Advanced Writing Studio:

Technical & Professional Writing

Contact

Instructor: 
M. Kizina
Email:
melissa.kizina@gmail.com  
makizina@syr.edu
Office Hours:
Tuesday 6-7 
and by appt.
Office:
HBC 007


When you write at work, you act. You exert your power to achieve a specific result, to change things from the way they are now to the way you want them to be.
—Anderson 10

Professional and technical writers create the small documents that make the world run. —B. L’Eplattenier

Course Description 
Catalog Description
Professional communication through the study of audience, purpose, and ethics. Rhetorical problem-solving principles applied to diverse professional writing tasks and situations.

Students will engage in professional practices and learn to respond to challenges in a flexible manner. In this course, you’ll work with a variety of professional genres that are frequently encountered in the workplace. When we finish, you’ll be better able to:

· Analyze audiences and situations
· Manage a sustained, multiple product project
· Work collaboratively
· Design and produce texts and graphics
· Conduct basic usability testing
· Develop effective oral presentations

Texts and Materials

REQUIRED
  • Anderson, Paul V. Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach. 7th Edition. Wadsworth, 2010. 
  • Professional gmail account 
  • Lego Brick Box. any basic Lego box set that contains loose, multi-purpose pieces. You may not use a kit. 

RECOMMENDED
  • 1TB Hard Drive of your choice 

Major Assignments

Almost everything we do this semester will be part of three major projects. As in the workplace, these projects will not run consecutively. Rather, they will overlap, and the techniques, skills, and strategies gained from each will inform the others.

Following are brief overviews of the work sequence. Full descriptions are available under projects' respective links.

The Onboarding Project 

Introduces the fundamental principles that will be central to the rest of the course. Employing the framing concept of the “onboarding process” many companies or institutions use to orient new employees, the project will establish the course’s expectations of you as a worker (writer, editor, collaborator) and for the quality of your work. The project will result in a number of collaborative products and a portfolio of individual work that demonstrates understanding of and facility with the fundamentals of professional and technical communication, rhetoric, workplace conventions, and genres.

The Instructions Project

Designed to address two issues in modern professional writing.

  • The first of these is that writing to teach, to instruct, to demonstrate, or to document procedures is a prevalent form of writing in which almost all professionals engage and yet is widely ignored as a skill to be learned and practiced. 
  • The second is the fact that much of the professional writing that you will do in the future will never see paper, will not be linear in design, and will require very different things of both readers and writers than traditional paper texts. The project will take up the design and navigation issues of non-paper, non-linear texts. 

The Feasibility Study

Requires that you work collaboratively with a team who will create a workplace, starting with a problem or need and working through designing, producing, advertising, etc. the product or approach you propose as a solution. This project will officially launch near mid-term and continue to the end of the semester, but I suggest considering ideas, topics, possible teammates, and related issues now. This project involves multiple genres—most notably a substantial proposal and report—and consistent workflow management.


Tech Briefing

Consisting of a proposal and a 8-10 minute presentation, the Tech Briefing allows you to convey information about innovations or technologies you think will be useful to the class using any means available.

Points Breakdown

Project

Available Points

Onboarding Project

250

Instructions Project

250

Feasibility Study

400

Tech Briefing

100

Total Available

1000



An elaborated breakdown of points within each unit will accompany each unit assignment.

All four projects must be completed; failure to complete any one project will result in an F for the course.

There is a common misconception that WRT 307 is a course in which students work on their resumes. In fact, it is not a major assignment in the 307 curriculum because it comes under the heading of pre-professional writing (rather than professional writing), and many of your home colleges already provide instruction in resume writing appropriate for your field. I encourage you to make use of the University’s resume resources available at http://careerservices.syr.edu/undergraduates/Resumes_and_coverletters.html.

Grading Procedures

Since this is a course in professional writing, your work will be graded as though you were submitting it to your immediate manager.

A

A-

940-1000

900-930

A manager would be very impressed with your work and remember it when a promotion is discussed. In our course, this means your final product has excellent content, clean text, and excellent document design. Additionally, your work is thorough, coherent, well-supported, and organized in a useful fashion. It demonstrates a superior understanding of audience, purpose, and rationale.

B+

B

B-

880-890

840-870

800-830

A manager would be satisfied, but not particularly impressed. This means that your product meets the basic standards of writing and overall production, as well as demonstrates a step forward in your learning process. It is sufficiently developed, organized, and supported, and you have demonstrated a solid understanding of audience, purpose, and rationale.

C+

C

C-

780-790

740-770

700-730

A manager would be disappointed, and would require you to revise the document before a client sees it. Your work may have clear but undeveloped ideas, or it may not engage or affect the reader. It likely contains some errors in logic, mechanics, or grammar.

D

600-690

A manager would be troubled by the poor quality of your work and likely note it in your annual review. The level of writing skill forces the reader to work too hard to understand your ideas. The text may have incomplete information, lack clear organization and design, and have serious grammar or mechanical issues.

F

590 and below

A manager would start looking into replacing you. In this case, your work does not fit the assignment parameters, is so underdeveloped as to demonstrate incompetence, or is mechanically and grammatically incomprehensible. The most likely root cause is a pronounced lack of concern about audience perceptions of the writer as a professional.


