ENG 101: MINDFUL WRITING
ENG 101: MINDFUL WRITING
ENG 333: TECHNICAL WRITING
Technical Writing is a course designed to help you become a better reader, researcher, and communicator in a range of professional settings. The major projects of this course will familiarize you with the audiences and types of documents you are likely to use as you advance in your educational and professional careers. Because successful communication in the 21st century increasingly requires writers to engage their audiences in a variety of media and formats, we will explore a number of digital genres, such as websites and social media platforms, in addition to producing traditional print documents like resumes, cover letters, proposals, and reports.
Two values are key to this work:
Writing and speaking are rhetorical: effective communicators must carefully consider their audiences and their purposes as they plan, draft, and revise their communications.
Academic, professional, and public audiences often differ in how they read and respond to communications: effective communicators must learn to recognize and negotiate such shifting demands in each new context they face.
This course will enhance not only your writing but also your professional communication and collaboration skills. You will have the opportunity to work in teams with classmates in the same or similar major fields of study to create a recommendation report on an issue relevant to your future career. The course concludes with a portfolio assignment for which you will revise and compile samples of your own writing. My hope is that you leave this course with a well-developed writing portfolio that demonstrates your competence and flexibility as a communicator and an emerging professional in your chosen field.
Practical Strategies for Technical Communication: A Brief Guide (e-text, 3rd edition), Mike Markel and Stuart Selber
MAJOR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
UNIT I: Professional Application Materials (20% of final grade)
In this unit, we will focus on professional application materials, including job advertisements, resumes, cover letters, and job interviews. We will pay close attention to the genre expectations and conventions of these documents, and we will focus on audience, purpose, and design.
UNIT II: Digital Literacies (20% of final grade)
In this unit, you will design a personal/professional website and write an analysis of your purpose and audience. Additionally, we will discuss what effective website design means and think more about professionalization in the 21st century.
UNIT III: Discipline-Focused Research Recommendation (20% of final grade)
In this unit, you will work collaboratively with group members in your discipline, identify a problem or issue that exists, and propose research through a recommendation report.
UNIT IV: Revision and Reflection (20% of final grade)
Our final project is a portfolio. You will write a memo to me and the class that describes your revisions to Unit I and Unit III. You will include those revisions in your final portfolio.
PARTICIPATION AND INFORMAL WRITING (20% of final grade)
Discussion Posts, Reading Journals, Response to Peers, Class Participation
Most of this class relies on your participation. There are three main aspects of participation—discussion posts, reading journals, response to peers—in addition to class discussion and participation.
PROJECT ONE: PROFESSIONAL APPLICATION MATERIALS
Some of the most basic and most important modes of technical writing are the resume and cover letter. These documents allow you to represent yourself professionally to others and are their own unique genres, often with very specific audiences. The trick to creating an effective resume and cover letter is learning how to showcase your individuality and identity in these documents while still adhering to the conventions and expectations of the genre. Our first project will be to create a resume, cover letter, and one minute interview video for a specific position or opportunity (e.g, a job, fellowship, or award, etc).
JOB AD - To start, begin looking into potential jobs, openings, or opportunities that interest you and that you are qualified for. The key here is that you must be qualified for them—it will benefit you to have a resume that includes your actual current experience and practice gearing it toward a position or opportunity you could realistically apply for. Attempting something for outside your expertise will only hinder the usefulness of the work you do for this project. The goal is to create materials you can use outside of class, whether immediately or later in the future.
RESUME - After you have found a position or opportunity you can realistically apply for, the next step is to create a resume or CV that is appropriate for that particular application. What do you know about the culture, beliefs, and practices of the job, organization, or field more broadly where you’re applying? What kind of expectations do they have? You might want to look at mission statements and focus on the job expectations and duties for the position. This can also help determine the style and tone of your resume. Some positions may welcome creative styling, while others prefer professional formats.
