EN306A Prof Wrtng in the Disciplines: Scientific & Technical Writing

for S1T 2008

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EN 306 Professional Writing in the Disciplines: Scientific and Technical Writing


S1T 2008 DLA


McGee, Nancy J.




B.S., Secondary Eduction, English
M.A., English Literature
Ph.D., English (Composition)

Office Location


Office Hours


Other Phone

(734) 461-1536




Semester Dates

January 14-March 9, 2008

Class Days


Class Time



EN105, EN106, Passing the Writing Competency Exam, 60 credit hours

Credit Hours



Title: Technical Communication
Author: John Lannon
Edition: 10th
Publisher: Longman
ISBN: 0-321-27076-2

Additional Resources:

See course Webliography.

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Course Description:
This course is the third course in the required writing sequence at Park University. This course helps students do scientific and technical research and prepare reports that will address the needs of various audiences in science, government, and industry. It emphasizes professional writing skills and expectations in various disciplines while developing further basic writing skills. Specific departmental courses may be deemed equivalent and will be used to satisfy this course. PREREQUISITES: EN 105, EN 106, passing the Writing Competency Test, and 60 credit hours. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:

I believe that a blend of theory and practice is the strongest foundation for learning to write professionally. The theory, gathered from the textbook concepts, provides the guidelines based on research from many sites and people. The practice, explained through the class discussion postings, provides the workplace adaptations and modifications of the theory. The student who will be entering the workplace or hopes to improve his or her current workplace writing will benefit from learning from both.
I feel that the online class format is particularly strong in providing this blend, as the asynchronous (not tied to the same time) discussions allow everyone to participate after reflecting on previous ideas. The online classroom thus provides multiple "teachers" as well, giving our class a broad picture of writing in the workplace.
I feel that my role is to facilitate the conversations in the discussion forums and to provide a detailed review of the writing. My goal is to have my students leave class with the confidence that they can produce writing that will come across well regardless of how critical their workplace reader will be.

Learning Outcomes:
  Core Learning Outcomes

  1. Explain how technical and scientific writing communication differs from other types of writing.
  2. Analyze audiences for different communications purposes, using audience analysis checklists and techniques.
  3. Compile research findings, including bibliographies, journals, and notes.
  4. Compose information plans and outlines during the process of organizing a technical document.
  5. Draft a working version of a technical document.
  6. Revise and proof documents using a writing review checklist.
  7. Write and submit technical definitions; reports of research or testing; proposals; recommendations; mechanism descriptions and specifications; process descriptions; procedures; and instructions; and workplace correspondence, including resumes.
  8. Collaborate with others on writing tasks, at a distance, using appropriate technology.
  9. Coach subordinates and colleagues to write technical and scientific documents, applying specific standards and techniques.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will be able to produce the organizational patterns common to technical writing, such as the analytic report, for a variety of workplace situations.
  2. Students will format their papers and use graphical elements in a way that maximizes clarity and attraction for the reader.
  3. Students will understand basic guidelines for oral presentations, including guidelines for visual support of speeches.
  4. Students will distinguish technical and scientific communication from academic communication, applying the guidelines for format, organization, and content.
  5. Students will apply critical thinking skills to research sources.
  6. Students will correctly document research sources.
Core Assessment:
This assignment, a formal report, should contain the following format features: cover/title page, letter of transmittal, table of contents, table of figures and tables,  informative abstract, body with sectional headings and subheadings, glossary, appendixes and attachments as appropriate, and bibliography. Relevant text readings are Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17,  and especially 25

Class Assessment:

Performance will be assessed based on papers, discussions, a journal, and a final exam.
The papers (written assignments) will receive feedback regarding the writing correctness and style, organization, response to the context, development of ideas, and research use and documentation. 
Journal: You must have at least five postings per week in order to receive full credit for this. Please date the postings. The postings should be at least one paragraph long in order to be counted.
Participation: You must post at least three substantial postings each week for full credit in this. When there is more than one discussion question, you can post to either or both for the credit. Substantial postings will be at least a paragraph long and address the discussion question directly, bringing in research (correctly documented) and your own examples as support. Responses that are primarily a cut and paste from another source will not receive credit toward participation.


Definitions and Profiles for Two Audiences: January 27
100 points (10%)
Proposal for Analytical Report: Feb. 3
100 points (10%)
Information Plan for Analytical Report: Feb. 10
100 points (10%)
Explanation of a Product or Process, or an Instructional Document: Feb. 17
100 points (10%)
Cover Letter and Resume: Feb. 24
100 points (10%)
Analytical Report: March 2
200 points (20%)
Final Exam: March 9
200 points (20%)
Journal: Continual; End of weeks three, six, and eight
25 points (2.5%)
Participation: Weekly
75 points (7.5%)
Total: 1,000 points

Late Submission of Course Materials:

