys and other professionals who can communicate well gain credibility and are more effective in the workplace. Central to effective communication is the ability to analyze and respond to the “rhetorical situation,” the competing demands of author, audience, and context, and so the key goal of the course is to help students develop the ability to respond effectively to these questions:

  1. What do I want/need to accomplish with this document?
  2. Why do my readers want/need this document?
  3. How do I produce a document that helps my audience accomplish what they need to accomplish?

To create a document that your audience can use, you need to know something about them: who they are, what they expect to see in your document, what they already know (or don’t know) about the topic, what they want to use your document to do, and the conditions under which they will use it. The goal of ENGL 3030 is to help students develop approaches to planning and writing documents, in addition to strategies for creating them.

This course is designed to be very practical. The kinds of documents students will be asked to produce will have real purposes and audiences. The key objective, though, will be to develop effective habits of mind. Listed below is a version of ENGL 3030 divided into six units.

Unit 1. An Introduction to Writing at Work and the Reader-Centered Approach
In Unit 1, students will be introduced to the principles of technical and business writing and begin defining the objectives of their communications using the rhetorical principles of purpose, audience, and context. Research involving the Career Center and online materials will lead to their first assignment: a resume and application letter geared to a specific job posting. In launching into the formal report assignment, students will brainstorm topics and submit the results to their instructor in a short memorandum.

Unit 2. Making a Case and the Rhetoric of Persuasion
In Unit 2, students focus on a rhetorical understanding of persuasion centered on ethos, logos, and pathos. Research on a local issue will lead to their second assignment: an unsolicited recommendation offered in response to a “problem” identified by the student.

Unit 3. Designing a Report Proposal; Defining Terms with Audience in Mind
In Unit 3, students will work collaboratively to design and submit report proposals based on careful analysis of the rhetorical situation and the objectives of the proposal. Research and analysis of information form the basis for proposals that will be evaluated on the basis of their validity and rhetorical effectiveness. Students will be introduced to the challenges of representing data meaningfully and ethically. Focusing on a distinctive genre of technical writing will involve the study and practice of definition for different audiences.

Unit 4. Re-Presenting Information for Different Audiences
In Unit 4, students will work collaboratively to conduct the research necessary to develop the reports proposed in Unit 3 while also designing short informational communications based on the same information. The informational communications will take a variety of forms as appropriate for different audiences and can include a one-page information sheet, an executive summary memo, a website, a short instructional video, a poster, and a visual display. In this unit (as well as in earlier units) students will receive instruction in page design, the use of graphic elements, and the visual representation of information. The different needs of different audiences and the importance of representing information ethically will be emphasized. All communications will be subjected to usability testing.

Unit 5. Drafting the Formal Report; Peer Review of the Formal Report Draft
Unit 5 will focus on the drafting of the formal report proposed in Unit 3, with emphasis on matters of organization, evidence, audience, and style distinctive to this form. In the second part of this unit, members of the writing teams will participate in a constructive peer review of the content, organization, style and presentation of their colleagues’ drafts. The results of the peer review will be incorporated into the final draft of the report to be submitted in Unit 6.

Unit 6. Submitting the Formal Report; Finalizing the E-Portfolio
In this unit, students will review, test, and revise all of the communications they have developed throughout the term and submit final versions of them as e-portfolios. The final e-portfolio will include a closing reflection that will constitute a portion of the final examination.