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Association of Teachers of Technical Writing


Technical Writing:
Student Samples
and
Teacher Responses
Edited by
Sam Dragga
ii
1992 Association of Teachers of Technical Writing
iii
Brief Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter 1
The Commentary of
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer . . . . . . 11
Chapter 2
The Commentary of
Debra Journet . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Chapter 3
The Commentary of
Mary Lay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Chapter 4
The Commentary of
Sherry Burgus Little . . . . . . . . . . 159
Chapter 5
The Commentary of
David D. Roberts . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Chapter 6
The Commentary of
Carolyn Rude . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
Chapter 7
The Commentary of
Scott P. Sanders . . . . . . . . . . . . 275
Chapter 8
The Commentary of
Dorothy Winsor . . . . . . . . . . . 305
iv
Detailed Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter 1 The Commentary of
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer . . . . 11
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 13
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 13
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 15
[Student Sample with Charney's Responses] . . . 17
[Student Sample with Selzer's Responses] . . . . 25
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 33
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 35
[Student Sample with Charney's Responses] . . . 37
[Student Sample with Selzer's Responses] . . . . 46
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 55
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 56
[Student Sample with Charney's Responses] . . . 58
[Student Sample with Selzer's Responses] . . . . 61
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 64
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 65
[Student Sample with Charney's Responses] . . . 67
[Student Sample with Selzer's Responses] . . . . 78
Chapter 2 The Commentary of
Debra Journet . . . . . . . . . . 89
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 90
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 90
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 91
[Student Sample with Journet's Responses] . . . . 93
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 98
v
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 100
[Student Sample with Journet's Responses] . . . . 101
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 107
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 109
[Student Sample with Journet's Responses] . . . . 111
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 117
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 119
[Student Sample with Journet's Responses] . . . . 121
Chapter 3 The Commentary of
Mary Lay . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 138
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 138
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 138
[Student Sample with Lay's Responses] . . . . . 140
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 142
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 142
[Student Sample with Lay's Responses] . . . . . 144
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 148
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 148
[Student Sample with Lay's Responses] . . . . . 150
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 154
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 154
[Student Sample with Lay's Responses] . . . . . 156
Chapter 4 The Commentary of
Sherry Burgus Little . . . . . . . . 159
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 163
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 163
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 164
[Student Sample with Little's Responses] . . . . 166
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
vi
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 168
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 168
[Student Sample with Little's Responses] . . . . 170
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 173
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 174
[Student Sample with Little's Responses] . . . . 175
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 185
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 188
[Student Sample with Little's Responses] . . . . 190
Chapter 5 The Commentary of
David D. Roberts . . . . . . . . . 207
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 208
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 208
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 208
[Student Sample with Roberts' Responses] . . . . 210
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 215
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 215
[Student Sample with Roberts' Responses] . . . . 217
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 223
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 224
[Student Sample with Roberts' Responses] . . . . 225
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 231
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 231
[Student Sample with Roberts' Responses] . . . . 232
Chapter 6 The Commentary of
Carolyn Rude . . . . . . . . . . 237
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 240
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 240
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 240
[Student Sample with Rude's Responses] . . . . 241
vii
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 244
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 244
[Student Sample with Rude's Responses] . . . . 246
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 252
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 252
[Student Sample with Rude's Responses] . . . . 253
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 261
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 261
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 261
[Student Sample with Rude's Responses] . . . . 263
Chapter 7 The Commentary of
Scott P. Sanders . . . . . . . . . . 275
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 276
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 276
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 277
[Student Sample with Sanders' Responses] . . . . 278
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 281
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 282
[Student Sample with Sanders' Responses] . . . . 283
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 288
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 289
[Student Sample with Sanders' Responses] . . . . 290
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 296
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 296
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 296
[Student Sample with Sanders' Responses] . . . . 298
Chapter 8 The Commentary of
Dorothy Winsor . . . . . . . . . . 305
Letter of Application and Rsum . . . . . . . 306
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 306
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 306
viii
[Student Sample with Winsor's Responses] . . . . 307
Instructions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 309
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 309
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 309
[Student Sample with Winsor's Responses] . . . . 311
Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 315
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 315
[Student Sample with Winsor's Responses] . . . . 317
Analytical Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 322
Description of Assignment . . . . . . . . 322
Explanation of Commentary . . . . . . . . 322
[Student Sample with Winsor's Responses] . . . . 323
1
Introduction
Introduction
Sam Dragga
Texas Tech University
Effective techniques for responding to the technical writing of students
is a subject that often has been given insufficient attention. Teachers of techni-
cal communication, for example, have ordinarily adopted the responding
practices of introductory composition teachers because the typical technical
communication teacher either has been or also is a teacher of introductory
composition. And students have ordinarily adopted the commenting practices
of their teachers because this is their only experience of commentary on writ-
ing. Research on responding to writing, similarly, has assumed that respond-
ing to proposals, instructions, or feasibilitiy studies is virtually identical to
responding to essays.
This book is thus designed to give the subject of responding to techni-
cal writing the attention it deserves and to give teachers and students of techni-
cal writing the guidance necessary to offer effective commentary. This book
brings together nine teachers of technical communication and thirty-four of
their students to display samples of the students writing and the commentary
of their teachers responding to that writing. In doing so, this book identifies
commenting practices that teachers might wish to adopt or adapt in respond-
ing to the technical writing of their students. Students working in collaborative
writing and editing groups might also wish to incorporate the responding
techniques displayed here. The commenting practices of the nine teachers are
2 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
offered neither as models of the ideal nor as indicators of the only available
alternatives, but as examples of the wide variety of responding styles possible.
Scope
This book includes thirty-two samples of student writing, including
several composed collaboratively. The samples typify the four kinds of
documents that are common writing assignments in the basic technical writ-
ing class: 1) letters of application and rsums, 2) instructions, 3) proposals,
and 4) analytical reports. The teachers chose samples of good (as opposed to
excellent) writing: that is, samples that allowed the teachers to identify and
discuss areas of achievement and areas for improvement. The numerical or
letter evaluation of the writing sample has been omitted because it is poten-
tially distracting: the emphasis of this book is on commenting practices as
opposed to evaluation techniques or grading scales.
Each writing sample is displayed with the teachers commentary to
the student, the teachers description of the writing assignment, and the
teachers explanation of his or her commentary. The teachers commentary is
thus contextualized or situated relative to a variety of possible influences: for
example, the details of the assignment, the conduct of the course, the writing
processes of the student, and the relationship of the teacher and the student.
This information serves to identify the objectives of the teachers commentary,
clarify specific wording and phrasing, and justify the issues that the teacher
addresses or ignores.
Organization
This book has eight chapters, and the opening chapter is a model of
how you might effectively read the remaining seven. In Chapter One, Davida
Charney and Jack Selzer of Pennsylvania State University comment individu-
ally on the same group of writing samples. The samples were composed in
Charneys technical writing class: she is responding to students that she
teaches and knows. Selzer is commenting as though he were the teacher of
the class. The two together discuss their individual commentaries, comparing
and contrasting their responding styles. As you examine each of the eight
chapters, you might wish to adopt a similar practice of considering how you
would comment on each writing sample:
Which issues does the teacher address (e.g., appropriate and
sufficient information, logical organization, visual design, clarity
of expression, usage and diction, mechanical and grammatical
accuracy)? Would you address the same issues? Would you
address different issues?
3
Introduction
Which issues does the teacher ignore? Why? Would you?
Does the teacher establish a hierarchy of issues (e.g., major versus
minor issues)? How does the teacher establish this hierarchy
(e.g., repetition of major issues, labeling of major issues)? Would
you establish a hierarchy of issues? Is the teachers hierarchy
similar to yours?
Is the teachers commentary sufficient? Is it excessive?
Does the teacher edit the students writing? Why? Would you?
Which issues does the teachers editing emphasize? In your
editing, would you emphasize the same issues? Would you
emphasize different issues?
In addition, you might wish to analyze the wording of each teachers
commentary. A potential guide to this stylistic analysis is the following glos-
sary of seven types (Dragga, Responding to Technical Writing, The Technical
Writing Teacher, 18 [1991]: 207-208):
Compliments are locutions referring to communicative successes and using
honorific words (e.g., good, nice). For example,
Nice job.
You order the parts of your discussion intelligently, and you
paragraph well.
Good drawings to orient the reader.
Effective use of analogy.
You seem to have a good sense of what to tell people in order to
help them through this chore. I especially like your cautions
and explanations.
Useful to include.
Good specifics. Shows a good sense of how youll cover the topic.
Criticisms are locutions referring to communicative failures and using
pejorative words (e.g., wrong, poor). For example,
Lacks punch & specificity.
Youre depending too much on the table to carry your explanation.
Your diagrams are placed poorly. They tend to be too small and
not to illustrate the points they need to discuss.
No!
Proofing is a severe problem, as is a coherent, readable style.
The preceding material does not suggest that it is leading to these
objectives.
Repetitious.
Directives are locutions exhibiting the syntactic structure characteristic of
commands (i.e., [you] + present tense verb, imperative mood: e.g., insert
comma here; or you + modal of obligation + verb: e.g., you must . . .,
you need to . . ., you ought to . . ., you should . . .). For example,
Proofread carefully.
Simplify sentences.
4 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
You need to expand this section.
Introduce this segment.
Guide readers through your document by telling them how the
text is organized.
Briefly explain the rationale behind these percentages.
Provide explanation & context.
Suggestions are locutions referring to likely revisions and using modals of
possibility or probability (e.g., might, could, would), quasi-commands
(e.g., try to . . . , consider . . . ,), or explicit indicators (e.g., I suggest
that . . .). For example,
A shorter intro paragraph might make this text more inviting to
readers.
I recommend that you separate your three main steps into
numbered substeps.
Consider deleting this information, especially if it will free up
space to include names and addresses of references.
You may have to define this too.
Your justification for this project could be more vigorous &
detailed.
Perhaps include a sketch.
Try to revise to avoid needless repetition of words & phrases.
Questions are locutions ending in a question mark, using interrogatives
(i.e., who, what, which, when, where, why, how), or exhibiting the
syntactic structure characteristic of questions (i.e., modal + subject + verb:
e.g., Should you explain . . .?; or be + subject: e.g., is this . . .?). For
example,
Should you have a brief introduction here? Stress important
things, safety, give readers confidence?
Will readers want to know why?
Meaning?
Clarify?
How will you assess the information you receive?
Why are these traits important?
Is this what your description does?
Explanations are locutions referring to in-text markings or accompanying
locutions. For example,
To give your reader confidence in you. [with directive to be
specific]
It will make your activities so much clearer. [with suggestion to
use active voice]
Much easier to read and understand using list. [with directive to
list information]
There are some errors I didnt mark. [with directive to proofread]
No need to repeat these words. [with deletions]
I tried to show you how you can communicate the same
information more concisely. [with rewritten material]
Topic shifts. [with suggestion to start a new paragraph]
5
Introduction
Observations are all remaining locutions (i.e., locutions impossible to catego-
rize as either compliments, criticisms, directives, suggestions, questions, or
explanations). For example,
Some readers will find this sexist language to be objectionable.
A term Im not familiar with.
Normally, page numbers for front matter would appear at the
bottom of the page, centered.
These interviews, of course, will be very important.
If I was funding this study, Id want more assurance that you could
succeed.
Sounds ambitious!
This sounds like a project justification section.
This listing of types of commentary offers you a terminology with which to
assess the characteristics of each teachers responding style and the similarities
to yours. You might, for example, wish to address the following questions:
In each teachers commentary, which types of comments occur
most often? Which occur least often? Is this responding practice
consistent across all four writing samples? If variations occur,
why? Which types of comments do you most often and least
often use? Why?
How many of the seven types of comments does each teacher
employ? Is this responding practice consistent across all four
writing samples? If variations occur, why? How many of the
seven types of comments do you employ? Why?
Does each teacher use specific types of comments to address
specific types of issues (e.g., directives on grammatical and
mechanical issues, suggestions on diction and usage issues)?
Does your commentary display a similar correspondence?
Does each teacher use specific types of comments to reinforce a
hierarchy of issues (e.g., directives for major issues, suggestions
for minor issues)? Do you?
You might notice, for example, that Davida Charney offers a lot of
commentary of all seven types. She is generous with questions, criticisms, and
directives, but compliments dominate, especially on the letter of application
and rsum assignment. On this assignment, for example, she offers general-
ized compliments (e.g., Good!); however, she is ordinarily specific, identify-
ing which passages she likes and explaining why: for example, These sen-
tences serve well as a preview to the rest of the letter! or These details really
support your claim to management ability and responsibility. On all assign-
ments, she also does substantial editing of the students writing, usually insert-
ing and deleting words. This abundance of commentary gives students the
unambiguous impression of a comprehensive analysis of their writing.
Jack Selzer also offers a lot of commentary: in fact, none of the nine
teachers here offers more. He asks questions twice as often as he gives compli-
6 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
ments, and he offers suggestions only twice, preferring to use questions to
propose possible revisions as well as to inquire. On the instructions assign-
ment, for example, he asks Would a brief intro/overview be useful? and
Should this be sentence #2? and Wouldnt a title & caption make this more
self-sufficient? Selzer also uses questions to engage students in the process of
responding to their writing. On the instructions assignment, for example, he
asks the student to use the comments given on a previous passage or illustra-
tion to anticipate comments that he might offer on a similar passage or illustra-
tion: Now: Can you revise this page based on my comments on your other
pages? (What do you think Id advise, if I had more time?) and What do you
think I'd suggest for this figure, based on my other comments? In addition,
Selzer typically does a lot of editing (e.g., inserting and deleting words, correct-
ing capitalization, eliminating commas). On the proposal assignment, how-
ever, he perceives sentence structure is the critical issue; as a consequence he
virtually ignores the mechanical and grammatical errors and encourages the
student to consider a tutoring session: Your sentences show real progress.
Good! But they arent there yet. Can you go over this with your tutor, sen-
tence by sentence?
Debra Journet of the University of Louisville offers a lot of commen-
tary distributed fairly equally across six of the seven types (i.e., observations
have a lower frequency of occurrence). She types her commentary on a sepa-
rate page, numbering specific issues on the students writing sample and on the
corresponding page of commentary. With Journets commentary thus com-
piled on a single page, as opposed to written across the margins of several
pages, the student is given a sense of the cohesivenesss of the commentary as
well as quick access to the totality of Journets opinion of his or her writing. In
keeping with this responding practice, Journet also does little editing of the
students writing. And the editing that she does is often illustrative of corre-
sponding commentary. On the proposal assignment, for example, she ad-
dresses the issue of wordiness: Some of the sentences in this paragraph are a
little wordy (w). (Remember our discussions of sentence structure?) Ive
edited two sentences for conciseness. Can you think of ways to make other
sentences more economical and direct?
Mary Lay of the University of Minnesota offers commentary of all
seven types, though never all seven on a single assignment: for example, she
offers no suggestions or explanations on the letter of application and rsum
assignment, no suggestions or observations on the instructions, no observa-
tions on the proposal, and no explanations or observations on the analytical
report. Questions, directives, and compliments characterize Lays commen-
tary. On the letter of application and rsum and on the proposal, for example,
questions dominate; directives lead the commentary on the instructions assign-
ment; and compliments prevail on the analytical report. As opposed to a
comprehensive commentary addressing all possible issues, Lays commentary
is selective. She chooses several issues on which to focus the students atten-
tion. On the proposal assignment, for example, Lays commentary covers the
7
Introduction
precision and emphasis of specific wording, the logic of the organization, the
quality of the visual display, and a couple of minor mechanical issues. In the
following sentence, she edits only the unnecessary hyphenation of specially-
designed: Before each of the four employees begins trying the two specially-
designed chairs, I will ask him or her to write down his or her feelings and
observations regarding the comfort of his or her current office chair. Lay
might have offered this student a suggestion to switch to the plural and thus
avoid the unwieldy repetition of him or her . . . his or her . . . his or her
within a single sentence. She might have been satisfied, however, that the
student was trying to avoid sexist language. Or she might have decided that
identifying the infelicity of this sentence would diminish a previous compli-
ment regarding the clarity of the writers style. Because of this focused re-
sponding practice, Lays commentary is relatively brief and she does little
editing of the students writing.
Sherry Burgus Little of San Diego State University also offers brief
commentary and does a minimum of editing. Littles commentary is of all
seven types, but suggestions and explanations are infrequent. With the excep-
tion of the commentary on the analytical report, compliments and questions
prevail. On the analytical report assignment, Little adopts a critical perspec-
tive, identifying errors to repair and giving directives to improve the writing.
She balances this orientation through compliments and through a series of
observations regarding how she would revise the writing: for example, Id
hyphenate these or I would rewrite this sentence to make your definition
more direct (Id eliminate the passive voice too). Such observations character-
ize Littles commentary on all four writing samples. And through such obser-
vations, she allows students to accept or reject the writing and editing choices
of their teacher, thus inviting students to perceive the responding process as a
genuine collaboration of student and teacher, writer and editor.
David Roberts of Iowa State University, similarly, offers brief and
focused commentary of all seven types. On all four of his writing samples,
questions occur most often, with compliments finishing either second or third.
Directives and observations occur only once or twice on each assignment.
Roberts typical responding practice is to do a minimum of editing, offer a
variety of marginal notations, and type additional commentary on a separate
page. Ordinarily, questions occur as marginal notations. The typed commen-
tary always opens with a series of compliments and proceeds to clarifications
and elaborations of the marginal commentary: for example, on the instructions
assignment, Roberts explains I questioned the soft-bristled brush only
because some readers might need to know how soft. We have to assume they
wouldnt use an industrial-strength cleaning brush on the baby, but a slightly
more specific description would anticipate possible questions. Roberts
commentary is thus principally designed to encourage through compliments
and to stimulate through questions.
Carolyn Rude of Texas Tech University offers commentary of all seven
types, though observations occur on only two of the assignments. On the letter
8 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
of application and rsum assignment, directives dominate the commentary;
on the proposal and the instructions, compliments prevail; and on the analyti-
cal report, directives and questions display equal frequency. Rude offers the
majority of commentary on a separate typed page, often numbering issues on
the students writing sample and on the corresponding typed page of commen-
tary. The typed commentary is typically directives, compliments, and sugges-
tions. The marginal commentary she writes is ordinarily designed to explicate
editing symbols (using directives and explanations) or to solicit additional and
specific information (using questions). On the letter of application and rsum
and on the analytical report (i.e., the assignments on which directives occur
most often), she does substantial editing, usually deleting and inserting words.
On the instructions and proposal (i.e., assignments on which directives occur
least often), she does a minimum of editing: Rudes responding style is thus
tailored to the pedagogical objectives of the writing assignment as well as the
individual writing practices of the students: as necessary, she is a supervisor of
new technical writers, giving directions to improve their writing, or she is a
supportive coach, offering suggestions and creating opportunities for writers to
develop their abilities.
Scott Sanders of the Univeristy of New Mexico also does the heaviest
editing on the assignments that show the highest frequency of directives: the
letter of application and rsum and the analytical report. He offers all seven
types of commentary, though never on a single assignment. On the letter of
application and rsum, he offers no criticisms or observations; on the instruc-
tions, no suggestions or explanations; on the proposal, no explanations; and on
the analytical report, no criticisms, suggestions, or observations. The majority
of his commentary is compliments, questions, and directives. His typical
responding practice is to offer a minimum of commentary. On the proposal,
for example, though unnecessary passive voice is pervasive, he cites only a
single egregious occurrence and ignores the inoffensive remainder. Choosing
this single occurrence serves to address the subject of passive voice without
intimidating the student or exaggerating the importance of the issue.
Dorothy Winsor of the GMI Engineering & Management Institute also
adopts a focused responding style, offering a minimum of commentary. She
uses only six of the seven types of commentary: she is the only teacher of the
nine who never asks questions. In addition, she never uses all six types of
commentary on a single assignment: on the letter of application and rsum
and on the instructions, she offers no criticisms or explanations; on the pro-
posal, no suggestions or observations; and on the analytical report, no direc-
tives or suggestions. With the exception of the instructions, she does little
editing of the students writing. The majority of Winsors commentary is
compliments and directives, efficiently identifying that which is effective and
how to repair that which is ineffective.
Together, the nine teachers of technical communication compose a
picture of genuine diversity. Their responding practices differ widely, from
comprehensive commentary and substantial editing to selective commentary
9
Introduction
and minimal editing, from a majority of questions to a multitude of directives,
from marginal notations to typewritten explications. The responding practices
of the nine teachers, however, also display similarities. For example, all
exhibit a verbal bias, offering little commentary on tables and figures relative to
the considerable attention given to words, sentences, and paragraphs. This
emphasis is the likely consequence of their training and experience as writing
teachers as well as the absence of a satisfactory vocabulary with which to
discuss the rhetorical issues of visual design. The field of technical communi-
cation is only beginning to acknowledge and address this deficiency.
Ideally, your analysis of the similarities and differences among the
nine teachers here will help you to improve your responding practices. You
will observe the advantages and disadvantages of commenting a lot or a little,
of editing a lot or a little. You will see how to verbalize comments on specific
issues of technical communication and how to integrate commentary and
classroom instruction. And you will develop a heightened awareness of your
commenting style so that your responding choices are more deliberate, system-
atic, and effective.
Preparation of the Book
Because writing samples with handwritten commentary usually prove
of limited or inconsistent legibility, I designed new, legible versions of all the
writing samples, using disk versions of the originals if available. If disk ver-
sions were unavailable, I typed the verbal materials using a word processing
program and choosing a design of type identical or similar to the type of the
original. I duplicated the tables and figures using either a computerized
drawing program or a computerized scanning device. I integrated the verbal
and visual components of each writing sample using a page design program.
And I inserted the handwritten commentary of the teachers using a type design
that imitates handwriting. I believe the considerable gain in legibility and
usability of the resulting samples is adequate compensation for the loss of
verisimilitude.
Acknowledgments
In soliciting contributors to this book, I sought a geographical distribu-
tion of experienced technical writing teachers. The nine who answered the call
agreed readily to participate, recognizing the importance of this project in a
neglected area of technical communication research. All, I imagine, neverthe-
less approached their contribution with considerable trepidation, chiefly
because participation required their putting on public display, for all their
colleagues to observe and judge, that which is ordinarily a private issue involv-
ing only a teacher and his or her students. This exhibition of their responding
10 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
practices is a significant contribution to the field and their professional courage
and generosity deserve the gratitude of their colleagues.
The following students also deserve genuine appreciation for permit-
ting display of their writing samples with all of the positive and negative
characteristics identified, labeled, and discussed: Joseph Auteri, David
Brennick, Carmen Britto, Chris Brua, Robin Clark, Brent Culver, Rena Cunard,
David Daywalt, Derick Deleo, Sarah C. Everist, Calvin Glenn, Eric Gonzales,
Brian Hall, Leslie Hansen, Patricia Harms, Lyle Johnson, Melody Kilcrease,
John Laird, Tamara K. Locke, Steven Mahnich, Amy K. Matsumoto, Enrico
Mutone, Neal M. Nelson, Margaret A. ONeil, Jeff Pitzen, Faith Puffer, Mark
Roberson, Lillian Roberts, Mourad Slaoui, Jeffrey Skinner, Mary Jo Skodzinsky,
Rena L. Thompson, Joshua Vorheis, and Doris R. Watts.
11 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Chapter 1
The Commentary of
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer
Pennsylvania State University
Davida Charney teaches technical and business writing as well as
graduate seminars in research methods and the rhetoric of science. She is the
editor of the Recent Research column in Technical Communication. She has
published on the evaluation of writing and the design of functional texts, such
as computer-user manuals and rsums. With co-author Lynne Reder, she
received the 1989 National Council of Teachers of English award for Best
Formal Research Article in Scientific or Technical Communication. Her articles
have appeared in The Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Research
in the Teaching of English, Human-Computer Interaction, and several collections.
She is the co-editor, with Marie Secor, of Constructing Rhetorical Education,
published by the Southern Illinois University Press in 1992.
Jack Selzer teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in composition
and rhetoric, scientific and technical writing, and belletristic literature. A co-
founder of the Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition and cur-
rently Director of Composition Programs, he has written on everything from
The Wanderer and Piers Plowman to William Faulkner and Willa Cather. His
anthology Conversations (a reader for composition courses) was published by
Macmillan in 1991. Currently, he is editing a collection of essays that demon-
strate a variety of methods for doing rhetorical analysis of scientific texts.
From 1990 to 1992, he served as president of the Association of Teachers of
Technical Writing.
-
12 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Introduction
A few words are in order before we discuss our responses to this set of
student papers. Unlike the other contributors to this book, we present here not
one but two commentaries on each of the four papers. Why? We wanted to
demonstrate that there is a range of possible and useful commentaries that
teachers can offer; instead of presenting model responses, we want to sug-
gest that the ideal of a model or ideal commentary is inappropriate. Just as
student papers are varied responses to particular rhetorical situations, just as
there are excellent different responses to any assignment, so too teachers com-
mentaries are inevitablyand properlyvarious. Comments on student
papers are not impersonal and coldly objective evaluations of student work;
rather, they are situated, rhetorical actsattempts on the part of different
teachers to teach different things to different kinds of students, in response to
assignments with different goals. It is of course true that teachers should work
hard to agree as far as possible on the relative merits and weaknesses of stu-
dent writing; and it is true that some comments on student work are more
productive than others. But it is also true that a wide range of appropriate
commentary is appropriate, given the dynamics of various students and peda-
gogical circumstances.
Consequently, we offer here two sets of commentaries on the same
student papers. On the one hand, we are quite comfortable offering these
commentaries because we have collaborated for some time in devising a cur-
riculum and writing assignments for our technical writing course for juniors
and seniors majoring in science and engineering at Penn State. The writing
assignments are indeed ones that we both use. (See Selzer, Critical Inquiry in
Technical Writing in The Writing Teacher As Researcher, ed. Donald Daiker and
Max Morenberg [New York: Heinemann, 1990], pp. 188-218.) On the other
hand, we are somewhat uncomfortable in offering them because the students in
fact wrote their papers for only one of us (Davida Charney), and because there
are some small differences in what we cover in our coursesdifferences that
show up in the comments. Jack Selzers comments are somewhat artificial in
that he never taught the students involved; he made believe that he was
responding to these students as his own, within the constraints of his own
course, and used the occasion to think more philosophically about what
might constitute appropriate commentary. Davida Charneys comments are
somewhat more naturalistic: they illustrate what one teacher actually did in
response to real student writing.
On each of the following four assignments, Davida Charney's commen-
tary is first and Jack Selzer's is second. Together, we hope, our comments
illustrateand to some extent problematizethe range of responses to student
writers and writing that is possible in a technical writing course.
13 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
For the letter of application and rsum assignment, we give students
the following materials:
Job Application Package
Most people obtain jobs through a multi-stage process. First, you
research the types of jobs you are qualified for and the types of employer you
would like to work for. Second, you try to convince specific employers to
consider you for a job. These days, most employers have too many applicants
per job to interview each one personally. These employers sort through job
application packages (rsums and cover letters) to decide which applicants to
consider further. So your first communication with your future employer is
likely to be in writing and must persuade him or her to continue the conversa-
tion.
For this assignment, you will write:
Two cover letters addressed to different prospective employers and
that apply for two different types of jobs. The letters should highlight
different aspects of your experience relevant to the different jobs.
Two rsums that differ significantly in content or in layout or both.
The choices of content and layout should emphasize appropriate
experience for each job.
A cover memo addressed to me that overviews the two jobs, reviews
what you know about these particular employers, and describes how
you have adapted your letter and rsum to each situation. I expect
you to make good use of the information in this memo in the
arguments you present in your cover letters to the employers.
Memo
Write a brief memo (3 pages, double-spaced), addressed to me. For
each of the two jobs, the memo must contain a separate job description and
audience analysis. It must also include an overall rhetorical analysis, high-
lighting how you adapted your rsums and cover letters to the different jobs.
Since the memo will be of use to you in designing the rest of your package, you
probably should work on it early.
Job description. You may base your job description on job listings that
you find in a professional or trade journal or other resources at the Career
Development and Placement Services (CDPS) office (Boucke 408). If you cant
find a suitable job listing, you may write a hypothetical job description. The
14 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
jobs should be different enough that you will have to emphasize different parts
of your experience to qualify for the positions.
Audience analysis. Investigate the particular company you are applying
to. You may obtain information on many companies from the library or from
the CDPS. You may also contact the personnel office of the company directly.
Then write one or two paragraphs that specify any special qualities or experi-
ence that this company may be looking for in its employees. For example,
suppose you are applying for a job as a chemical engineer. A small company
may be looking for an engineer who can work on a variety of projects, while
another may be looking specifically for someone with experience with poly-
mers. This is also the place to describe anything you know about the particular
person you are writing to. Note: I expect you to make extensive use of this
information in your cover letter. It should also have a big impact on the orga-
nization and choice of details in your rsum.
Rhetorical analysis. Describe how you have adapted each rsum and
cover letter for its particular type of job, company and reader and why you
made those changes. Normally, your reasons will be closely related to the
information in the job description and audience analysis.
Rsum
The purpose of the rsum is to describe your qualifications for a
specific type of job. Since this assignment requires you to apply for two differ-
ent types of jobs, you will create two rsums. The rsums will overlap
somewhat, but must noticeably differ in the order of presentation, content,
emphasis and so on.
Content. Your rsum should include contact information and relevant
details of your educational training, professional training, special accomplish-
ments, and skills. A rsum is not a life history. The goal is to argue that you
are qualified for a particular type of job and that you would be a capable,
responsible employee who communicates effectively.
Format. Your format may be traditional or innovative as long as the
information is highly accessible and is organized in a way that highlights the
most important items (from the employers perspective). We will look at alter-
native formats in class. Stick to one page.
Style. Your style should be fairly formal. You need not use complete
sentences, but you should use a concise, active style.
Cover Letter
Purpose. While your rsum is addressed at any employer with a
certain type of job opening, the cover letter is most effective when tailored to a
particular employer. The purpose of the cover letter is to persuade that em-
ployer to grant you an interview. Just as you appreciate being treated as an
15 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
individual rather than as a statistic, so does an employer. Are you applying
hit-or-miss to every company in the country? Or have you invested some
effort into finding a company that you are well suited for?
Content and Organization. The opening of your letter should establish
why you are writing to your reader. Be explicit about the fact that you are
looking for a particular kind of job and explain why you would like a job at
that particular company. Preview the body of the letter by stating your major
qualifications for the job. The body of the letter develops each qualification
with specific evidence. The goal is to show the reader both that you know
what that specific company needs and that you have what it takes. You may
organize this section in various ways: around your training and experience,
around what the job or the company requires, or some other way. The letter
should close by inviting a response.
Style. These letters are difficult to write because they aim at somewhat
conflicting goals. On the one hand, you want to make a good first impression.
So you want to sound polite and fairly formal. On the other hand, you want to
stand out from the crowdotherwise, why should the employer hire you
rather than any of the other applicants? The best policy is probably to talk to
your reader as directly and naturally as possible. Avoid hype.
Format. Use a conventional business letter format. Be brief: stick to one
page.
Standard for Correctness
Employers impose a strict standard of correctness on application materials:
errors are the equivalent of a bad spot on your shirt. Accordingly, I will mark
this assignment on a stricter scale than usual: If any letter or rsum contains
more than two typographical or grammatical errors, the entire package will be docked
one letter grade.
Explanation of Commentary
In this assignment, we are concerned less with producing excellent
rsums and letters than with using the occasion to teach students some gen-
eral writing principles. Making this assignment early in the course allows us to
emphasize that writing is not simply a matter of following a recipe for a
certain form but is a response to a particular rhetorical exigency; each rhetorical
situation is different and documents should take into account those differences.
We also want students to begin thinking of their writing as broadly persuasive,
rather than as descriptive or expository. Hence, we ask students to apply for
two jobs, not one; to adapt their rsums and letters appropriately for each one;
and to reflect on their choices, on the differences in their documents, in a cover
memo addressed to us.
16 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Our comments to students reflect these ulterior pedagogical motives.
We offer observations about our students success in conceiving of their task
rhetorically and sometimes ask questions designed to foreground further the
central notion of choice. Enrico Mutone does a good job of integrating his
research into the two job opportunities into his documentsits unusual to see
such sensible and substantive adaptations in the two rsums (rather than just
in the letters)and he does an adequate job explaining those differences in his
cover memo. Consequently, many of our comments are positive, intended to
reinforce the students mastery of the principles of writing that the assignment
was designed to elicit. And some of the comments are designed to create a
good, personal working relationship with the student. Especially early in the
course, it seems wise to make comments that attempt to establish an atmo-
sphere of trust that will pay off over the long haul.
Having claimed that our assignments are subordinate to larger peda-
gogical goals, we must also confess that we are interested as well in helping
students to produce good rsums and cover letters. Many of our comments
(prompts such as Id like to hear more, and various direct questions) encour-
age the student to reconsider certain choices in the interest of producing more
successful finished products. In that sense our goal is to motivate revision
and in so doing, to help students to see revision itself not as punishment but as
a natural and normal part of the composing process.
Finally, we do some things differently. One of us comments directly on
expression, while the other promises to take up expression at a later date. One
of us comments on all parts of the assignment, while the other offers heavier
commentary on one letter and rsum, and (because there is a limit to the
amount of time one can spend marking a paper) leaves the student to revise the
other on his own. And we sometimes even offer conflicting advice about minor
details, in keeping with our own intuitions and interests. Charney is particu-
larly conscious of style, mechanics, and elaboration, having researched their
effect in rsums (The Role of Writing Quality in Effective Student Rsums,
Journal of Business and Technical Communication 3.1 [1989]: 36-53; and How
Writing Quality Influences Readers' Judgments of Rsums in Business and
Engineering, Journal of Business and Technical Communication 6.1 [1992]: 38-74).
