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« As We May Think by Vannevar Bush: The Atlantic Monthly 1945 | Main | Past Syllabi: Visual Communication Grad Seminar »

January 12, 2005

Past Syllabus: English 314 Technical Writing

Clemson Spring 2000

SECTION 100 T_TH 12:30-1:45 PM 302 Martin Laptop Classroom
SECTION 016 T-TH 3:30-4:45 PM Daniel 304 Computer Lab
Please wait 10 minutes if I am late to class.

Dr. Christine Boese
Office: 605 Strode Tower
Phone: 656-5416
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 2 PM to 3 PM or by appointment. (Wednesday Office Hours are held in P&A 82B, through the Communications Center)

Course Requirements and Policies

Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change and revision. Please stay on top of any modifications or changed reading assignments.

Required Texts:

(Available at Off Campus Student Bookstore, corner of Sloan and College)
Professional Writing Online, James Porter, Patricia Sullivan, Johndan Johnson-Eilola. Allyn & Bacon: 2000. (An E-Textbook. You purchase a slim Student Guide and an Access Code to the Online Text. DO NOT LOSE YOUR ACCESS CODE.)
Writing Handbook To Be Announced (I am waiting for a particular new electronic handbook to become available online).

Course Description

According to The Student’s Guide to First-Year English & Advanced Writing:

English 314 is designed primarily for students in engineering, computer science, textile chemistry, and forestry. This course helps prepare you for the kinds of writing tasks you will perform in careers such as systems programming, software development, water resources management, transportation, wood utilization, and health and safety inspection, among others. The technical writer must meet the following challenges:

  • Write more often to audiences within an organization than to audiences outside.
  • Often write for audiences with some technical background or with little or no familiarity with technical subjects.
  • Write more about the physical and technological environment than about people.
  • Observe, record, and use physical data.
  • Analyze and explain drawings and other graphic representations of physical reality.
  • Describe and define processes, mechanisms, concepts, trends, and issues.

This section of English 314 will be highly computer intensive, whether a laptop course in the smart classroom in 302 Martin or a non-laptop course in the Daniel 304 Computer Lab. You have very likely not encountered a class like this before. We will be simulating a real world industry situation the entire semester, and all of your writing will exist within that context. As such, you will be not merely completing assignments. You will be in professional workgroups, with project managers and designated tasks. In order to complete these tasks, you will have to communicate often and well, as professionals yourselves. Groups that collaborate or communicate poorly will find their projects suffering, not only in quality, but also in the grade. You will save all communication from the entire semester, from informal discussion boards to formal sets of documents created. Your final grade will be the cumulation of this body of work, a professional portfolio.

I like to start every semester with a grand experiment, to try something new and fresh, and possibly cutting edge. This semester we will rely primarily on an electronic textbook, an e-book that was written for the screen, not for the page. We will supplement this text with a quicksearchable electronic writing handbook and numerous World Wide Web resources. In a sense, the Internet will become our Textbook. You will leave this class so familiar with Internet-based tools and writing products that you will be able to list the skill on your résumé.

I also want to emphasize that this is a class in TECHNICAL writing based in specific fields and disciplines. You are expected at this stage in your university career to have some detailed familiarity with the language and culture of your major, an asset that your teams will do well to draw upon with real world or service learning projects. But as we study the language of our fields, please remember this is not a class in writing surface-skimming, fluffy marketing pieces. You will engage your topics in close detail, with attention to audience and clarity with difficult material. The electronic textbook I've chosen does a good job of keeping us focused on this task.

Participation and Attendance

Because this is a highly interactive class, attendance is essential. In keeping with the English department guidelines, three absences are allowed. Every absence after the third will deduct 30 points from the 300 points allotted to participation, quizzes and extra credit show and tell presentations.


Your performance in this class will be based on both the writing assignments you turn in and on your participation and helpfulness to your peers in collaborative projects. Assignments will be weighted with points for various elements, gradually becoming larger and more comprehensive as the semester progresses. Together they will accumulate into a 700-point Portfolio Total.

Specific requirements for each project will be discussed in class and in a separate handout. Requirements for each project will vary depending on the project’s emphasis. You will receive credit for rough drafts and for your written comments on classmates’ rough drafts, and you will have plenty of time to revise these projects before the polished drafts are due. Projects are due at the beginning of the hour unless otherwise noted. Late rough drafts will result in a 10-point deduction from your Portfolio Grade, and late polished drafts will result in a 25-point deduction.