COVER LETTER - Cover letters are extensions of the resume, but they should not rely on the resume entirely. Instead, the cover letter is a chance for you to express other details about your experience, expertise, and individuality in ways that help market you for the job you’re trying to obtain. In the cover letter, you should aim to use many of the rhetorical moves we’ll discuss in class in order to be persuasive, ethical, and compelling. Use this space to showcase relevant activities or achievements as well as the personal goals or values you share with the company you’re applying for. What have you been able to find out about the specific requirements of the position (or can you reasonably deduce about the skills that might be required in such work), and how can you demonstrate that you have these qualifications in a way that will be appreciated by your readers? You want to connect yourself to the organization throughout the cover letter. Why should they hire you and not someone else?
INTERVIEW VIDEO - Finally, you will record a 1 minute interview video for submission as well. Many applications today, especially those online during and post COVID, require a brief video as part of the application. Sometimes this is in the place of a cover letter, other times it’s to answer specific questions. For the purposes of this project, your one minute video should be treated as your initial elevator pitch at the beginning of a job interview. In one minute (no more than 1 minute and thirty seconds), tell us who you are, how you are qualified, and why you think you would be a good fit at the company you’re applying for. Remember to dress appropriately for the interview (i.e., avoid looking overly casual, disheveled, or unprofessional). First impressions are important!
Job Ad – include proof that the job or opportunity exists and is currently/recently hiring. The easiest thing to do would be to include screenshots of the ad, as links may expire. If you include screenshots, try to include all of the relevant information, if possible.
Resume – at least one full page containing all information you feel is relevant for the application. Resume styles and relevant info are left to your discretion.
Cover Letter – should contain your name and info, the name and info of the business (especially the hiring manager if you can locate the name), and should be between 3/4ths of a page or a full page. Cover letters should not extend onto a second page except in specific circumstances.
Interview Video – should be at least one minute long (1:00) but no more than one minute thirty seconds long (1:30), should include information such as your name, the position you’re applying for, how you think you’re qualified, and/or why you think you would be a good fit for the company. Dress appropriately for the interview and attempt to record in a neutral and well-lit area.
PROJECT TWO: PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE
In this day and age, many professionals have a website to supplement their resumes or CVs. Because of the rise in online applications and digital communication, websites are expected to become as much a part of the job application process as the standard, paper resume. Therefore we will be moving from textual to digital representations. Many of the same rhetorical moves apply, such as visual rhetoric, design, layout, organization, font choice, accessibility, etc., but the medium will be entirely digital. As we build our websites, we will also discuss what it means to communicate effectively online and through digital media, as well as navigating what it means to have an online presence.
WEBSITE – Many employers today are looking for candidates who have a solid grasp of digital technology, online expertise, and an online presence. This extends beyond the use of social media, which can often be a double-edged sword. Instead, websites have become a safer and more popular way to establish your digital knowledge and online presence.
Much of the material you want to include in your website can be found in your resume and cover letter, but you’ll also want to include other, uniquely digital media, such as photos, moving designs, and digital navigation. Professional and personal websites generally function as extensions to the resume and cover letter, providing an even more in-depth picture of who you are as an individual. The difference between professional and personal comes down to the question of audience and purpose: who do you think will be accessing your site? What content is important for that audience? What tone do you want to create? What is the purpose of the website and how will you accomplish that purpose? Consider these questions as you begin to brainstorm the kind of website you want to create.
For professional websites, you might consider including material about your professional experience, skills, and expertise. Websites have much more room than resumes and cover letters to showcase other material relevant to your career or experience. Do you have photos, data, or material from recent projects you can showcase? Consider what can go on a website that might have been left off your resume or cover letter.