We see our differences as subordinate to our agreements: to use the occasion to
address general writing principles, to build a personal relationship with the
student, to prompt revision, and to ensure that the student can create a good
rsum and cover letter.
17 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
TO: Davida Charney
FROM: S. Enrico Mutone
DATE: February 4, 1990
SUBJECT: Job Application Package
The purpose of this memo is to familiarize you with the types of
jobs that I am applying for. This memo contains a job description for each
job, an audience analysis that details the differences between
the two companies that I am applying to, and a rhetorical analysis that
explains how I have adapted each resume and cover letter to each
situation.
Job Description:
The first summer internship that I am applying for is that of an
entry level Methods Lab Engineer. In this case, such a job requires a B.S.
degree (or for summer students, Junior-Senior level coursework) in
Industrial Engineering and a strong knowledge of manufacturing machinery
and tools used in a production process. A Methods Lab Engineer
simulates and studies actual production procedures in a controlled
environment (a Methods Lab) so that the layout of the workplace or the
method itself may be improved to facilitate more efficient use of time
and space.
where?
for
the
I love these
purpose
statements!
And a
preview too!
I would have
found it
helpful
to have this
definition
early in the
paragraph.
18 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Job Description:
The second internship that I am applying for is foran industrial
engineer involved in economic analysis of new equipment and machinery.
This type of job does not require a degree in engineering, but, a degree
is helpful in understanding the effects that changes in production
equipment may cause. The basic purpose of such economic analyses
is to decide if new, faster equipment will justify its cost in savings later
on.
Audience Analysis:
The engineers employed by the General Motors corporation are
usually chosen and placed for various jobs according to their degree,
or specialty. As a matter of fact, it is very common within the
organization to have an expert on practically any major area. The
reason for this is because it is common policy to keep engineers
working in the area that they have the highest level of knowledge.
Consequently, GM looks for engineers with a good solid foundation of
knowledge of a particular field on which to further expand and build.
Because I have 2 previous summers' worth of experience at General
Motors, I have a very high degree of familiarity with the audience.
Audience Analysis:
where?
Againthis
would be more
helpful earlier
since it's
background
information.
This phrase
doesn't add
much info.
in which
I'm a
bit
unclear on
the
relationship
between
GM &
Delco.
Say more
about what
you learned
there on
the job
about what
they need.
19 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
The engineers that the Exxon corporation employs usually have
their first assignment in the field of their degree. However, as the
engineer begins to progress further into the employment structure, he
is most commonly working in areas that are often unrelated to
engineering at all. Upon speaking to a recruiter from Exxon, I was
informed that engineers are moved to areas such as marketing, sales,
and advertising without much regard for their engineering degree.
Consequently, Exxon looks for engineers with involvement and versatility
so that they can easily adapt to the different working assignments
that they may be involved with during their term of employment.
Although I interviewed with the Exxon representative about a year ago,
there is little familiarity in our acquaintance.
Rhetorical Analysis:
In tailoring my resumes and cover letters to these two different
job types and companies, I had to make several adjustments. In the
resume prepared for Exxon, the Experience section emphasizes job
titles to illustrate a diverse exposure to several engineering disciplines.
In both the resume and the cover letter, parts of previous work
experience (such as cost justification) that are related to the stated
job objective are
This is a
good piece
of info to
work with!
Good!
While
Are
they all
men?
20 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
emphasized. Details concerning activities and honors are provided
to emphasize interactive skills and versatility, and also to demonstrate
effective leadership potential that is necessary for a managerial
position in cost justification.
In the resume sent to General Motors, the Education
section is broadened to include a listing of relevant coursework that
the company would probably be interested in. Such elaboration is
given to show a certain level of expertise in manufacturing
aspects of engineering. The previous work experience that is most
relevant to my stated job objective is stated first to show this as
well. Also, the Experience section emphasizes the fact that I have
had previous experience with General Motors by highlighting the
company rather than the job title.
The cover letter shows how my previous affiliation with
Delco familiarized me with general company operation, as well as
how my previous work experience gave me Methods Lab exposure.
Because I know the contact person well, the tone in this letter is
more relaxed and personal, as opposed to the more formal tone
used in the letter to the Exxon representative.
Why do you
switch to
passive
here?
(And
below!)
Good
strategy.
Good analysis! The two jobs do seem
to be different enough and you
seem to have a good plan, though
the rhetorical analysis was a bit
sketchy.
I'd like
to hear
more
about
your
choices
here.
Good!
21 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
State College, Pa. 16801
February 10, 1990
Kathryn B. Carrithers
Supervisor of Human Resource Management
Administration B
Delco Electronics
Flint, Michigan 48556
Dear Kathy:
As you know, I worked in department 20-22 last summer. At this point, I am
completing my junior year in Industrial Engineering at Penn State and I am very interested
in returning to Delco Electronics for another summer. After talking with Kai Weaver, I have
learned that a summer position in the Methods Lab of department 20-17 will be available in
May. I believe that my previous experience with Delco provided me with a solid knowledge
of the DE system that would prove to be very helpful with a job in the Delco Division. Also,
I think that my coursework dealing with work process simulation would be an asset to the
20-17 Methods Lab.
My knowledge of the DE system and its operation make me a well suited candidate
for a position in manufacturing process simulation with Delco. During my previous summers
employment in the Industrial Engineering group at Delco, one aspect of my project dealt with
the creation of a packaging process for the 3550 instrument cluster service pack. This
assignment required me to be in contact with a wide range of people in different areas of
Delco and consequently, I met most of the supervisors in the Methods Lab area and became
familiar with the structure of the Delco organization as a whole.
In addition, I acquired technical background in work process simulation during this
past year of school. In a Work Methods Measurement class, I studied and evaluated the
processes involved in the handling and distribution of Penn State campus mail. Several of
the recommendations and suggestions I made concerning improvements are currently being
implemented at this facility to improve the efficiency of the process and to reduce overall
handling time.
I would like to meet with you to talk about the possibility of another summer with
DE. Please refer to my resume for additional information concerning my background
and qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
S. Enrico Mutone This letter is set up well
in a claim-support struc-
ture.
The claims are all about
your qualifications, so be
sure
to explicitly relate them
back
to Delco's needs.
Your tone at the beginning
is
great! See if you can
carry
it throughout the letter.
Draw the
conclusion
so
you'll
be
able
to
start
up
quickly,
etc.
This seems
tentative.
These
sentences
serve
well as
a
preview
to the
rest of
the
letter!
Why not add your
phone number?
Make yourself
easy to contact.
Greatyou
sound like
a real
insider
while
still
setting
up the
con-
text.
These
s
shift
into
a
more
formal
tone. Is
there a
way to
loosen
up
without
sacrificing
detail?
Again
relate
this to
their needs.
22 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE
Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess
379 Toura Drive 255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236 State College, Pa. 16801
(412) 653-5219 (412) 867-1674
JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: Seeking a summer internship as a Industrial Engineer in department 20-
17 with emphasis on instrument cluster manufacturing process simulation.
EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA B.S.
with honors in Industrial Engineering (Expected: Dec. 1991)
Grade Point Average: 3.38/4.00
RELEVANT COURSEWORK
-Operations Research -Tool Design
-Manufacturing Process Engineering -Materials Engineering
-Probability and Statistics -Engineering Economy
-Work Methods Measurement -Engineering Design
EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor sDelco Electronics division Flint, Michigan
Industrial Engineer
Responsible for development of a new layout and process flow for
service packaging facility in the display panel assembly plant.
Initiated a simulation in the methods lab of packaging processes.
Developed improved packaging methods from the simulations.
May-Aug 1989
Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor sAC Spark Plug Division Flint, Michigan
Ceramic Materials Engineer
Evaluated properties of different ceramic powder compositions and
designed a method for testing the impact strength of ceramic spark plug
insulator bodies.
May-Aug 1988
ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES General Motors Scholars Program
AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS -Awarded an annual full tuition scholarship and work internship at a
sponsoring GM division.
Institute of Industrial Engineers
- President (Penn State Chapter)-1990
- Junior Class Representative (Penn State Chapter)-1989
Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity
- Scholarship Chairman-1990
Project WISE (Workplace Integration Skills for Engineers)
- Participated in university sponsored workshops involving a total of 50
hours of training in the following areas: leadership skills, conflict
management strategy, and active listening techniques.-1990
This looks good!
This is too specific
aim
for a
type
of job, not
a
specific open-
ing.
Good choice
of details,
nice parallel
arrangement!
This is a real
clincher for this
job
and you've got it
right up front.
Interesting choice
of order can
you explain your
thinking in your
memo?
Can you break up
this big noun clus-
ter?
23 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
so?
Draw
the
conclusion.
255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
State College, Pa. 16801
February 10, 1990
John H. Hollenbach
Campus Recruiter
Exxon Corporation
Baton Rouge, LA 76512
Dear Mr. Hollenbach:
I am currently a Junior majoring in Industrial Engineering at Penn State.
You may remember that I interviewed with you on campus last February for a
summer internship at the Exxon facility in Houston. I attended the reception that
was recently held by Exxon on February 7 at Penn State and learned of some
opportunities existing within the Engineering departments. I became particularly
interested in the recent automation of the pump valve controls in the Baton Rouge
oil refinery and would like to be considered for a summer position involving cost
justification and analysis of new equipment for this plant.
I believe that my coursework and previous work experience in cost
justification make me a well suited candidate for a position in pump valve control
automation at the Baton Rouge facility. In my previous summer of employment
at General Motors, part of my job responsibility was to determine the feasibility
of purchasing new, automated equipment for the service packaging operation.
This involved gathering accurate data, determining realistic future production
conditions and requirements, and calculating the annual cost of different
alternatives. In addition, I completed and presented an economic analysis of a
manual welding system vs. an automated welding system for an Engineering
Economy class.
The last time we spoke you informed me of Exxons belief in a versatile,
adaptable engineering staff. I believe my possession of these qualities would make
me a valuable asset for Exxon. As president of the Penn State chapter of the
Institute of Industrial Engineers, I have a head start in developing strong leadership
skills and interactive abilities. My involvement with a fraternity and participation
in University sponsored Conflict Management workshops have also enabled me to
develop good personal skills that are necessary for effective interaction in a work
environment.
I am available to meet with you at your convenience to further discuss
any details concerning possible employment with Exxon. Please refer to the
enclosed resume for more information concerning my qualifications. I look
forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
S. Enrico Mutone
This is a
stronger
request
than in the
other letter.
If this is about
your versatility, shouldn't
you say something about
your different engineering
jobs?
This is the best paragraph for
explicitly connecting what
you've got to what they need.
Another good letter!
say why?
In our last conversation,
These would
pack more
punch
if you
changed
these to
active verbs.
Do you want to say
what happened in between
that you spent the summer
working for Delco?
24 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Again
too specific.
S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE
Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess
379 Toura Drive 255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236 State College, Pa. 16801
(412) 653-5219 (412) 867-1674
OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: Seeking a summer internship as a Industrial Engineer with focus on cost
justification and analysis of new manufacturing equipment for the Baton
Rouge oil refinery
EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA B.S.
with honors in Industrial Engineering (Expected: Dec. 1991)
Grade Point Average: 3.32/4.00
EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: Industrial Engineer
General MotorsDelco Electronics division Flint, Michigan
Analyzed the feasibility of purchasing new, more efficient equipment
for the service packaging facility in the display panel assembly plant.
Responsible for developing a new layout and process flow for
this facility.
Initiated a simulation in the methods lab of packaging procedures.
Developed improved packaging methods from the simulations.
May-Aug 1989
Ceramic Materials Engineer
General MotorsAC Spark Plug Division Flint, Michigan
Evaluated properties of different ceramic powder compositions and
designed a method for testing the impact strength of ceramic spark plug
insulator bodies.
May-Aug 1988
ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES General Motors Scholars Program
AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS -Awarded an annual work internship at a sponsoring GM division.
Institute of Industrial Engineers
- President (Penn State Chapter)-1990
- Coordinated seven officers and ran general chapter meetings.
- Junior Class Representative (Penn State Chapter)-1989
- Created and maintained a database listing of active members and
organized a monthly newsletter
Project WISE (Workplace Integration Skills for Engineers)
- Participated in university sponsored workshops involving a total of 50
hours of training in the following areas: leadership skills, conflict
management strategy, and active listening techniques.-1990
Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity
- Scholarship Chairman-1990
- Responsible for the development and implementation of academic
programs. Organized and maintained a test file.
I like the
switch in emphasis
to the job titles.
Nice selection
of details for
this job.
These details really
support your claim
to management
ability and
responsibility.
Here's an-
other
monster noun cluster.
Rico This is a terrific package! You've adapted to the two
situations really well both in the letters and rsums. The
selection and arrangement of details shows attention to
emphasis and parallelism/accessibility. Nice clean mechanics too.
Keep up the good work!
25 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
TO: Davida Charney
FROM: S. Enrico Mutone
DATE: February 4, 1990
SUBJECT: Job Application Package
The purpose of this memo is to familiarize you with the types of
jobs that I am applying for. This memo contains a job description for each
job, an audience analysis that details the differences between
the two companies that I am applying to, and a rhetorical analysis that
explains how I have adapted each resume and cover letter to each
situation.
Job Description:
The first summer internship that I am applying for is that of an
entry level Methods Lab Engineer. In this case, such a job requires a B.S.
degree (or for summer students, Junior-Senior level coursework) in
Industrial Engineering and a strong knowledge of manufacturing machinery
and tools used in a production process. A Methods Lab Engineer
simulates and studies actual production procedures in a controlled
environment (a Methods Lab) so that the layout of the workplace or the
method itself may be improved to facilitate more efficient use of time
and space.
better?
I'm
commenting
on only a
few of your
sentences here. When
we take up sentences later in
our course, you might return
to this assignment for practice
Is
this
paren-
thesis
in the
best
spot?
-
and to explain the
differences in my
applications for them
This is a very satisfactory first
assignment. Your letters & resumes
show that you'll be a very capable and
responsible professional; I'm looking for-
ward to
seeing the rest of your work in our
course.
All of these documents are promising:
you've obviously learned what we
discussed in class; you distinguish
your
letters/resumes well for the circum-
stances;
and the the cover memo orients
me well. Sentences are only
average--but that'll
come,
soon enough.
Clear aim
and
forecast!
26 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Job Description:
The second internship that I am applying for is foran industrial
engineer involved in economic analysis of new equipment and machinery.
This type of job does not require a degree in engineering, but, a degree
is helpful in understanding the effects that changes in production
equipment may cause. The basic purpose of such economic analyses
is to decide if new, faster equipment will justify its cost in savings later
on.
Audience Analysis:
The engineers employed by the General Motors corporation are
usually chosen and placed for various jobs according to their degree,
or specialty. As a matter of fact, it is very common within the
organization to have an expert on practically any major area. The
reason for this is because it is common policy to keep engineers
working in the area that they have the highest level of knowledge.
Consequently, GM looks for engineers with a good solid foundation of
knowledge of a particular field on which to further expand and build.
Because I have 2 previous summers` worth of experience at General
Motors, I have a very high degree of familiarity with the audience.
Audience Analysis:
I know the examples I showed in class indicated
two headings for "Job Description" & "Audience
Analysis." But now I wonder if that's a good idea.
What do you think one or two?
initial
enable managers to
working
OK But is "GM"
your audience, or
specific people or both?
i.e., is this the place to tell me
about "Kathy" and "Mr. Hollenbach"
as well as about GM? (That goes for
your next paragraph, too.)
27 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
The engineers that the Exxon corporation employs usually have
their first assignment in the field of their degree. However, as the
engineer begins to progress further into the employment structure, he
is most commonly working in areas that are often unrelated to
engineering at all. Upon speaking to a recruiter from Exxon, I was
informed that engineers are moved to areas such as marketing, sales,
and advertising without much regard for their engineering degree.
Consequently, Exxon looks for engineers with involvement and versatility
so that they can easily adapt to the different working assignments
that they may be involved with during their term of employment.
Although I interviewed with the Exxon representative about a year ago,
there is little familiarity in our acquaintance.
Rhetorical Analysis:
In tailoring my resumes and cover letters to these two different
job types and companies, I had to make several adjustments. In the
resume prepared for Exxon, the Experience section emphasizes job
titles to illustrate a diverse exposure to several engineering disciplines.
In both the resume and the cover letter, parts of previous work
experience (such as cost justification) that are related to the stated
job objective are emphasized. Details concerning activities and honors
are provided to emphasize interactive skills and versatility, and also to
demonstrate effective leadership potential that is necessary for a
(now from
here on, I'll not
comment on individual
sentences. Look at these
again in 6 weeks!)
or
she
topic
sentences
like these
are
appreciated
28 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
managerial position in cost justification.
In the resume sent to General Motors, the Education
section is broadened to include a listing of relevant coursework that
the company would probably be interested in. Such elaboration is
given to show a certain level of expertise in manufacturing
aspects of engineering. The previous work experience that is most
relevant to my stated job objective is stated first to show this as
well. Also, the Experience section emphasizes the fact that I have
had previous experience with General Motors by highlighting the
company rather than the job title.
The cover letter shows how my previous affiliation with
Delco familiarized me with general company operation, as well as
how my previous work experience gave me Methods Lab exposure.
Because I know the contact person well, the tone in this letter is
more relaxed and personal, as opposed to the more formal tone
used in the letter to the Exxon representative.
255 E. Beaver
Ave. #903
State College,
Pa. 16801
February 10,
1990
OK But
could you develop all
of
this in more
detail?
Specify even
more
differ-
ences?
Well is it REALLY
more personal?
See below.
Note how little
you have to say about differences
in the two letters. Is that a
tip off that there ought to be more
differences between them?
(e.g., differences in tone?)
29 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Kathryn B. Carrithers
Supervisor of Human Resource Management
Administration B
Delco Electronics
Flint, Michigan 48556
Dear Kathy:
As you know, I worked in department 20-22 last summer. At this point, I am
completing my junior year in Industrial Engineering at Penn State and I am very interested
in returning to Delco Electronics for another summer. After talking with Kai Weaver, I have
learned that a summer position in the Methods Lab of department 20-17 will be available in
May. I believe that my previous experience with Delco provided me with a solid knowledge
of the DE system that would prove to be very helpful with a job in the Delco Division. Also,
I think that my coursework dealing with work process simulation would be an asset to the
20-17 Methods Lab.
My knowledge of the DE system and its operation make me a well suited candidate
for a position in manufacturing process simulation with Delco. During my previous summers
employment in the Industrial Engineering group at Delco, one aspect of my project dealt with
the creation of a packaging process for the 3550 instrument cluster service pack. This
assignment required me to be in contact with a wide range of people in different areas of
Delco and consequently, I met most of the supervisors in the Methods Lab area and became
familiar with the structure of the Delco organization as a whole.
In addition, I acquired technical background in work process simulation during this
past year of school. In a Work Methods Measurement class, I studied and evaluated the
processes involved in the handling and distribution of Penn State campus mail. Several of
the recommendations and suggestions I made concerning improvements are currently being
implemented at this facility to improve the efficiency of the process and to reduce overall
handling time.
I would like to meet with you to talk about the possibility of another summer with
DE. Please refer to my resume for additional information concerning my background
and qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
S. Enrico Mutone
S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE
Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess
Can you do anything to
make it convenient to
meet?
To prompt a response?
(Remember the tactics we
discussed in class!)
Gee, is this
enough to establish
a "personal"relationship?
Heck, it seems to me that the
rest of this letter would be the same even
if
you'd never met her. Is that what you
want? (It may be!)
Clear
forecast
some
decent
concrete
-ness
in this
.
Can you
tie
all
this
to
how it
would help your
work at Delco?
This is
a fine
job of
build-
ing
on the re-
sume,
not just
repeating it.
In fact, you
do that
in both
cover let-
ters.
Should you
also
point to or
emphasize
specifics
that
ARE on
the resume?
30 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Rico, this is an
attractive resume. I
limited you to a
one-page format, but
in "real life" you might
want to use 2 pages
(or use a printing
service to fit more onto
a page), in order to
get all relevant
info onto your resume.
(e.g.,you know I
encourage people
to include
references on
their resumes.)
)
379 Toura Drive 255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236 State College, Pa. 16801
(412) 653-5219 (412) 867-1674
JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: JOB OBJECTI VE: Seeking a summer internship as a Industrial Engineer indepartment 20-
17 with emphasis on instrument cluster manufacturing process simulation.
EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA B.S.
with honors in Industrial Engineering (Expected: Dec. 1991)
Grade Point Average: 3.38/4.00
RELEVANT COURSEWORK
-Operations Research -Tool Design
-Manufacturing Process Engineering -Materials Engineering
-Probability and Statistics -Engineering Economy
-Work Methods Measurement -Engineering Design
EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor sDelco Electronics division Flint, Michigan
Industrial Engineer
Responsible for development of a new layout and process flow for
service packaging facility in the display panel assembly plant.
Initiated a simulation in the methods lab of packaging processes.
Developed improved packaging methods from the simulations.
May-Aug 1989
Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor s Gener al Motor sAC Spark Plug Division Flint, Michigan
Ceramic Materials Engineer
Evaluated properties of different ceramic powder compositions and
designed a method for testing the impact strength of ceramic spark plug
insulator bodies.
May-Aug 1988
ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES General Motors Scholars Program
AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS -Awarded an annual full tuition scholarship and work internship at a
sponsoring GM division.
Institute of Industrial Engineers
- President (Penn State Chapter)-1990
- Junior Class Representative (Penn State Chapter)-1989
Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity
- Scholarship Chairman-1990
Project WISE (Workplace Integration Skills for Engineers)
- Participated in university sponsored workshops involving a total of 50
hours of training in the following areas: leadership skills, conflict
management strategy, and active listening techniques.-1990
255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
State College, Pa. 16801
February 10, 1990
John H. Hollenbach
Campus Recruiter
Doing an honors
thesis? If so,
say so here?
a good, specific objective dates?
Later we'll discuss
these "noun + noun +
noun" constructions. Stay tuned!
good
Why this white space?
best spot for this heading?
Place above? Does the date deserve prominence?
placement?
?
Comment a bit
on what you
did?
(
I notice that
you give the same
amount of space to
ed, experience, and
activities. That suggests
they are all equal in
importance is that the
suggestion you want
to make? (It may be!)
-
31 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Exxon Corporation
Baton Rouge, LA 76512
Dear Mr. Hollenbach:
I am currently a Junior majoring in Industrial Engineering at Penn State.
You may remember that I interviewed with you on campus last February for a
summer internship at the Exxon facility in Houston. I attended the reception that
was recently held by Exxon on February 7 at Penn State and learned of some
opportunities existing within the Engineering departments. I became particularly
interested in the recent automation of the pump valve controls in the Baton Rouge
oil refinery and would like to be considered for a summer position involving cost
justification and analysis of new equipment for this plant.
I believe that my coursework and previous work experience in cost
justification make me a well suited candidate for a position in pump valve control
automation at the Baton Rouge facility. In my previous summer of employment
at General Motors, part of my job responsibility was to determine the feasibility
of purchasing new, automated equipment for the service packaging operation.
This involved gathering accurate data, determining realistic future production
conditions and requirements, and calculating the annual cost of different
alternatives. In addition, I completed and presented an economic analysis of a
manual welding system vs. an automated welding system for an Engineering
Economy class.
The last time we spoke you informed me of Exxons belief in a versatile,
adaptable engineering staff. I believe my possession of these qualities would make
me a valuable asset for Exxon. As president of the Penn State chapter of the
Institute of Industrial Engineers, I have a head start in developing strong leadership
skills and interactive abilities. My involvement with a fraternity and participation
in University sponsored Conflict Management workshops have also enabled me to
develop good personal skills that are necessary for effective interaction in a work
environment.
I am available to meet with you at your convenience to further discuss
any details concerning possible employment with Exxon. Please refer to the
enclosed resume for more information concerning my qualifications. I look forward
to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
S. Enrico Mutone
Again a solid job.
Do my comments on
your other letter suggest any
possible revisions to this one?
And note how this letter
focuses on the past; can you look
to
the future a bit? What will you
do
for them?
32 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
I'll let my
comments on your other
resume suggest revisions to
this one. OK?
S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE S. ENRI CO MUTONE
Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess Per manent Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess School Addr ess
379 Toura Drive 255 E. Beaver Ave. #903
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236 State College, Pa. 16801
(412) 653-5219 (412) 867-1674
OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: OBJECTI VE: Seeking a summer internship as a Industrial Engineer with focus on cost
justification and analysis of new manufacturing equipment for the Baton
Rouge oil refinery
EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: EDUCATI ON: The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA B.S.
with honors in Industrial Engineering (Expected: Dec. 1991)
Grade Point Average: 3.32/4.00
EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: EXPERI ENCE: Industrial Engineer
General MotorsDelco Electronics division Flint, Michigan
Analyzed the feasibility of purchasing new, more efficient equipment
for the service packaging facility in the display panel assembly plant.
Responsible for developing a new layout and process flow for
this facility.
Initiated a simulation in the methods lab of packaging procedures.
Developed improved packaging methods from the simulations.
May-Aug 1989
Ceramic Materials Engineer
General MotorsAC Spark Plug Division Flint, Michigan
Evaluated properties of different ceramic powder compositions and
designed a method for testing the impact strength of ceramic spark plug
insulator bodies.
May-Aug 1988
ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES ACTI VI TI ES General Motors Scholars Program
AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS AND HONORS -Awarded an annual work internship at a sponsoring GM division.
Institute of Industrial Engineers
- President (Penn State Chapter)-1990
- Coordinated seven officers and ran general chapter meetings.
- Junior Class Representative (Penn State Chapter)-1989
- Created and maintained a database listing of active members and
organized a monthly newsletter
Project WISE (Workplace Integration Skills for Engineers)
- Participated in university sponsored workshops involving a total of 50
hours of training in the following areas: leadership skills, conflict
management strategy, and active listening techniques.-1990
Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity
- Scholarship Chairman-1990
- Responsible for the development and implementation of academic
programs. Organized and maintained a test file.
the differences here from your other
resume are noted and appreciated.
Thoughtful, & interesting.
33 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Instructions
Description of Assignment
We guide students through the instructions assignment using the
following materials:
Procedural Instructions
Write a set of instructions for performing a task with which you are
very familiar. Write the instructions for readers who have never performed
this task before, but who may have rudimentary knowledge of the topic area.
In order to avoid undertaking a task that is overly complex (or overly simple),
you must obtain my approval for the task by writing a plan describing the task
and the intended audience.
You must choose a task carefully. First, you must choose a task at an
appropriate level of difficulty. Some tasks are too easy to need detailed
instructions and others are so complex that they can only be described with a
full-scale manual. Second, you must choose a task that can be performed
conveniently on campus. A selection of instructions from this class will be
tested on real readers. The restrictions on task selection are spelled out in more
detail below.
Constraints on your choice of task
The task may involve a device: assembling it, operating it, or fixing it.
Or the task may involve some process. You may choose the task from
a hobby, a previous job, or some skill youve acquired in school.
Examples of tasks are included on the next page.
The device or process should have discrete parts that are fairly easy to
name and refer to. Avoid non-componential tasks: tying a tie,
serving a tennis ball, or driving a stick shift.
The task should take NO LESS THAN 10 AND NO MORE THAN 20
MINUTES to perform.
The task should be one that can conveniently be performed on campus.
You should have the necessary materials at hand while you are
writing the instructions; it should be possible to find appropriate
readers to carry out your instructions and carrying out the
instructions should not be time-consuming, dangerous, or expensive.
NOTE: You may choose a task for which a set of instructions is
already available and revise the instructions. In this case, you must
discuss the existing instructions in your plan to convince me that you
are taking on a challenging revision task. Either you must argue that
34 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
the existing instructions are seriously inadequate, or you must plan
to revise the instructions for a significantly different audience (e.g.,
6th graders).
Requirements for the plan
You must submit a plan for my approval that answers the following
questions:
What device or process are your instructions for?
What kind of readers will you write for? What do you assume they
already know about this task? When and why do you expect them to
use these instructions?
Why are instructions necessary for this task?
Are there already instructions for this task? If so, attach a copy of at
least one page. Whats wrong with these instructions? How will
your instructions differ significantly from the existing set?
Requirements for the instructions
Writing Process. In order to create a really good set of instructions, you
may need to gather more information about the task. Carry out the task
yourself as self-consciously as possible. To find more information or to locate
existing instructions to revise, look in the library (you can find entries for
manuals and instructions using LIAS). Talk to other people who know how to
perform the task and ask them to comment on the existing instructions or on
common mistakes that anxious readers always make.
Content and Format. The instructions should follow the general format
for instructions described in your textbook, with modifications as required for
your rhetorical situation. In general, your instructions should begin by clearly
stating what the instructions are for, who should use them and why. There
should be an overview of the procedure. The steps should represent a logical
division of actions. The steps should be clearly expressed (as imperative
actions and results) and clearly laid out. The instructions should help the
reader check that the procedure was completed successfully and direct the
reader to more information, as appropriate.
Completeness, Accuracy, and Clarity. The instructions should contain
sufficient information expressed at the appropriate level of detail and with
appropriate terminology for your reader to carry them out successfully without
additional instruction.
Audience Address. As described above, you must specify what kind of
readers should be using these instructions and what you expect them to know.
35 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
You should address your audience directly (i.e., using second person) and use
a tone appropriate to the rhetorical situation.
Visual design. The instructions should employ visual as well as verbal
communication. You must include at least one illustration or graphic aid, but
you may rely much more heavily than this on figures if they are the most
effective means of expression (note: if you make use of pictures or graphics
from other sources, be sure to acknowledge the source). In addition, your
instructions should use visual cues for increased accessibility, such as
headings, numbering, white space, and typeface.
Explanation of Commentary
One substantial part of our course in technical writing involves instruc-
tion on what might be called the special rhetoric of technical writing: on
matters like graphics, illustrations, page design, parallelism, tactics for making
documents easily accessible to readers, and the like. Our instructions assign-
ment gives students an opportunity to show how well they have mastered this
special rhetoric. Consequently, our comments on this student paper are di-
rected not so much toward general rhetorical strategies and principles as
toward the particular matters that the assignment is designed to test. Both of
us, for instance, address the illustrations and how those illustrations are inte-
grated with the text; both of us comment on a minor problem with partitioning;
and our marginalia and summary comments address page design, accessibility,
and segmenting. In short, our comments here illustrate the need to tie com-
ments to the particular pedagogical goals that an assignment is designed to
accommodate.
Two other notes. First, this student paper also gives us an opportunity
to coach the writing process as well as the final product. We have included
with the instructions the Planning Sheet that the student submitted two
weeks before the project was due. This sheet gives us an opportunity to dis-
cuss how the student is conceiving of the task and how she plans to execute it.
That is, we have an opportunity to intervene during planning and invention,
and to ensure that planning and invention are indeed taking place far in ad-
vance of the due date. (The cover memo for the rsum assignment served a
similar purpose, but took the form of reflection instead of advance planning.)
In addition, we also coach the writing process by suggesting revisions that the
student must execute in order to get credit for the assignment. Not included
here, but also falling under the heading of coaching the writing process,
would be the rough draft that the student submitted with the final draft; it
would come with suggestions from peer readers generated during rough-draft
workshops.
Second, this assignment gives us a chance to illustrate what we try to do
in response to excellent writing. Ren Cunard took on a risky and complex
36 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
task and carried it off quite gracefully. Actually, our commentary should
probably have been more extensive on this paper than it is, on the theory that
teachers should say more to excellent writers (who are ready for fine tuning or
advanced instruction) than they do to mediocre ones (who probably should
concentrate on a few important matters).
37 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Plan for Procedural Instructions
I intend to devise a set of instructions for the process of fractional
distillation, suitable for use in Chemistry 36 laboratory. The instructions
for fractional distillation will include directions for setting up the required
apparatus and generalized directions for carrying out the distillation.
The instructions I write will be for the laboratory student carrying out a
distillation for the first time. All of the required materials are available in
the lab, but for many students it will be the first opportunity they have had
to use the particular glassware necessary. While students are expected to
come to class knowing the theory behind distillation, hands-on application
of this knowledge is often difficult. This is what my directions are intended
to help.
The text used in Chem. 36 contains diagrams of various apparatus used for
distillation. However, it gives no information on assembling the apparatus
piece by piece, the diagrams of the glassware are vague, and there are
several modifications necessary when carrying out the process in Penn State
organic chemistry labs. In class, it has been my experience that even with
the instructor giving the students assistance in assembling their apparatus,
many were left confused by the text information. Much of their laboratory
session was spend puzzling over the apparatus and starting the distillation
and very few actually finished the experiment.
I intend to prepare a set of instructions that could be give to the students
prior to the distillation lab. The instructions will give step-by-step details
on assembling the apparatus, they will identify the necessary components
by name and appearance, and they will explain how to get the distillation
underway with any necessary modifications listed. A student with these
instructions would be able to easily find the glassware they need, assemble
it correctly, and begin distillation of their liquidsand be able to complete
their experiment in the time given. The instructor would also be freed from
the task of identifying pieces of glassware for confused students and would
have time to assist with more technical problems.
Attached are photocopies of the given experiment directions with several
problems noted.