Students must contact me no later than the day before the due date for the papers in order to receive a waiver of the due date for written assignments. (That is, you must have e-mailed me no later than Saturday before the deadline of Sunday.) Based on the circumstances of illness, death in the family, or workplace requirements, we may agree on a new individual due date. In order to ensure that learning is not weakened, the new due date will be as close the original due date as is practical. If more than one written assignment must be late, the student should re-evaluate whether it's possible to continue with the course, based on the situation faced.
If a written assignment is submitted past the due date without a waiver, the penalty will be five points per day. Thus, if a written assignment is submitted on a Wednesday, there will be a fifteen point penalty.
Students who wait until the due date to submit work will thus have the lateness penalty imposed if they encounter illness or technical problems that prevent the work from being submitted on time. All assignments are described at least a week before their due date, so the due date should be regarded as the "last minute."
No work will be accepted after the last day of class, which is March 9.
I've requested that the first response to the discussion question be posted by Wednesday, in order to give the class several days for postings on this. There is no lateness penalty on this, however. Each week's discussion question forum will be available from Monday morning to Sunday evening, after which students will be able to see the previous weeks' postings but not respond to them. Participation in a posting cannot be made up for a previous week under any circumstances.
Journals are due at the ends of week three, six, and eight, but there is no lateness penalty for these. However, please note that no work is accepted for credit after the last day of class, so they must be in no later than March 9 in order to receive credit.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:

All postings in any forum must be respectful. You are encouraged to challenge ideas, but you must always be supportive of the person.
The due dates for all assignments are given in this syllabus, on a calendar in the announcements section of the course home page, and on the "Discuss Px" areas each week. Please copy the dates onto your own calendar and check one of these sources rather than e-mail me regarding when work is due.
Please check your dropbox upon attaching your assignments to be sure they attached correctly. If you see the attachment there, I'll be able to see it also, so please do not e-mail me asking whether I have received your paper.
Please save all assignments in .doc or .rtf. If you save them in other formats, such as .wpd, I won't be able to open them.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Paper #1: Develop two audience-and-use profiles for two audiences (one profile for a semi-technical audience and one profile for a non-technical audience) for whom you are writing a technical definition, and then write a one-page definition for each audience. (Relevant text reading: Chapter 3, Delivering the Essential Information, and Chapter 20, Technical Definitions.)

First select a technical term you wish to define. Then fill out the Audience-and-Use Profile  for one technical audience and one non-technical audience (see p. 36 for the form). Next, evaluate what information you would include for each audience. For example, you might select the term diabetes and the two audiences for whom you are writing the definitions might be pre-med students taking an endocrinology course and the patients of an endocrinologist who has prepared a short handout for his patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

For the first audience of pre-med students, you might consider defining diabetes in terms of metabolic and chemical disorder. For the non-technical audience, you might consider adding to a simple definition of diabetes as a metabolic disorder an analogy of how the system has gone awry and, most important for this audience, how having diabetes is going to affect their lives.

In analyzing the information you would include for each audience, you would consider the various ways in which to define terms and use those tools to select what would be appropriate to each audience to create an effective definition. (See Chapter 20 of your text for definition strategies.) Then, using appropriate diction and level of details, you would write your definitions.
NOTE: Be sure to document all external information using both footnotes or parenthetical citations and a bibliography (which you may label "References," "Works Cited," or otherwise, as appropriate.  Also be sure to enclose within quotation marks any text you have copied.  This is an academic honesty and copyright compliance requirement, not simply a formatting requirement.  See Part VI, Appendix A of our text and the course Webliography for documentation guidance. 
Paper due: January 27

2. Paper #2: Write an Informal Proposal for your Analytical Report. Using the discussions of proposals and analytical reports, develop your informal proposal using the general model for proposals given in your Lannon text in Chapter 23, Proposals. You will need to decide whether your proposal is a planning, research, or sales type proposal (I generally recommend that you write a research proposal). This will determine some of the contents for your assignment. Other relevant text readings are Chapters 11 and 21.

Paper due: Feb. 3

3. Paper #3: Write an Information Plan for your Analytical Report. Information planning encourages writers to adopt project management strategies as a way of managing writing assignments of all complexities. For this assignment, you must write an Information Plan for your analytical report in three to five pages. In the workplace, the Information Plan would be updated as progress was made or changes occurred on the project. You may use an outline format that addresses the following information:

Purpose for writing this report:

Audience: For whom is the report intended? Who else will read it?

Goals of the information contained in your report: How will the information in this report be used?

Information objectives: What specific information will be contained in the report? What information will be given to the reader? How will readers benefit?

Information specifications: Overall structure, Title, graphics production, printing specifications.

Sectional content outline: Working section headings and subheadings and a brief summary of what will be in each.

Methodology: Determine how the information will be gathered and analyzed, the schedule for research, editorial standards and strategies, style guidelines.

Information verification: How will the information be verified? Are the procedures used considered to be accurate?

Schedule for completion of assignments related to analytical report.

This assignment requires forethought about the analytical report you will write. Remember that your Information Plan is intended to help you map out the writing process and begin to visualize the final document, and can be adjusted as you actually go through writing of the report. The integrity of an Information Plan, however,  is in its usability as a planning tool: you should have as few amendments to it as possible. The more detail that you have here, the more likely that your draft report will prove to be well designed. Relevant text readings are Chapters 3, 10, 11, 12 and 24.