For personal websites, consider your audience and purpose carefully. Will this be a website just telling us about you, your hobbies, your beliefs and practices, etc? Will it be a place for family and friends to keep up with you (like with a blog)? Or will it be something else entirely, such as a showcase of your creative work or talents.
at least 4 separate pages (homepage, about me page, contact page, plus two other pages; note this does not mean one continuous page with 4-5 sections)
at least 3 images (one being of you)
at least 1,000 words of text (your bio, your skills, relevant info, etc)
at least one dropdown menu bar leading to another page
at least three active links (to outside sites, or across the same site; social media icons)
at least one button text (can link to another page, outside site, etc)
ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENT: As we will learn throughout this unit, privacy and surveillance are big issues when we engage with technologies and compose digitally. So we always need to be aware of who has our information and how accessible our information is to others. That said, if you are uncomfortable creating a personal website that would be used for professional or personal purposes, and if you want your information and identity to remain more anonymous from public spaces, I am proposing an alternative assignment: You can make a website for a brand, organization, company, business, non-profit, etc. This is going to take some creativity because you are going to need to create that brand, etc. You can’t make a website for something that already exists (that would be a legal issue). In the past, students have created websites for fictional coffee shops, nail salons, clothing lines, lawn care services, arcades, and so on. The goal, again, is for you to gain digital literacy skills that will help you in 21st century professional environments. The requirements (above) will remain the same for the website other than including a picture of yourself. You’ll still need a homepage, about page, and contact page (as most businesses/companies do), and you’ll still need to incorporate all the other website requirements. If you choose this alternative assignment, please email me your idea before creating your website.
PROJECT THREE: RESEARCH PROPOSAL
For this unit, you will be working together in groups to write a research proposal (also known as a recommendation report). Our book defines an internal research proposal as “an argument, submitted within an organization, for carrying out an activity that will benefit the organization. An internal proposal might recommend that the organization conduct research, purchase a product, or change some aspect of its policies or procedures” (see Chapter 11). I have divided you into groups based on disciplinary interests in order to facilitate productivity. As a group, you will determine an issue that exists within your discipline or future career fields. You will then write a proposal for an action that will address this issue. Keep in mind that with this document you are proposing research or action, not performing or reporting on it.
The first step is contacting your group and establishing a routine, schedule, or plan. This project will be successful only if you are willing to collaborate. I will provide time in class for you to meet as a group, but you will also need to plan additional meeting times and/or institute a way of communicating outside of class time. You may choose to communicate via a messaging app such as Slack or GroupMe; you may request a dedicated Canvas discussion board; or you may simply collaborate within a Google Doc. Effective group communication is key on this assignment.
Your next step will be to decide on an issue, problem, or research question. Try to keep the issue relevant to your fields or majors. Working on a discipline-specific, real world problem will help you develop vocabulary and writing skills that will serve you in your future career.
Once you’ve settled on an issue, begin your research. Look over the requirements below to determine how you will do this research, as well as how the work will be divided and completed. Some groups prefer to collaborate live on a Google Doc, others prefer to section off requirements so that everyone is in charge of one aspect or another. Determine a method that works best for you and your group. However, be aware that any incomplete proposals will negatively affect the entire group.
NOTE ON ACCOUNTABILITY
Successful collaborative projects involve communication, cooperation, and accountability. To help me as the instructor stay aware of each group’s progress and to ensure a fair division of labor within the groups, I will ask you all to submit weekly progress memos to me on Canvas. These memos will briefly describe where your group stands and what you, individually, have done to advance your group’s goals in the past week. Additionally, when the project is complete, everyone will be required to privately fill out group evaluations where you will justify your own contribution to the project and assess the performance of each of your group members. This will be an opportunity for you to honestly and ethically reflect on each group member’s work throughout the project. Progress memos and group evaluations are counted as 25% of the overall proposal grade and must be turned in.
This project will require you to complete research. Research proposals usually follow a specific format (but that format might change given the purpose and audience of the report). For the purposes of this assignment, I want your research proposal to consist of the following sections:
Cover memo (1-1 ½ pages): This document should discuss your research and talk about what led you to your research proposal.
