EngI. 3359: Technical Writing
ENGL 3359-013, Spring Semester, 2009.
CRN 21586
MWF 9:30 am-10:20 am
Hudspeth 313

Instructor: Owen Williamson

E-mail omwilliamson@utep.edu

Phone 915-747-7625

Office EDUC 209
Office Hours to be announced in class.

Course Description
This course introduces you to principles and methods of technical writing and provides you with skills that improve your ability to communicate through a variety of technical documents. We will examine a number of writing and design principles and learn a variety of technical genres. The aims of this course include your ability to:

• learn technical writing principles and methods by reading and discussing the textbook;
• critically read technical documents via analysis of sample documents;
• learn a variety of technical genres by engaging in the production and analysis of technical materials; 
• hone your writing skills by utilizing various strategies in various stages of the writing process; and

• become comfortable with a wide variety of online tools for producing and delivering your technical writing.

We will be discussing the significance of other topics as well, including technology, the World Wide Web, visual and media rhetoric, and other areas of interest that you may hold. Though this is not a theory driven course, we will be theorizing production, primarily through in-class discussion and exercises derived from simulations or “cases” provided by the textbook and real-world Web materials.

Required Texts & Materials
The Technical Communication Handbook, by Laura J. Gurak and Mary E. Hocks.


A Facebook account.


A utminers.utep.edu personal webspace.


Assignments & Projects

Class Activities (15%) includes poster presentations (two per person during the semester), graded exercises, graded online postings; conferences; attendance; collective work; in-class participation; and other in- and out-of-class exercises.

Web Analysis (10%) Working as a team, you will write a short analysis of a professional or technical website related to your major or professional field as a system

Project TRIM:  Instruction Documentation (including Usabs1ity-Testing and Progress Report)
(50%) You will write a set of instructions for a complex activity or software related to your major, test those instructions in the real world, make corrections as required, and post a web-ready version.

Project Assessment Memoranda (15%) You will provide an introductory memo and 3 “assessment” memos with your instructions, progress report, and research proposal.

Media Analytical Response (10%)  Using the tools you have learned in this class, you will carefully analyze as a technical document a technically-oriented program broadcast on the University's FM radio station.

An online assignment page will be provided for each project.  Assigned methods of delivery differ for each assignment, and assignments posted or delivered in an incorrect or untimely manner will lose credit.

Grading & Policies
Each or your projects will be assessed by how well you complete the assignment and the general quality of your writing. Final grades will be determined using the 100 pt. scale below, with conversions from the percentages as indicated:

A  90-100 pts.
F  <60

There will be no "plus" or "minus" letter grades in this course.

In addition, the following policies will be applied:

You must complete all the major assignments to pass the course. These are:

  1. Poster Presentations

  2. Facebook Blog

  3. Homepage and Web Portfolio

  4. Media Analysis

  5. Project TRIM materials.

  6. Web Analysis

  7. Project Memoranda (3)

  • Rewrite policy: Students will be requested to rewrite assignments that are not of acceptable quality. Requested rewrites are due within 5 calendar days of request. No late or rewrite penalty will be assessed on timely rewrites. Rewrites are an important part of the instructional process, so there is no option to decline a rewrite. Requested rewrites not completed with five days fall to a "zero" (not an "F"). Students are also encouraged to rewrite and improve any work in their E-Portfolio at any time before May 1.

Late assignments will be downgraded one letter grade per calendar day late. 

"Contempt" Penalties of seven points or more may be deducted from a student's total grade for refusal to participate (refusal to complete daily assignments, coming to class clearly unprepared, refusal to answer questions in class), or other acts or behaviors which are, in the instructor's sole judgment, antithetical to the learning process. Such penalties should be extremely rare, and a student will normally be offered an opportunity to "show cause" before any such penalty is applied.

• Save early, save often, save in multiple places. Losing material because of computer crashes, disk problems, theft or loss of a laptop or storage medium,  etc. is never an excuse for late or incomplete assignments.