Ren This plan is great. You show
a compelling need for the instructions and
seem to have a good grasp of your
audience and topic. I'll be interested to
see what you come up with
n
38 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Davida Charney Ren B. Cunard
English 202C October 29, 1990
DIRECTIONS FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION
The following directions are for the organic chemistry student desiring to separate
two liquids by the technique of fractional distillation. These instructions are designed
to help you set up the necessary equipment and carry out the distillation in Penn
States organic chemistry laboratory. The instructions will be particularly helpful if you
have never carried out a distillation before, as they provide step-by-step information on
identifying and obtaining the materials you will need, building the apparatus, and
carrying out the distillation to completion. While these instructions provide information
on the physical labor of distillation, it is still necessary that you refer to a laboratory text
to understand the chemical principles behind distillation.
Once you have acquired a mixture of two liquids with unique boiling points that
you want to separate, allow an hour to become familiar with the equipment and to
carry out the fractional distillation. With these instructions, you will be able to quickly
and correctly learn how to carry out a separation procedure that will be of great
value to you in future synthetic experiments.
MATERIALS
All of the materials that are required are available in the laboratory, and you will
perform the distillation beneath the hood at your assigned desk. Gather the
following materials:
From your assigned laboratory cabinet:
(1) Blue Kimble glassware kit (1) Heating mantle, 100 ml
(4) Clamp holders (1) Iron ring, 2
(2) Extension clamps (1) Magnetic spinbar, 1
(1) Graduated Cylinder, 100 ml (1) Thermometer
(1) 5 X 5 Wire Gauze (2) Rubber tubing, 3
(1) Stainless steel helices-curled metal pieces in plastic bag
(1) Distilling column packing-flat metal pieces in plastic bag
(1) Magnetic stirrer - on counter above cabinet
From the common shelf:
(1) Rubber band (2) Ring stands
- Silicone stopcock grease - Glass wool
Reformat?
These don't look
like definitions.
Good intro!
You
identify
purpose,
scope,
set the
prerequisites,
all very
smoothly.
inch?
39 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 2
CONSTRUCTING THE DISTILLATION APPARATUS
1. Preparing the heating mantle.
- Be sure to assemble the apparatus beneath your hood
- Refer to Figure 1
A. Place the magnetic stirrer on the base of a ring stand, and plug into a wall
socket.
B. Attach the heating mantle to a ring stand using a clamp holder, placing the
cup of the mantle in the center of the magnetic stirrer.
C. Plug the heating mantle into the varistat power controller on the outside
wall of the hood. Do not turn on the varistat.
- The apparatus should appear like that in Figure 1.
2. Assembling glassware attached to ring stand #1.
-The glassware for this experiment is located in the blue Kimble glassware kit.
-Refer to Figure 2 to identify the glassware.
A. Remove the 100 ml round bottom flask from the kit.
1) Fill the flask with the distillation mixture, and place the 1" stirring bar in
the flask.
2) Put the flask in the pocket of the mantle.
3) Secure the flask with an extension clamp.
B. Remove the widest column from the kit - this will be the fractionating
column.
1) Fill the column with 2 - 3 inches of helices.
2) Cover the helices with 2 inches of distilling column packing.
3) Place the column in the opening of the flask.
IMPORTANT: All joints should be coated with silicone grease to ensure
airtight seals.
C. Remove the 3-way connecting tube and neoprene fitment from the kit.
1) Attach the connecting tube to the column.
2) Slip the thermometer into the neoprene fitting, and attach to the
connecting tube.
NOTE: The bulb of the thermometer must be below the sidearm of the
connecting tube to accurately measure the temperature of the
gases.
-The apparatus should appear like that in Figure 2.
Passive here is ambiguous are they
already coated or should the student
coat them? If
the second, make
this a step and
repeat it as
necessary.
41 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 4
2. Assembling the glassware attached to ring stand #2.
- Another ring stand is going to be set up beneath the hood,directly beside the
first.
- Refer to Figure 3
A. Remove the thin column from the kit - this will be the condenser, and water will
flow through it.
1) Attach rubber tubing to the side openings of the condenser.
IMPORTANT: Check that the distance between the apparatus and the sink in
the back of the hood can be spanned by the rubber tubing. If not, reposition the
ring stands at this time.
2) Clamp the condenser at its midsection to ring stand #2.
3) CAREFULLY attach the condenser to the 3-way connecting tube, and
secure with a rubber band, as depicted in Figure 3.
B. Remove a connecting vacuum tube from the kit and attach it to the open end of
the condenser.
C. Clamp a 2" iron ring to ring stand #2.
1) Cover with wire gauze.
2) Position a graduated cylinder beneath the opening of the connecting
vacuum tube.
D. Attach the rubber tube marked water in in Figure 3 to the faucet of the sink in
the hood.
1) Allow the rubber tube marked water out to dangle in the sink, open ended.
2) GENTLY turn on the water, until there is a steady flow through the condenser.
WARNING: The flow of water through the condenser must be as slow as
possible, to allow the gases to pass through.
THE APPARATUS IS PREPARED FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION.
Format
glitch.
Do you
mean 3?
Another
awkward
passive.
that
This step isn't at
the same level as the
other ones with letters.
Note that it's at the
same level of specificity
as #1 below it. Demote
it and add a more general
one there.
42 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Pretty!
43 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 6
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION
1. Record the boiling points of the liquids to be separated, if their identities are
known.
- Boiling point information is available in the Merck Chemical Catalog, located on
the side shelf.
- Experimental temperatures will identify the separating liquids if they are
unknowns.
2. Heat the liquid.
A. Turn on the magnetic stirrer.
-Move the dial on the stirrer until the spinbar rotates.
B. Turn on the varistat, located on the outside wall of the hood.
-A setting of 50 on the varistat dial is appropriate for most liquids.
3. Watch for a ring of condensation moving up the distillation column.
WARNING: Fractional distillation is necessarily a slow process. The ring of
condensation should move up the distillation column over a period of several
minutes. IF NOT, lower the setting of the varistat so that the process slows down.
NOTE: If the condensation ring wont move up the distillation column, wrap the
column in glass wool. This will insulate the column, allowing the gas to move
higher.
4. Collect the distillate.
- When the gases have reached the condenser tube, drops of distillate will
collect in the graduated cylinder.
IMPORTANT: Have another piece of glassware suitable for collecting distillate
(another graduated cylinder, for example) cleaned and prepared at this time.
A. Record the thermometer reading, which will be approximately the boiling point
of the collected liquid.
B. WATCH for a change in temperature.
1) Exchange the graduated cylinder for another collection vessel as the
temperature begins to rise.
IMPORTANT: Do not mix the distillate collected at low and high boiling points,
because this will defeat the purpose of separation by distillation.
2) Record the thermometer reading when it reaches its high point - this is the
boiling point of the high boiling chemical.
WARNING: Do not distill till the flask is dry!!
DISTILLATION IS COMPLETE
I'm glad to
see some
trouble
shooting here
but the
connection
here
isn't clear.
You've really
got two
possibilities
too fast or
too slow. Set
them up to
clarify the
two situations
Should this
step come
earlier?
Again is this
coming too
late?
44 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 7
-The varistat can now be switched off, and the apparatus allowed
to cool.
-Turn off the magnetic stirrer.
-Turn off the running water.
-Disassemble the apparatus carefully, when it is cool.
-Return any glass wool to the side shelf.
If you have successfully followed these directions, you should now have two
separate liquids with measurable volumes and boiling points. Hopefully, these
directions have saved you valuable time and prevented any confusion. You are
now ready to continue with your experiment.
Clean it?
Put it away?
Ren You took on a very ambitious
task here and carried it off very
skillfully! The segmentation into
steps was generally very clean, the
layout used parallelism, strong
imperatives (usually), and page design
to make this very accessible. I hope
you're planning to give a copy of these
to your Chem 36 instructor.
45 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
46 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Plan for Procedural Instructions
I intend to devise a set of instructions for the process of fractional
distillation, suitable for use in Chemistry 36 laboratory. The instructions
for fractional distillation will include directions for setting up the required
apparatus and generalized directions for carrying out the distillation.
The instructions I write will be for the laboratory student carrying out a
distillation for the first time. All of the required materials are available in
the lab, but for many students it will be the first opportunity they have had
to use the particular glassware necessary. While students are expected to
come to class knowing the theory behind distillation, hands-on application
of this knowledge is often difficult. This is what my directions are intended
to help.
The text used in Chem. 36 contains diagrams of various apparatus used for
distillation. However, it gives no information on assembling the apparatus
piece by piece, the diagrams of the glassware are vague, and there are
several modifications necessary when carrying out the process in Penn State
organic chemistry labs. In class, it has been my experience that even with
the instructor giving the students assistance in assembling their apparatus,
many were left confused by the text information. Much of their laboratory
session was spend puzzling over the apparatus and starting the distillation
and very few actually finished the experiment.
I intend to prepare a set of instructions that could be give to the students
prior to the distillation lab. The instructions will give step-by-step details on
assembling the apparatus, they will identify the necessary components by
name and appearance, and they will explain how to get the distillation
underway with any necessary modifications listed. A student with these
instructions would be able to easily find the glassware they need, assemble
it correctly, and begin distillation of their liquidsand be able to complete
their experiment in the time given. The instructor would also be freed from
the task of identifying pieces of glassware for confused students and would
have time to assist with more technical problems.
Attached are photocopies of the given experiment directions with several
problems noted.
hmmm...
why "generalized"?
This looks good
go to it! A very
appropriate task. Your
finished document will be
appreciated by lots of people!
Good
clear
need
for
your
work
why? Can you explain? Find out your reader's needs!
47 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
??
??
A helpful detail. (Should you also
include estimated time for
substeps below?)
Davida Charney Ren B. Cunard
English 202C October 29, 1990
DIRECTIONS FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION
The following directions are for the organic chemistry student desiring to separate
two liquids by the technique of fractional distillation. These instructions are designed
to help you set up the necessary equipment and carry out the distillation in Penn
States organic chemistry laboratory. The instructions will be particularly helpful if you
have never carried out a distillation before, as they provide step-by-step information on
identifying and obtaining the materials you will need, building the apparatus, and
carrying out the distillation to completion. While these instructions provide information
on the physical labor of distillation, it is still necessary that you refer to a laboratory text
to understand the chemical principles behind distillation.
Once you have acquired a mixture of two liquids with unique boiling points that
you want to separate, allow an hour to become familiar with the equipment and to
carry out the fractional distillation. With these instructions, you will be able to quickly
and correctly learn how to carry out a separation procedure that will be of great
value to you in future synthetic experiments.
MATERIALS
All of the materials that are required are available in the laboratory, and you will
perform the distillation beneath the hood at your assigned desk. Gather the
following materials:
From your assigned laboratory cabinet:
(1) Blue Kimble glassware kit (1) Heating mantle, 100 ml
(4) Clamp holders (1) Iron ring, 2
(2) Extension clamps (1) Magnetic spinbar, 1
(1) Graduated Cylinder, 100 ml (1) Thermometer
(1) 5 X 5 Wire Gauze (2) Rubber tubing, 3
(1) Stainless steel helices-curled metal pieces in plastic bag
(1) Distilling column packing-flat metal pieces in plastic bag
(1) Magnetic stirrer - on counter above cabinet
From the common shelf:
(1) Rubber band (2) Ring stands
- Silicone stopcock grease - Glass wool
Why the header?
Why all
caps?
OK. But do you want to say more here
about F.D.? (Do students need any background/orientation?)
clear
forecast
yourself
should this
be sentence #2?
why all caps?
I'd spell out
What if
something isn't
there? (Or is that
impossible?) Anticipate
trouble?
How should dashes be typed? Beware of
looking like a hyphen, eh?
Will the reader wonder "how much"?
48 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 2
CONSTRUCTING THE DISTILLATION APPARATUS
1. Preparing the heating mantle.
- Be sure to assemble the apparatus beneath your hood
- Refer to Figure 1
A. Place the magnetic stirrer on the base of a ring stand, and plug into a wall
socket.
B. Attach the heating mantle to a ring stand using a clamp holder, placing the
cup of the mantle in the center of the magnetic stirrer.
C. Plug the heating mantle into the varistat power controller on the outside
wall of the hood. Do not turn on the varistat.
- The apparatus should appear like that in Figure 1.
2. Assembling glassware attached to ring stand #1.
-The glassware for this experiment is located in the blue Kimble glassware kit.
-Refer to Figure 2 to identify the glassware.
A. Remove the 100 ml round bottom flask from the kit.
1) Fill the flask with the distillation mixture, and place the 1" stirring bar in
the flask.
2) Put the flask in the pocket of the mantle.
3) Secure the flask with an extension clamp.
B. Remove the widest column from the kit - this will be the fractionating
column.
1) Fill the column with 2 - 3 inches of helices.
2) Cover the helices with 2 inches of distilling column packing.
3) Place the column in the opening of the flask.
IMPORTANT: All joints should be coated with silicone grease to ensure
airtight seals.
C. Remove the 3-way connecting tube and neoprene fitment from the kit.
1) Attach the connecting tube to the column.
2) Slip the thermometer into the neoprene fitting, and attach to the
connecting tube.
NOTE: The bulb of the thermometer must be below the sidearm of the
connecting tube to accurately measure the temperature of the
gases.
-The apparatus should appear like that in Figure 2.
Would a brief intro/overview be useful? Remember, segments
often
have beginnings,
middles, & ends too!
enough "introduction"?
A. Set up the 100 ml round bottom flask
1. Remove the flask from the kit.
2
3
4
uh
oh...
faulty
partitioning.
See?
Ditto
here?
consistent
layout?
best place for
this info?
Ren, are you doing
enough
to anticipate
trouble?
What can go
wrong? What if
something
does go
wrong?
49 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Wouldn't a title &
caption make this
more self-
sufficient?
Groupings
of parts &
subparts?
Here
too.
Otherwise, your
figures seem
detailed,
complete,
useful, &
well integrated
with the text.
power
cord?
50 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
:
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 4
2. Assembling the glassware attached to ring stand #2.
- Another ring stand is going to be set up beneath the hood,directly beside the
first.
- Refer to Figure 3
A. Remove the thin column from the kit - this will be the condenser, and water will
flow through it.
1) Attach rubber tubing to the side openings of the condenser.
IMPORTANT: Check that the distance between the apparatus and the sink in
the back of the hood can be spanned by the rubber tubing. If not, reposition the
ring stands at this time.
2) Clamp the condenser at its midsection to ring stand #2.
3) CAREFULLY attach the condenser to the 3-way connecting tube, and
secure with a rubber band, as depicted in Figure 3.
B. Remove a connecting vacuum tube from the kit and attach it to the open end of
the condenser.
C. Clamp a 2" iron ring to ring stand #2.
1) Cover with wire gauze.
2) Position a graduated cylinder beneath the opening of the connecting
vacuum tube.
D. Attach the rubber tube marked water in in Figure 3 to the faucet of the sink in
the hood.
1) Allow the rubber tube marked water out to dangle in the sink, open ended.
2) GENTLY turn on the water, until there is a steady flow through the condenser.
WARNING: The flow of water through the condenser must be as slow as
possible, to allow the gases to pass through.
THE APPARATUS IS PREPARED FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION.
Enough
introduction &
background?
3.
?
Whoops!
Layout...
This page
requires clarification
of partitioning, too, like
page 2. "A" and "B" (etc.)
are the "big steps"; 1, 2, 3, (etc.)
add up to A, B, etc. Eh?
good. See,
you have a
"Conclusion" to
this segment;
might you thus
also have an
intro?
Explain? Are you
doing enough to
anticipate
trouble?
And to "correct"
it?
Clarify in more
detail?
51 Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
I'd just repeat what I
said about your
Figs 1 & 2:
1 attractive
2 Heads are confusing organize & group
to reveal partitioning?
3 Add title & caption to
make self-sufficient?
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 6
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR FRACTIONAL DISTILLATION
1. Record the boiling points of the liquids to be separated, if their identities are
known.
- Boiling point information is available in the Merck Chemical Catalog, located on
the side shelf.
- Experimental temperatures will identify the separating liquids if they are
unknowns.
2. Heat the liquid.
A. Turn on the magnetic stirrer.
-Move the dial on the stirrer until the spinbar rotates.
B. Turn on the varistat, located on the outside wall of the hood.
-A setting of 50 on the varistat dial is appropriate for most liquids.
3. Watch for a ring of condensation moving up the distillation column.
WARNING: Fractional distillation is necessarily a slow process. The ring of
condensation should move up the distillation column over a period of several
minutes. IF NOT, lower the setting of the varistat so that the process slows down.
NOTE: If the condensation ring wont move up the distillation column, wrap the
column in glass wool. This will insulate the column, allowing the gas to move
higher.
4. Collect the distillate.
- When the gases have reached the condenser tube, drops of distillate will
collect in the graduated cylinder.
IMPORTANT: Have another piece of glassware suitable for collecting distillate
(another graduated cylinder, for example) cleaned and prepared at this time.
A. Record the thermometer reading, which will be approximately the boiling point
of the collected liquid.
B. WATCH for a change in temperature.
1) Exchange the graduated cylinder for another collection vessel as the
temperature begins to rise.
IMPORTANT: Do not mix the distillate collected at low and high boiling points,
because this will defeat the purpose of separation by distillation.
2) Record the thermometer reading when it reaches its high point - this is the
boiling point of the high boiling chemical.
WARNING: Do not distill till the flask is dry!!
DISTILLATION IS COMPLETE
Now: Can you revise this page
based on my comments on your other
pages? (What do you think
I'd advise, if I had more time?)
Ren B. Cunard PAGE 7
-The varistat can now be switched off, and the apparatus allowed
to cool.
-Turn off the magnetic stirrer.
-Turn off the running water.
-Disassemble the apparatus carefully, when it is cool.
-Return any glass wool to the side shelf.
If you have successfully followed these directions, you should now have two
separate liquids with measurable volumes and boiling points. Hopefully, these
directions have saved you valuable time and prevented any confusion. You are
now ready to continue with your experiment.
Good work, Ren! After some
revision, I think this will make a useful
document for Chem 36 students: they'll be
thanking you for the rest of the century! It's clear
careful & detailed; its figures are complete; and the
advice is generally patient and audience-oriented.
When you do revise, could you consider
especially the items I've commented on: clear
beginning/middle/end in segments; clear
partitioning (see me for explanation? Reread
chapter 11 and esp. 12, pp 231-35 of your textbook);
anticipate things going wrong?
I'm looking forward to seeing the finished
product in your portfolio!
54 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
What do you
think I'd suggest
for this figure, based
on my other
comments?
55
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Proposal
Description of Assignment
For the proposal assignment, we give students the following materials
to guide their writing process:
Proposal for Formal Report
Write me a letter seeking my approval for the topic for your formal
report. The requirements for the formal report are explained in the assignment
sheet for that project. When writing the proposal, think of me as someone who
wants to be sure that you choose a project from which you can learn a great
deal and on which you can do a good job. While I am willing to consider a
wide range of topics, you must convince me that you have chosen a worth-
while topic that you are capable of handling well. In reading your letter, I will
be looking for answers to the following questions:
What problem will your report address? Have you clearly defined a
conflict between a desired situation and the current situation?
Whose problem is it? Who will read the report? What is your position
relative to your readers? Remember that you must define a complex audience.
You may describe a real situation or devise a hypothetical one.
Why is this problem significant for these readers? Whats at stake?
Do you have a handle on a solution to the problem? Have you ana-
lyzed what a good solution would require? Do you know about alternative
plausible solutions?
How is the topic related to your major? Your career plans? What
makes you qualified to carry out the project? I will give preference to projects
that give you practice writing a kind of document that you may have to pre-
pare on the job.
What will it take to gather the necessary information and complete
your analyses? Can you complete your report in the time left in this term,
using resources readily available to you?
Do you have a work plan for your project, a plan that shows specifically
when certain activities must be completed this semester if you are to finish the
project on time?
The format for your letter should be that of a formal business letter.
Select your information and organize it in such a way that it is persuasive and
accessible. Include:
56 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
an introduction which tells me why you are writing and what the
memo is about.
a section on the problem, including an explicit well-developed
problem statement. Convince me your audience is facing a tough and
important problem.
a section describing your plans for researching the problem and
developing a solution. Convince me that you know what kind of
information youll need and where to find it. Include an analysis of
your readers and what information theyll need in order to buy your
solution.
a discussion of your credentials. Convince me that you have the
background and resources necessary to conduct your research.
a schedule. Convince me that you know what activities your research
will require and that you can get them done on time.
a conclusion which formally requests permission to proceed.
Explanation of Commentary
Our proposal assignment requires students to write letters to us to
obtain our permission to do a specific task for a long project due later in the
course. It comes about six weeks into our fifteen-week semester, at a time
when, finished with our discussions of planning and invention, we turn to
arrangementconsiderations of overall order, of the arrangement of subparts
and paragraphs, and of revealing order to readers. Like all our assignments,
the proposal assignment also focuses on argumentation within a specific genre.
As a result, this assignment puts us into two distinct roles as respon-
dents. On the one hand, the assignment is written to us, to meet our own
specific needs as readers (as defined in the assignment sheet), so at some points
we respond as readers, with the voice of real readers. On the other hand, we
respond here as teachers as wellas trusted advisors, as coachesin the
process of giving advice about writing and about how a specific document
might be improved.
Each voice is apparent in the marginalia and the summary comments.
When we ask questions about the proposed projectfor instance, both of us
have worries about the Approach to the Report section; and both of us
address the project itself in our summary commentswe are responding as
readers. When we ask more general questions about segments or sentences or
proposal writing, or when we make suggestions or react to particular sections
or sentences, we are commenting as coaches.
Our commentary on this proposal was complicated by the fact that the
student, Mourad Slaoui, is Tunisiana non-native speaker and writer of
English. Hence we illustrate in our comments a couple of ways of working
with a student who has expression problems characteristic of international
57
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
students. Charney provides direct instruction at the sentence levelmaking a
few corrections, or making general observations with directives attached (e.g.,
this sentence has too much going on; break it up). Selzer assumes that the
student is working with a tutor at the Penn State Writing Centerwhere
students can get regular, individual tutoring with an experienced writing
instructorand writes comments designed to encourage productive coopera-
tion with a tutor. We both try to build on strengths rather than simply reacting
to problems. And we try to keep a perspective about error, in the conviction
that success at the sentence level is only one feature of effective technical prose.
For us, the advantage of linking the proposal to the final report is that it
provides an occasion to discuss the historical function of technical documents
and the evolution of one text into another. For example, in telling students how
to define a significant problem that motivates a research project, we anticipate
our discussion of the introduction section of the final report, which reminds the
reader of the purpose of the investigation. The proposal becomes part of the
historical context for the final report, as well as providing some reusable con-
tent. In this respect, the proposal also represents an initial planning process for
the final report; we therefore prompt students to reflect on their audience and
its needs.
58 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Mourad Slaoui
472 East College Ave.
Apt. # C5
State College, Pa.16801
March 9, 1990
Ms. Davida Charney
31 South Burrowes Bldg.
University Park, Pa. 16802
Dear Ms. Charney:
One of the oldest dishes in North Africa, and may be in the whole World, is
Cous-cous. This dish, about 3000 years old, was first introduced by the Berbers
which were the first inhabitants of North Africa. Over the years, Cous-cous became
one of the most original treats in Tunisia as well as other North African countries.
In fact, Cous-cous is now the traditional dish for all Tunisians and the first priority
attraction for any visitor.
Being familiar with the complicated process for cooking Cous-cous, I decided
to put my knowledge, as an electrical engineer, in practice by designing an
electronic timer that will be of a great help to all Tunisian Chefs in preparing this
famous dish.
In this letter, I will acquaint you with the problem which I encountered in the
kitchen of my fathers restaurant called LA MAMA, located in Tunis, and best
known for its Cous-cous. I will give you my approach to the report and a
description of my audience as well as a schedule for achieving the feasibility
report.
PROBLEM AND SIGNIFICANCE
The major step in cooking cous-cous is the steaming of very hard grains made
out of wheat and called Cous-cous (that is where the dish gets the name from).
This step relay only on the experience of the Chef. The steaming process has
always been the major problem that cooks face in LA MAMA restaurant which is
expected to serve the finest Cous-cous in the city.
The problem in steaming is simply time. Different grain sizes must have
different steaming times that allow the grains to completely absorb the sauce
added in the last step. In fact, when Cous-cous is slightly over-steamed, it gets
mushy with the sauce. But, if we do not reach the desired steaming level, we
would have only hard grains in a sauce that would look like a soup. Both cases
are the nightmare of the Chef, the fear of the manager, and of course the
dissatisfaction of the customer.
LA MAMA restaurant tried to solve this problem first by completely depending
on the experience of its Chefs but then realized that not all Chefs have necessarily
enough experience to get the precise steaming time and consequently, human
error was a real disaster. Since then, the restaurant managing team decided to
Since this isn't
a proper
name,
use lower
case
throughout.
Good
preview!
finishing
who You
motivate
the proposal
with good
background
info.
depends
The focus
shifts from
grains to "we."
Choose one
construction
and stick with
it.
It's odd to say a restaurant can
try and realize. Get a human
agent in here.
This part is too important to be
tacked on here. Develop this point
in one or two sentences.
59
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
equip the kitchen with manual timers. However, two major problems are
associated with such timers. The first one is again human error; if the cook simply
forgets to set the timer On right before steaming, he would end up with an
undesired Cous-cous. The second problem deals with fact that manual timers are
impractical in many cases. A large number of timers is needed because different
grains have different times and then no one seems to find them when they need
them. Cooks are always looking for the timers, which are thrown all over the
kitchen especially during busy days.
The electronic timer that I wish to design, would put and end to any kind of
timing problems in the steaming process. It would also eliminate the factor of
human dependency and thus exclude human error from the process. This timer
would be installed with the steamer and by simply pushing one button to select the
desired precise time relative to the size of the grain, the steamer would be
automatically tuned On and once the time is up the steamer will automatically
shut Off.
APPROACH TO THE REPORT
My report will be designated to the owner of LA MAMA restaurant, Mr. Ridha
Slaoui, and the manager, Mr. Sami Makni. Having in mind that both of these
people are mostly interested in the results, the cost, and the access as well as
simplicity in the manipulation of the electronic timer, I will orient my report in a way
that would focus on the problem that the restaurant faces on a daily basis, the
money wasted on thrown Cous-cous, and the radical change that the new timer will
give to any cook to steam the grains just right without depending on his
experience.
I will start the report by testing the precise times needed for the four different
types of grain sizes (extra thin, thin, medium, and thick). These times would be the
main external information that the timer needs and the controlling elements for the
accuracy of the device. Since my audience is not very technical, I will cover the
design details in a simple manner. I will start the cost analysis by investigating the
cost of designing the timer and the cost of its implementation in the kitchen. By
knowing the cost of wasted Cous-cous, I will be able to estimate the financial
benefit that the restaurant would get from the timer on a short-run as well as a long-
run. The applicability of the device will be another main criteria in the report. I will
show how easy it is to install the timer and how simple it is to operate it.
QUALIFICATIONS
Being a graduating student majoring in Electrical Engineering, I have had the
chance to take several electronic circuit design courses. I spent a considerable
amount of credit-hours in electronic hardware laboratories designing similar timers
and clocks. In fact, in one of my courses and as a final project, I had to design a
security system for a bank which used timers composed of the same electronic
components that I will need for this design. From here, I feel well qualified and
prepared to design the steaming timer.
Don't forget that
your familiarity with
the restaurant is also
an asset.
Good
analysis
of the
situation
This
sentence
has too much
going on
divide it up.
sp
directed at
away
access
to what?
You seem to
be confusing
the research
project with
the
organization
of the report.
You really
need
separate
sections on
each topic
what will
you do and
how will
you report
on it?
Very
convincing!
number
For these reasons,
60 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Good
recap
of the
problem!
SCHEDULE
Time wise, I will spread my project on a well balanced intervals of time which
will be the following:
-March 9-23: Test different type of grains for their different steaming times.
-March 23-30: Cost analysis of the device.
-April 2-16: Design of the timer.
-April 17-27: Write report, Revision.
CONCLUSION
Cous-cous is a very popular dish that is offered in North Africa. It has been, for
a long period of time, the typical dish for North Africans and the main attraction for
their visitors. This dish is very complex in when it cames to the preparation. The
most critical stage is the steaming of wheat grains. LA MAMA restaurant has to
deal with this problem daily and in order to face the competition, the restaurant has
to provide its best and finest specialty, Cous-cous, to its customers. In order to
overcome the problem of steaming, I feel that my electronic timer would be of a
great benefit to the restaurant for a better quality of the dish, an easier method for
all cooks, and a significant cut down on undesired expenditures.
Sincerely yours,
Mourad Slaoui.
Mourad This looks like an interesting
and "do-able" project, one that you are
both well qualified and highly motivated to do. As
a proposal, this paper does touch all the bases.
The weakest section at this point is the schedule
remember that it is an important part of your
argument that you can solve the problem. Another
section to work on is the "approach" you need to
sort out your investigation of a new timing system
from your plan for presenting your report. Finally,
we will need to work on some stylistic and usage
matters. Overall, you've done a good job presenting
the problem and outlining a possible solution.
as follows:
-
over
Why are
balanced intervals
beneficial?
s
Will you
really need
two weeks
for this?
Not quite
the issue is
the quality
of preparation.
Don't forget to
ask for permission
to do the project
reduction of
Try to
state these
in parallel
form.
61
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Mourad Slaoui
472 East College Ave.
Apt. # C5
State College, Pa.16801
March 9, 1990
Ms. Davida Charney
31 South Burrowes Bldg.
University Park, Pa. 16802
Dear Ms. Charney:
One of the oldest dishes in North Africa, and may be in the whole World, is
Cous-cous. This dish, about 3000 years old, was first introduced by the Berbers
which were the first inhabitants of North Africa. Over the years, Cous-cous became
one of the most original treats in Tunisia as well as other North African countries.
In fact, Cous-cous is now the traditional dish for all Tunisians and the first priority
attraction for any visitor.
Being familiar with the complicated process for cooking Cous-cous, I decided
to put my knowledge, as an electrical engineer, in practice by designing an
electronic timer that will be of a great help to all Tunisian Chefs in preparing this
famous dish.
In this letter, I will acquaint you with the problem which I encountered in the
kitchen of my fathers restaurant called LA MAMA, located in Tunis, and best
known for its Cous-cous. I will give you my approach to the report and a
description of my audience as well as a schedule for achieving the feasibility
report.
PROBLEM AND SIGNIFICANCE
The major step in cooking cous-cous is the steaming of very hard grains made
out of wheat and called Cous-cous (that is where the dish gets the name from).
This step relay only on the experience of the Chef. The steaming process has
always been the major problem that cooks face in LA MAMA restaurant which is
expected to serve the finest Cous-cous in the city.
The problem in steaming is simply time. Different grain sizes must have
different steaming times that allow the grains to completely absorb the sauce
added in the last step. In fact, when Cous-cous is slightly over-steamed, it gets
mushy with the sauce. But, if we do not reach the desired steaming level, we
would have only hard grains in a sauce that would look like a soup. Both cases
are the nightmare of the Chef, the fear of the manager, and of course the
dissatisfaction of the customer.
LA MAMA restaurant tried to solve this problem first by completely depending
on the experience of its Chefs but then realized that not all Chefs have necessarily
enough experience to get the precise steaming time and consequently, human
error was a real disaster. Since then, the restaurant managing team decided to
well, is it capitalized or not?
This is an
excellent
sentence.
See
why?
Your sentences show
real progress. Good!
But they
aren't
"there" yet.
Can you go
over this
with your
tutor,
sentence
by sentence?
I'm impressed
that you
did just
what we
discussed
this week
organize
segments
into
"beginnings,
middles,
and ends"
Does the next
section do
the same
thing as
well?
Bravo!
This does
a good
job of
"introducing"
(i.e., of
introducing
you & your
subject
& stating
your aim.
Much
better
than your
previous
assignment!
62 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
equip the kitchen with manual timers. However, two major problems are
associated with such timers. The first one is again human error; if the cook simply
forgets to set the timer On right before steaming, he would end up with an
undesired Cous-cous. The second problem deals with fact that manual timers are
impractical in many cases. A large number of timers is needed because different
grains have different times and then no one seems to find them when they need
them. Cooks are always looking for the timers, which are thrown all over the
kitchen especially during busy days.
The electronic timer that I wish to design, would put and end to any kind of
timing problems in the steaming process. It would also eliminate the factor of
human dependency and thus exclude human error from the process. This timer
would be installed with the steamer and by simply pushing one button to select the
desired precise time relative to the size of the grain, the steamer would be
automatically tuned On and once the time is up the steamer will automatically
shut Off.
APPROACH TO THE REPORT
My report will be designated to the owner of LA MAMA restaurant, Mr. Ridha
Slaoui, and the manager, Mr. Sami Makni. Having in mind that both of these
people are mostly interested in the results, the cost, and the access as well as
simplicity in the manipulation of the electronic timer, I will orient my report in a way
that would focus on the problem that the restaurant faces on a daily basis, the
money wasted on thrown Cous-cous, and the radical change that the new timer will
give to any cook to steam the grains just right without depending on his
experience.
I will start the report by testing the precise times needed for the four different
types of grain sizes (extra thin, thin, medium, and thick). These times would be the
main external information that the timer needs and the controlling elements for the
accuracy of the device. Since my audience is not very technical, I will cover the
design details in a simple manner. I will start the cost analysis by investigating the
cost of designing the timer and the cost of its implementation in the kitchen. By
knowing the cost of wasted Cous-cous, I will be able to estimate the financial
benefit that the restaurant would get from the timer on a short-run as well as a long-
run. The applicability of the device will be another main criteria in the report. I will
show how easy it is to install the timer and how simple it is to operate it.