The cumulative documents in your team and individual portfolios will include (but are not limited to) the following: Résumé, Memo, Letter, Effective listserv and Bulletin Board Communication, Effective Synchronous Chat Communication, Technical Specifications Document, Formal Report, Power Point Proposal, Instructional and/or Policy Manual/Web with Usability Testing.

Bean Counting                                                             Grades
Technical Writing Portfolio     700                                    900 and above     A
Participation                         300                                    800-899               B
                                                                                    700-799               C
                                                                                    600-699               D
Total Beans                         1000                                   599 and below     F

Reading Quizzes

Throughout the semester I reserve the right to give pop quizzes over the day’s reading assignment. I may not always give quizzes, unless I sense that the class isn’t doing the readings or participating fully in rigorous discussions. The quizzes will not be terribly difficult, if you have done the reading. Each quiz counts as 10 points in your Participation Point Total.

Electronic Bulletin Board: SSMinnow

Because we will be working in a computer-intensive classroom and using the class CLE Collaborative Spaces, we will also be having class discussions on the web-based class bulletin board, which I like to call SSMinnow. Students will be required to post to SSMinnow at least once a week. Each weekly informal SSMinnow Post will count as 10 points in your Participation Point Total. For collaborative projects, I will also be introducing the use of electronic real time chats. Participation in these forums is part of the class participation grade. There will also be opportunities for extra credit informal presentations, what I call Show and Tell. They will also count for 10 points each. I want to encourage active learning as we explore the writing and cultures of technology and specialized disciplines, and what you bring into the class for Show and Tell is important to me.

Academic Integrity

As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson's vision of this institution as a high seminary of learning. Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form.

Tentative Class Schedule

Note: Please stay on top of class activities, since this is only a rough guide of what we will be doing and when. I like to make adjustments as student needs and interests (or computer glitches) dictate.

Unit 1: Resumés, Electing Project Managers, Team Building, Forming Companies.

Weeks 1-2:
E-Textbook Reading Assignment: Employment Documents, Job Search Resources. Create Personal Job Search Agent on www.careerbuilder.com. Upload Resumés.

Unit 2: Professional Document Management, HTML, XML, Design Specifications

Weeks 3-5:
E-Textbook Reading Assignment: Overview, Managing Projects, HTML and XML Handouts, Understanding Readers, Social Cultural Issues, Shaping Texts. Create a Personal Home Page with Résumé. Introduction to document management with XML. Each team will create a set of company templates for every assignment to be completed this semester. They will write up this set of document standards in a clear Specifications Document for easy reference throughout the semester. An electronic archive will be created. Create Newspapers on www.crayon.net, customize with field specific journals and read two cross-cultural newspapers or magazines.

Unit 3: Crossing Borders: Exploring Disciplinary Cultures in your Field

Weeks 6-9:
E-Textbook Reading Assignment: Review Social Cultural Issues. Read Analyzing Workplace Writing, Research, Writing Reports. Research and explore culture and language of your field. Write a Report of your Findings. Individual team member reports added to company archives. Find and join a professional listserv in your field. Remain on the list for the remainder of the semester, lurking and observing. You may subscribe on digest.

Unit 4: Oral Proposals: Team Power Point Presentations to Gain Approval of Comprehensive Final Project.

Weeks 10-11
E-Textbook Reading Assignment: Building Arguments, Arranging Information, Oral Presentations, Power Point. Visual Communication Handout. This Group Oral Proposal should exist in a simulated real world context. The Class is your funding agent, You must win approval to create a Web-based and/or Paper Manual Documenting a Difficult Technical Process or Instruction Set in your Field. Can be OSHA safety procedures, or Service Learning-based Technical Aid for constituents in the Community. Should fill a real world and/or community need.

Unit 5: Final Team Project: Web and/or Paper Manual Documenting a Difficult Technical Process or Instruction Set in your Field.

Weeks 12-15
E-Textbook Reading Assignment: Review Research and Managing Projects. Read Online Writing. Usability Testing. Style and Editing. Policies, Manuals, Handbooks. Instructional Writing. This is the most comprehensive and heavily weighted document in your portfolios.

Week 16: Portfolio Revision and Polishing.
Prepare Team Portfolios from your document archives. Develop individual portfolios of your best work according the requirements of your Final Exam.

Technical Writing, English 314, Clemson University.
© 2000
Christine Boese, All Rights Reserved

January 12, 2005 in Course Syllabi | Permalink


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