Instructor reserves the right to provide advisory grades only on daily  practice exercises, or to grade any assignment (other than major assignments listed above) on a pass-fail basis. Any such grading will be applied to all students.

Extra Credit: Instructor reserves the right to award extra credit points for work that is clearly above course-level or demonstrating extraordinary merit. This sort of extra credit should be extremely rare, is completely discretionary, and may not be requested by the student. Significant extra credit may also be available at Instructor discretion for students' scholarly, technical or professional writing which is published or accepted for publication during the regular semester in an edited hardcopy book, journal, periodical or publication available to the public or professionals, or for student writing published on an edited professional or technical website related to the student's major. Limitations apply: contact Instructor for details. No extra credit will be available after May 1, 2009.

No "incomplete" grades will be issued for the course except in documented emergency cases, here defined as unexpected situations endangering the life, health or property of the student or immediate family. Except for in emergency cases, no credit will be offered for any work turned in or posted after the end of the last regular class session.

Attendance is mandatory (simple, isn’t it?). University policy requires that you attend every class. That also means you need to prepare for and participate in class activities regularly and substantively. Your online “activity” with course materials will be tracked, and you will be sent warnings if you are not actively engaged on a weekly basis. Online work will take a variety of forms, including Wiki, social networking and online course utilities. You are required to remain current in your work: if you miss more than two weeks of class (six absences) or fall more than two weeks behind on regular online postings, you will be considered to have abandoned the course and may be involuntarily dropped or will fail the course.

You are expected to produce high quality, sophisticated documents. A part of that quality is the appearance of your work. Neatness, visual appeal, and mechanical and grammatical correctness do matter— though they’ do not by themselves guarantee that a document is well made. Your out-of-class assignments should be composed in a high quality form. Your documents should have appropriate type face, spacing and formatting. Your productions in digital media should he well designed and highly professional in appearance, and must strictly adhere to UTEP web standards and regulations. Class-related web pages must use white or pastel background only, may not include imbedded "play on opening" audio or video clips, and should generally resemble professional, corporate, agency or university homepages, not MySpace personal homepages. Hardcopy documents should adhere to APA Style (see http://www.wooster.edu/psychology!apa-crib.html).

Weekly Schedule (Provisional: -Subject to change with advance notice)
You are expected to read all materials by the assigned date and participate in class discussion and poster presentations. You will find the “reading load” to be manageable as long as you give it due attention. Please reserve nine hours every week outside of classroom hours to complete all homework and course-related tasks. If you do not do so, you may reasonably expect to fall behind or to fail the course.

Unless otherwise specified, all due dates are by the beginning of class on the day indicated.

Week 1: 1/21-23/09

Key Concepts in Technical Writing
Course Introduction; Syllabus Overview
Definition of Technical Writing 

Read up to page 14 in Textbook.

Delivery.  McGraw & Hubbard's Principles.


Exercise I: Exploring Real Technical Rhetoric in your own major or profession.  

Week 2: 1/26-30/09


Turn in results of exercise 1.

  1. Accessibility

  2. Audience

  3. Audience and Purpose Assessment

  4. Content Management Systems

  5. Delivery Medium

Exercise 2: Explore Creative Commons Copyright info. Creative Commons License. Discuss the question of "Intellectual Property" in technical writing:

Week 3:  2/2-6/09


Exercise 2 results due.



Read pages 76-77 in Textbook.

  1. Ethics (pages 17-20, 402, and 412-414 in Textbook)

  2. Copyright and Intellectual Property (396-7)

  3. Plagiarism (p. 429-432 in Textbook)

Intro Usability and User Testing (Instructions)

Read pages 438-443 in Textbook.


Intro: Focus Groups: Project TRIM & Collaboratory. Read p. 49 of Textbook.  Read page 406 of Textbook.