QUALIFICATIONS
Being a graduating student majoring in Electrical Engineering, I have had the
chance to take several electronic circuit design courses. I spent a considerable
amount of credit-hours in electronic hardware laboratories designing similar timers
and clocks. In fact, in one of my courses and as a final project, I had to design a
security system for a bank which used timers composed of the same electronic
components that I will need for this design. From here, I feel well qualified and
prepared to design the steaming timer.
Fine: quite
persuasive
These
specific
considerations
seem quite
appropriate
to your
reader's
circumstances.
But is
your report a
recommendation
report
or a "how
to" manual
(or both)?
Let's
discuss
these
questions
privately, OK?
A clear & specific
technical problem.
Good, I see.
But what's your
reader's
specific
problem?
Remember
problems
are
problems
for
someone!
OK. But don't forget the communication part of the solution!
What will you write? What will it enable your reader to do?
Be explicit.
63
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
I'm very happy with the progress you're making in this course,
Mourad. You seem to be picking up what we discuss in class,
and
you show steady progress at the sentence level. Of course,
you
still have a way to go, so keep meeting regularly with your
tutor Sandy & working through that book I gave you.
This proposal persuades me you're in good shape for
your
final project. A good topic. I've noted a few places to
improve, however. And let's do discuss the question I raised
on page two.
SCHEDULE
Time wise, I will spread my project on a well balanced intervals of time which
will be the following:
-March 9-23: Test different type of grains for their different steaming times.
-March 23-30: Cost analysis of the device.
-April 2-16: Design of the timer.
-April 17-27: Write report, Revision.
CONCLUSION
Cous-cous is a very popular dish that is offered in North Africa. It has been, for
a long period of time, the typical dish for North Africans and the main attraction for
their visitors. This dish is very complex in when it cames to the preparation. The
most critical stage is the steaming of wheat grains. LA MAMA restaurant has to
deal with this problem daily and in order to face the competition, the restaurant has
to provide its best and finest specialty, Cous-cous, to its customers. In order to
overcome the problem of steaming, I feel that my electronic timer would be of a
great benefit to the restaurant for a better quality of the dish, an easier method for
all cooks, and a significant cut down on undesired expenditures.
Sincerely yours,
Mourad Slaoui.
Can you "conclude"
by doing more than
summarizing? Address your
reader directly (me), &
your reader's needs.
64 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
We guide students through their writing of the analytical report assign-
ment using the following materials:
Formal Report
Write the formal report that you described in your proposal memo.
The report must define a problem, analyze the criteria for a satisfactory solu-
tion, propose one or more alternative solutions, and argue for the solution that
satisfies the criteria best. The problem may involve a scientific, technical, or
public policy issue that you are working on in your other courses, or it may be
a new area that you are interested in. The solution to the problem may involve
coming up with an original design or choosing between available alternatives.
The Rhetorical Situation
For the purposes of this report, you should find or invent a situation in
which you are writing the report to a primary reader who has commissioned
it and who has the authority to approve or reject your solution. So the pri-
mary goal of your report is to convince this reader to adopt your solution. The
report may also have secondary audiences as well: for example, serving as a
plan for the technical staff who will implement the solution and as a historical
record of the decision-making process for future readers.
The problem situation may be real or imaginary. A real situation is one
that you have actually encountered; it might involve a former employer, the
university, your major department, a service group to which you belong, your
home town, or State College. An imaginary situation is one that you create to
simulate the kinds of situations in which you might find yourself on the job. In
either case, you should assume that some employer or sponsor has authorized
you to use your specialized training to analyze some problem or question and
recommend a solution.
In the past, students have prepared reports with titles such as these:
Fused Fiber Couplers: A New Method of Production to Improve
Quality and Reduce Cost.
Crystal Hemolysis Assay: A Rapid, Accurate and Inexpensive
Alternative for Determining the Toxicity of a Bacterial Pesticide
Improving the Efficiency of the Telephone System in the Office
Administration Department: A Recommendation Report
Should Penn State Build an Aquarium?
65
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Computer Simulations of DNA: New Frontiers in Pharmaceutical
Design
The Feasibility of Automating a USMC Administrative Office to
Decrease Paperwork Time
An Importance-Performance Analysis of the University Health
Services Womens Health Department
Recommendation for an Automated Recycling System for Centre
County
Weighted Contours: An Aesthetically More Desirable Alternative to
Labeled Contours in Topographic Maps
Recommendation for the Improvement of the Scholarship Program
for the Gamma Phi Chapter of the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta
Absence of Octamer Binding Protein-II in Human g-globin Promoter
Enchances g-globin Transcription
Requirements of the Report
Audience and style. Your report should be written directly to a person
within your real or hypothetical situation who has the authority to decide
whether to accept your recommendations. Your tone should be appropriate to
the situationin most cases, it will be fairly formal.
Body of report. All reports should introduce a problem, analyze criteria
for a solution, evaluate at least one solution against the criteria and recom-
mend the best solution. See the Outline for Arguments of Feasibility for one
organizational plan for this information. There are several acceptable varia-
tions on this framework that will be discussed in class.
Front and end matter. Your report should include, as appropriate, a
letter (or memo) of transmittal, title page, executive summary or abstract, table
of contents, tables, figures, references, appendices.
Length. The text of the report (excluding front and end matter) should
be 6-8 double-spaced pages.
Explanation of Commentary
The final assignment in our coursean ambitious recommendation
reportis meant to be a sort of final examination. Since its length and com-
plexity often call into action all the principles and tactics covered in the course,
it in fact tests whether the student has learned everything that we have tried to
teacheverything from resourcefulness in the writing process to audience
adaptation, from page design to effective tables and graphs, from appropriate
arrangement to effective sentencing. Of course, this assignment also intro-
duces some new topics particularly important in lengthy formal writing: the
66 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
letter of transmittal, title page, tables of contents, executive summary, and so
on.
Hence two sorts of comments are in evidence on the student report by
Joe Auteri. First, there are comments that assess the students mastery of the
variety of matters covered in the course: sentence effectiveness (in the letter of
transmittal); problems with the tables (see pages 4 and 5); the students ability
to organize subsections around clear beginnings, middles, and ends; and so
forth. Second, there are comments about the report as a report. We both
comment on the formal characteristics of the reporton how satisfactory the
abstract and table of contents are, for instance. And we both address the
persuasiveness of the argumenton, for example, the appropriateness of the
criteria used to evaluate the options under discussion, or on the evidence
marshaled in support of those criteria.
Like all assignments, the formal report as a genre calls for special kinds
of argumentation. In particular, we use this assignment to discuss the ethical
and political issues surrounding the recommendation of a solution to a prob-
lem: dealing with bad news (such as when no alternative satisfies the criteria),
dealing with hostile audiences (such as when one audience faction favors a
rejected alternative), and dealing with inertia (such as sheer resistance to
change). The latter is an issue in the case of Joes report; the lack of a compel-
ling statement of the problem in the letter and the summary may allow readers
to dismiss the report before they even reach the introduction.
In fact, to us our comments on the report look fairly typical of teacher
comments on technical writing. Our comments probably agree with each other
more in this instance than in the others. As such they probably define some
kind of a norm against which to measure our performance on the other assign-
ments.
67
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Joseph A. Auteri
801 B-6 Southgate Drive
State College, PA 16801
April 27, 1990
Mr. Blair T. Edward
Production Manager
Standard Steel
Burnham, PA 16508
Enclosed is my report Improving Accuracy and Efficiency in Steel Temperature
Monitoring: Optical Thermometers, as you requested. I have researched a way
for Standard Steel to improve temperature monitoring during steel production. A
problem which has cost the company both time and money. The report contains
an assessment of alternative solutions, including thermocouples, conventional
optical pyrometers, and optical thermometers. Thermocouples and conventional
optical pyrometers are the current techniques used at Standard Steel. The report
also contains a recommendation for the most effective solution.
To evaluate and compare the possible solutions, I established several criteria,
including accuracy, efficiency, and feasibility. In this report, I present the
evaluation and recommend that Standard adopt optical thermometers as a means
of measuring steel temperature during production. Optical thermometers are by
far the most accurate and efficient means of temperature monitoring.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss my recommendation further,
please feel free to contact me.
Sincerely
Joseph A. Auteri
This letter basically does the job you
mention problem, method, results, and
you "transmit" the report.
Two aspects could be stronger
1 The problem (or opportunity) doesn't
seem very compelling make Edward
eager to read the report!
2. You're shifting back and forth between
talking about the report (see underlines)
and your investigation. That leads to a
rough glitch between 1 and 2. Try
sorting out these topics separately.
"
1 Say more
about the
nature of
the problem.
2 This is not
a complete
sentence.
Salutation?
68 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
IMPROVING ACCURACY AND EFFICIENCY
IN STEEL TEMPERATURE MONITORING;
OPTICAL THERMOMETERS
Submitted to: Blair T. Edward
Production Manager
Standard Steel
Submitted by: Joseph A. Auteri
Resource Management
Department
Standard Steel
April 27, 1990
OK
69
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ExecutiveSummary...............................................................................................i
Introduction..........................................................................................................1
Description of Criteria .........................................................................................2
Criterion #1: Accuracy.......................................................................................2
Criterion #2: Efficiency.......................................................................................2
Criterion #3: Feasibility.....................................................................................3
How Each Technique Filled Each Criterion..........................................................4
Criterion #1: Accuracy.......................................................................................4
Criterion #2: Efficiency.......................................................................................5
Criterion #3: Feasibility.....................................................................................6
Conclusion and Recommendation.......................................................................6
References................................................................................................................7
TABLES
Table 1: Percent Tolerance.....................................................................................4
Table 2: Percent Efficiency of Monitoring Devices..............................................5
This ToC is OK in form but
not very informative or distinctive
to the content of your report.
Try to deepen it and add more key
terms to the headings so that this
can almost serve as a summary or
outline.
Use
full
titles
here
Can you
make these
headings
parallel?
70 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Standard Steel has been a world-wide manufacturer of specialty steel
forgings for over the past fifty years. For Standard to maintain their high level of
quality and competitiveness in steel production, they need accurate temperature
monitors. Inaccuracies in monitoring the temperature of steel molding and
forming may cause defects due to expansion and contraction of the material. Of
course this leads to poor quality in the final product.
There are a couple of ways to handle this problem. These include the
current methods of monitoring temperature at Standard, conventional optical
pyrometers and the use of thermocouples. Another option, optical thermometers,
have been introduced to the industry. The acceptable solution must sufficiently
meet three requirements: it has to be accurate, efficient, and feasible.
The only solution which effectively met all three criteria was the optical
thermometer. Although cost of implementation may be a little high at first, its
accuracy will help pay for itself within the first month of production.
Optical thermometers are the solution monitoring accuracy problem at
Standard Steel, and we should invest in it.
This is a nice concise summary.
However the problem still doesn't
seem compelling beef up the
first to show what's wrong
with the current methods.
mismatched number
Too informal
You switch from
singular to plural
here. How
can you set
this up to
sound more
like an
insider?
several
71
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
INTRODUCTION
Standard Steel is a world-wide manufacturer of specialty steel forgings
used in aerospace, transportation, defense, and industrial applications. With the
sharp decrease of steel production in the United States, it is imperative that
Standard maintain a high level of quality in order to remain competitive with the
foreign market. Not to do so could mean an eventual closing of the Burnham
plant.
In order to maintain these high levels of quality and competitiveness,
Standard needs temperature monitors which are accurate and efficient.
Inaccuracies during molding and forming cause at least 35% of the annual wasted
products due to defects at Standard Steel. This is a problem that should be and
can be greatly reduced.
Right now, Standards methods for monitoring temperature during steel
forming are conventional optical pyrometers and the use of thermocouples. Both
of these methods are efficient enough, but neither is very effective in acquiring an
accurate temperature. In the long run, both time and money are wasted with
product deficiencies, not to mention the decrease in competitiveness, that are a
result of this problem. Approximately two hundred man hours and over $100,000
is lost annually just at the Burnham plant alone.
The goal of this report is to see if optical thermometers are the best solution to
this problem for Standard Steel. The investigation involved all three techniques
against three different criteria. They are: accuracy, efficiency, and feasibility. The
report is divided into three different sections. The first section details the criteria,
and the second section shows how each alternative fulfilled each of the criteria. In
addition, the report contains a conclusion and recommendation section. This
section details why I believe Standard Steel should adopt optical thermometers as
the technique for monitoring temperature in order to keep us competitive.
-1-
Good
shared
goals.
It might
be even
stronger if
you move
the detail on
inaccuracy
to the middle
of the 2nd
paragraph
to combine
topics.
Now this is
a strong
problem
statement!
assessing
This sounds
too abrupt
what are
optical
thermometers
and why are
they a
plausible
solution?
Good
preview!
72 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
DESCRIPTION OF CRITERIA
This section details each of the criteria established; accuracy, efficiency, and
feasibility. In each description you will find why each criterion is important to
Standard Steel and also the specific requirements of each criterion.
CRITERION #1: Accuracy
In order to produce good quality steel products, the temperature must remain
as close as possible to the calculated and desired temperature in each process.
Temperatures which are higher or lower cause undesired expansion and
contraction, respectively, of the steel during molding and forming. Steel
production temperatures range from 500 degrees celsius to 2500 degrees celsius.
The Department of Transportation, an agency which Standard associates with
regularly, has established a 10% tolerance for temperature monitoring in order to
control expansion and contraction of the steel they use. Most other industries
accept this as an adequate range. However, with the new age of accuracy in
technology, and with more industries taking advantage of this accuracy, we should
expect this tolerance to decrease in the near future. Therefore an acceptable
tolerance for accuracy should be plus/minus 5%.
CRITERION #2: Efficiency
This criterion examines how much it costs or would cost Standard to use each
alternative device around the clock each day. It also compares usage cost with
the amount of money which is lost to defects due to inaccuracies in temperature
-2-
Can you be more
specific here?
The US Gov't
is not just
another
associate.
Good
point.
Avoid "you" in
formal reports.
Note you had
"they" earlier.
Use a colon (:) before
a list, not a semi-colon (;)
Another
nice
preview.
73
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
monitoring. Although these two costs are important by themselves, the ratio of
these two factors will prove as the real measure of efficiency. Efficiency is
important because we obviously dont want to spend more than we are saving.
The optimum efficiency is of course 100%, and this will be used as a comparison
level. The higher the efficiency the better.
CRITERION #3: Feasibility
If we are interested in optical thermometers, then we need to consider their
feasibility. This criterion does not apply to thermocouples and conventional optical
pyrometers since they are already incorporated at Standard Steel. Feasibility
includes start-up costs, repair and replacement costs, and manpower costs. It
also includes non-monetary criterion, such as ease of installation and ease of
learning and operation. Feasibility is imperative since buying cost, shutdowns for
installation and repair and lost time for training or the hiring of extra manpower
could prove more costly than it is worth. To evaluate feasibility, the respective
costs will be compared in monetary units and the installation, training, and ease of
operation will be compared in units of time. Acceptable monetary figures should
be under the amount lost each year to defects caused by inaccuracies in molding
and forming. This calculates to approximately $35,000 annually at the Burnham
plant. Installation must be rapid since the plant operates around the clock. An
installation time of four hours would only cost Standard one-sixth of its daily
furnace production. Since two methods are already established at Standard,
training should not take up more than an eight hour shift. Usage of the device
should be under the five minutes which is the standard for the devices in use
presently.
-3-
Good use
of details
here!
Than
what is
worth?
lower than
This
should
be
plural
Too
informal
do not
This sounds
very reasonable.
74 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
HOW EACH DEVICE FILLED EACH CRITERIA
CRITERION #1: Accuracy
In the description of the criteria, we stated that the device must be able to
measure the temperature accurately. We established a tolerance of plus/minus five
percent to be sufficient. Table 1 illustrates the percent of tolerance given by the
respective manufacturer for Texas Instrument Model 2010 thermocouple, the
Mikron M77 optical pyrometer, and the Accufiber 100C optical thermometer. Both
the TI thermocouple and the Mikron pyrometer are in use at Standard currently.
TABLE 1: PERCENT TOLERANCE OF TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS
PERCENT TOLERANCE
TEMP (C) TI 2010 MIKRON M77 ACCUFIBER
100C
500 12% 7% 0.5%
1000 10% 5% 0.2%
1500 10% 5% 0.2%
2000 12% 6% 0.2%
2500 14% 6% 0.2%
As the table clearly indicates, the Accufiber 100C is superior in accuracy at all
the temperature ranges. Although the Accufiber model is used here, it is only an
example of the optical fibers on the market today. Every model available has
tolerance ranges comparable to the Accufiber model. This astonishing accuracy is
of course the state of the art, and falls well within the five percent criterion
established. Accuracy of this magnitude could reduce the amount of defects due to
inaccuracies in molding and forming from 35% to a mere .07%, saving
approximately all $35,000 per year at Burnham plant. This type of accuracy could
This sounds a
bit clunky.
Can you
reestablish
the
criterion
more
directly?
another
new
voice?
Make this
even more
informative.
What's
being
compared
here?
This heading
should
describe the
columns i.e.,
monitoring
devices.
It sure
looks that
way to me!
number
?
75
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Nice
argument.
-4-
put Standard Steel on the leading edge and leave us with not much room for
improvement.
CRITERION #2: Efficiency
It was established in the description of the criteria that efficiency would be the
ratio of usage cost over total cost, which included monitoring defects costs plus
usage costs. Table 2 details all three of these parameters for the respective
models used in criterion one.
TABLE 2: PERCENT EFFICIENCY OF MONITORING DEVICES
DEVICE USAGE COST (day) DEFECT COST (day) EFFICIENCY
TI 2010 $12.50 $47.95 20.8%
MIKRON M77 $17.00 $47.95 26.1%
ACCUFIBER 100C $27.40 $ .10 98.8%
To approximate the usage cost per 24 hour day, assumptions were made of
cost to run the device and the manpower cost to monitor the device. For the
optical thermometer (100C), the base price was included in the calculation since it
would have to be purchased. The other two devices were assumed to be paid for.
The defect cost was calculated by dividing the money lost per year from
inaccuracies in temperature monitoring during molding and forming by 365 days
per year.
As the table shows, the optical thermometer is virtually flawless and
completely overshadows the current methods used currently at Standard Steel in
the efficiency category. While the usage cost per day may seem high compared
to the current devices, this value will decrease as the optical thermometer begins
to pay for itself. Even so, the efficiency is so close to the optimum, that it is worth
the extra cost in the long run.
-5-
I don't follow
you here??
the
What is the
base price?
How many
are needed?
Can you
break down
the costs
further?
Why
change
the
orientation
?!?
I just got
used to
Table 1!
76 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
CRITERION #3: Feasibility
In defining this criterion, it was stated that this only applied to the optical
thermometer since the other two alternatives are already in use at Standard. The
figures for this criterion were provided by Accufiber. According to their figures, the
optical thermometers cost in a range from $3,500 for the individual gun to $50,000
for a mainframe computer system. Each option however is accurate to the same
degree. Accufibers devices are under full warranty for five years and seldom
malfunction. Most problems occur because of integrated circuit (IC) burnouts
which can be replaced readily.
Training is done by the installation team and takes between one to four hours
depending on the system being installed, and the plant need not be shut down for
installation. This is well within the criterion established. The time it takes to get a
reading also depends on the system. The range here is from thirty seconds to fifty
readings per second. This again is well within the criterion.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Inaccuracies in temperature measurements are costing Standard Steel tens
of thousands of dollars each year, not to mention the loss of quality and
competitiveness in a struggling U.S. market. Standard must take action now to
correct these inaccuracies and maintain there competitive edge not only in the
U.S. market, but also the world market.
From the research conducted here and the results which developed, it is obvious
that optical thermometers are a definite step in the right direction. They proved
superior to the thermocouple and the conventional optical pyrometer in both
accuracy and efficiency. For steel industrial applications where precise
temperature control is essential, optical thermometers, with their ability to perform
-6-
This again
sounds
clunky. Why not
"This criterion
only applies
to x
because y ..."
but these
weak verb
sp
Great
restatement
of the
problem!
77
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
accurately and efficiently in harsh operating environments make them the system
of choice. I firmly recommend that Standard Steel adopt optical thermometers to
resolve the problem of temperature monitoring inaccuracies and help get us back
to being one of the best names in specialty steel forgings.
REFERENCES
Accufiber Technical Notes: Accufiber Inc; pp. 8-14.
Ircon Technical Notes, Introduction to Infrared Thermometry: Ircon, Inc. 1985,
pp. 1-8.
Milron Technical Notes: Mikron Instrument Company Inc.; pp. 1-7.
Texas Instruments Linear Data Book: 1985 Texas Instruments Inc. Volume 3, pp.
3-123-3-132.
Joe This is really a pretty good report! The
section on criteria lays out your assumptions
explicitly; your analysis there and in the
results seems reasonable and well supported
by your data. Generally, the report was
accessible and well organized though the
headings should have been more informative and
the previews could be smoother. There were two
areas that need work. First, you should work
on making the problem more compelling in the
early sections even if your solution is great,
no one will read it if they don't think there's
something to solve. Second, you never really found
a comfortable voice sometimes you talked
about Standard as they, as you, and as we. We
might be best. Overall nice job!
date?
date?
check
format
?
78 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Joseph A. Auteri
801 B-6 Southgate Drive
State College, PA 16801
April 27, 1990
Mr. Blair T. Edward
Production Manager
Standard Steel
Burnham, PA 16508
Enclosed is my report "Improving Accuracy and Efficiency in Steel Temperature
Monitoring: Optical Thermometers as you requested. I have researched a way for
Standard Steel to improve temperature monitoring during steel production. A
problem which has cost the company both time and money. The report contains an
assessment of alternative solutions, including thermocouples, conventional optical
pyrometers, and optical thermometers. Thermocouples and conventional optical
pyrometers are the current techniques used at Standard Steel. The report also
contains a recommendation for the most effective solution.
To evaluate and compare the possible solutions, I established several criteria,
including accuracy, efficiency, and feasibility. In this report, I present the evaluation
and recommend that Standard adopt optical thermometers as a means of
measuring steel temperature during production. Optical thermometers are by far
the most accurate and efficient means of temperature monitoring.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss my recommendation further, please
feel free to contact me.
Sincerely
Joseph A. Auteri
A solid letter of transmittal...
though I don't see that
you're applying the
sentencing techniques we've
been discussing...
the
Dear Mr. E ?
you requested on
better?
why?
."
thereby
solving
assesses
applied?
combine?
79
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
IMPROVING ACCURACY AND EFFICIENCY
IN STEEL TEMPERATURE MONITORING;
OPTICAL THERMOMETERS
Submitted to: Blair T. Edward
Production Manager
Standard Steel
Submitted by: Joseph A. Auteri
Resource Management
Department
Standard Steel
April 27, 1990
80 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ExecutiveSummary...............................................................................................i
Introduction..........................................................................................................1
Description of Criteria .........................................................................................2
Criterion #1: Accuracy.......................................................................................2
Criterion #2: Efficiency.......................................................................................2
Criterion #3: Feasibility.....................................................................................3
How Each Technique Filled Each Criterion..........................................................4
Criterion #1: Accuracy.......................................................................................4
Criterion #2: Efficiency.......................................................................................5
Criterion #3: Feasibility.....................................................................................6
Conclusion and Recommendation.......................................................................6
References................................................................................................................7
TABLES
Table 1: Percent Tolerance.....................................................................................4
Table 2: Percent Efficiency of Monitoring Devices..............................................5
?
ii ?
Consistency?
P.S. Look at the "titles" for
these figures: a sign that
the tables aren't
self-sufficient?
81
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Standard Steel has been a world-wide manufacturer of specialty steel
forgings for over the past fifty years. For Standard to maintain their high level of
quality and competitiveness in steel production, they need accurate temperature
monitors. Inaccuracies in monitoring the temperature of steel molding and
forming may cause defects due to expansion and contraction of the material. Of
course this leads to poor quality in the final product.
There are a couple of ways to handle this problem. These include the
current methods of monitoring temperature at Standard, conventional optical
pyrometers and the use of thermocouples. Another option, optical thermometers,
have been introduced to the industry. The acceptable solution must sufficiently
meet three requirements: it has to be accurate, efficient, and feasible.
The only solution which effectively met all three criteria was the optical
thermometer. Although cost of implementation may be a little high at first, its
accuracy will help pay for itself within the first month of production.
Optical thermometers are the solution monitoring accuracy problem at
Standard Steel, and we should invest in it.
Your summary "fits"
the report well
very solid
We? (It's hard to
write as a member of
a company when you're
actually a student, eh?
=two. But you have three...
has
costly
Want to say anything (here &
in the Discussion Component)
about your "methods" of
studying the alternatives?
Where did the criteria
come from?
of the OT
to the
the
82 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
INTRODUCTION
Standard Steel is a world-wide manufacturer of specialty steel forgings
used in aerospace, transportation, defense, and industrial applications. With the
sharp decrease of steel production in the United States, it is imperative that
Standard maintain a high level of quality in order to remain competitive with the
foreign market. Not to do so could mean an eventual closing of the Burnham
plant.
In order to maintain these high levels of quality and competitiveness,
Standard needs temperature monitors which are accurate and efficient.
Inaccuracies during molding and forming cause at least 35% of the annual wasted
products due to defects at Standard Steel. This is a problem that should be and
can be greatly reduced.
Right now, Standards methods for monitoring temperature during steel
forming are conventional optical pyrometers and the use of thermocouples. Both
of these methods are efficient enough, but neither is very effective in acquiring an
accurate temperature. In the long run, both time and money are wasted with
product deficiencies, not to mention the decrease in competitiveness, that are a
result of this problem. Approximately two hundred man hours and over $100,000
is lost annually just at the Burnham plant alone.
The goal of this report is to see if optical thermometers are the best solution to
this problem for Standard Steel. The investigation involved all three techniques
against three different criteria. They are: accuracy, efficiency, and feasibility. The
report is divided into three different sections. The first section details the criteria,
and the second section shows how each alternative fulfilled each of the criteria. In
addition, the report contains a conclusion and recommendation section. This
section details why I believe Standard Steel should adopt optical thermometers as
the technique for monitoring temperature in order to keep us competitive.
-1-
In gen'l, a
sound intro all the
"components" are here.
(But are they here in
enough detail?)
generally
Can you
put a
dollar
figure on
that?
(Or leave it
for next
?)
Clear
aim &
forecast
OK. But can (should?) you be more specific in
detailing the problem with the status quo? Really
create your exigency!
which
measuring
Is that all you
want to say
about your
method?
Defend &
explain
where your
numbers
come from
(here or in
a "methods"
section
below)?
drop?
83
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
Do the
sentences
in this
go in
the best
order?
Gen'l
specific?
Or what?
DESCRIPTION OF CRITERIA
This section details each of the criteria established; accuracy, efficiency, and
feasibility. In each description you will find why each criterion is important to
Standard Steel and also the specific requirements of each criterion.
CRITERION #1: Accuracy
In order to produce good quality steel products, the temperature must remain
as close as possible to the calculated and desired temperature in each process.
Temperatures which are higher or lower cause undesired expansion and
contraction, respectively, of the steel during molding and forming. Steel
production temperatures range from 500 degrees celsius to 2500 degrees celsius.
The Department of Transportation, an agency which Standard associates with
regularly, has established a 10% tolerance for temperature monitoring in order to
control expansion and contraction of the steel they use. Most other industries
accept this as an adequate range. However, with the new age of accuracy in
technology, and with more industries taking advantage of this accuracy, we should
expect this tolerance to decrease in the near future. Therefore an acceptable
tolerance for accuracy should be plus/minus 5%.
CRITERION #2: Efficiency
This criterion examines how much it costs or would cost Standard to use each
alternative device around the clock each day. It also compares usage cost with
the amount of money which is lost to defects due to inaccuracies in temperature
-2-
Is this a powerful enough justification for the 5% level?
Justify/argue for your criteria,
rather than "presenting" them?
than what?
:
Good intro to
subsection! Bravo!
(Do that for your
next segment too?)
84 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Again
I wonder
about the
order of
your
sentences.
Do you want
all this in
one ?
(Gen'l
specific?)
monitoring. Although these two costs are important by themselves, the ratio of
these two factors will prove as the real measure of efficiency. Efficiency is
important because we obviously dont want to spend more than we are saving.
The optimum efficiency is of course 100%, and this will be used as a comparison
level. The higher the efficiency the better.
CRITERION #3: Feasibility
If we are interested in optical thermometers, then we need to consider their
feasibility. This criterion does not apply to thermocouples and conventional optical
pyrometers since they are already incorporated at Standard Steel. Feasibility
includes start-up costs, repair and replacement costs, and manpower costs. It
also includes non-monetary criterion, such as ease of installation and ease of
learning and operation. Feasibility is imperative since buying cost, shutdowns for
installation and repair and lost time for training or the hiring of extra manpower
could prove more costly than it is worth. To evaluate feasibility, the respective
costs will be compared in monetary units and the installation, training, and ease of
operation will be compared in units of time. Acceptable monetary figures should
be under the amount lost each year to defects caused by inaccuracies in molding
and forming. This calculates to approximately $35,000 annually at the Burnham
plant. Installation must be rapid since the plant operates around the clock. An
installation time of four hours would only cost Standard one-sixth of its daily
furnace production. Since two methods are already established at Standard,
training should not take up more than an eight hour shift. Usage of the device
should be under the five minutes which is the standard for the devices in use
presently.
-3-
to be
Is it clear
why you use
this ratio?
Clarify the
explanation
a bit?
best term for
what you mean?
Whoops!
sorry
they are
DM? hmmm...
Does this agree
with your
introduction? **
HMM...Seems like
you're "loading" the
criteria to favor your
preferred solution (OT)!!
Where did these criteria come from?
85
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
HOW EACH DEVICE FILLED EACH CRITERIA
CRITERION #1: Accuracy
In the description of the criteria, we stated that the device must be able to
measure the temperature accurately. We established a tolerance of plus/minus five
percent to be sufficient. Table 1 illustrates the percent of tolerance given by the
respective manufacturer for Texas Instrument Model 2010 thermocouple, the
Mikron M77 optical pyrometer, and the Accufiber 100C optical thermometer. Both
the TI thermocouple and the Mikron pyrometer are in use at Standard currently.
TABLE 1: PERCENT TOLERANCE OF TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS
PERCENT TOLERANCE
TEMP (C) TI 2010 MIKRON M77 ACCUFIBER
100C
500 12% 7% 0.5%
1000 10% 5% 0.2%
1500 10% 5% 0.2%
2000 12% 6% 0.2%
2500 14% 6% 0.2%
As the table clearly indicates, the Accufiber 100C is superior in accuracy at all
the temperature ranges. Although the Accufiber model is used here, it is only an
example of the optical fibers on the market today. Every model available has
tolerance ranges comparable to the Accufiber model. This astonishing accuracy is
of course the state of the art, and falls well within the five percent criterion
established. Accuracy of this magnitude could reduce the amount of defects due to
inaccuracies in molding and forming from 35% to a mere .07%, saving
approximately all $35,000 per year at Burnham plant. This type of accuracy could
-4-
Add intro?
W
--to
1 Is this
table
self-sufficient?
*
EVIDENCE
??
*
2 Why not
arrange the
devices on
the other
axis, as you
did for Table
Two? Ease?
Consistency?
Dependent vs.
independent
variables?
86 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
put Standard Steel on the leading edge and leave us with not much room for
improvement.
CRITERION #2: Efficiency
It was established in the description of the criteria that efficiency would be the
ratio of usage cost over total cost, which included monitoring defects costs plus
usage costs. Table 2 details all three of these parameters for the respective
models used in criterion one.
TABLE 2: PERCENT EFFICIENCY OF MONITORING DEVICES
DEVICE USAGE COST (day) DEFECT COST (day) EFFICIENCY
TI 2010 $12.50 $47.95 20.8%
MIKRON M77 $17.00 $47.95 26.1%
ACCUFIBER 100C $27.40 $ .10 98.8%
To approximate the usage cost per 24 hour day, assumptions were made of
cost to run the device and the manpower cost to monitor the device. For the
optical thermometer (100C), the base price was included in the calculation since it
would have to be purchased. The other two devices were assumed to be paid for.
The defect cost was calculated by dividing the money lost per year from
inaccuracies in temperature monitoring during molding and forming by 365 days
per year.
As the table shows, the optical thermometer is virtually flawless and
completely overshadows the current methods used currently at Standard Steel in
the efficiency category. While the usage cost per day may seem high compared
to the current devices, this value will decrease as the optical thermometer begins
to pay for itself. Even so, the efficiency is so close to the optimum, that it is worth
the extra cost in the long run.
-5-
Again, is this
something for the
next section?
Don't they
depreciate?
Wear out?
HMM...
Shouldn't
it be in
your next
section
("Feasibility")
?
87
Davida Charney and Jack Selzer, Pennsylvania State University
CRITERION #3: Feasibility
In defining this criterion, it was stated that this only applied to the optical
thermometer since the other two alternatives are already in use at Standard. The
figures for this criterion were provided by Accufiber. According to their figures, the
optical thermometers cost in a range from $3,500 for the individual gun to $50,000
for a mainframe computer system. Each option however is accurate to the same
degree. Accufibers devices are under full warranty for five years and seldom
malfunction. Most problems occur because of integrated circuit (IC) burnouts
which can be replaced readily.