Course Policies

Initiative and Responsibility

One of the most significant ways in which this course may differ from the other writing studios you've taken is the degree to which you will be expected to be responsible for and to initiate your own learning. For instance, when you are preparing for a presentation, you are responsible for determining what means will work best and for letting me know if you need some assistance from me to make things work.

My responsibility is to respond to your inquiries and requests for assistance, to offer whatever help I can, and to suggest alternatives when I don't think I can offer substantial help; however, I will not be telling you what you should be doing. It is your job to determine what is appropriate and to ask questions when you don't know.

Attendance and Participation

You are expected to show up and participate in all class sessions, peer reviews, presentations, and out-of-class meetings with me and your writing partners. This requirement is fair to all students and consistent with what your future employer will expect of you. Responses to drafts, presentations, etc. are time-sensitive and cannot be made up.

Participation does not mean simply attending and being available; it means working collaboratively, responding promptly, thoughtfully, and constructively to one another’s writing, and generally being a resource for the rest of us. If you miss the equivalent of three weeks of classes or more without any official documented excuse you will not be able to pass the course.

Late Work

Deadlines are crucial in professional contexts, whether for a job application, a client proposal, or a grant progress report. They are similarly important in this course, where project planning and time management are part of the skill set you should be developing. Written assignments are due by the beginning of class or at the time specified for online submission. Major assignments (i.e. not blog posts or weekly assignments) are reduced by one letter grade per business day. All major assignments must be completed in order to pass the course. In-class work cannot be made up.

That said, nobody wants you to do well more than I do. If a documented emergency arises, please do not hesitate to let me know. The sooner you contact me, the sooner we can begin working together to make sure you remain on track in the class. University-sanctioned absences such as team travel should be cleared with me early in the semester. I do not give extensions or incompletes except in instances of documented illness or the death of close relatives.

Collaboration

You will be working in groups throughout the course. This work will include drafting documents, organizing team roles, and preparing for class, as well as collaborating on the production of actual texts. Relying on others and negotiating differences in working styles and tastes can be frustrating, but it is also part of the way work is done in the world. Therefore, you will be expected to conduct yourself as a professional, to complete jobs on time, and to contribute to the success of the team and the class.

I expect for you to be able to use your social skills to resolve your basic differences on your own. However, if you find a particular collaborative situation to be unreasonable or unresolvable, please notify me so that I can help you resolve it. If you find yourself considering taking this step, use this test: in a real job, would this be an issue worth taking to your boss and soliciting managerial intervention? If so, then it’s time to let me know. If not, then find ways to work it out yourselves.

Professionalism and Respect

This course models the standards of professional conduct applicable in virtually any context. You are expected to behave professionally in your contributions to discussions, feedback given to your peers, interactions with the instructor, and, of course, in the work you do on class assignments. Respect works both ways. I do my best to be courteous and fair in all situations and at all costs. If you ever feel that you’ve been treated otherwise, come and talk to me about it.

Technology

Computers and networked applications are a part of writing culture, especially in the workplace, and any professional writing course must address current technologies. To that end, we will be using computers as a means of communication as well as a means of production.

All texts produced must be cross platform compatible; despite what we may hear, the reality is that the working world is a mixed platform environment. You are responsible for knowing how to save files in formats that anyone can read. In most cases, saving text files in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx), for instance, is safe; I do not accept Microsoft Works, Word Perfect, Apple Pages, or Microsoft Publisher files. Specific guidelines will apply to each assignment, but you should assume that all submissions of work will happen in digital formats. Much of class business will be conducted via email and on our Google Site.

None of the things we’ll be working with require you to do any programming or have any special technical knowledge, but they do require that you be prepared to push yourself and ask questions when you need to.

While computers allow us to access a stunning array of information and create amazing projects, they are also susceptible to crashing and freezing. Save your work frequently, always make backup copies, and plan your projects with extra time to work through those inevitable glitches. This might be one of the most important lessons you can learn in your academic pursuits.

The Writing Center

Experienced consultants at the Writing Center (101 HB Crouse Hall, on the Quad) are available to work one-on-one with you at any stage of your writing process and with any kind of writing you’re creating. Whether you need help understanding an assignment, brainstorming ideas, revising subsequent drafts, or developing editing strategies, face-to-face and online chat appointments are available for 25- or 50-minute sessions throughout the semester. Appointments can be reserved up to six days in advance via their online scheduling program, WCOnline. In addition, drop-in appointments are welcome Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and brief concerns, questions, or drafts (max of 5 pages) can be emailed to consultants via their eWC service. For more information on hours, location, and services, please visit http://wc.syr.edu. This is a free resource to all students and recommended for all writing assigned in this class.

Special Needs and Accommodations

Students who need special consideration because of any sort of documented disability should make an appointment to see me right away. The information you share with me will remain confidential. You should also contact the Office of Disability Services for information and/or assistance. Their site is here: http://provost.syr.edu/provost/Units/academicprograms/DISABILITYSERVICES/index.aspx

Fair Use

Continued enrollment in this course will constitute permission for the instructor to use materials written for this course as samples in other classes or in research. Work will be presented anonymously in all situations. Staying in the class beyond the add/drop period indicates to me that you have agreed to all of the above published principles and policies.