preliminary clarifications

Some documents associated with the class and all assignments will be submitted through Dropbox is a document repository that I use for course materials and student files and documents. You will need to create an account at in order to submit your assignments. This account is free. In dropbox, I created a course folder called Professional and Technical Writing Fall 2015, which contains course documents and student files. You will receive an invitation from dropbox to join this folder. Once you've accepted the invitation, you will be able to see and access this folder.

I created a folder for each of you within the course folder. Each of these folders will contain other folders for each assignment with a "Ready for Grading" folder within each. I will assume that any documents placed into the Ready for Grading folder are ready for grading. You are welcome to save any other documents in this space. Please do NOT delete any documents in the course folder or the Ready for Grading folder.

In order to ensure that all students have access to the course documents in dropbox, I will have to share the entire course folder with everyone, which means that everyone will have access to everyone else’s folder. We will work on the honor system, which says that no one will go into anyone else’s folder without permission.

Movie Lectures

In the course dropbox folder, I have included several movie lectures that cover various aspects of writing, including Audience and Situation, Writing with Style, and Organization. The Organization and Writing Error Free Movie Lectures are provided as PowerPoints without a voice over because it really isn't necessary for those topics and because I required you to purchase The Business Writer's Handbook, which I will expect you to access as you need to throughout the semester without specific direction. The lecture movies are designed for you to learn on your own. I have indicated due dates for watching the movies on the Weekly Schedule, but I will expect you to view them on your own and to ask questions as you have them.

Assignment descriptions


Class Participation & Blog Responses

You are expected to post blog responses just as you would be expected to participate in a discussion in a face-to-face class. The great convenience here is that you have some flexibility with the days and times that you post your blogs. However, this course is not a self-paced course. You will be interacting with other people, including the instructor, so you are expected to stay on top of due dates for blog responses. You will be expected to articulate your own responses to the reading, discussing your own experiences, identifying significant questions for discussion, pointing out troubling, controversial, and/or provocative issues raised or left out with which you agree or disagree, and relating these issues and problems to your own personal and academic interests and research. You are encouraged to make critical connections across the assigned readings, as well as your own research and/or your personal experience and knowledge.

Missed blogs responses cannot be made up. Part of the course grade is based on your participation with blog postings and responses. Each week that a blog response is due, I will ask you to post by Thursdays each week at 11:59 PM and respond to two other students’ posts by Sunday at 11:59 PM. Responses to posts must be thoughtful and have some depth. Simply posting “I agree” or “I know what you mean” does not constitute a thoughtful post. It needs to be original and engaging. Responses to posts constitute part of your participation grade.


Response to the Syllabus

I want to be sure each of you are clear about what is expected from you in this class and to give you opportunities for raising questions about what I have planned.

Write 250-500 words in response, using the following questions to guide you. (Please do not write your response as a sentence-by-sentence response to these questions; instead, please work & play to come up with a creative, but coherent way to respond.

What are the main skills I am hoping you will gain by the end of the semester?
What do you think you need to learn or do to achieve those skills?
How will we arrive at your grade for this class? Are you comfortable with how you imagine this process to work?
What makes you most nervous about what I've written in the syllabus?
What do you think will give you the most pleasure in this class?
What are the skills you bring to class that you think will help you the most?
Can you envision the shape of the semester from the Syllabus & Weekly Schedule?
Does anything remain vague to you? Is there anything you can suggest now for improving what you see ahead?

Introductory Movie

Create a short (2-3 minutes) movie introducing yourself to each other and the instructor. Save it in mp4 format and post your movie to your blog by Thursday of Week 1 at 11:59 PM. Feel free to include some written content. Be sure to view everyone else’s introductory movie by Sunday at 11:59 PM. Feel free to respond to each other's movie


This assignment will be ongoing throughout the semester. I will ask you to view the Email Movie Lecture the second week of class. I will consider all emails exchanged between students and the instructor or with the entire class to be part of this assignment. Additionally, I will use the email medium to send you the assignment prompt for the Resume & Cover Letter assignment (see that assignment below). You will receive instructions in an email from me about that assignment a couple of weeks before it's due. Be sure to watch the Email Movie Lecture.

Industry Report

The purpose of this assignment is to research the industry in which professional or technical writers plan to work, whether in business or academic contexts. I believe that the more you know about this industry, the more empowered you’ll feel about preparing for the job market. By using the term industry, I’m not suggested that you write a paper on the ubiquitous “industry.” Rather, I expect that you will name, define, describe, and/or explain the industry of your choosing.

For example, I consider the industry I work in to be academia with a specialty in Technical Communication. Although related, my field differs in significant ways from other English Studies disciplines. Technical Communication academics are expected to be, for example, well read in that area (like any other academic industry), use technology in their teaching, and collaborate with industry or academic partners in research and teaching. Additionally, however, one area a technical communication candidate would also be expected to be familiar with is the workplace (in the broadest sense) and how to prepare students to communicate in their chosen industries (engineering, science, social work, and so on). These expectations differ from American Literature, for example, because no one would expect a literature candidate to necessarily be knowledgeable about the workplace. This difference is neither good nor bad. There is specific knowledge expected based on the identity of the industry.