Training is done by the installation team and takes between one to four hours
depending on the system being installed, and the plant need not be shut down for
installation. This is well within the criterion established. The time it takes to get a
reading also depends on the system. The range here is from thirty seconds to fifty
readings per second. This again is well within the criterion.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Inaccuracies in temperature measurements are costing Standard Steel tens
of thousands of dollars each year, not to mention the loss of quality and
competitiveness in a struggling U.S. market. Standard must take action now to
correct these inaccuracies and maintain there competitive edge not only in the
U.S. market, but also the world market.
From the research conducted here and the results which developed, it is obvious
that optical thermometers are a definite step in the right direction. They proved
superior to the thermocouple and the conventional optical pyrometer in both
accuracy and efficiency. For steel industrial applications where precise
temperature control is essential, optical thermometers, with their ability to perform
-6-
1 Slow down! Details?
2 Beginning, middle, end?
3 Add stuff from
previous section?
Wouldn't that consist
of a summary of the
costs/benefits of all
three options ?
Then give
recs?
88 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
accurately and efficiently in harsh operating environments make them the system
of choice. I firmly recommend that Standard Steel adopt optical thermometers to
resolve the problem of temperature monitoring inaccuracies and help get us back
to being one of the best names in specialty steel forgings.
REFERENCES
Accufiber Technical Notes: Accufiber Inc; pp. 8-14.
Ircon Technical Notes, Introduction to Infrared Thermometry: Ircon, Inc. 1985,
pp. 1-8.
Milron Technical Notes: Mikron Instrument Company Inc.; pp. 1-7.
Texas Instruments Linear Data Book: 1985 Texas Instruments Inc. Volume 3, pp.
3-123-3-132.
-7-
This is a respectable report, Joe.
Certainly you've devised a solid skeleton:
good 2-part structure; good intro/body/
conclusion; a reasonable argument that emerges from
criteria. However, can you put a little more meat on
these bones? (You give the impression that you had your mind
made up for option #3 before making your inquiry.) And can
you apply the sentencing techniques we've discussed?
Finally, I don't see that you changed much from
your rough drafts. Revision is more than a
cleanup, remember!!
1 Yes, but
integrate with your
narrative. Is it clear
where you "refer to "
these?
2 Reference
info is
incomplete
& not correctly
formatted. Which
style guide are
you following?
therefore
89 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Chapter 2
The Commentary of
Debra Journet
University of Louisville
Debra Journet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of
Louisville. She has taught technical writing at the graduate and undergraduate
levels for the past fifteen years at various institutions, including the University
of Louisville, Penn State University, Louisiana State University (where she
directed the technical writing program), Clemson University, and Texas A&M
University. In addition, she has taught numerous undergraduate composition
and literature courses and has taught graduate courses in technical writing
pedagogy, in theory and research of technical and scientific discourse, as well
as in theory and research in rhetoric and composition. She also worked as a
technical writer and editor at the Cyclotron Institute at Texas A&M University.
Journets research focuses on the relation of scientific writing to rhetori-
cal and literary theory, and she has also published work on technical writing
pedagogy. Her research has appeared in such journals as Written Communica-
tion, Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, IEEE Transactions on Profes-
sional Communication, and The Technical Writing Teacher. In addition, she has co-
authored a technical writing textbook, Readings for Technical Writers, and co-
edited a collection of bibliographical essays, Research in Technical Communica-
tion: A Bibliographic Sourcebook.
90 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
I give students the following memo regarding this assignment:
TO: English 303 Participants
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Letter of Application and Rsum
Your next assignment is to write a letter and rsum applying for a job. This
memo outlines the assignment requirements, the schedule youll follow, and
criteria on which your documents will be evaluated.
Assignments Requirements
You should first find a job you feel ready to apply for. This can be a position
you hope to assume on graduation, a summer or part-time job, or an intern-
ship. But please note that I want you to apply for a specific and real job. (If
you have difficulty locating an appropriate job in the next few days, see me.)
This means you may need to do some research, either to find a job or to find
out more about an advertised opening (e.g., what does this job entail? what is
the company or organization like? how will they process your application?).
You will then prepare a letter and rsum for this job. Your application packet
should take into account the general principles well discuss in class, as well as
any specific requirements your ad or notice indicates.
For this assignment, you will hand in to me a copy of the ad or job notice, any
notes you have about the position, the drafts critiqued in the rough draft
workshop, and the final draft of your letter and rsum.
Schedule
You should try to identify an appropriate position as soon as possible. A rough
draft will be due for workshop on February 1. Your final draft will be due to
me February 4.
Evaluation Criteria
Your letter and rsum will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
Rsum:
1. Does the rsum contain all the necessary information? Is the material
91 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
included appropriate to the position and likely to persuade the readers?
2. Are skills and qualifications clearly and fully presented?
3. Is the format of the rsum clear and easy to follow?
4. Is the rsum free from mechanical errors?
Letter:
1. Does the letter contain appropriate information?
2. Is the letter geared to this job? Does it make clear that the candidates
qualifications are suited to the employers needs?
3. Is the style concise and direct (i.e., not wordy).
4. Is the letter free from mechanical errors?
Explanation of Commentary
I do most of my commentary (as I do most of my writing) now on the
computer. I shifted to the computer because I found I can write more
quicklyand because my handwriting has become almost illegible. Using the
computer also allows me to boilerplate certain comments that I find myself
making over and over again (about things like format and mechanics), but it
also lets me personalize those comments by incorporating examples from the
text under consideration. In addition, Ive found that students take my word-
processed comments more seriously than they did my handwritten ones; I
think this is because they look more official and are more legible.
The letter of application and rsum have always been my first assign-
ment in technical writing classes because they allow me to highlight rhetorical
issues of audience and purpose in a way that is immediate to students. I also
use this assignment to begin talking about designing formats that allow readers
to access information easily. Thus, my comments tend to focus on these issues,
as well as on some of the details of job applications. My comments on this
assignment tend to be fairly lengthy because this is the first time students and I
really talk about a piece of their writing. But composing lengthy comments is
somewhat easier for me because I typically only have one writing class a
semester.
The letter and rsum included here by Margaret (Peg) ONeil strike me
as pretty good in format and style. I wanted to let the writer know, straight off,
that I was impressed with the professionalism with which these documents
were put together. I also wanted to emphasize the strengths I saw in the
rsum, particularly the detail she had offered and the care she had taken in
arranging the information so it was easy to follow. But I also wanted Ms.
ONeil to think more carefully about the rhetorical situation in which she was
92 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
working. We had discussed in class the need to tailor the letter to the job, both
by demonstrating familiarity with the company and by showing how the
writers background qualifies her for that particular job. It seemed to me that
Ms. ONeil accomplished the first objective but could have done more with the
second. I tried to indicate this to her and to make that point by reminding her
of the rhetorical principles we were just beginning to consider.
I had also begun talking in class about how hierarchical organization
and context help readers make sense of information, particularly in introduc-
tory statements. We had considered these qualities in connection with job
letters and had looked at several examples that opened more conventionally
(i.e., with a statement announcing this letter was an application in response to
the specifics of the job notice, etc.). Though I didnt mind that Ms. ONeil used
an unconventional opening, I did want her to consider how this opening
delayed the readers understanding of the letters purpose.
Because there were very few mechanical errors in this letter and
rsum, I felt I could comment on a couple of minor matters that I would
probably have omitted in a less polished example.
93 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
416 Gwendolyn Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40203
February 4, 1991
Walt Disney World Company
Professional Staffing
P.O. Box 10,090
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32620
The Walt Disney World Company has entertained millions
throughout the world for more than fifty years. The success
of your amusement parks and production companies has de-
pended on the quality people that you employed. With the
exciting growth that Walt Disney is experiencing, continued
success will depend on the employees that you hire today. I
feel that I have the qualifications and the motivation to
bring continued success to your company.
Since 1988 I have worked in several departments of United
Parcel Service. After completing my first internship at UPS
I was
asked to remain as a permanent employee while completing my
bachelor degree in industrial engineering. My work at UPS
and classes at the University of Louisville together, have
given me
a quality industrial engineering background.
This background would make me an ideal candidate for the
industrial engineer position that appeared in the December
issue of Industrial Engineering magazine. The opportunity
to work for a company as successful and diverse as Walt
Disney World would be an exciting challenge. My education
and work experience has prepared me to make the most of this
opportunity. Enclosed you will find my resume, which fur-
ther explains my qualifications.
I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your
consideration.
Sincerely,
1
2
have
(agr)
3
4
5
94 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Margaret A. ONeil
Margaret A. ONeil
416 Gwendolyn Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40203
(502) 635-6192
EDUCATION:
University of Louisville, 1986 - Present
Speed Scientific School
Louisville, Kentucky
- Currently pursuing Bachelor of Engineering Science
degree with concentration in
Industrial
Engineering (123 credit hours completed).
- Admitted to Graduate School in November 1990 to
pursue Master of Industrial Engineering Degree.
EMPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE:
United Parcel Service, 1988 - present
9054 Williamsburg Plaza
Louisville, Kentucky 40224
Air Region Industrial Engineering
January 1991 - present
Building and Facilities IE Section
IE Technician
Responsibilities include revision of UPS Volume XX:
Airport Work Measurement Manual, measurement and
method analysis of feeder aircraft operations and
implementation of national standards and methods for
UPS Air Cargo Service Operations.
Flight Operations Industrial Engineering
January 1990 - January 1991
Performance Engineering Section
IE Technician
Developed Airport Analysis Landing Data programs.
Generated Payload Capability and Route Analyses.
Maintained UPS Airport Obstruction Database.
Air District Industrial Engineering
May 1988 - December 1989
International IE Section
Cooperative Intern Technician
Generated work measurements, methods and time
standards for local Air Cargo Service Operations,
Customer Service Telephone Center and the
Air Cargo Telephone Center
IE Computer Section
6
7
8
95 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Cooperative Intern Technician
Created work dispatches for housekeeping porters and
the Housekeeping Master Operating Plan.
Page 2.
EMPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE (cont) :
Schimpeler-Corradino Associates, 1985 - 1988
Civil Engineering and Consulting Firm
First Trust Centre Suite 300
200 South Fifth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Civil Engineering Department
Civil Engineering Technician
Responsibilities included drafting and other work on
technical drawings, compile sets of drawings and
technical specifications for proposal distribution.
PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATION:
Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), University of
Louisville Student Chapter #902
ACHIEVEMENTS:
- President of Institute of Industrial Engineers, 1990
- Key Organizer of IIE 1990 District 6 Student
Conference, February 1990
- University of Louisville Varsity Womens Soccer, 1987-90
- Athletic Directors Honor roll, 1989, 1988, 1987
- Secretary of Institute of Industrial Engineers, 1988
- Speed Scientific School Student Council Representative,
1986-87
- Whos Who Among American High School Students, 1985-86
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ACTIVITIES:
- Basketball Coach, 5th & 6th Grade Girls, St. Therese
School, 1989-present
- Softball Coach, 8 & 9 Year Old Girls, Germantown
Little League, 1987
- Intramural Basketball, Softball, and Volleyball Leagues
- Louisville Womens Soccer League
- Mockingbird Valley Indoor Soccer CLub
- Various Softball and Volleyball Leagues
REFERENCES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Indent for
clarity
9
Make sure your name is on the second page
96 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TO: Peg ONeil
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Letter of Application and Resume
This is an effective application packet. Your educational and
work experience are very impressive. Your resume is attractive,
easy to follow, and nicely detailed. The letter too is well
written; I particularly like the way you show your familiarity
with this company. I think the letter could be made more
persuasive, though, by being more detailed. (See my comments
below.) My main suggestion for the letter is to be more specific
about your qualifications and to tie them more explicitly to the
advertised job. Remember the rhetorical situation of the job
application is to convince this reader that you have the right
qualifications for this job. Though the resume does contain all
the important information, it doesnt present that information in
terms of this job. (Remember, too, that some people may read the
letter or the resume separately.)
Ive made some more specific comments that are keyed to the
numbers in the margin.
1. This is an effective opening and certainly one that
demonstrates your familiarity with Walt Disney World (and with
its ethos). But consider that its not until the third paragraph
of this letter that your reader realizes not only that youre
applying for a job, but that you want a particular job as
industrial engineer. Remember our general discussion of
introductions--what readers need to know in order to make sense
of information. It might help to start by establishing context
and purpose, that is by letting the reader know first-off that
you are a candidate for an industrial engineer position. That
way he or she can better respond to the information that follows.
2. Can you relate your work and educational experience more
specifically to the job at hand? This is a good place to
demonstrate that you know what the job requires and that you have
those necessary specific skills. You might particularly want to
pick up some of the phrases of the ad, if your experience
correlates with those terms.
3. Do you mean high-quality? For many people, quality is a
noun, not an adjective.
97 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
4. This would be more persuasive if you could relate your
background more explicitly to the job at hand. You might also
want to consider framing this last, and important, paragraph more
in terms of the readers benefits in hiring you--rather than your
own benefits in being hired.
5. Are you available for an interview? If so, you might
indicate under what circumstances.
6. This is somewhat confusing. Are you in graduate school now,
or were you accepted in November for next semester? At any rate,
how will attending graduate school mesh with your plans to work
for Walt Disney World? (What about your GPA? That youre on the
Honor Roll suggests it might be high enough to include.)
7. Your work experience is very impressive and acts as a very
persuasive element in this resume. Obviously, you want to make
the most of it. You might play around with the layout in order
to make the section and title more obvious. (Try some
underlining or indenting.)
8. Try phrasing this section using active verbs (as you do in
the following sections). Something along the lines of Revised
UPS Volume XX, Airport Work Measurement Manual. Performed
measurement and method analysis of feeder aircraft operations.
98 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Instructions
Description of Assignment
To introduce the instructions assignment, I give students the following
memo:
TO: 303 Participants
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Assignment of Instructions
Your next assignment is to write a set of instructions which a reader can follow
while performing a specific task. This memo gives you details about the task,
information to include, document design, schedule, and evaluation criteria.
Task Selection
You should choose a task with which you are very familiar and which the
reader can perform while following the instructions. Select a task technical
enough to require instructions (something more difficult, say, than washing a
car), but not so technical that it cannot be treated in a short pamphlet (some-
thing less difficult, say, than constructing a complicated deck or patio). The
instructions should be as long as necessary, but aim for something you can
explain in about three to five pages: e.g., conducting a lab procedure or install-
ing a personal computer. You can choose this task from skills youve acquired
in school, on the job, or in a hobby.
The audience for your instructions will be people who have never performed
the task before but who have basic knowledge of your topic area.
Information to Include
The instructions should contain all necessary information for the audience to
perform the task efficiently and successfully. (Consult your textbook, chapter
25 for more detail.) Generally instructions will include the following:
Introductionestablishing the context, purpose, and organization of
the instructions. The introduction may include other mattersas outlined in
your textbook, chapter 25depending on the nature of the task and the audi-
ence.
Requirementstools, materials, etc. needed to perform the task. (These
can be included in the introduction, if appropriate.)
Any necessary cautions.
99 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
The main steps of the processdivided into steps and sub-steps if
necessary. Use chronological order, and address the audience directly (active
voice, and imperative mood).
Trouble-shootingif appropriate.
Conclusionif appropriate.
Document Design
Designing effective visuals (figures, tables, etc.) and well laid-out pages is an
important part of this assignment. You are producing a set of instructions
such as a pamphlet, brochure, or manualnot an essay. All visual cues
graphics, headings, white space, size and type of print, etc.should be chosen
to help the reader follow the instructions while completing the task.
Schedule
Wednesday, February 6. Hand in plans for your instructions. These should be
in the form of the planning sheet from your textbook, pp. 668-669; be sure to
identify the task youre dealing with.
Wednesday, February 13. Bring to class a draft of the introduction to your
instructions for a Rough Draft Workshop.
Wednesday, February 20. Bring to class a complete draft of your instructions,
including page layout, for a Rough Draft Workshop.
Monday, February 25. Turn in instructions to me for evaluation.
Evaluation Criteria
Your instructions will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
1. Is the task appropriate to the assignment?
2. Is all necessary information included?
3. Does the introduction successfully orient the reader to the task ahead?
4. Are the major steps and sub-steps of the process clearly organized?
5. Is each step or sub-step explained separately?
6. Is the audience addressed directly?
7. Do the graphics and other visual cues of the document make the informa-
tion more accessible?
8. Is the style clear, concise, and active?
9. Are the instructions free from disconcerting mechanical errors, such as
spelling and grammatical mistakes?
100 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Explanation of Commentary
A set of instructions is usually the second assignment in my technical
writing classes. Since the effectiveness of instructions depends so heavily on
the ease with which they can be used by readers, I use this assignment to
emphasize principles of document designsuch as layout, visuals, typeface,
etc. I also try to connect such principles to the rhetorical focus of the course by
helping students see how document design is tied to concerns of audience and
purpose. For this reason, many of my remarks center on the visual appearance
of the document. I also use instructions to continue emphasizing hierarchical
organization (major ideas or topics supported by sub-ideas or topics). And by
this time in the class we have also done some work with styleparticularly
avoiding wordiness and focusing on actors and action. Thus, both organiza-
tional and stylistic concerns are reflected in the evaluation criteria.
The instructions included here by David Brennick on replacing guitar
strings seem to me to be reasonably well designed overall, but also to have a
couple of significant problems. In my comments to Mr. Brennick, I wanted to
let him know first that I liked his overall hierarchical structure, especially the
way he had divided the task into major steps and substeps and had reflected
that organization visually through headings and white space. But I also
wanted to call his attention to the difficulties created by the way he had
clumped his figures together at the end. My main concern here was to get him
to think about the rhetoric of his visual aids: by putting all the figures at the
end, he had not fully considered how the reader would use the graphics. I
might have added that the unprofessional appearance of the figures could
damage his ethos or credibility. I omitted this comment, though, because I
didnt want to focus on his drawing abilities, and because I understand that the
actual production of the visuals would probably not be Mr. Brennicks respon-
sibility if he wrote instructions professionally.
I also commented fairly fully on Mr. Brennicks introduction because
we had spent a good deal of time in class on the importance of using an intro-
duction to orient readers to the context, purpose, and organization of the
document to follow. I mentioned problems of coherence and organization in
the opening paragraph, though, to alert the writer to issues we would be taking
up in the next week or so.
In commenting on the mechanics of the instructions, I emphasized
agreement problems because they popped up several times and because such
errors are often noticed by readers. I decided not to mention a couple of other
less noticeable grammatical problems, hoping that focusing Mr. Brennicks
attention on agreement would help him get that problem under better control.
My evaluation of Mr. Brennicks instructions was produced on a com-
puter for the reasons I outlined in the explanation of my commentary on
Margaret ONeils rsum and application letter.
101 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
carefully and TAKE YOUR TIME.
TOOLS
You will not need many tools for this job. If you
are not familiar with some of the tools,
ask your local music shop and they will be able
to assist you, Be sure to have the following
tools:
1) wire cutter
2) needle nose pliers
3) tuning fork (E note)
REMOVING OLD STRINGS
1) Do not cut the strings to remove the guitar!
This will damage the neck of the guitar because
there is tension in the strings (sudden release of
tension may weaken structure of the guitar). Start
by removing string #1 (the thickest) See figure 2.
Find tuning key #1 that connects to string #1. See
figure 3.
2) Turn the tuning key #1 counterclockwise to
release the tension. The string should sag and you
should not feel any tension in the string.
3) Find peg #1 that is located behind the bridge.
Use the needle nose pliers to remove peg #1. See
figure 4.
GUITAR STRING REPLACEMENT
Welcome to the world of guitars. As a novice to caring and
main- taining guitars, you should read these instructions
carefully before you actually begin stringing it and using
this as guide. Strings should be replaced every six months
in order to maintain quality sound. Replacing strings
requires few skills and tools, so dont feel intimidated or
lost. Follow these steps and you should not have any problems.
Remember, do not rush through the procedure. Take your time
and backtrack if you need to. Skipping steps or missing any
instructions may damage the guitar you. Worry more about the
safety of the guitar than the strings. Strings are cheaper
and easier to replace than guitars. Figure 1 on the next page
shows the basic parts of the guitar. Be familiar with these
parts because the instructions will refer to them. These
instruc- tions begin with the tools needed and then proceeds
with removing old strings, installing new strings, tuning new
strings, and conclude with troubleshooting. Read each step
1
1a
Nice
use
of
white
space
referent?
1b
1c
agreement
Effectively pre-
sented
headings Nice.
2
ref
3
4
102 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
4) Push the string down so the ball can be released
from the notch.
5) You may now unravel the string from the tuning
key.
6) Repeat steps for remaining strings. Keep tuning
keys with corresponding pegs. (i.e., 3# peg to #3
tuning key)
APPLYING NEW STRINGS
1) Start with string #1 (thickest string). Insert
the ball down the hole located behind the bridge.
Make sure the ball slips under the notch so it
locks in place. Push the peg (#1) back into
the hole to keep ball from emerging.
2) At the head of the guitar, wind the string around
the corresponding tuning key (#1). Wrap it tight
enough so you feel tension. You will use the
tuning key for adequate note tuning.
3) Use a tuning fork (E note) to tune the string.
If it sounds flat, tighten the tuning
key. If it sounds sharp, loosen the tuning key.
4) Cut excessive string hanging from the tuning key
with the write cutters.
5) The remaining strings can be applied by following
these same steps. Remember to connect tuning keys
with corresponding pegs (for example #3 tuning key
with #3 peg).
TUNING STRINGS
1) Press string #1 at the fifth fret (see figure 5)
and strike string #2. If #2 sounds flat, tighten
tuning key #2. If it sounds sharp,m loosen tuning
key #2.
2) Press string #2 at the fifth fret and strike
string #3.
3) Tune string #3 as shown in step 1.
4) Press string #3 at the fifth fret and strike
string #4 and tune string #4 as indicated in step
1.
5) Press string #4 at the fourth fret and strike
string
#5. Tune string #5 as indicated in step 1.
Number pages
2
7
6
ref?
5
103 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
6) Press string #5 at the fifth fret and strike
string
#6. Tune string #6 as indicated in step 1.
TROUBLESHOOTING
1) New strings will go out of tune for the first
week or so (depends how often you play).
Use the tuning procedures to tune the strings.
agr
8
104 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TUNING
KEYS
HEAD
NECK
B
O
D
YBRIDGE
PEGS
FIG. 1
4-5-6
1-2-3
B
O
D
Y
H
E
A
D
FIG. 2 - STRINGS
#3 -
#2 -
#1 -
- #4
- #5
-#6
B
O
D
Y
FIG. 3 - TUNING KEYS
BALL
HOLE
STRING #1
BRIDGE
NOTCH
(INSERT
INTO HOLE)
FIG. 4 - PEGS
HEAD
FRET
FRET
FRET
FRET
FRET
BODY
#
1
#
2
#
3
#
4
#
5
FIG. 5 - FRETS
Title?
105 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
TO: David Brennick
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Instructions
These instructions are nicely laid out (except for the figures).
The format makes the overall organization clear and the
individual steps easy to find and follow. I especially liked the
way you divided the task into three main steps with a series of
sub-steps and used headings and white space to make that division
clear.
The instructions also seem complete, though I sometimes had
trouble working out exactly what I was supposed to do. And I
notice that in reading your rough drafts the members of your peer
editing group were also a little confused at places. Thats a
good indication that you need to clarify.
My major source of confusion was, I think, the figures. First, I
had some trouble locating them. Then I found it frustrating to
have to keep moving back and forth from the text to the back page
where the diagrams were located. Putting all the figures
together at the end is certainly easier for the writer, but its
a very annoying arrangement for the reader. I was also confused
about tuning. (See comments below.) And Id suggest your being
more alert to agreement problems--both subject/verb and
pronoun/referent. (Also see comments below.)
Its always difficult to anticipate all the questions or problems
someone can have with instructions, unless shes actually
performing the task. (Thats why its important to actually test
instructions.) What follows are some of the questions I had as I
imagined going through the process, as well as some specific
writing suggestions:
1. As an introduction, this provides much of the information
that I would probably need in order to orient myself to the
instructions. Im clear on the purpose of the document and the
importance of the task. It might have helped, though, had you
previewed the whole process (referring briefly to the three main
steps) instead of just trusting the audience to go through all
the instructions before beginning the process.
The organization of the paragraph that constitutes this
introduction, though, is a little hard to follow. You seem to be
106 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
moving around from one point to another without a lot of
connections. Remember our discussion of hierarchical
organization? How is this paragraph organized? Think about
making the hierarchy of information clearer, or perhaps dividing
it into separate paragraphs. (Were also going to be talking a lot
about coherence in the next week or so, and that discussion will
also be relevant to making organization clearer to the reader.)
Some more specific items in the introduction are as follows:
1a. What is it? Theres no referent. (It cant refer to
guitars.)
1b. Somethings missing here.
1c. In fact there is no figure 1 on the next page. Looking
through the instructions, I finally found figure 1 on the last
page.
agr. subject/verb agreement.
2. Another referent problem. They (plural) can only refer here
to shop (singular).
3. Same problem with finding the figures. The problem is made
worse because I have to keep turning back and forth from the
instructions to the figure. (See my comments above.)
4. Same as 3.
5. I think this needs a figure too.
6. Didnt I tune the strings already--step 3 of the preceding
section? And what do I compare it to in order to determine if
its sharp or flat?
7. These probably shouldnt be separate steps, as theyre not
indicated separately in the instructions for any of the other
strings.
Agr. subject/verb agreement.
8. Same comments about paragraph organization as in first
comment.
107 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Proposal
Description of Assignment
I introduce students to the proposal assignment using the following
memo:
TO: English 303 Participants
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Proposal for Major Report
Your next assignment is to write a proposal requesting approval for the topic
on which you plan to write your major report. In this report you will be asked
to develop a solution to a problem; this problem can be one that can be tackled
through primary or secondary research or both. We will discuss possible
topics in class. This memo provides additional details about information
to include in your proposal, schedule, and evaluation criteria.
Guidelines for Writing the Proposal
The reader for the proposal should be someone who has some responsibility
for the problem detailed. The proposal should be about three pages, should
include the following sections, and should answer, as appropriate, the follow-
ing questions:
Introduction What is the context, purpose and organization of this proposal?
What background information does the reader need to under-
stand this proposal?
Statement of What is the specific problem your research treats?
the Problem What is the specific question your report will answer?
What are the limits of your project?
What is its precise scope?
What will it cover?
What will it delete?
Justification Why is this problem important?
What are the specific benefitsto reader, writer and public
of your project?
Objectives What are the specific objectives of your project?
What specific questions do you plan to answer or information
do youplan to provide?
(These objectives should be listed and may repeat, in a concise
form, material included in preceding sections.)
108 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Product How do you propose to meet your objectives?
What do you plan to do to solve the problem?
What information will your report contain?
(This briefly describes the research or work you plan to report.)
Methods How do you plan to obtain your information?
What activities do you plan to pursue to develop your product?
(This section should be tied to your objectives. Tell the reader as
specifically as possible what you plan to do.)
Schedule What specific activities will you perform?
How much time will you spend on each? When do you plan to
finish each stage?
Credentials What qualifies you to handle this project?
Why should I feel confident in authorizing this project?
(Describe here pertinent course work, job experience, personal
interests, etc.)
Costs How much will the proposed project cost? (Provide a budget if
necessary. This section may be deleted in certain
projects.)
Think carefully about what you are proposing. Remember that you are com-
mitted to this project and all the details of the proposal, once it is approved.
Should you want to make minor alterations, you will have to submit a memo
requesting permission to do so.
Schedule
March 1. Proposal plans due. (Brief memo outlining the problem you
plan to treat and the solution you hope to offer.)
March 4. Conferences on proposals.
March 6. Revised proposal plans due if necessary.
March 15. Rough Draft Workshop: Proposal segment.
March 25 Rough Draft Workshop: Proposals.
March 27. Proposals Due.
Evaluation Criteria
The major question to keep asking yourself is Will this proposal persuade the
reader?
1. Is the introduction effective in establishing the context, purpose, and organi-
zation of the proposal?
2. Is the problem clearly defined? Is its significance made clear? Are the
objectives specific?
3. Does the proposed product solve the problem? Are the methods feasible
and practical? Are the costs in line with the benefits?
109 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
4. Does the writer seem qualified to solve the problem?
5. Is the style concise, active, and coherent?
6. Is the proposal free from disconcerting mechanical errors, such as spelling
and grammatical mistakes?
Explanation of Commentary
The third assignment in my technical writing class is a proposal to
conduct research and write a formal report (which, in turn, makes up the
fourth assignment). My primary objective for this assignment is to help
students see the proposal as a persuasive document that convinces readers
through a variety of appeals. Im also very concerned with the proposals
details, though, because the students success in writing the formal report
depends on his or her ability to set up a practical plan of work here. Thus,
most of my comments are directed toward the proposals ability to persuade
the reader that the problem is worth tackling and that the proposed project is
feasible. I need to be convinced of both (but more practically of the latter)
before I will approve the project.
The proposal for a report on a codependency therapy plan written by
David Brennick convinced me of the problem of codependency. But I was
worried about the vagueness with which he described his proposed report.
My immediate concern was that he be able to write a more specific description
of the objectives of his research and of the report he planned to produce. We
discussed this in conference, and he handed in to me the following revised
version of his objectives:
1) This report will describe the characteristics (habits, traits, and lifestyle) of
codependency and reveal the growing numbers of codependents.
2) With the data from the first objective, demonstrate the need for a
codependency therapy program in dependency programs.
3) Provide a guide to detect codependents. The report will not formulate a
counseling program for codependency. Subsequent research would be needed
for that aspect of the program, although the report will reveal the benefits of a
therapy guide after the codependent has been detected.
4) Show how a codependency program would be beneficial for a dependency
program.
After reading his new objectives (and pointing out some problems in
mechanics), I felt he was in a better position to conduct research, and I
approved his proposal.
110 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
In writing the proposal, students have to work within a much more
complex rhetorical situation, and I try to call their attention to this in my
comments. In remarking on some of the problems in his proposal, I wanted to
help Mr. Brennick think through the implications of what he was offering to
do, but I also wanted to remind him of his persuasive purpose and his relation
to his reader. Thus, I tried to couch my requests for greater detail or for
clarifications in terms of the proposals rhetorical context.
In commenting on style, I concentrated on wordiness, because we
had spent so much time on this in class, and I tried to focus the writers atten-
tion on places where redundant words and phrases were particularly obvious.
I noticed several other places (but did not comment on them) where I thought
an awkward style marked problems the writer was having in working through
ideas. (These kinds of problems tend to clear up in revision as the writer
becomes more certain of what he or she wants to say.)
My evaluation of Mr. Brennicks proposal was produced on a computer
for the reasons I outlined in the explanation of my commentary on Margaret
ONeils rsum and application letter.
111 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
RESEARCH PROPOSAL
Study Title: Codependency Therapy Program
Applicant: David Brennick
6800 Wind Ridge Court
Louisville, KY 40241
Funding Agency: Family Hospital
Dr. Linda Smith
Programs Director
I am requesting permission to do research about codependency.
With the data obtained I hope to make you aware of a much-needed
codependency therapy program. My intentions are to recommend
you install a program in your present system. This program
would coincide with your present chemical dependency program.
I have provided facts and history about codependency since this
illness is becoming more apparent in our society. I hope to
demonstrate that there is a need for more attention to this
growing problem. Giving consent for this research would be
very beneficial for your program.
Background
Codependency is an illness that affects all kinds of
relationships. More specifically, a codependent person is one
who has let another persons behavior affect him or her, and
who is obsessed with controlling that persons behavior. These
persons that a codependent interacts with are usually
chemically dependent. There are many diverse characteristics
to codependency. These charac- teristics may include
excessive caretaking, low self-worth, repression, obsession,
manipulating, denial, dependency, poor communication, weak
boundaries, lack of trust, and sex problems., Not all of these
traits may pertain to one individual. There are many more
characteristics that complicate the definition of codependency.
Justification
These complications of codependency often leave the codependent
(and those around him/her) unaware of his/her illness. Many
codependents go undetected by chemical dependency programs.
Dependency programs often concentrate on the dependent as the
problem and forget that persons involved with the dependent
may have an illness of their own. While the rehabilitation
center is caring for the dependent, the codependent may be
contributing to the dependents problems. As a result, these
contributions may interfere with the treatment offered by the
center. Obviously, codependency is a major contribution to
the dependents problems. Research is required to see why it
is important to have a program to detect an illness that
coincides with chemical addiction. Since codependency is
Why?
1
2
3
8
6
7
5
ing
W
4
W
C
involves many
112 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
relatively new to dependency programs, such an
innovative service offered at your center would place you well
ahead of other rehabilitation centers.
Objectives
1) Accumulate and analyze information about codependency.
2) Demonstrate the need for a codependency therapy program
in dependency programs.
3) Show how a therapy program would be beneficial for
dependency programs.
Product
This research will show the growing need for a codependency
therapy program in a dependency center. Information about
codependency can be used to formulate a program in conjunction
with dependency centers. This information would include
general characteristics and symptoms of codependency.
Research would also reveal the benefits gained by dependency
centers.
Procedures
Much of my work will be secondary research. I plan to use local
libraries for information on statistics and numbers of
codepen- dents. I will refer to health professionals for data
on this rising problem. I hope to demonstrate the strong need
for a detec- tion device for codependency and how
it would be beneficial for your institution.
Schedule
Research will take one month. I will be working 5 days per
week, 8 hours a day.
Week 1 Consult with health professionals
Week 2 Consult with health professionals
Week 3 Begin library research
Week 4 Finish library research
Qualifications
As a premedical student at the University of Louisville, I have
completed courses in psychology, biology, social
Number pages
2
W
11
10
9
113 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
sciences,humanit- ies, and communications. I have also had
experience with dealing with codependents in personal
relationships.