SWOT analysis.


Exercise 3: Prepare a subject proposal for your TRIM project, including a SWOT analysis of your project.

Week 4: 2/9-13/09


Exercise 3 due.

  1. Descriptive Documents

  2. International Communication

  3. Project Management

Read pages 15-23 and 30-32 in Textbook.


The "Who Cares?" test.


Week 5: 2/16-20/09


Technical Rhetoric: Read pages 24-43 in Textbook.

  1. Persuasion

  2. Purpose

  3. Situation

  4. Stages in the Writing Process

  5. Style Sheets and Templates

  6. Task-based Documents

Exercise 4 Analyze Secret Work as a technical document (instructions), based on pps. 76-77 of textbook.

Week 6: 2/23-27/09


Exercise 4 due.


Read pages 156-216 and 434-435 in Textbook


Intro Usability-Test Progress Report (Instructions)


Other themes to be announced.


Doc Usability Test Design


Week 7:  3/2-6/09


Intro Project assessment memos:

Read pages 120-124 in Textbook.

Read How to Write a Memorandum.


Project management visuals

Read pages 345-346 in Textbook.


Week 8:  3/9-13/09


Due: Usability-test Progress Reports and Project Assessment Memo #1.


Read pages 44-52 and 244-251 in Textbook.

  1. Teamwork and Collaboration

  2. Tools and Technologies

  3. Virtual Teamwork

  4. Writing for Regulated Environments

Equality, diversity and workplace writing.  Explore GLSEN website and "Coming Out from Behind the Badge."


Exercise 5:(collective report): What is the situation of GLBT persons in your chosen career field?


Intro Web Analysis Project (due Week 14)

SPRING BREAK 3/16-20/09

Week 9:  3/23-27/09


Exercise 5 due.


Intro Proposal Project. Refresher on SWOT analysis. 


Read pages 146-155 in Textbook.


Workplace writing. Management / labor / Professional / Occupational communications.

Week 10: 3/30/09-4/3/09


Form teams.


Reread pages 44-47, read pages 53-73 in Textbook.

Technical Document Types

  1. Blogs and Wikis

  2. Brochures

  3. Email and attachments

  4. Forms

  5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Exercise 6. In your team, research labor writing in your field or profession. Team report due in two weeks.

Week 11:   4/6-8/09


Due: Project TRIM materials. 


Read pages 78-119 in Textbook.

  1. Job Search documents

  2. Lab and Field Notebooks

  3. Letters

  4. Medical communication

Exercise 7: Prepare your own résumé.

Week 12:  4/13-17/09


Due: Exercise 6 report on labor communication in your field or profession.

Read pages 125-141 of Textbook.

  1. Newsletters

  2. Online help

  3. Presentations

  4. Press releases

Exercise 8: Prepare a press release about something your team, organization, club, group, church, or other organization is doing. For full credit, send it to the El Paso Times, the Prospector, KTEP-FM, or other appropriate media. (Note that you must have the approval of the organization to actually send the release to the media!)

Week 13:  4/20-24/09


Due: Exercise 8 (Press release).


1. Multimedia: Read pages 329-30  in Textbook


Exercise 9 Complete NLC Open Learning Course: Multimedia this week. Class may take place in computer lab. 

Week 14:  4/27/09-5/1/09


Due: Web Analysis Report on a work-related website in your major.


Read pages 142-145, 217-222, and 252-262 in Textbook.

  1. Product descriptions

  2. Specifications

  3. Surveys

  4. Web sites

  5. White Papers

Exercise 10: Read "The Cover Letter,"  and then prepare a cover letter for your résumé, addressed to your dream-employer.

Week 15: 5/4-7/09


Due: Proposal Project and Project Assessment Memo #3.

Wrapup.  Student evaluations.



For educational purposes only.


Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
Important Disclaimer

Creative Commons License
Open Courseware | OCW |This work is dedicated to the Public Domain..