Paper due: Feb. 10

4. Paper #4: Write a Description of a Product or Process, or an Instructional Document. Descriptions and explanations of mechanisms, processes, organizations, and organisims constitute much of the subject matter of technical and scientific writing.  Instructions are also critical to working with technology. In this assignment you will focus on one of these types of documents, with emphasis on clarity and usability.

Paper due: Feb. 17

5. Paper #5: Write a Cover Letter and Resume. Relevant text reading is Chapter 18.

Paper due: Feb. 24

6. Paper #6: Write an Analytical Report. This assignment, a formal report, should contain the following format features: cover/title page, letter of transmittal, table of contents, table of figures and tables, informative abstract, body with sectional headings and subheadings, glossary, appendixes and attachments as appropriate, and bibliography. Relevant text readings are Chapters 14, 15, 16, 24, 25, and Part VI, Appendix A.

Your text offers a general model for analytical reports, which you should follow where you can. Of course, you may deviate from this model with good reason -- it is only a tentative model. Your text offers many suggestions for topics for analytical reports, should you have difficulty selecting one.

Paper due: March 2

CORE WEEKLY ONLINE DISCUSSION TOPICS: Others may be added as required or requested

The basic weekly online discussion topics are listed below. In general, your conference discussion topics will be evaluated using the following criteria:

Completeness of thought: have you given the question at hand in-depth thinking? Do you demonstrate an understanding of the context of the issue being addressed?
Evidence and Analysis:  Do you provide examples and illustrations from your online research, your readings, and your own experience?
Vivid examples from your own professional and personal experience?
Clear communication?
For your convenience, most of  the topics are listed here in summary form; the detailed requirements of these core topics and other discussion topics will be posted in our conference.

Week 1-1 Discussion Topic: After reading the material, in this week's discussion area, define technical and scientific writing. Give an example of what technical writing is and what it isn't. Identify the audience for whom you are defining the term.  Clearly differentiate scientific writing from technical writing.

Week 1-2 Discussion Topic: The electronic revolution has changed how we communicate as individuals and how organizations view communication. Is the Internet just an electronic messaging system students should learn as a "skill" requirement or can the substance and nature of the Internet be used as a complete working and learning environment for organizations and individuals?

Submit during week of Jan. 14-20

Week 2 Discussion Topic: This week's topic addresses your goals and objectives for learning in this course. Describe the skills you seek to develop in your technical writing course. How exactly will you apply these skills to your career? Justify your company's paying for this course (or your paying for this course) by explaining how this course will help you become more effective on the job.

Submit during week of January 21-27

Week 3-1 Discussion Topic: Learning how to retrieve information on the Internet and World Wide Web is an important skill to master. This week I would like you to search on the Internet for five electronic references that would be of use to technical writers on the job. When you find these references, figure out how they could be used. Then, write into the discussion thread for this week an annotated bibliography of the five references for writers. Also, tell us what search engines you used to find these references.

Submit during week of January 28-February 3

Week 4 Discussion Topic: Analyze and describe the process you have used to plan how you will study and learn online. What techniques have you developed? What do you think are the most important processes for successfully learning online? Your audience should be your classmates.

Submit during week of February 4-10

Week 5-1 Discussion Topic: What are the audience, intended use of information, and purpose considerations when you design your resume?

Week 5-2 Discussion Topic: Write a progress report or status report of your work towards your analytic report to date.

Submit during week of February 11-17

Week 6 Discussion Topic: Many managers believe that an employee must be able to present information in a verbal form (or brief it) before they should be given the opportunity to write anything. This week, discuss briefing/presentation, how it is different from written presentation of information, and provide (as an attachment to your commentary in the discussion thread), a brief slide presentation on a topic of your choice.  I will provide you guidance on the format and technical aspects of online presentations.

Submit during week of February 18-24

Week 7 Discussion Topic: When writers plan to describe processes, mechanism, organizations or organisms, or write instructions, they must consider many issues related to audience, purpose of information, intended use, and how the hard copy or online documents will be used.  What are the audience considerations when writing instructions? What are the document planning and design issues?

Submit during week of February 25-March 2

Week 8 Discussion Topic: How do writers work collaboratively with authors or subject matter experts? Your discussion task this week is to develop a set of procedurals that can be used to manage documents in an electronic environment.
Submit during week of March 3-9

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2007-2008 Undergraduate Catalog Page 85-86

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2007-2008 Undergraduate Catalog Page 85

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  3. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  4. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  5. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  6. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  7. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.
ONLINE NOTE: An attendance report of "P" (present) will be recorded for students who have logged in to the Online classroom at least once during each week of the term. Recording of attendance is not equivalent to participation. Participation grades will be assigned by each instructor according to the criteria in the Grading Policy section of the syllabus.

Park University 2007-2008 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87-88

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: http://www.park.edu/disability .


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Last Updated:12/20/2007 8:43:39 AM