Cost
Week 1 $250.00
Week 2 $250.00
Week 3 $250.00
Week 4 $250.00

Total = $1,000.00
Conclusion
I am looking forward to your response and would appreciate
it greatly. Many benefits could arise from this program,
financially and socially. I am enthusiastic about research-
ing for this much- needed program. Again I want to reiterate
that I intend to reveal a valid need for this program and not
formulate the program. I have had experience with dealing
12
3
114 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
To: David Brennick
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Proposal
A proposal has to convince the reader of two things: 1) that the
problem addressed in the proposal is significant and worth
tackling, and 2) that the proposed project will be effective in
solving or (helping to solve) that problem. Your proposal does a
good job in demonstrating the importance of your topic, and Im
pretty convinced about the need to start doing research in this
area. (I do think, though, that you might relate that need more
specifically to your reader. What significance does this all
have for Family Hospital?) What Im not so sure of from reading
this proposal, though, is what your research is actually going to
look like. That is, youve convinced me 1) that the problem
needs to be addressed, but not 2) that your proposed project is
the best way to meet that need. As a potential funder, Im
most concerned that your proposal provides only a sketchy
description of the promised report. Id really like more
information about what Im buying here--especially if you expect
me to spend $1000 on it. (A lot of money for an unsolicited
proposal from a student!)
Specifically, it would help me to have
a. A more explicit statement of your objectives (see 9. below)
b. A more detailed description of the product: what topics the
report will cover, what kind of detail it will go into, what
research it will involve, (see 10. below)
After I get this information, Ill be pleased to approve the
topic.
Approved pending above.
Some more specific comments on the proposal (keyed to numbers in
the margin) are listed below:
1. This is a pretty important sentence. Can it be phrased more
directly: e.g., something along the lines of With this data, I
hope to demonstrate you need a co-dependency therapy program.
But . . .
115 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
2. Youre requesting to do the research--which means you dont
yet have the data. This statement, though, sounds like youve
already made up your mind about what that (as yet unobtained)
data will reveal.
3. This sounds rather general. Is anyone whos obsessed with
controlling another a co-dependent? Since co-dependency is such
an important concept in this proposal, you might want to spend a
little more time defining it. Its here that you begin to
establish your ethos--to convince the reader you understand the
problem and have the necessary expertise to tackle it.
4. Some of the sentences in this paragraph are a little wordy
(w). (Remember our discussions of sentence structure?) Ive
edited two sentences for conciseness. Can you think of ways to
make other sentences more economical and direct?
5. In order to avoid the awkwardness of him/her but still avoid
sexist language, you might consider making these plural: e.g. . . .
often leave codependents (and those around them)unaware of their
illnesses.
6. Its not altogether clear whether your concern in providing
treatment for the codependent is to help the codependent or to
improve the treatment of the dependent patient (or both). Can
you make your focus more specific? (This kind of detail will
help convince the reader that this project is practical and
worthwhile.)
7. Is the program that your report will point to concerned only
with detecting codependency or will it also offers ways to treat
codependency?
8. Can you relate this more carefully to your specific readers?
This would be a good occasion to mention Family Hospitals need for
a codependency program and the benefits the hospital would gain.
9. The objectives need to be phrased more specifically in terms
of what the report itself will do. The first statement isnt
really an objective of the report, and the second two are not
very explicit in telling me the report will accomplish.
10. Similarly, this description of the proposed report provides
little specifics about the report Im supposed to be buying.
Aside from the last two sentences of this section, I have very
little specific idea about what topics the report will cover,
116 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
what kind of information it will include, how long it will be.
11. When do you plan to write the report?
12. You might try to find a more positive way to express this.
(Remember the rhetorical focus of the proposal is to persuade the
reader of the projects benefits.) Perhaps something along the
lines of: This report in demonstrating the need for a
codependency program will provide first step in implementing such
a program. Subsequent research will be needed to formulate that
programs details.
117 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
I give students the following memo to explain the analytical report
assignment:
TO: English 303 Participants
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Assignment of Formal Report
Your next assignment is to write the report which you have just proposed. You
should now have a clear sense of the intended audience and purpose of your
report, as well as what topics your report will include, how it will be orga-
nized, and what research you will need to conduct. In a sense, then, you have
created your own assignment: your report should address the issues and meet
the objectives as outlined in your proposal. This memo will give you some
additional guidelines for preparing the report.
Format of the Report
Unless you have good reasons to do otherwise (and if so, you need to check
with me first), you should plan to write a two-level formal report (not a memo
or letter). We will go over these format requirements in class, but note that a
two-level report contains the following:
An opening segment consisting of a Foreword and Summary. This section is
written for people interested primarily in your conclusions and recommenda-
tions (usually executives and decision-makers).
The Foreword should identify the problem youre addressing in its
organizational context. It should also specify the technical problem and the techni-
cal tasks you performed to solve this problem. Finally, it should state the
rhetorical purpose of the report.
The Summary (sometimes called the Executive Summary) should
provide a condensed version of the report, identifying its objectives, methodol-
ogy, results, conclusions, and recommendations. The summary provides an
overview of the whole reportas it is of interest to decision-makers.
A Discussion segment consisting of an Introduction, Sections discussing
your research (organized as appropriate to audience, purpose, and topic),
Conclusions and Recommendations.
The Introduction should place the problem addressed into context and
identify the technical questions arising from this problem, should identify the
118 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
rhetorical purpose of the report, and may preview the reports organization. (In
other words, youll want to follow the CPO guidelines weve been discussing
this semester.)
The body of the report should employ a hierarchical structure, using
substantive headings.
The Conclusion and Recommendations should summarize the main
points, state the conclusions drawn from the research, and offer specific recom-
mendations asappropriate.
Because the report is addressed to a complex audience, the two levels should
be self-contained (that is, dont assume readers of one level will have read the
other level). Thus, as you can see, there is some built-in redundancy in this
report (that is, information will be repeated in various sections). More informa-
tion and examples of the two-level report will be given in class.
The report should also contain a letter of transmittal, title page, table of con-
tents, lists of tables and/or figures (if necessary), references, and appendices (if
necessary). More details about the format will be given in class.
The length of the report will be governed by the audience and purpose; that is,
the report should be as long as it needs to be and no longer. Given the appara-
tus of the report, however, its unlikely that you can achieve your purpose in
less than ten pages.
Schedule for the Report
Please observe the following due dates:
April 8. One section of the Report due for Rough Draft Workshop.
April 17. Foreword and Summary due for Rough Draft Workshop.
April 24. Formal report due.
Conferences to look at drafts will be scheduled on April 22. But you should
feel free to make appointments to discuss drafts at other times during the
month.
Evaluation Criteria
1. Does the report contain all the appropriate components, and in the correct
format?
2. Does the Foreword help the intended audience identify the organizational
problem, technical problem and tasks, and rhetorical purpose of the report?
3. Does the Summary offer a clear condensation of the report, as it would be of
interest to decision-makers?
4. Is the introduction effective in establishing the context, purpose, and organi-
zation of the proposal?
119 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
5. Does the information presented in the report meet the proposals objectives?
Are the conclusions and recommendations clear? Is the source of the informa-
tion clearly indicated?
6. Are the main sections organized hierarchically? Is that organization re-
flected visually and verbally (i.e., headings, subheadings, preview and sum-
mary statements, etc.)?
7. Are the graphics rhetorically effective and easy to use?
8. Is the style concise, active, and coherent? Are there adequate transitions? Is
the word choice appropriate?
9. Is the reports documentation adequate and correct?
10. Is the report free from disconcerting mechanical errors, such as spelling
and grammatical mistakes?
Explanation of Commentary
The formal report is the last assignment in my technical writing class
and thus brings together all the skills and principles weve been discussing
throughout the semester. In my commentary on the report, I try to sum up the
students achievement throughout the semester, to identify particular
strengths, to point once more to areas to work on, and to offer one last
reminder of the rhetorical principles which guided the course.
The report written by Rena Thompson on Indoor Air Pollution
Problems Associated with Energy Efficient Buildings represents the
culmination of a lot of work by a good and conscientious student. The writer,
who is an older student, began the semester by expressing some concerns
about the course: it had been several years since she had written any kind of
long academic paper. As the semester proceeded, her confidence in her writing
grew, and I wanted to use this last opportunity of evaluation to foster that
confidence. I thus emphasized the real strengths of this report: the careful
research, the logical way it was organized and presented, the professional
appearance of the document. I also took note of how hard she had worked
throughout the course, and how much I saw that work paying off.
My specific comments on the report tended to center on the rhetorical
contextthe need to focus the material more carefully on the readers needs.
This document, which sometimes seems more like a term paper than a report
addressed to a particular reader about a particular problem, shows how
difficult it is for some students to move from academic to professional
writing. The writer of this paper still clearly sees herself as a student: the
topical rather than problem-solving organization and the tentative
recommendations suggest how problematic it can sometimes be to establish
authority as a writer. I wanted to alert Ms. Thompson to some of these
120 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
concerns, but not to overwhelm her with them (especially since her confidence
was part of the issue). Thus, the bulk of my suggestions have to do with tying
her needs as a writer (she clearly wanted the company to improve her working
conditions) with the readers concerns (the company clearly wants a more
productive workforce).
There were very few mechanical problems in this paper, and no
important patterns, so I just made a few editing marks in the text.
My evaluation of Ms. Thompsons report was produced on a computer
for the reasons I outlined in my explanation of my commentary on Margaret
ONeils rsum and application letter.
121 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
6301 Moorman Road
Louisville, KY 40272
April 24, 1991
Professor Debra Journet
Department of English, Room 319C
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY
Dear Dr. Journet:
I am enclosing my final written project for your
technical writing course, a report on the problem of air
pollution in todays energy efficient office buildings.
While researching this project, I discovered that there
are approximately 1000 indoor pollutants, of which 60 are
carcinogenic. I also found that todays energy efficient
buildings are more prone to indoor pollution since they
are airtight and this allows the concentration of pollut-
ants. research indicates that symptoms of illnesses
caused by indoor pollution range from ones that cause
discomfort to those that are deadly (i.e. Legionnaires
Disease). I hope that I have been clear and persuasive
enough to make my company realize that this is a problem
that affects the health of many, and that steps should be
taken to insure a healthy workplace.
As for my thoughts about this course, I feel that I
have learned a lot, and that this was a perfect way for me
to relearn the skills needed for doing research papers
and other class writing. The workshops were the hardest
part for me since I found it difficult to say critical
things about other peoples work for fear of hurting their
feelings. I know it is necessary to be able to give
constructive criticism as well as receive it and I think I
was getting better at it at the end.
Thank you for your help.
Sincerely,
Rena L. Thompson
Be
consistent
cap
zip
space
122 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
April 24, 1991
Indoor Air Pollution Problems Associated
With Energy Efficient Buildings
by
Rena L. Thompson
123 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Table of Contents
Page
Foreword 1
Summary 2
Introduction 3
Causes of Indoor Pollution 4
Pollution-Related Health Problems 6
Costs 7
How This Relates To Our Company 7
Conclusions and Recommendations 8
Reference List 9
Appendices 10
This heading is not in the report itself
iii
iv
1
124 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
ii
Foreword
In the past year, Insurance Analysis Services has seen a
large increase in absenteeism, and a corresponding increase
in claim errors resulting in voids. These problems are
caused, in part, by indoor pollution. Indoor pollution in
office buildings is caused by accumulated toxins from any
number of the 1000 indoor pollutants identified by the
Environmental Protection Agency. The collection of symptoms
and illnesses resulting from indoor pollution are many,
and one commonly used name for them is sick building syndrome
(SBS).
Absenteeism results in lower production. Errors result in
voids which must be reinput and this also causes lower
production. Since only a small percentage of processed
claims are quality-reviewed, some claims are going out with
errors such asi to the wrong customer, for the wrong
dependent, with mistakes in computation resulting in
overpayments, and payments for ineligible services. All
these items result in not only higher costs to the company,
but also customer dissatisfaction.
In this report I present information about indoor air quality
problems and their affects on employee health and job perfor-
mance. I will describe options available to determine the
extent of the problems and ways to reduce or alleviate them.
?
1
sp
this
list
needs
to be
parallel
iii
125 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
1
Summary
There are many sources of indoor pollutants. These include
cigarette smoke, incorrect humidity levels, emissions from
furniture and carpeting, office machines, and constructions
materials,paper, and organic compounds. Virtually every
part of our working environment contributes to indoor
pollution (Buildings 1989, Laliberte 1989, McKee 1990,
Emmerling 1989).
Prior to the energy crisis of the 1970s, we were unaware
of most of these pollutants, since the our workplaces
allowed a constant flow of fresh air through windows,
cracks, and crevices, thus preventing a buildup of them.
Today's energy efficient buildings, tightened to prevent
heating and cooling loss, often have very little fresh air
intake thus allowing pollutants to become more concentrated
in the recirculated air (Sievert 1989). Also, ventilation
systems are often shut down too early, or have too many
off-periods, in order to save energy dollars (Building
1989, Sievert 1989).
Proper humidity levels are also important to employee
health and production. If too high or too low they affect
the growth of fungi, mold, bacteria, and viruses. They
also affect the performance of computers and other office
machines (Buildings 1989, Ylvisaker 1989).
The illnesses and complaints associated with polluted
buildings include headaches, respiratory infections,
shortness of breath, eye, nose, and throat irritations,
itchy skin, nosebleeds, disorientation, rashes, and poor
concentration. Deadly examples include Legionnaires
Disease and cancer (Laliberte 1990, McKee 1990, Holtom
1990).
Pollution-related health problems cost employers a great
deal of money due to absenteeism and poor job performance.
Estimates vary, but costs are thought to be in the billions
of dollars. Add to this the cost of medical care.
Computers and other machines are sensitive to dust and
humidity, and breakdowns can be very costly to a company iv
126 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
y
like ours that depends on speed and accuracy.
2
Conclusions and recommendations
Ours is a relatively new and energy efficient building. As
our clientele has grown so have the sources of pollution.
We receive a tremendous amount of paper daily and this
creates a lot of dust. We have dozens of ozone-emitting
copiers and printers that are used constantly. And since
we now have a cafeteria in the building, we have pollutants
from the kitchen.
Our company depends on high production and quality in order
to stay viable. Our employees cannot perform up to their
potential if made ill by their environment. They will make
mistakes that cost the company not only monetarily but also
in customer goodwill. As a corporation, Insurance Analysis
prides itself on customer satisfaction and promises prompt
and accurate service. We will not be able to keep that
promise if our building is health hazard.
The solution to out air quality problems lies in knowing
precisely what we are dealing with and how effective our
present systems are functioning. I recommend that the
company send for one or more of the free publications
available that offer guidance in assessing indoor air
quality. (see Appendix A). Then we can determine if a
complete diagnostic examination of our building is in
order. Appendix B has a list of local firms that do diag-
nostic examinations.
v
2
good
audience
adaptation
a
127 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
3
3
In this report I will present data about indoor air qual-
ity problems associated with energy efficient buildings
such as ours. I will address the causes of indoor air
pollution, costs to employers, and ways to assess the
extent of, and steps available to reduce or alleviate, the
pollution.
Causes of Indoor Pollution
Many things contribute to poor indoor air quality includ-
ing cigarette smoke, furniture and carpeting, office ma-
chines, humidity levels and construction materials
(Laliberte 1990, McKee 1990). And while many of these
factors have always been present in buildings, it was not
until buildings were tightened in an effort to make
them more energy efficient that problems associated with
indoor aitr pollution began to become noticeable (Sievert
1990).
Airtight Buildings
When the energy crisis of the 1970s hit, one of the ways
companies tried to save energy dollars was by constructing
new buildings, and modifying old ones, to be airtight to
reduce gheating and cooling loss. And while many things
contribute to indoor pollution, it was this tightening of
buildings that caused increased concentration of pollut-
ants, especially in buildings with inadequate fresh air
intake (Sievert 1989). Poor ventilation, according to
Gray Robertson of Healthy Buildings International, an
indoor-air inspection firm in Fairfax, VA, has been found
in 62 percent of the buildings the firm has inspected.
People have shut off the fresh-air supply to save
money, he says, and its only a matter of time before
they get sick (McKee 1990).
1
Introduction ?
Context?
Purpose
Organization
4
5
128 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Current standards for fresh air intake of five(5) cubic
feet per minute (CFM) per person is too low to flush out
pollutants, and an increase to twenty(20) CFM per person
has been found to reduce indoor pollution levels, in most
cases to tolerable levels. Too many off-periods for
ventilation systems or shutting the systems down too early
at the end of the day also can adversely affect indoror
air quality (Buildings 1989).
4
Another factor that can affect the operation of
ventilation systems is the placement of air intake valves.
If placed too near areas with heavy traffic, such as
loading docks, the valves will bring pollutants such as
carbon monoxide into the building instead of fresh air and
dangerous levels can be reached even in buildings with
apparently adequate ventilation systems (McKee 1990).
Relative Humidity
Improper humidity levels have been shown to affect
employee health and production and office machines. If
too high or too low, bacteria, viruses, and fungi become
more evident. If too high, people become susceptible to
respiratory infections. Studies have found that where
humidity levels are controlled absenteeism is reduced and
production is higher. Also, computers function with less
down time due to static electricity and copiers do not
jam.
Standard relative humidity levels are now 120 to 80
percent, but recent studies show that the optimum levels
should be 40 to 60 percent. A University of Saskatchewan
study shows that raising minimum levels from 20 percent to
only 30 percent would lower absenteeism by 10 to 15
percent, which could save industry billions of dollars
(Buildings 1989).
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are chemicals that turn
to gas at room temperature,and are given off by many
common materials, such as furniture, and carpeting,
paints, cleaning supplies, office machines, paper, and
cigrarettes, to name only a few sources. For exampole,
; i
levels are
A better
transition?
129 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
many copiers and laser printers emit ozone which is a
severe lung irritant and which causes a breakdown of red
blood cells. Furniture and carpeting, as well as many
building materials give off formaldehyde which causes
headaches, nausea, dizziness and coughing. While
individual VOCs are usually present in small quantities,
an Environmental Protection Agency study of various
public buildings has found that a typical air sample
contained 100 to 200 different compounds at levels much
higher than outdoors (Laliberte 1991, Buildings 1989,
Emmerling 1989, Holtom 1990).
5
Biological Agents
Biological agents are viruses, bacteria, fungal spores,
algae, pollen, mold, and dust mites. They are found in
improperly cleaned and maintained ventilation systems and
humidifiers, and water-damaged furniture and carpeting
(Laliberte 1990, Buildings 1989, Holtom 1990).
Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a by-product of breathing and
levels are determined by the number of people in the
building and the amount of fresh air that enters the
building. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by cigarette
smoke and in vehicle exhaust which is drawn into a
building if air intake vents are located too near a
garage or traffic (Laliberte 1991).
These are only a few of the approximately 1000 indoor
pollutants identified by the Environmental Protection
Agency of which 60 are thought to be carcinogenic (Holtom
1990).
Pollution-Related Health Problems
The illnesses associated with indoor air pollution are
called variety of names: sick building syndrome, 20th-
century disease, and ecological illness to name a few.
The symptoms include headaches, respiratory problems,
comma
fault
130 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
shortness of breath, eye, nose, and throat irritation,
itchy skin, nose bleeds, disorientation, rashes and poor
concentration (Ylvesaker 1989, McKee 1990).
Ozone and formaldehyde are lung irritants. Carbon dioxide,
carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde cause headaches,
dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, and lung problems. At high
levels, carbon monoxide can cause death. Biological
pollutants cause problems such as respiratory infections,
some more serious examples are Legionnaires Disease,
hypersensitivity pneumonia and humidifier fever (McKee
1990, Holtom 1990).
6
Costs
All of the above mentioned pollution-related health
problems cost companies a great deal of money due to
absenteeism and decreased production. Estimates vary, but
the costs are thought to be in the billions of dollars.
According to one studys estimate, respiratory infections
alone account for about 150 million lost workdays, at least
$59 billion in indirect costs such as lost income due to
workers being out, and an additional $15 billion in medical
costs (Laliberte 1990). An EPA report to Congress
attributes $1 billion in medical costs to heart disease
and cancer caused by indoor pollution (Holtom 1990).
When looking at the costs associated with indoor pollution,
companies should also consider the possibility of future
liability for failure to correct health hazards. Lawsuits
related to debilitating illnesses caused by indoor
pollution could amount to millions of dollars in
judgements. A case in California has already resulted in a
settlement of $600,000.00 for a computer worker in his case
against practically everyone involved in the construction
of his workplace (Nelson-Norchler 1989).
How This Relates To Our Company
Well related to the reader's needs. Can you do
more of this throughout?
131 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
Ours is a relatively new and energy efficient building,
and there are many sources of pollution, such as copiers
and other machines, tons of paper, cleaning supplies, and
etc. With as many pollutants as our building contains we
need to know how serious our problem is.
One of my duties in my department is to maintain the
employee sign-in sheets and to record the reasons given
for unscheduled absences. Most often the reason or
reasons given are indicative of sick building syndrome.
My conversations with those in other departments who
perform the same duties indicate the same pattern of
complaints.
A company like ours is dependent on high production and
quality. We promise our customers that their medical
claims will be processed promptly and accurately. If our
employees
7
are absent, or not meeting production, or are making too
many mistakes due to a sick building, we will not be able
to keep our promise. This will cost the company in
revenue, the goodwill of our customers, for medical
insurance, and possibly, the loyalty of our work force.
Conclusions and Recommendations
There are ways to remedy a sick building: making sure
ventilation systems and air ducts are functioning
properly, having exhaust fans over copiers, and making
sure humidity levels conform to accepted standards, to
name only a few. In order to learn what our company needs
to do to insure a healthy work environment, I recommend
that we obtain one or more of the free publications listed
in Appendix A which will serve as a guide to remedying our
problems., Appendix B has a list of local firms that
specialize in doing diagnostic examinations of building
and suggesting ways to combat indoor pollution.
6
132 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
8
Reference List
Emmerling, Susan G. 1989. Hazards Management. American
School and University 61:18-23
Holtom, Robert B. 1990. Seeking the SBS Cure. Bests
Review 90:64-6,83
Laliberte, Richard. 1990. The Truth About Breathing Un-
easy: Sick building Syndrome. Health 22:62-5,82
McKee, Bradford A. 1990. Yearning to Breathe Free.
Nations Business 78:46-7
Nelson-?Norchler, Joani. 1989. Sick Buildings: The
Inside Story On Air Pollution. Industry Week 238:69
Sievert, George. 1989. Understanding Indoor Air Quality
Can Help Diagnose The Cure. American School and Univer-
sity 61: 19-24
Ylvesaker, Peter N. 1989. Air Quality: Is It (Wheeze;
Cough!) Time to Test. Buildings 83:62-4
1989.
133 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
1989. Indoor Air Quality: You Are What You Breathe.
Buildings 83:90-1
9
Appendix A
Publications Available About Indoor Air Quality Problems
The Inside Story: A Guide To Indoor Air Quality; a free
32 pg. book from: Public
Information Center
U.S. E.P.A.
Mail Code PM-211B
401 M Street, SW
Wash., D.C. 20460
Guidance for Indoor Air Quality Investigations; a free
handbook from: Division of Respiratory Diseases
Studies at NIOSH
944 Chestnut Ridge Road
Morgantown, W. VA. 26505
Indoor Air Quality; a N.J. Information Bulletin from
PEOSH from:N.J. Department of Health
PEOSH Project 7th Floor CN-360
Trenton, N.J. 08625
134 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
(609) 984-1863
A free, nontechnical information packet is available from:
Building Owners and Managers
Association International
1201 N.Y. Ave., N.W. Suite 300
Wash., D.C. 20005
(202) 289-7000
10
Appendix B
Louisville Companies That Do Diagnostic Examinations of
Buildings
Diversified Industries Inc.
3600 Chamberlain lane
Louisville, KY 429-5818
Erce Consulting Engineers
310 W. Liberty
Louisville, KY 585-2039
Fisher-Klosterman Inc
2901 Magazine
Louisville, KY 776-1505
Flowers, R.L. & Associates, Inc
13005 Middletown Industrial Blvd
Louisville, KY 245-6626
Harping Inc. Industrial Sheet Metal
330 Boxley Ave.
Louisville, KY 636-3700
135 Debra Journet, University of Louisville
TO: Rena Thompson
FROM: Debra Journet
RE: Major Report
This is a very impressive document. Youve done really good work
throughout the semester, and this report is the culmination of
all your effort. Theres a lot of careful research here, and
its put to effective use in making your case. I was
particularly impressed with the way you demonstrated the
seriousness of the problem and am convinced of the importance of
your companys looking into it further.
The report is well organized overall. Theres a nice
hierarchical structure thats reflected both visually and
verbally. I would suggest in the section on Causes of Indoor
Pollution that you make some kind of visual distinction between
headings and subheadings. (One in capitals, the other not, for
instance).
I would also recommend you think about punching up your
recommendations. As it stands, the report does a good job of
detailing the problem, but doesnt make it very clear what you
want the company to do next. The recommendation is kind of
buried in the end; your specific suggestions really need to be
emphasized. You want to keep underlining that you want your
company to take some action. Moreover, you should be clearer--
and more emphatic (though politely so)--about what you want them
to do. All that careful research has earned you this right.
What follows are some specific questions or concerns (keyed to
numbers in the margin of your text) that came up as I was
reading.
1. This foreword is effective in making the organizational
problem clear. But you dont really state the technical problem
and task--i.e., what you had to do to prepare this report. Making
this explicit will help readers see the reports value.
2. Is this part of the summary? It looks like a separate
section, which is confusing since theres already a later section
called Conclusions and Recommendations. The paragraphs on this
page are really central to your purpose. I think you could be
clearer what you want your company to do. Remember whos likely
136 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
to read this section. Its here that you not only have to
establish the need (which you do), but also make very clear what
kind of action you recommend.
3. This is a pretty cursory introduction. Remember that not
everyone will read the whole report, from first to last page.
This introduction is important in orienting readers to the body
of the report. Can you use the introduction to make the context
of the report clearer?
4. Can you make the organization of this section clearer? A
preview statement and better headings would help establish the
hierarchy of ideas here.
5. You might think about connecting this more specifically to
your audience. Though you do have a section at the end on how
this problem relates to us, readers might not get that far.
The more you can tie into the readers needs--the more relevance
you can establish throughout--the better.
6. After the seriousness of the problem you outline (illness,
absenteeism, loss of profits, declining loyalties, etc.), these
recommendations seem rather tame. Do you not want to go further
than suggest writing off for pamphlets? Would it be better to
recommend authorizing someone to take charge of this problem?
I really enjoyed your participation in class this semester. I
especially appreciated your tact and conscientiousness in the
workshops, as well as the good questions you asked each of the
speakers in their formal presentations. I think youre a very
strong writer and will make a very good teacher. Good luck in
the future.
137 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
Chapter 3
The Commentary of
Mary Lay
University of Minnesota
Mary M. Lay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric at
the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She wrote this chapter while Chair of
the Department of Technical Communications at Clarkson University, where
she taught technical communications for 14 years. She has three years experi-
ence as a supervising technical editor for IEEE Publications and John Wiley &
Sons, Publishers. She is co-editor with William Karis of Collaborative Writing in
Industry (Baywood 1991) and has published most recently on feminist theory
and professional communication in the Journal of Business and Technical Commu-
nication and other collections. She is in charge of training and mentoring
prospective teachers of scientific and technical communication at the Univer-
sity of Minnesota and is a past president of ATTW. With Billie Wahlstrom, she
co-edits the Technical Communication Quarterly.
138 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
An unsolicited letter of application and the accompanying rsum
require solid persuasive strategies. I ask students to consider the rsum
evidence for claims made in letters. The opening of the letter generally must
provoke the readers interest, the middle of the letter stress connections be-
tween the students educational and work experience and the position sought,
and the closing of the letter request action of the reader. The rsum must be
easy to read or skim and as concrete as possible. Both letter and rsum must
be error-free, and the spacing and format of the rsum, in particular, clear and
consistent.
Explanation of Commentary
Since students often send the letters of job application they write for a
professional writing class, my comments vary with the students talent and
effort. If they submit a letter full of spelling or grammatical errors, I help them
eliminate these and hope that we can then work on content. If they produce a
polished letter without substance, my comments suggest what more they can
tell the reader about themselves. Students are usually eager to revise their
letters, whether or not the assignment requires this revision.
Robins letter is intelligent and thoughtful. Such sentences as Often
this has required one-on-one consultations where an authors cooperation
depended on how tactfully the necessary revisions were presented, while
expressed in the passive voice, convey that intelligence. Therefore, most of my
comments stress points where Robin needs more detail, and rather than editing
her sentences, I ask the questions the reader might raise and assume Robin will
answer them in a revision.
The success of the letter of job application can be measured directly by
the readers offering the writer an interview. Since Robin must convince her
reader to offer such an interview, even though the company is not presently
interviewing Technical Communications majors, it is particularly important
that she answer every possible question or objection. I ask her to do such
things as identify her major within the first paragraph and clarify whether she
wants the company to interview her on campus or invite her for a job trip. I
caution her not to make exclusive statements, such as the proper use of lan-
guage is the primary concern of a writer or editorthis company might
think that technical accuracy is the most important writing concern. Since
Robin has had an impressive internship experience, editing technical proposals,
139 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
I suggest she describe a specific internship task that might duplicate possible
writing assignments at this company. Also, while Robin gives a clear picture of
her knowledge of the two distinct writing processes, she should research the
company so that she can link her experience and their needs. In addition,
Robin needs to close with a request for specific action.
Again, as with the letter, I mark every spacing, format, grammatical,
and stylistic problem on the rsum. In other assignments, I might indicate
only the most important areas for improvement so as not to overwhelm the
student. Since Robin will send out this rsum, I want to catch as much as
possible. Robins rsum is well planned and the information easy to find, so I
can concentrate on minor refinements. For example, I point out type inconsis-
tencies, such as her use of caps and boldface for CLARKSON RESEARCH
DIVISION but not for Niagara County Golf Course.
I also make sure the information on the rsum is useful and concrete.
If a rsum contains a job objective, that statement should give the reader
confidence that the applicant wants the position available. Robins job objec-
tive is so vague that it is of little use. Some of her descriptions of job duties,
such as worked in group situations and establishing CUSA recognition
also need clarification. Finally, I make sure that the letter and rsum are
coordinated. While Robin describes both her majors in her letter, she lists
coursework only from her Technical Communications major and Economics
concentration (minor) on her rsum.
140 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
October 1, 1990
Clarkson University
Box 8836
Potsdam, NY 13699-8836
Jill Shea
Communication Systems Division
GTE Government Systems Corporation
77 A Street
Needham Heights, MA 02194-2892
Dear Ms. Shea:
At the Clarkson Industrial Fair on September 19, Mike Langlois talked with me regarding
employment possibilities as a technical editor or writer. Although GTE will be interviewing at
Clarkson on October 11, my major was not scheduled. Therefore, I am requesting an interview.
A senior double major in Technical Communications and the Humanities, I have experience in
two distinct writing processes. My academic work and activities have involved projects from the
planning stage to publication.
The proper use of language is the primary concern of a writer or editor. My experience as a
Technical Editor for the Clarkson Research Division reinforced that concern. As indicated on
my resume, I edited professors research proposals and professional papers. Each manuscript
had to communicate effectively and appropriately, concerning a specific audience and form. My
supervisors evaluations indicated that I achieved this without compromising the authors style or
content.
As Editor of the Looking Glass literary magazine, I have learned to work within the constraints of a
manuscripts genre and an authors expectations. Often this has required one-on-one consultations
where an authors cooperation depended on how tactfully the necessary revisions were presented.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,
Robin Maie Clark
Enclosure
what is it?
do you need to make
this
connection clear? Is
he
in the same division?
on campus?
or a job trip?
what advice
do you want?
ask for something
specific
effective
insight.
Link this with
the position there.
effective style,
Robin. You
need to be less
suggestive and
more concrete.
And you do have
room to expand
the letter.
Do more research
on this company
and job.
Really an
error-free
letter!
Such as?
Give an example
appropriate to
her
division?
only or one?
141 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
ROBIN MAIE CLARK
Current Address: PermanentAddress:
Clarkson University 4576 Day Road
Box 8836 Lockport, NY 14094
Potsdam, NY 13699-8836 (716) 433-6264
(315) 268-4343
OBJECTIVE Employment as a (technical) editor or writer.
EDUCATION CLARKSON UNIVERSITY Potsdam, NY
Bachelor of Science
Technical Communications, Professional Concentration in Economics
Humanities
May 1991
GPA first major - 3.458/4.0; second major - 4.0/4.0; overall - 3.250/4.0.
RELEVANT Microeconomics Technical Editing
COURSES Macroeconomics Technical Journalism and Public Relations
Managerial Economics Business and Professional Speaking
History of Economic Publication Design and Desktop Publishing
Thought Mass Media
Economic Principles
RELEVANT CLARKSON RESEARCH DIVISION Potsdam, NY
EXPERIENCE Technical Writer
Fall 89 Edited and organized professors engineering proposals for industrial and government
research grants. Also edited papers submitted to professional journals.
EMPLOYMENT Advertising, East Amherst, NY
Programmed and edited electronic boards, using an IBM-PC and modem; worked
independently, opening and closing business; Summer 1989.
Niagara County Golf Course, Lockport, NY
Handled clerical work and cashiered; worked independently and in group situations;
opened and closed business; Summer 1990.
HONORS Research paper placed within top five accepted by Lambda Pi Eta for presentation at
the 1990 Speech Communication Association national convention.