Executive summary (250 words)
Introduction: Addresses context, purpose, problem, scope, and organization of proposal.
Problem: Identifies the problem/issue that exists and explains the issue.
Project Description: Provides a description of tasks that can help address the issue (and the impact of each task).
Methods and Resources: Provides insight on the tools needed to complete the tasks and demonstrates what data is going to be collected.
Qualifications: Describes how each member is qualified to do this work (e.g., biographical profiles).
Timeline: Provides a detailed timeline for the project.
References (you must cite at least 4 sources)
Additionally, you must use at least three visuals (graphs, charts, diagrams, figures) somewhere in the report
Groups should coordinate to determine who will turn in the finished product. Only one member is required to turn in the project. Other members may submit a text entry stating something to the effect of “Final Draft turned in by [Group Member] at [time].” You will also fill out a peer evaluation form separate from the project, to be turned in the day of the final draft.
The research proposal is worth 75% of the Unit III grade and the progress memos and group evaluations are 25% of the grade, meaning if you do not turn in memos and an evaluation your individual grade will not exceed a 75.
PROJECT FOUR: THE FINAL PORTFOLIO
This semester we have spent time defining technical communication. We have explored the various rhetorical moves, elements, and characteristics often associated with technical writing; we’ve come to understand that technical writing is audience-centered, design-based, accessible, ethical, clear, relevant, persuasive, and research-based; and we’ve seen that technical communication is designed to inform, instruct, and/or persuade. In addition to learning about technical writing, we have also composed in several different professional genres: job ads, resumes, cover letters, websites, and formal proposals/reports. Now it is time to showcase all that we have learned in a final portfolio.
You already have the majority of the materials you need to complete the portfolio. The elements in the portfolio are as follows: 1) revisions of either your Unit I job materials or your Unit 2 personal website; 2) revisions of your Unit III report; and 3) a cover memo discussing your experience in ENG 333 and how you have accomplished the learning outcomes set forth by this class. These outcomes can be seen in the course syllabus and on this sheet (below).
Revisions are necessary for the portfolio, even more than in the rough-to-final draft process you completed earlier in the semester. In this case, revisions should be substantial changes. These changes will involve both design (changing the arrangement, style, font, headings, or alignment of your documents) and content (words and phrases, sentences, paragraph order, writing new material, deleting unnecessary material). In short, revision is not just fixing commas and typos. I’m asking you to engage in substantial revision.
The feedback you have received from me and your peers can help you see what changes need to be made. As a writer, you have agency and can determine how those changes should look in order to make each document more effective and persuasive.
COVER MEMO - Your portfolio should begin with a two-page memo identifying how the course (and course projects or other materials) helped accomplish the learning outcomes. Here are those outcomes:
Analyze a writing task and its rhetorical context, including the purpose of the document, its audience, its uses, and its constraints.
Understand the basic features of several academic, professional and public genres, and how to modify these features in response to new audiences and situations.
Create usable, persuasive, clear, accurate, and readable documents.
Understand the specific expectations of audiences in your chosen academic and professional field, and to adapt your communications to more effectively address these expectations
Develop a professional style of working in teams and managing group projects.
Conduct more advanced research in a variety of contexts, and to more effectively incorporate this research in your writing.
I have provided a memo template on the next page to help you better understand the genre and my expectations for this cover memo.
UNIT I or II REVISIONS – These should be substantial revisions that improve upon the design and content of either your resume and cover letter or your personal website. If revising your job materials, you will not be required to turn in the job ad or the elevator pitch video. If revising your website, screenshots of each page must be pasted into the portfolio document.
UNIT III REVISIONS – These should be substantial revisions that improve upon the design and content of your research proposal. You should make individual changes to the proposal—for the purposes of this portfolio, you are no longer in groups and should not collaborate on the changes you make to the proposal. Determine the changes you would most like to see and make those happen.