Like academia, many industries have both broad and specific characteristics. If you are interested in working in publishing, for example, you may not know exactly what kind of publishing interests you (fiction, technical manuals, cookbooks). Chances are that by the time you finish this assignment you’ll have a better idea of what interests you about that industry. You may even discover that as much as you thought you’d like it, you really don’t like it, which can be equally empowering.

Assignment. Your report should be about 5-7 pages and focus on your chosen industry as an identity, as opposed to a job opening. Although I’m calling this assignment a report, you are welcome to write it as you would any other course paper. The report should cover areas of identity, knowledge, skills, and contexts for that industry. If you do not know exactly what industry you want to research, you’ll need to choose something.

The report must at least include the following areas: a definition and description of the industry, a profile of professionals in that field, the knowledge base and skills typical of those professionals, and the areas of that industry that connect to professional and technical writing. This report is not a personal narrative, but a scholarly treatment of a topic. Remember, that you are reporting on this industry as a way to inform each other and the instructor about the possibilities available to them.

Before or on the day it is due, post your industry report to your blog and write a short abstract as your blog post.

Getting Started. I created some questions below for you to use as a heuristic to get started thinking about the assignment. I do not intend for you to answer these questions as a structure for writing. They are provided just to get you started thinking.

What is your passion?
What is the industry?
How does your passion fit with that industry?
How does that industry work? What is its enterprise?
What is that industry’s relevance to the local and global contexts?
Who are the professionals in that industry?
What does success (or failure) look like in that industry?
What kind of opportunities does that industry offer professional and technical writing?
What knowledge base and skills are required to enter that industry and how are they used in a context?
What distinguishes the industry from a related industry?
What draws you personally to that industry?
What resources (economic, cultural) does that industry rely on to continue?
What resources are available to begin researching that industry?

You might consider conducting an information interview with an industry professional as one way to begin your research. I"m asking you to post your report to your blog so that your classmates can use it as a resource. But also put a copy in your dropbox folder for grading.

Job Ad Analysis

For this assignment, I will ask you to analyze five job descriptions that you think a professional or technical writer/communicastor would be interested (possibly connect to the industry you choose for the industry report) and write an analysis of these descriptions. Job ads are available in dropbox. Some questions to get you started:

What do they have in common?
How are they different, the same, or undistinguishable?
What distinguishes them as appropriate for professional and technical writers/communicators? Why?
What language is used and why?
What do they tell about what to expect in an inteview, in that workpalce, or in that industry?

These questions are certainly not exhaustive and you are welcome to follow your own instincts. This analysis should be written as a 1-2 page memo to your classmates. Be sure to attach it to a blog post with an abstract so your classmates can benefit from the information. Also be sure to place a copy in your dropbox folder for grading.

Resume & Cover Letter

For this assignment, I will send you an email inviting you to apply for one of the five ads used for the Job Ad Analysis assignment. Using How to Say It on Your Resume, Brad Krash's book, as a guide, you should tailor your resume/cover letter as appropriate for the job description you choose.

Seminar Paper

For this assignment, I will ask you to write a 15-20 page seminar paper. A seminar paper is a treatment of a topic with its own unique context, purpose, and audience. It should be audience driven in that it is written specifically for a particular journal such as Technical Communication Quarterly or the Journal of Business and Technical Communication. Both are available online through the Criss Library. It should be grammatically, mechanically, and stylistically correct, and conform to MLA or APA documentation styles.

You are free to select any appropriate topic for this paper, but try to draw upon our common readings as a starting point. This paper should illustrate both the innovativeness of the approach taken and its relation to existing scholarly work. I recommend that you select a project that's related (or that you can relate to) your graduate research. Ideally, your paper would be suitable for a conference presentation or a few drafts away from publication in a scholarly journal.

Advice. Aim for a brief introduction that establishes your focus, indicates briefly the state of the "conversation" about that topic (which is, in turn, setting up a statement about what's missing from the conversation), and gives your claim and sets up your theoretical approach (and what that might be adding to the conversation). Next proceed to the analysis, drawing on the most important elements from your text/data that demonstrate the validity of the analytical claims. Generally, conclusion can be based on what more needs to be done, what the implications of your findings are, where you plan to go next, etc.

Misteps to Avoid.
* Getting bogged down in the literature review (we're not listening to you to hear what's already been said)
* Failing to marshal a clear analytic claim/thesis.
* Going too long.
* Failing to have a logical progression of ideas immediately graspable by he audience.
* Failing to produce a self-contained argument (that makes sense on its own).
* Getting bogged down in negative criticsm (find fault with what others have said), in summary of data/texts, and in introducing topic/concepts, etc.

End of Semester Reflection

For this assignment, I will ask you to write a final blog post that provides a reflection on the class and your semester's work. This response should provide an honest and critical discussion of your semester’s work focusing on your understanding of the theories we discussed in class and your work on the various assignments. You should discuss what you have come to understand about professional and technical writing.


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© 2015 Tracy Bridgeford