Deans List: Fall & Spring 1989, Spring 1990
Whos Who
Clarkson Trustee Scholarship
ACTIVITIES The Looking Glass literary magazine
Poetry Editor: Fall 1988 & Spring 1989
Editor: Fall 1989, Fall & Spring 1990
Establishing CUSA recognition
Yearbook writer
Psychology Club
Theatre Club
International Students Organization, Conversation Partners
Speech Communication Association student member
REFERENCES Available upon request.
somewhat vague.
within industry?
any particular type?
make clear this is a double major
I see no courses from
your second major
here
see style
below
a company
name?
see style
above
bold,
caps?
will the reader know
what this means?
surely other
duties as
well
Robin a few
suggestions And make
sure your format is
consistent. Very
easy to read or skim.
specifically?
or
vague
142 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Instructions
Description of Assignment
Effective instructions must be clear, safe, and complete. Students can
create effective instructions if they actually assemble a device (for example,
using tinker toys as in this assignment) and then write instructions on how to
assemble and operate the device. Instructors who have the device parts before
them can then reassemble the device, role playing the reader or user. This is
the best way to offer students feedback. If students collaborate on the assign-
ment, as three did here, they can more easily check and double-check for
completeness.
Explanation of Commentary
Since most readers resist assembly instructions, writers must motivate
readers to read and follow the instructions step by step, ensuring the readers
cooperation in the beginning and encouraging them as they go along. The
writers, Lyle Johnson, Derick Deleo, and Mary Jo Skodzinsky, open with a
friendly caution to their readersbest results are obtained by reading
through the instructions entirely before beginning the assembly of the fan.
They are less successful in encouraging their readers at significant points in the
instructions. I suggest that a series of small diagrams and statements (such as
If you have followed steps 1 through 6 successfully, you should now see ...)
would give the reader that necessary feedback and, as a second benefit, break
up what might appear to be an overwhelming list of steps. I indicate the points
where Lyle, Derick, and Mary Jo might include these statements or diagrams.
A parts list and a complete illustration of the device should appear in
the beginning of assembly instructions. I check these, again role playing the
reader, to make sure Lyle, Derick, and Mary Jo use figures and expressions in
the most common way, and that their expressions are precise. For example, I
remind them that dimensions are more meaningful to the reader than subjec-
tive words such as small. Since parentheses around numbers usually indi-
cate placement on a list, rather than number of parts, they might confuse the
reader. Also, 4 five-hole wheels would be clearer than (4) five hole wheels.
Finally, their exploded diagram should help the reader check parts and envi-
sion assembly (in fact, most readers could not complete the assembly without
the diagram). A diagram of the assembled device would ensure that the reader
completes what I think is the most confusing section of the instructions,
Gravitational Motor.
143 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
Generally in instructions, each action step should appear separately, as
one item in the list; I point out where Lyle, Derick, and Mary Jo violate this
rule. They do begin each step with an action, using caps for emphasis. I have
edited some steps, such as (These become BLADE PIECES), to encourage
them to look again at style. In general, I am adding information that they may
have assumed the readers could gather on their own, so I am often role playing
the least informed reader.
Finally, writers may assume that once the device is assembled, its up
and running. Lyle, Derick, and Mary Jo need to treat their operating instruc-
tions with as much care as their assembling instructions.
Because these instructions were generally well-displayed and thorough,
I could focus on my role as actual user. Whenever I felt in the least confused, I
noted this to Lyle, Derick, and Mary Jo. Had there been any danger that my
confusion would cause damage to the device or injury to myself, I would have
asked them for WARNINGS or CAUTIONS.
144 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Congratulations! You are the proud new owner of the WOODTECH DESKTOP
GRAVITATIONAL FAN!
The DESKTOP GRAVITATIONAL FAN is designed to quietly relieve tension
and stress as well as provide a cool, relaxing breeze with desktop convenience.
Your new DESKTOP GRAVITATIONAL FAN is powered naturally, by the
force of gravity, so that there are no batteries to ever be replaced, and no
annoying electrical cord to get in your way.
The DESKTOP GRAVITATIONAL FAN is as much fun to assemble as it is to
use. By carefully following these instructions, your DESKTOP
GRAVITATIONAL FAN will provide endless hours of maintainance-free
service and enjoyment.
FOR THE BEST RESULTS, WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO TAKE A FEW
MINUTES TO READ THROUGH THESE INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE
BEGINNING THE ASSEMBLY OF YOUR
DESKTOP GRAVITATIONAL FAN
friendly
opening
should motivate
reader.
145 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
Place above the
list.
DESK TOP GRAVITATIONAL FAN
ASSEMBLY AND OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS
PARTS LIST
(1) large plastic base
(2) medium plastic bases
(2) small plastic bases
(4) five hole wheels
(4) one hole wheels
(2) long sticks
(12) medium sticks
(6) short sticks
(4) triangular blades
(1) plastic cylinder
(1) plastic cap
(1) plastic washer
(1) string
BEFORE PROCEEDING WITH ASSEMBLY
MAKE SURE THAT NONE OF THE ABOVE
PARTS ARE MISSING AND REVIEW THE
SCHEMATIC TO THE RIGHT.

one word
five-hole wheels,
etc. Use hyphen
modifier
eliminate parentheses
confusing. Looks
like list numbers
give dimensions
"small"/"long"
are subjective
words
generally a
clear diagram
how about
after assembly?
do you need a
second
diagram?
146 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TOWER ASSEMBLY
1. PLACE one MEDIUM BASE face up on a level surface and INSERT the two LONG
STICKS into the holes on the two holed edge of the MEDIUM BASE.
2. INSERT two MEDIUM STICKS into the two holes in the opposite edge of the MEDIUM
BASE.
3. INSERT the other end of these MEDIUM STICKS into the two holed edge of the second
MEDIUM BASE keeping the base face up.
4. INSERT two additional MEDIUM STICKS into the empty two holed side of the second
MEDIUM BASE.
5. INSERT the other end of these MEDIUM STICKS into the edge of one of the SMALL
BASES keeping the base face up.
6. INSERT two additional MEDIUM STICKS into the opposite edge of the SMALL BASE
and then ATTACH the last SMALL BASE as in STEP 5.
7. INSERT one SHORT STICK into the center hole on the face of the last SMALL BASE.
8. SLIP a FIVE HOLE WHEEL through the center hole onto the SMALL STICK and PLACE
the PLASTIC CAP on the end of the SHORT STICK.
9. PLACE the LARGE BASE face up on a level surface. This base has been fitted with two
rows of eight holes each and a center row of seven holes. From either narrow end, locate
the second and third holes of an eight-hole row. CAREFULLY INSERT the LONG
STICKS of the TOWER ASSEMBLY into these holes.
10. INSERT one MEDIUM STICK into each of the first and last holes of both of the eight
holesides of the LARGE BASE.
FAN ASSEMBLY
1. INSERT (1) TRIANGULAR BLADEs short side into the slot at one end of each of four
SHORT STICKS. (BLADE PIECES)
2. INSERT the BLADE PIECES into the curved-sided holes of a ONE HOLE WHEEL so that
opposing blade pieces are vertically opposite and the slanted edges all slant in the same
manner. (FAN)
3. SLIP the PLASTIC WASHER onto the end of the remaining SHORT STICK leaving about
1/4 inch of the sticks end exposed. (AXLE)
4. INSERT the washer end of the AXLE into the center hole of the FAN.
5. SLIP the AXLE through the center hole of the PLASTIC CYLINDER.
6. SLIP one end of the STRING into the slot of the exposed end of the AXLE.
7. INSERT the string end of the AXLE into the center hole of a ONE HOLE WHEEL.
stop here and explain what it
should look
like
give
small
diagram.
divide
sentence here
one action
per sentence.

on surface and edge? sides only?


explain will the reader confuse with sur-
face holes
another small diagram
to show result?
write out
see step 1above.
these become . . .
this forms . . .
be exact
show
after
assembly
in a
diagram.
these become . . .
147 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
8. INSERT one end of a MEDIUM STICK into one end of the PLASTIC CYLINDER. (FAN
ASSEMBLY)
9. INSERT the FAN ASSEMBLY into the second center hole of the BASE at the end furthest
from the TOWER ASSEMBLY so that the string end of the AXLE is closest to the
TOWER and the AXLE is parallel to the long sides of the BASE.
GRAVITATIONAL MOTOR
1. SLIP the free end of the string through the center of a ONE HOLE WHEEL and then SLIP
the end of the string through the slot at the end of the remaining MEDIUM STICK
(leave about 1/4 inch of string loose.)
2. INSERT the MEDIUM STICK into the center of the ONE HOLE WHEEL.
3. SLIP three FIVE HOLE WHEELS onto the MEDIUM STICK through their center holes.
4. INSERT the free end of the MEDIUM STICK into the center of the last remaining ONE
HOLE WHEEL.
5. WIND the string onto the AXLE by turning the FAN ASSEMBLY manually leaving
enough slack to reach and pass over the top of the TOWER ASSEMBLY.
6. HOLD the GRAVITATIONAL MOTOR in your right hand and LAY the STRING in
either of the two grooves of the FIVE HOLE WHEEL at the top of the TOWER
ASSEMBLY.
OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS
By gently releasing the gravitational motor from its fully wound position at the top of the
tower assembly gravity will provide the energy necessary to power the fan. (A gentle nudge
may be necessary to start the motor.) When the motor comes to rest and the fan stops, you
may rewind the string around the axle and run it over the top wheel as before to power the fan
again. Continue operating the fan until you have relieved your tension, completed your
thoughts, or fully refreshed yourself.
farthest
again show this
in a small
diagram
placement
here is
hard to
visualize.
show
this
should these steps be
listed?
Generally clear.
You need some
diagrams showing
parts after
assembly to give the
reader confidence.
You have handled action
well.
148 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Proposal
Description of Assignment
A modification of a case within Elizabeth Tebeauxs Design of Business
Communications: The Process and the Product (New York: MacMillan, 1990, pp.
333-334) provides the basis for this proposal assignment. The credit depart-
ment manager of a large urban department store supervises credit analysts
who work in front of a computer. Lately, the analysts have been complaining
of back pain. Tebeaux sets the case at a time when the credit manager has
already investigated and decided to purchase new chairs. I ask the students to
go back in time, before the manager collected much information, and propose
that he (called Mario Valdez in the case, although most students use their own
names) be allowed to investigate such a purchase. Tebeaux provides the
necessary facts of the case, but students may add detail as long as they do not
diminish the challenge of the assignment. Students know that they must
establish their own credibility as the proper person to investigate the problem,
must explain their methodology and the cost of the investigation, and include
the possible benefits to the company and its personnel. They must propose
that this problem, perhaps in competition with others, should receive priority.
Explanation of Commentary
One problem that Dave and other students had with this assignment
was finding enough information to justify a thorough proposal. With this case
in particular, I wanted to praise students who did add detail to the published
case to produce a solid proposal. For example, Dave added a plan for trying
out each chair and named the employees involved. However, I also suggest
other logical additions to the case; for example, if the case states that Robert
Gould has been under a doctors care for back pain, soliciting an evaluation of
Goulds condition after testing each chair might be an option. Noting these
logical extensions may prevent students from just rearranging facts in pub-
lished cases and encourage them to imagine how they might tackle such prob-
lems in the real world.
In this assignment, I also look for successful handling of the traditional
sections of a proposal. While I try not to prescribe exact genres or formats in
professional writing, these traditional sections can help students organize and
display their ideas. Also, because a proposal may compete not only for the
readers attention but also corporate funds, I check to see how persuasive
students have been while using traditional proposal sections. When students
write a lengthy summary, such as Dave has, they often fall into a narrative,
149 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
rather than persuasive pattern. Thus I comment on where Dave could shorten
his summary, how late his main request comes in the summary, and the clearly
stated company benefits of his project that could be moved from his conclud-
ing comments to his introductory comments.
Since a proposal requests permission for future action, the reader
checks for a realistic and detailed plan. Dave overwrites his methodology
section, given the detail he and the case provide; however, his lengthy descrip-
tions indicate that he knows the importance of the methodology or plan
sections, so I try to give him as much credit as possible in these sections. For
example, while Dave does not overtly claim that he is the best person to con-
duct such research, his thorough description of methodology should establish
his ethos, and his well-displayed information in lists and tables add to his
credibility. But, I do challenge him to eliminate any vagueness in his plan; for
example, the case has provided one possible way to break a tie in his subjects
preferencesseek the medical communitys opinion.
Finally, although Dave has a clear and direct style, I edit some of his
sentences to help him polish his writing. For example, no hyphen is required
to link an adverb and an adjective as in specially designed chairs. Also, I
revise Daves sentences so that the placement of appendices does not drive his
sentences (Figure 1, found in the Appendix, is a letter from Roberts orthope-
dist, Dr. Kelly Pecham, stating that Robert needs a specially designed computer
chair to support his back), but rather the importance of these documents
becomes his main focus (A letter from Roberts orthopedist, Dr. Kelly Pecham,
states that Robert needs a specially designed computer chair to support his
back [Appendix A]).
150 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TO: Sewell Marquette, Comptroller
FROM: Dave Daywalt, Credit Department Manager
SUBJECT: Proposal for Selecting and Purchasing Specially-
Designed Chairs for Credit Department Employees
DATE: November 12, 1990
Summary
Since all customer accounts are computerized, credit department employees spendtheir entire
day working at their computer terminals. Thus, it is important that their workplace be
designed for intense computer work.
Three months ago the planned remodeling of the credit department offices was completed and
the old desks and chairs were replaced. The desks and chairs we now have in the department
are the standard models being purchased company-wide. While the desks have proven to be
conveniently structured, the chairs are not conducive to computer work.
As a result, many of the credit analysts and billing clerks have begun experiencing back
problems. The chairs are not giving them the lower back support necessary to lean forward at
a computer terminal for eight hours a day. Two employees have already been transferred to
different departments because of back problems, and a third employee is suffering from back
spasms.
To solve this problem, I propose to select and purchase chairs that are specially designed for
workers who spend long hours at computer terminals. I have called all six local office
furniture companies, and two companies, Office Ergonomics and Comfort Systems, have
chairs designed for computer work. They have each agreed to let me borrow their chair for
four weeks so that the employees can try it.
In order to determine the better chair, I will have four employees try both chairs and report
their evaluations to me. Based on their evaluations, I will select their preferred chair. I will
then recommend that 26 of those chairs be purchased in order to accommodate the 26 credit
department employees.
Rationale for Purchasing Chairs
Since the credit department employees began using the new company-wide chair model, back
pain complaints have become fairly common. Three of the nine credit analysts and nine of
the twelve billing clerks have complained of increasing back pain.
A fourth credit analyst, Robert Gould, has been forced to leave work early on several
occasions because of back spasms. Figure 1, found in the Appendix, is a letter from Roberts
orthopedist, Dr. Kelly Pecham, stating that Robert needs a specially-designed computer chair
to support his back. Dr. Pecham writes that the Office Ergonomics computer chair is highly
recommended by the AmericanOrthopedics Society.
Two former billing clerks, Janice Downs and Debbie Collins, have been transferred to other
departments because of back problems. Figure 2, found in the Appendix, is the documentation
for their transfers. The two memos shown there each state that the reason for the transfer was
increasing back pain resulting from working long hours at a computer terminal.
(Appendix A).
well-stated, but does it
come late in the
summary?
could
underline
for
emphasis.
very clear style
(see Appendix B).
no
hyphen
best word? "comfortable"? and why? what benefit?
could shorten description
of methods save for
later?
use this
form
es
in Appendix B
151 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
Thus, the current chairs are causing serious discomfort for many of the department
employees. This has already resulted in the loss of two experienced employees and the
documented injury of a third. These events indicate that the continued use of these chairs will
have a negative impact on the overall health and well-being of the department employees.
This is likely to lead to increased absenteeism and turnover within the department. For this
reason it is necessary to purchase chairs specially designed for computer work.
Plan for Evaluating Chairs
Last week I called all six local office furniture companies and discussed the problem with
them. They all agreed that the department employees need specially-designed chairs that will
better support their backs. However, only two of the companies, Office Ergonomics and
Comfort Systems, carry this type ofchair.
Jim Owens from Office Ergonomics and R. B. Casey from Comfort Systems have each agreed
to let me borrow a chair for four weeks so the department employees can try it out. I will have
four employees try both chairs and evaluate them. I have selected the following four
representative employees to try the chairs:
Robert Gould - credit analyst reporting back problems
Mark Wilton - credit analyst not reporting back problems
Nancy Anton - billing clerk reporting back problems
Colleen Dale - billing clerk not reporting back problems
Shown below is the schedule for trying the chairs
Employee O.E. Chair C.S. Chair
Robert Gould week 1 week 2
Mark Wilton week 2 week 1
Nancy Anton week 3 week 4
Colleen Dale week 4 week 3
Upon completion of the four-week try-out period, I will compile the evaluations of the four
employees and select the better chair based on their evaluations. Finally, I will prepare a
report recommending the purchase of the better chair.
Method of Selecting a Chair
Before each of the four employees begins trying the two specially-designedchairs, I will ask
him or her to write down his or her feelings and observations regarding the comfort of his or
her current office chair. Then, immediately after each of them completes trying a chair, I will
ask him or her to write down his or her feelings and observations regarding the comfort of that
chair. Since this will be a subjective evaluation, I will not supply any kind of structured
evaluation sheets to them for this purpose.
After trying both chairs, I will then ask each of them to rank the three chairs (the two
specially-designed chairs and the current chair) from most comfortable to least comfortable
using the following short form:
: colon
a good plan but if you
could borrow more
chairs, you could
shorten the time frame.
and, should you
get a "medical"
evaluation too?
effective
additional detail
to the case
good points seem logical.
can you stress even
more?
152 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
well displayed
you do this
well
throughout
Please indicate your ranking of the three chairs by
filling in the appropriate numbers beside each chair.
Note that 1 = most comforable and 3 = least comfortable.
_ Current Chair
_ Office Ergonomics Chair
_ Comfort Systems Chair
They will submit their rankings and their feelings and observations notes to me. I will total all
their rankings and select the chair with the lowest total. In case of a tie, I will review their
feelings and observations notes in order to make the selection.
Time Requirements
The following timetable shows the time requirements for evaluating and selecting a new chair:
1. Have employees try the two chairs November 19 -
and evaluate them. December 14
2. Select the chair with the most December 17
comfortable ranking.
3. Submit a recommendation for December 19
purchasing the selected chair.
Possible Problems
There are no serious forseeable problems with the evaluation and selection process. Some
employees may question how I chose the group of four employees to evaluate the chairs, but I
will explain to them that I did this based on forming a representative group. The four-week
evaluation time period should run smoothly.
Selecting the better chair should pose no problems unless the total rankings are a tie. In that
situation, I should be able to choose the better chair by reviewing the employees feelings and
observations. If this still does not resolve the tie, I will simply select the chair with the lower
cost. In the highly unlikely situation that neither of the two chairs are preferred over the
current chair, I will not recommend either of them for purchase.
Cost
Figure 3, found in the Appendix, contains the cost letters and chair descriptions from Office
Ergonomics and Comfort Systems. No overtime will be required to complete the evaluation
and selection process, since the time demands it places on myself and the employees are
minimal. Thus, the only cost is the cost of the 26 chairs to be purchased. The following table
shows the total cost for each of the two chairs to be considered for purchase:
I have attached
sp
seems somewhat
vague. What might
you be looking for?
again, since Gould is under doctor's
care, get the "medical" opinion too?
(see Appendix C).
153 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
Chair Cost per Chair Total Cost
Office Ergonomics $804.55 $20,918.30
Comfort Systems 753.30 19,585.80
Certainly, these are costly chairs. However, this purchase must be considered as a long-term
investment that will directly benefit the health and well-being of the department employees.
From this viewpoint, it is a justifiable cost.
Conclusion
In order to insure the continued health and well-being of the credit department employees, as
well as to avoid potential increased absenteeism and turnover, itis necessary to select and
purchase a specially-designed chair for all department employees.
Please call me at ext. 7675 so we can further discuss this proposal.
The proposal is
somewhat long for the
amount of information
it contains. Try involving
the "medical" community more?
You use the traditional parts
of the proposal well, and
have generally added useful
detail to the case, but could you
shorten the summary and still
add a clear statement of
benefit of this project, as
you do at the end of the
proposal?
add throughout
a solid statement could
appear in the Intro/Summary
as well.
$
$
154 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
This informal report assignment comes from Elizabeth Tebeauxs Design
of Business Communications: The Process and the Product (New York: Macmillan,
1990, pp. 246-249). The writer, as local chair of the annual regional convention
for the Gamma SocietySouthwest, must recommend a convention site in
Metropolis, based on a number of requirements. For example, the hotel must
accommodate 1200 people, the cost of a single room must be less than $90 per
day, an adequate number of conference rooms must be available, refreshments
must be served each morning. Other needs include access to the Metropolis
Entertainment Center. A map of downtown Metropolis and a Chamber of
Commerce evaluation of all hotels offer students additional information. Of 12
possible hotels, Tebeaux herself narrows choices to four, and, although she asks
students to recommend two out of the four hotels, I challenge students to settle
on one.
Since Tebeaux gives complete characteristics of each hotel, some stu-
dents merely apply the criteria to these characteristics. However, I urge stu-
dents to avoid simply duplicating Tebeauxs hotel descriptions within their
reports. I allow students to add detail to the case as long as they do not dimin-
ish the case challenge. In this assignment, they must explain their method of
collecting information, analyze and evaluate that information according to the
criteria, and present a persuasive recommendation. Additionally, they must
display information so that it is accessible, demonstrate their knowledge of the
traditional sections of an information report, and, if they choose, find ways to
be imaginative and creative in their interpretation and application of criteria.
Explanation of Commentary
My comments represent, as much as possible, a dialogue with the
student, rather than corrections. I try to ask questions, suggest strategies, and
highlight places in the report that work particularly well or hinder the reading
process as I role play the Gamma Society President. At this point in the semes-
ter (10 weeks into a 14-week semester), I expect a relatively error-free report
and a knowledge of the traditional parts of a report. I want to see students
analytical strategies and how these were used to interpret and display informa-
tion.
Amys introduction is long for such a short, informal report. I want to
note this, so she can consider being more precise in the future, but I do so only
in the context of her successes in the introduction. She added some detail to the
155 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
case (for example, her living in Metropolis for 20 years) so she could establish
credibility, and she selected the most important of several criteria given in the
case. Students often do not weigh the criteria; clearly Amy did not feel that all
criteria were of equal importance, and I praise her for making these judgments.
Finally, after reading Amys introduction, the reader will know the content and
organization of the report that follows. She assumes that the reader probably
set the criteria for selection and elects not to restate these; I acknowledge her
assumption to assure her that I am interested in the decisions she made in the
pre-writing stage.
Since Amy generally writes clearly and correctly, I assume that circling
or correcting the few stylistic, grammatical, and punctuation errors I find
sufficiently encourages Amy. I do call her attention to her words unlikely
choice and the negative connotations she may raise so that she continues to be
sensitive to diction.
Not only does Amy successfully role play the Gamma Society local
chair, but she also interprets her selection criteria as a convention participant
wouldthe end user. For example, within Amys Criteria for Selection
section, the reader finds such statements as It is frustrating and inefficient to
stay at one hotel and hold conferences in a different building, statements that
confirm her goodwill toward that end user. I suggest to Amy that she should
share with the reader why she lists food before conference rooms and enter-
tainment in the list of criteria, and, in doing so, I remind her that lists can
indicate priority.
In her Process of Hotel Evaluation section, Amys additions to the
original case once more confirm her ethos and persuade her reader that she has
gathered sufficient information to make a judgment. Because these build upon
Tebeauxs case criteria, I praise Amys imagination and logic. Also, Amy has
done her best to analyze rather than describe how each hotel meets the criteria.
Comments such as the Landmark being far enough from the downtown area
that nights are relatively quiet demonstrate a mind at work, rather than a
student summarizing facts given in a published case.
Finally, since students often fail to recognize the distinction between
conclusions and recommendations, I note that Amy moves from a logical
conclusion to an action step, but I also ask questions the reader might have,
such as about deadlines. Since Amy obviously understands the other sections
of a traditional, informal report, I do not comment further; however, in this
assignment, I expect students to state their recommendations in the beginning
of the report and to use subheads, lists, and other graphic devices to aid the
reader.
In end comments, I try to give students at least one word of praise and
one suggestion for the next assignment. For example, I might say something
like effective organization but inadequate detail. In Amys case, I end with
praise alone, since she went beyond the typical reponse to the case.
156 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TO: Mark Coffee, Gamma Society President
FROM: Amy Matsumoto, Regional Convention Chair
DATE: October 30, 1990
SUBJECT: Hotel Selection for Annual Conference
Introduction
During the past two months, I investigated possible hotel accommodations for our annual
regional convention. When conducting my hotel search, my main concern was to find a hotel
which met the criteria for a successful convention. Since I have lived in the Metropolis area
for twenty years, I am familiar with the areas hotel accommodations. Therefore, I was able to
meet with hotel management to discuss conference and dining facilities.
After an initial review of the citys twelve hotels, I was able to eliminate eight because they
were either unavailable or did not meet the Societys guidelines. One did not have enough
available rooms, and three were not designed to handle conferences. The remaining four
hotels have enough rooms to accommodate 1,200 people.
Based on the arrangement committees guidelines and my knowledge of Metropolis, I have
evaluated the four hotels on the following criteria:
* dining and food facilities
* conference accommodations
* entertainment accessibility
Room cost is not a consideration since the four hotels have approximately the same room rate.
Entertainment discounts were also bypassed, because better group discounts can be obtained
through other sources.
The following report will explain my criteria selection, evaluation, and recommendation.
Recommendation
I recommend that The Landmark Hotel be used for next years conference. This may seem
like an unlikely choice since it is located fourteen blocks from the downtown area. However, it
meets and exceeds all the criteria, and shouldbe an excellent host for our conference.
Criteria for Selection
When determining which hotel would be used for the conference, I used the three most crucial
criteria.
1. Hotels need fine restaurant and banquet facilities. In past years, conference
participants have been disappointed with the lackluster fare served at selected
hotels. I made it a priority to select hotel with excellent restaurants and diverse
banquet menus.
2. Hotels need adequate accommodations for our conferences and business meetings.
Since the majority of our day will be spent attending meetings and seminars, it is
crucial that the hotel have ten conference rooms with a 40-50 person capacity and
two rooms with a twenty person capacity. It is frustrating and inefficient to stay at
well established
ethos
indeed, I
think it's OK
not to
restate
these
so these are the
remaining essential
criteria? seems logical
a somewhat long
introduction
but a thorough
preview of
what's to come
an interesting choice
Does "unlikely" raise
too much doubt?
are these in
any
particular
order?
s
consistent use of figures
needed
157 Mary Lay, University of Minnesota
one hotel and hold conferences in a different building.
3. Hotels should offer easy access to both the Entertainment Center and the Sports
Complex. Since all of the conferences scheduled activities end by 5:00p.m. every
day, most members like to enjoy the citys culture and nightlife. During the time of
our conference the Entertainment Center will be hosting an annual Jazz Festival;
and our local baseball team, The Metro Marsupials play two home games at the
Sports Complex. Therefore, it would be nice if the hotel were either close to these
places, or offered frequent transportation to these locations.
Process of Hotel Evaluation
My search for the perfect hotel included the following activities:
* I met with each hotel manager to discuss our needs and the hotels accommodations
* I was given a complete tour of each hotel, which included meeting the restaurant
chefs and sampling their specialties.
* I made sure I was aware of each hotels discounts and special services.
* I consulted the Chamber of Commerces hotel survey, but found those results to be
inconsistent with my own.
* I sent a brief questionnaire to conference participants whove attended more than five
Gamma Conferences. I used their priorities as my most important criteria.
After completing my two month study of the Metropolis Hotels, I am convinced that The
Landmark Hotel is the best place for next years conference.
Evaluation of the Four Hotels
1. The Huntington is located within walking distance of the Entertainment Center. However,
this is not necessarily a bonus, because it is in the heart of the downtown area which is often
extremely noisy at night. It has only five large conference rooms. Additional space would
have to be rented from the Convention Center Annex. Also, The Huntington only offers a
buffet style banquet with a limited menu.
2. Victorian Arms is also in close proximity to the downtown area. It has adequate conference
rooms, however audiovisual equipment must be rented at the rate of $300 per day. This
seems unreasonable since the hotel charges the highest conference set up fee. Finally,
Victorian Arms has only one restaurant which serves traditional American fare.
3. The Royal Inn has fine banquet services which include nine diverse menus. However, this
may be the hotels only saving grace. The Inn is located nine blocks from the Entertainment
Center, but it only offers downtown bus service twice a day. The Inns greatest flaw is that it
has no conference or business rooms large enough for our needs. The Inns management has
offered to reserve us conference space at the nearby National Bank, but this would cost $4000
before audiovisual rental.
4. The Landmark is fourteen blocks from the Entertainment Center. This is a good distance
because it is far enough from the downtown area that the nights are relatively quiet. The
Landmark conveniently offers free bus service to the Entertainment Center every half hour. It
is also very close to the Sports Complex. It offers thirty conference rooms that seat twenty
five people. However, this number can be doubled without looking crowded. Audiovisual
equipment is fully furnished. Finally, this hotel boast the finest dining facilities in the city. It
offers five banquet rooms with many diverse, ethnic menus. Other dining facilities include:
four restaurants, two dining rooms, and a breakfast grill.
space
comma
clear and
imaginative
use of criteria
comma
splice
excellent additions
to the case
All make sense.
good
identification
with "end user"
well
put
158 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Conclusion
I am confident that The Landmark will meet all our conference needs. I am currently working
with three other conference chairs to obtain large group discounts for the entertainment events
occurring during the conference. When all conference decisions are finalized, I will submit a
detailed itinerary to the central office.
Recommendations
I recommend that we reserve 800 rooms at The Landmark for next years conference. If you
anticipate more than 800 members attending, please let me know.
by any
particular
date?
a creative report.
shows a real mind
at work. An
unusual, but
seemingly
justified choice.
clear display of
information.
these build well
upon each other
159 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Chapter 4
The Commentary of
Sherry Burgus Little
San Diego State University
Sherry Burgus Little teaches at San Diego State University, where she
has directed the Technical and Scientific Writing Program since she started it in
1982. Since 1989, she has also been Director of Composition Program Develop-
ment. She has taught at the high school, community college, and university
levels and is a consultant to business and industry and a technical writer and
editor. She has co-authored and edited technical books with McGraw-Hill,
Houghton Mifflin, American Technical Society, and Prentice-Hall publishing
companies and contributed chapters to books published by the Association of
Teachers of Technical Writing and Croom Helm. She has also published
articles in The Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Computers and
Composition, The Technical Writing Teacher, and other journals and proceedings.
She is currently working on a book on the rhetoric of ethics in technical com-
munication.
She is active in a number of professional organizations, including the
Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (President 1990-91, Vice
President 1989-90), the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (Member-
at-Large 1990-92; MLA/ATTW Liaison 1990-92; Vice President 1992-1994), The
Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (Secretary
1991-92), and the Society for Technical Communication (Associate Fellow 1992;
Manager, Student Chapter Development Committee).
160 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Introduction
When explaining to students how I evaluate their writing, I usually use
the word dialogue to emphasize that my reading and responding to their
papers is not grading them. I prefer to de-emphasize my role as a teacher-
grader and create an atmosphere in which my role is closer to a facilitator, a
created persona that tries to respond to their prose as their audience might,
marking items we need to discuss. This dialogue is reinforced by other activi-
ties. Like most technical writing classes, my classes use peer review while
work is in progress. Students also respond to my comments in the revisions
required on all papers. Although inevitably each person is marked with a
letter grade, foremost in my mind is always that my responses to specific areas
in their writing help them to become better writers. With this as my guiding
principle, my practice includes some of the following:
1. Like most writing teachers, I first read a paper in its entirety to assess
its major strengths and weaknesses without stopping to respond.
2. Before beginning the second reading, I plan what elements in the
document I will comment on to open the dialogue. For example, if the docu-
ment is filled with surface, mechanical problems, I will choose which ones I
will call to the students attention (comma splices and fragments, that is, rather
than missing commas). Because I want students to address higher order
concerns in our dialogues, I use a hierarchical list of problems in making my
plan for responding, starting with the most distracting as the most critical to fix
and ending with the more sophisticated, stylistic elements that advanced
students need to work on. I create, in other words, items in a priority list. This
practice does not mean, however, that I would choose not to comment on one
or two especially awkward sentences in a paper in which distracting, mechani-
cal problems abound. My plans urge the students to concentrate on ridding
their prose of the most egregious problems first by concentrating my remarks
on these deviations from accepted practice, commenting sparingly or not at all
on any other less distracting problems that might appear. The goal here, of
course, is not to overwhelm students with responses to so many problems that
students feel their writing is worthless and improvement impossible. And, of
course, I plan at this time what I will comment on for the positive things I see
as well.
3. During this second reading, I note the mechanical problems I have
placed into the higher priority category of my response plan, using both state-
ments and typical kinds of marginal symbols. Sometimes these symbols are
accompanied by questions to help the students see what is so distracting or to
help them find in their handbooks the information they need in order to under-
stand how to revise their writing, but often the symbols alone are enough.
161 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Its with this practice of using symbols that how I respond to student
writing might differ from what other writing teachers do. I know that using
these symbols and marking the problems they stand for is considered by some
as a questionable practice: see, for example, Chris M. Anson, ed., Writing and
Response: Theory, Practice, and Research (Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1989); Richard H.
Haswell, Minimal Marking, College English 45 (1983):600-4; Elaine O. Lees,
Evaluating Student Writing, College Composition and Communication 30
(1979):370-74; Nancy Sommers, Responding to Student Writing, College
Composition and Communication 33 (1982):148-56. I also know that close reading
and heavy marking of all student papers is not considered always essential (see
Gene Stanford et al., eds., How to Handle the Paper Load, Urbana, IL: NCTE,
1979), and that, in fact, many voices of composition specialists are raised in
opposition to this practice.
I continue this practice, however, because of the public nature of techni-
cal communication. Responding to student writing in technical communica-
tion requires a perspective that is different from the kind of perspective a
teacher might have when responding to student writing in other types of
composition classes. Technical communication is essentially public discourse;
that is, unlike private discourse such as a diary or a letter to a friend or an essay
written for a teacher and oneself, technical communication is written for a
specific audience as a public document, with a pragmatic function to serve.
The professional image of a company or a person frequently relies on this
discourse. Students must learn then the rhetorical considerations in writing:
that is, the writer and writers role, the audience, and the context in which their
writing works.
Emphasizing my role again as a marker of papers rather than the
grader, I want students to perceive me as helping them, not slapping their
hands. I sense the tension that exists between the principle and my practice of
using symbols to mark problems. I have been able to resolve this tension to my
satisfaction by realizing the public nature of technical discourse. Conse-
quently, certain grey areas, possibly distracting but not necessarily incorrect
usages, become important to discuss. These usages may be potential problems
that readers in other types of writing classes would not choose to respond to.
In addition, codes for marking manuscripts, like editing and proofreading
symbols and other such codes, are used frequently in technical communication,
and I am convinced that students need a taste of such codes before they en-
counter them in their professional writing. To evaluate my own reflections on
this practice, I ask students to complete a questionnaire at the end of each
semester. I ask them to tell me whether they are more anxious when their
papers come back heavily marked up. Their responses have been overwhelm-
ingly in support of my marking practice, and thus I continue it despite the
voices in opposition to its use.
When I choose to write questions or recommendations for changes on
papers, they frequently attend to more global situations, such as organization
162 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
of the document, development of a paragraph, or improvement in the syntax of
a sentence. As you can see from the samples, my questions are usually framed
in second person, with my recommendations using first person and a condi-
tional tense. My reason for framing my comments in this way is to stress that
while what they have written is not incorrect, they might wish to consider
other alternatives. They have to think of their own solutions to the problems
posed. I also want to keep a dialogue going and not sound so judgmental that
students feel they have lost the right to respond. My closing comments begin
with a summary of all the strong elements in the students writing I see, some
of which I may not have commented on within the document itself. I then
suggest the major areas the student needs to work on to improve this piece of
writing in the revision.
Included here with each sample student paper and my commentary are
the specifications for each assignment, with the rating criteria used by both me
and the peer reviewers who provide feedback to the writers about their writ-
ing. These specifications and rating criteria are part of each assignment and are
extremely important. Because following specifications is a crucial element of
technical communication, the specs for assignments are detailed, making
some several pages long.
163 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
At the beginning of the semester, students find an advertisement for a
position similar to the one they would hope to fill when they graduate. The
assignment is to write a letter of application and rsum for this position
according to specifications given in the following memo:
MEMORANDUM
DATE:
TO: All Technical Writing Students
FROM: Sherry Little, Instructor
SUBJECT: WRITING ASSIGNMENT: LETTER OF APPLICATION
WITH A RESUME
You will write a letter of application and prepare a rsum for your next writ-
ing assignment. Begin early to look for advertisements for positions you would
like to apply for in local newspapers, at the student placement center, or in the
professional journals you are studying for class exercises.
Choose an ad that includes a detailed job description, or if you cant find an ad,
you may be able to find a job description from one of these sources that you can
use for this assignment. You are to apply for a real position, preferably one
that you would actually like to have once you finish your education. The letter
and rsum, however, must refer to skills, experience, and education that you
have now, not ones you hope to possess in the future. This ad or job descrip-
tion should be attached to your letter when you submit it.
Write a letter in answer to this position announcement, using the letter format
of your choosing from those discussed in the textbook. Observe the conven-
tions of letter writing closely. In addition, prepare a rsumtry to keep it one
pageto accompany your letter. You may use any of the suggested types in
the textbook or those discussed in class.
The peer review date and due date for the final copy of the letter and the
rsum are on the syllabus. Be sure to bring your ad or position announcement
to the peer review session as well.
164 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Explanation of Commentary
On this assignment, only the letter receives a grade because I think of
the rsum as such a personal statement that I do not want students to think I
am placing a grade on them personally. And I dont want to suggest that I am
grading their job skills. Suggestions for changes on the rsum may or may not
be followed, depending on the students choices, for as I tell students, their
names go at the top and not anyone elses.
On the Letter of Application:
My first reading helped me see that this letter has many strengths as
noted in the marginal and end comments. Because this assignment is com-
pleted at the beginning of the semester, I am especially concerned that glaring
mechanical problems be identified and eliminated. This paper has few of these
major problems, such as obvious surface problems like typos or glaring me-
chanical problems like sentence errors, improper use of pronouns, verb form
errors, shifts in tense or person, and misspellings. However, the reference to
the newspaper title without proper punctuation in paragraph 1, the spelling of
judgement, and the repetition of the word unique are potentially distracting
problems that the student needs to address, especially in a letter of application.
Notice the check used for the spelling of judgement, a device I use to draw the
students attention to a gray area, one of those accepted usages, but one that
could distract some readers. Drawing the students attention to the preferred
spelling of judgment would be something some composition teachers would
ignore. Here, however, the student should be alert to the choice and be aware
that to some people this spelling might be considered wrong.
Another strength I decided to comment on is the attention to the detail
of proper format, or writing to prescribed specifications, an important part of
writing for business and industry. This letter follows the conventions of the
modified block letter without distracting deviations. In fact, an especially nice
touch is the centering of the heading to simulate a letterhead, a slight deviation
that would probably make this letter stand out favorably among its competi-
tors.
I like as well the ability of the student to show how his qualifications
meet the required qulifications advertised. He writes about it for the most part
in a self-confident directness that is not offensively boastful, a difficult tone to
achieve, but so much more effective than a mere listing of skills and qualifica-
tions.
Marginal comments call the students attention to sentences that are
wordy and need revision and to sentences that impinge on the positive, confi-
dent tone a writer wants for a letter of application. My responses to a weak
salutation and ending suggest further revisions. In the end note, a further
suggestion for more concrete detail in the third paragraph comments on an-
other area that the student could improve in an already above average letter of
application.
165 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Following my priority list in my response plan, I chose not to mark the
nominalizations in the last line of the first paragraph and the diction (some of it
wordy) in other spots of the letter because such comments might dishearten the
writer. These infelicities are not so distracting as to seriously affect the success
of this letter. However, if the writer had not written the other more distracting
problems, I would then have commented on these problems. I chose as well
not to mark a needed comma in the rather lengthy compound sentence that
ends the first paragraph. The marginal note suggests a rewrite to get rid of the
wordiness, a far more distracting problem in my priority list than a missing
comma. And in the required revision, the student eliminated the problem by
rewriting the sentence.
On the Rsum:
Although I do not place a letter grade on the rsum, I read and re-
spond to student rsums, making suggestions they can use if they choose to.
This students rsum is especially attractive. The highlighting of his capabili-
ties allows him to draw attention to all his qualifications without calling the
employers attention to his lack of work experience for the position he is apply-
ing for. This decision, unfortunately, does not allow him to highlight his
educational background as much as he might be able to if he were to expand
his education section to detail more specifically the skills he has to offer. The
same problem is true of the work experience section that could, instead of
giving only titles, capitalize on the skills he has acquired through this experi-
ence, a feat his letter accomplished very well, although only in a general way.
The final evaluation for a letter of application and rsum is to deter-
mine how likely it is that this person would get the interview that the docu-
ments are written for. The grades I place on the letter of application give
students some idea as to how they would rank against their competitors in my
estimation of their audiences response.
166 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
J ef f r ey D. Ski nner
1838 Si er r a Mor ena Avenue
Car l sbad, CA 92008
January 9, 1991
Personnel Manager
Orincon Corporation
9363 Towne Centre Drive
San Diego, CA 92121
ATTN: JS24
Dear Sir/Madam:
I am responding to your call for applications for the
position of Digital Design Engineer advertised in the
Sunday, January 6, 1991 edition of the San Diego
Union. I have enclosed a personal resume which will
provide you with information regarding my education
and background that I hope will be of interest to you.
My education and work experience have prepared me for
a challenging position with your organization and I
hope that you will give my qualifications serious
consideration.
My engineering curriculm included professional
elective course work in microprocessor design and
digital communication systems. Through my work
experience, although not directly related to the
requirements of this position, I believe that I have
acquired unique capabilities that would be of value
to your organization. To fund my education, I ran an
independent business in which I exercised indepen-
dent judgement, interacted professionally with a
variety of individuals at all levels, and maintained
accurate financial and budgetary records. These
skills, coupled with my academic experience, make me
a unique and motivated candidate for this position.
I will be glad to make myself available for an
interview at your convenience and look forward to
hearing from you soon.
Sincerely,
Jeffrey D. Skin-
ner
Enclosure
I don't think
I'd call
attention
to this
Attractive format I like
especially your centering the
heading
How about "Personnel Manager"? or in
real life a phone call would result in
a name.
p: title
wc
check
sp
could you change this to a
request for action?
How can you
make it easy for
them to contact you?
You've followed format well with no
distracting mechanical problems. I like
the tone of your letter. It sounds
self-confident without being boastful.
I think I'd show in more detail what skills
you can offer them, especially in 3. Good
job.
t
I'd rewrite
this, making
it less
wordy and
tentative
167 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
RESUME OF J EFFREY D. SKI NNER
1838 Si er r a Mor ena Avenue Phone: ( 619) 792-5126
Car l sbad, CA 92008 Message: ( 619) 712-4597
______________________________________________________________
CAPABI LI T I ES:
* Extensi ve knowl edge of MS-DOS based computer systems.
* Desi gn ski l l s i n di gi tal l ogi c accumul ated through
El ectri cal Engi neeri ng program at SDSU.
* Good wri tten communi cati ons ski l l s.
* Strong abi l i ti es for i ndependent and ori gi nal thi nki ng.
* Excel l ent mechani cal ski l l s i n el ectroni c l ab setti ng.
* Good probl em sol vi ng and deci si on maki ng ski l l s.
* Strong abi l i ty to compl ete tasks i ndependentl y.
EDUCAT I ON:
San Di ego State Uni versi ty, San Di ego, Cal i forni a
B.S., El ectri cal Engi neeri ng - Spri ng 1991
WORK EXPERI ENCE:
Tri -Ci ty Carpets, Vi sta, Cal i forni a
February 1988 through September 1990
Ti tl e: Fl oor Coveri ng Instal l ati on Speci al i st
Escondi do Li nol eum and Carpet, Escondi do, Cal i forni a
May 1987 through February 1988
Ti tl e: Apprenti ce i n fl oor coveri ng i nstal l ati on
Carpets Etc., Oceansi de, Cal i forni a
September 1985 through May 1987
Ti tl e: Apprenti ce i n fl oor coveri ng i nstal l ati on
PROFESSI ONAL ORGANI ZAT I ONS:
Insti tute of El ectri cal and El ectroni c Engi neers
REFERENCES:
Personal and professi onal references avai l abl e upon request.
attractive!
could you
emphasize
tasks
here that
relate to
qualifications?
(be sure to use
strong, active
verbs)
I'd capitalize
on this more
to provide
more details
about skills
you can
offer them
good
highlighting
of skills
you can
offer
168 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Instructions
Description of Assignment
As an advocate of experiential learning theory, I make most assign-
ments simulate as closely as possible real world problem solving. The assign-
ment for this sample is for an advanced class in technical communication.
Students produce documentation for software programs that agencies in the
university are using, either in the Social Science Research Laboratory, Disabled
Students Services, or the English Department Computer Writing Center. Be-
cause students will actually use this documentation, the writers can test differ-
ent versions of the documentation as they develop it.
This sample is the final set of instructions that has gone through several
versions after the students have tested them. This quick start was developed
with some of the principles of J. M. Carrolls minimalist manual: see
Minimalist Training, Datamation 30 (1984): 125-36, and The Nurnberg Funnel:
Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skill (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1990). The manual was designed to give first-time users of the
English Department Computer Writing Center a set of brief (no more than
three pages), easy-to-follow instructions for creating a paper on the shareware
word processing program that many students use. Because the writer works as
a tutor in this Center, she knew what students needed. The goal for these
instructions was to allow students to produce a paper (with a minimum
amount of help from the tutors) without the possibly distracting additional
information that comes in a longer, 18-page version of the manual. The writer
based this shorter version on the same analysis she developed for the longer
version. For a description of this analysis, see her article Creating an Essential
Manual: An Experiment in Prototyping and Task Analysis, IEEE Transactions
on Professional Communication 33.1 (1990): 32-37. The longer version is available
at the Center too, with each page laminated and placed in a wall file so that
students can pick the individual card-page that covers the additional infor-
mation they may need to complete more complicated tasks. Students may also
buy a copy of the longer version at a local copying service.
Explanation of Commentary
Because of the longer version and the task analysis used to develop it,
the writer was able to pinpoint those basic tasks beginning users need to
perform to write their first document successfully. She has done an excellent
job creating such a succinct document for students. The prose with few excep-
tions is crisp and direct, and the organization of the document follows a natural
sequence that allows the students to use the instructions as a tutorial while
169 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
working on their own projects. I like especially the tone that she uses when
explaining what will happen as a result of step 1. Be patient here creates a
personal voice that can be reassuring to first-time users who are frequently
intimidated by The Machine. Also effective are the boxes to emphasize what
the users should enter: the difference between what users will type and what
the computer screen will display is a sometimes puzzling distinction for begin-
ning users. The consistent use of press and type also reinforces the differ-
ent activities the users will be performing.
Following my response plan, I chose to comment on a smothered verb
she could work on in the beginning and on a direction under step 3 that is
confusing. One instruction relies on conventional computer jargon that could
confuse the students (yourfile). On page 1, the handling of disks might need
some cautions and the mixing of steps and informational items call for some
thought about possible changes. Under step 4, I asked about the instructions to
write a paragraph because it seemed a bit arbitrary to ask for just a para-
graphperhaps the writer would want to write more (the goal, after all, was to
give the first-time user the opportunity to do a paper). Within my priority
listing, I chose not to mark the embedding of three tasks within item 2 although
it troubles me a bit. I know, however, that these are three of the most-needed
bits of information that the writer identified in her analysisand that she is
constrained by the limit of three pages. This limitation also keeps me from
commenting on how crowded the pages look. I know eventually she plans to
print this with desktop publishing. I will hold my comments on the graphic
design of her document until later. Within the constraints, she has designed a
well-written, serviceable document with many helpful features. I consider this
sample to be an outstanding student document.
170 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Could you get
rid of this
smothered verb?
any cautions
needed
here?
I like
the
tone
here
not steps I'd keep
informational items
separate from
steps
I like the use of graphic display here
Doris this is really looking good. The prose
is clear and direct. Instructions seem logically
arranged. A succinct, helpful document!
PC-WRITE 2.55 PC-WRITE QUICK START PAGE
1
This guide gives you a brief introduction to PC-WRITE. It
tells you how to get started, create a file for storing what
you write, save a file, print a file, and quit.
What you need: You need a copy of the PC-WRITE program disk
and a data disk that has been formatted to accept informa-
tion. If you dont have these disks, ask the lab assistant
how you can get them.
STEP 1<-----------------> TURNING ON THE
COMPUTER
1. Begin with the computer and monitor turned off.
2. Place the program disk in drive a, which is on your
left.
Close the latch on drive a.
3. Place the data disk in drive b, which is on your right.
Close the latch on drive b.
4. Turn on the computer. The switch is at the back of the
right
side of the base.
5. Turn on the monitor. The switch is on the lower right
corner
of the monitor.
The computer is now booting up, which means it is
getting started. Be patient. It may take a minute
or so.
6. Now go to STEP 2-STARTING PC-WRITE.
STEP 2<--------------------->STARTING PC-
WRITE
1. A message asks for the date.
2. Press the Return key.
3. A message asks for the time.
4. Press the Return key.
5. A prompt appears at the far left of your screen.
It looks like this: A>
This means that the computer is ready to accept com-
mands.
6. Type ed
ed is the command that tells the computer you want
to start using the PC-WRITE program stored on
the program disk in drive a. You must ALWAYS
type ed to start PC-WRITE at the A>.
171 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
7. Press the Return key.
The red light on drive a comes on and stays on while
the computer loads the program. NEVER REMOVE A DISK
WHILE THIS LIGHT IS ON.
8. NOW go to STEP 3 - CREATING A FILE
STEP 3<-------------------------->CREATING A
FILE
You should see the following message at the top of your screen:
Name of file to create or edit (Esc to cancel): work.doc
If you dont see this message,
go back and repeat STEP 1.
1. Type b: and a name for your file (8 characters or less).
Do not leave any spaces between the b: and the name.
2. Press the Return key.
A new top line appears. It is similar the one below:
New file. Press Esc to cancel, or F1 to create b:yourfile
3. Press the F1 key. This key is on the left of your keyboard.
Next you see a screen that has a single line at the top.
4. You are ready to write. Go to STEP 3 WRITING YOUR FILE.
STEP 4<------------------------->WRITING YOUR
FILE
A small flashing bar tells you where the next character you type
will appear on the screen. This flashing bar is the cursor.
The cursor moves as you type.
1. Type the following four lines beginning on the first line
below the screens top line. Press the Return key at the end
of each line. These are the dot commands which control
margins and spacing. They do not show in a printed document.
.XT:3
.XB:1
.X:10
.M:2
(Note: The .M:2 command tells the printer to do double spacing.)
2. Now write a short paragraph. Use the Backspace key, which
is
the left arrow on the top row of the keyboard, to backspace
and erase mistakes. Use the Arrow keys on the right of the
keyboard to move the cursor on the screen without erasing.
To center a title on a line do this:
a. Type the title.
b. Use an arrow key to place the cursor on the first charac-
PCWRITE 2.55 PC-WRITE QUICK START PAGE
2
Do you think it
would be
better to
tell them
to start
writing
instead of
writing
a ?
would this
confuse
your reader?
word left
out?
172 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
PCWRITE 2.55 PC-WRITE QUICK START PAGE
3
ter.
c. Hold down the Shift key and press the F8 key.
To underline do this:
a. First hold down Alt key and press the U key.
b. Type the words you want to underline.
c. Hold down Alt key and press the U key again.
To reformat a paragraph after you add or delete words:
Reformatting realigns the paragraphs right margin.
a. Use arrow keys to move to the top of the paragraph
b. Press the F7 key.
3. When you finish writing, go to STEP 5 SAVING YOUR FILE.
STEP 5<------------------------->SAVING YOUR
FILE
When you save a file, the computer copies what you have written
onto your data disk in drive b. The file is saved under the
name you gave it when you started. SAVE YOUR FILE AT LEAST
EVERY TEN MINUTES WHILE YOU ARE WRITING.
Do this to save your file:
1. Press the F1 key. The screen changes to the Help screen.
2. Press the F3 key. You return to your writing screen.
3. Go to STEP 6 PRINTING YOUR FILE.
STEP 6<------------------------>PRINTING YOUR
FILE
Be sure your file contains dot commands before you print.
Use the following steps to print your file:
1. Set the printer switch box located beside the printer for
the
terminal that you are using. Make sure the printers green
ON LINE and READY lights are on.
2. Press the F1 key. The screen changes to the Help
screen.
3. Press the F7 key. You see a new screen. The top line
contains the name of your file.
4. Press the Return key. The screen changes again. A message
asks you to enter the name of a ruler
file.
5. Type epson.prt
6. Press the Return key. Another message appears on the
screen.
7. Press the Esc key. This causes the printer to print the
entire document.
should be
in italics
not clear: Do you mean from the printer?
173 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Proposal
Description of Assignment
The proposal I have chosen to discuss results from an assignment in the
beginning technical writing class. Each student chooses a formal research
project to work on during the semester. The prospectus, as I call it because of
its brevity, gives students an opportunity to produce a document that has all
the elements of the longer full proposal without their having to write a long
paper. Students write a prospectus to propose their term project to a likely
funding agency that they identify. Because this assignment is completed
around mid-term, it provides an opportunity for students to practice the formal
elements of technical reports when they are working on a shorter version of a
report, saving them from learning conventional formats when they have a
greater bulk of material to worry about. It gives them a chance to experiment
with visual displays in figures and tables as well, both required elements in the
prospectus. The assignment is written according to the specifications given in
the following memo:
MEMORANDUM
DATE:
TO: Technical Writing Students
FROM: Sherry Little, Instructor
SUBJECT: WRITING ASSIGNMENT: THE PROSPECTUS
Your next writing assignment will be the prospectus, or miniproposal. You are
to write a prospectus for the term project you are working on for the class. The
audience is a likely funding agency that you will locate or that I suggest if you
have trouble finding a funding agency. Be sure to include the following parts:
1. Introduction
Definition of problem
Statement of problem
2. Objectives
3. Methods and Procedures (illustrated with time references)
4. Budget (presented in table)
5. Rsum
The prospectus should be from 3 to 6 pages long, typed, and double-spaced.
Use the decimal numbering system described in the textbook for headings.
Use at least two visual devices in this prospectus.
The prospectus should have a title page (with descriptive abstract) and a table
of contents and list of illustrations.
174 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Evaluation Criteria
1. Is it convincing? (Does it include persuasive arguments that clearly explain
why this project should be done?)
2. Is the prospectus clear? (Do you include specific, concrete details and do
you discuss your methods so that it is clear exactly how you propose to
compete this project?)
3. Is the project feasible? (Do you offer evidence that you can achieve your
stated objectives within the period stated?)
4. Does it conform to specifications? (Were all instructions followed? Is it
complete? Is it well written, free from mechanical and usage errors,
with carefully worded sentences and clear, direct diction?)
Explanation of Commentary
This students paper has many strengths. Because following the
specs is stressed with this assignment, one of the first strengths I comment
on is that this document is written well, observing the conventional format
required. The student has used visual support effectively for her methods
section and her budget as required. The introduction is direct, with a clear
definition and statement of the problem, supported with a persuasive rationale
for the project. The plan of work seems well thought out and provides enough
detail to make it convincing, although more specific details about how she
plans to do some of these steps would show better that she knows what she is
talking about. Figure 2 creates an illogical picture of the sequence of her major
activities, and I comment also on some wordy phrases, unnecessary use of
passive voice, and a questionable use of the word scope.
Because this student is planning to become a professional technical
writer, I comment more heavily here on items that I would probably ignore if
the student were not interested in being a professional writer. For example, the
split infinitive and unnecessary commas would not be items I would draw
normally to a students attention. This prospectus, however, is addressed to a
professional technical communication firm for fundingand professional
writers can be inexplicably put off by such things as split infinitives. Especially
because this is a prospectus, any deviation no matter how nitpicking it may
appear is unwise. The wordy and awkward sentence in the first paragraph of
the introduction is a sentence I would bring to the attention of only those
students who are obviously good writers who need help to become even better.
Again using my hierarchy of choices, I ignored a few little items; for
example, in the table for the budget the items that cost under a dollar would
probably be written differently, and in the introduction of the table, the
twelve week feasibility report project could be improved. In this section,
however, I am more concerned that a rationale for the budget was not pro-
vided and opted to comment on this omission instead of the diction problem.
175 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
PROPOSAL FOR A FEASIBILITY STUDY AND
REPORT ON CHOOSING WORDPERFECT OR MICROSOFT
WORD FOR FREE LANCE TECHNICAL WRITERS
Prepared for
Catherine Marcum
Project Manager
Solutions, Inc.
by
Lillian Roberts
Abstract
This prospectus describes a plan for a feasibility study and report to
determine which word processing software package for the IBM-PC--
WordPerfect or Microsoft Word--is most suited to free lance technical
writing.
30 March 1990
hyphen
Good
title
page
176 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
ii
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ......................................................................iii
1.0 INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................1
2.0 PROPOSED PROGRAM ............................................................................1
3.0 PLAN OF WORK ........................................................................................2
3.1 Scope ....................................................................................................2
3.2 Methods To Be Used .............................................................................2
3.2.1 Background research .................................................................2
3.2.2 Benchmark development ...........................................................4
3.2.3 Report quality control .................................................................4
4.0 BUDGET .................................................................................................6
Good TOC
Good job, Lillian you've followed
format specs well and provided
a good rationale for the study.
I like your graphics as well.
Your proposal plan is clear, although
using specific detail would make it
more convincing.
177 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
iii
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FIGURES page
1 Activity Plan ......................................................................................3
2 Time And Work Schedule ................................................................5
TABLES
1 Budget Itemization ............................................................................7
wc: can you get
rid of this
shun
word?
lc
178 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
p = I don't
think I'd
use these here
1.0 INTRODUCTION
Because of their abundant features, ease of use, and widespread user
support, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word are now the two top word processing
packages available for the IBM-PC. Both packages contain the basic functions
used in technical writing such as text formatting, graphics, and block
operations. However, they may not perform a given function equally well
(example: it may be easier to import an outside graphic into a document
created with package A than it would be to import the same graphic with
package B). The problem that this prospectus addresses is that most free lance
technical writers lack the time required for a benchmark comparison to
determine which package is most suited to technical writing.
I propose to provide, for Solutions, Inc., a feasibility report on
the two top competing word processing software packages for the IBM-PC
(WordPerfect and Microsoft Word). The report will determine which package
would be the best choice for a free lance technical writer to purchase.
A report of this kind requires a working knowledge of computers and
operating software in general. As the attached resume indicates, I have the
educational background and work experience needed to successfully complete
the proposed feasibility study and report.
2.0 PROPOSED PROGRAM
The feasibility report will be addressed to free lance technical writers
and will assume basic knowledge of the IBM-PC and word processing software.
It will also assume that the writers are interested in purchasing either
WordPerfect or Microsoft Word but are uncertain which package is best suited
to technical writing.
Using specific evaluation criteria, the report will compare, discuss, and
summarize relevant package features, such as text formatting and graphics
Check: I don't
think
I'd split this
infinitive
can you
get rid of
all this
passive voice?
good intro + I like the detail = rationale
sounds good
hyphen
SS: wordy
& K = can
you get
rid of
the
repetitive
"that"?
179 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
capabilities. It will also provide the reader with conclusions,
recommendations, and information on where to turn for further help.
3.0 PLAN OF WORK
3.1 Scope
The proposed feasibility study consists of three main tasks:
1. Determining which word processor features are most
important to technical writers.
2. Investigating the feature performance of Microsoft
Word and WordPerfect.
3. Reporting the results of the study in a format that can
be easily referred to when making purchasing decisions.
Figure 1 shows the overall activity plan and proposed
completion dates.
3.2 Methods to be Used
3.2.1 Background Research
To be efficient, this study must limit consideration to
features significant for technical writers. To determine
which word processor features are most important, I will
review recently published technical writing books,
handbooks, and research papers. Also, I will conduct a
personal interview with Mr. John Foster, a technical
writer who has extensive working experience with word
processing software for the IBM-PC. The interview is
scheduled for Monday, April 30, 1990, at Mr. Fosters place
of employment, Science Applications International
-2-
good
objectives
although they
aren't
performance
objectives
can you get
rid of this
smothered
verb?
good plan
could be
more specific
and detailed
I'd call these "objectives" or "general
activities" or even "Phases"
180 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
-3-
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181 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Corporation (SAIC), and will cover the advantages and
disadvantages of using WordPerfect and Microsoft Word for
technical writing.
3.2.2 Benchmark development
Word processor performance is most easily
measured by hands-on benchmark testing. Following a
review of current word processing literature (user
guides, handbooks, periodical articles) and drawing upon
my existing computer knowledge, I will develop
benchmarking tests to aid evaluation of word processor
performance. These tests will look at specific word
processor features on a functional basis. All tests will be
performed with Microsoft Word and WordPerfect running
on identical IBM-PC compatible hardware so as to eliminate
all extraneous factors (such as graphics display
capabilities) that might influence test results.
3.2.3. Report quality control
To ensure a well-written final report, I will consult
pertinent report and style guides such as Kenneth Houps
Reporting Technical Information and The Chicago Manual
of Style. My aim is a paper which free lance technical
writers will consider a valuable reference.
Figure 2 shows the time relations of the research, testing, and reporting
phases. Report work is scheduled to take twelve weeks. Besides the final
report, I will furnish a progress report approximately eight weeks into the
project.
passive
hyphen
Could you
explain your
plans for the
tests more here?
For example,
how will you
determine which
features you
will test?
Could you
suggest some
questions you
plan to ask?
Can you get
rid of these
unnecessary
passive
constructions
and wordy
nouns?
-4-
182 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses

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-5-
183 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
4.0 BUDGET
Table 1 shows my estimated expenses for the twelve week feasibility
report project. The cost of each item may be less than estimated, but will not
be more.
-6-
Can you provide a rationale for
your budget? Emphasize, perhaps,
how inexpensive this project is?
184 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TABLE 1. BUDGET ITEMIZATION
FOR MARCH 9, 1990 TO MAY 21, 1990
Item Rate Amount
Labor
(mysel f; techni cal 12 weeks @ $250.00 per week $3000.00
wri ti ng student)
Offi ce Suppl i es
Pens and penci l s 10 @ $0.60 6.00
Computer paper 500 sheets 4.59
Pri nter ri bbon 1 @ $9.95 per pkg. 9.95
cartri dge
Notecards 2 pkgs. @ $0.45 per pkg. 0.90
Paper cl i ps, 5.00
stapl es, fol ders
Stati onery 5.00
Other Materi al s
Software user 3 @ $24.00 72.00
gui des
Travel
Gasol i ne (used i n travel to i ntervi ew, l i brary) 20.00
Admi ni strati ve Expense
Photocopy of 10 pages @ $0.10 1.00
fi nal report
TOTAL $3124.44
-7-
good detail
here
185 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
The beginning technical writing class often has people from many
disciplines not thought of as technical. I have students from such fields as
literature, religious studies, classics, music, and drama mixed in with those
from electrical engineering and biology. This sample shows how information
transfer is technical in nature no matter what field a student may be study-
ing. The assignment for the paper is to do a formal technical report on the
literature generated in the students major field of study. Students are to
discuss, with examples, how literature evolves through the flow of information
theory that is driven by the research and development model, the conceptual
framework by which I teach this class. Writing this report allows students to
research the topic, gather data, report the data, and learn at the same time
about research in their own disciplines. They learn research strategies that
make them better researchers, and they learn as well their current and future
roles as both users and developers of information in their disciplines.
The following memo describes the specifications for this assignment:
MEMORANDUM
DATE:
TO: Technical Writing Students in English 503W
FROM: Sherry Little
SUBJECT: GUIDE FOR THE FORMAL TECHNICAL REPORT
One of the most important undertakings in the technical writing course is the
formal technical report discussed in Chapter 9. This report is a term project,
and you should begin work on it immediately. Due date for the report is on
the class syllabus.
Choice of a Subject
You are to write to new students in your technical field, telling them what they
need to know about the evolution of scientific and technical literature in your
field. As a result of reading this report, readers should be able to become
expert developers of technical communication as well as efficient users of that
literature; that is, they should understand the genres of technical communica-
tion that they will be working with and writing as professionals as well as how
to conduct research to find information generated by others. Assume the
students have had a freshman communication course in which basic research
techniques, such as use of the card catalog and general indexes such as Readers
Guide, have been learned.
186 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Content of the Report
The report should answer these questions:
1. What kind of information do professionals in your technical field
generate?
2. In what forms (genres) does this information appear in your technical
field? (Although you will be spending some time talking about pri-
mary information here and the sources for finding this primary infor-
mation, the bulk of your report will deal with secondary and tertiary
literature.)
3. What are the sources to technical information in your field? To answer
this question, your report should answer these questions:
What professional periodicals in this field does the
library at SDSU hold? Where are they? What is the
strength of each periodical? What sort of articles
does each publish? (In most fields you wont be able
to discuss all the periodicals. Give an idea of what
the total number is and single out a half dozen for
comment.)
What are the general guides to government reports?
(For this area you will not find any specialized guides
by technical fields. Please do not ask reference
librarians in Government Publications for specialized
guides in your field. They do not exist.)
What are the abstracting journals and periodical
indexes in your field? (In some fields these are
combined; in others they are separate.)
What are the bibliographies, encyclopedias,
dictionaries, and handbooks?
What is the computer information system (database) in
your field called? Where is it? What information does
it provide? What does it cost to use?
What other information do the readers need to know
about in order to do research in your field?
When discussing these sources, briefly describe what is found in these sources
and how they are used. It wouldnt hurt to evaluate them for this new student
to your field as to how difficult they are to understand.
Organization of Data
After you have collected the data for your report, you need to decide how to
organize this data so that your readers can assimilate it quickly and easily. You
187 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
will want them to find the exact piece of information they are looking for
without necessarily having to read the entire report. Consider the following
suggestions when making your decisions:
1. Beginning your report with a clear, direct statement of purpose and a
preview of what the readers will find in the report lets them know what
to expect.
2. Headings allow readers to find only the information they want by
skimming the report.
3. Preparing your readers for your plan of presenting the data allows your
readers to know what to expect. The discernible plan should act as a
path that guides them through the paper smoothly.
4. Using the research and development model that the librarian used in
the lecture is one organizational pattern that allows a logical presenta-
tion of your data. A flow chart illustrating the sources for your field
would make a good illustration to complement your prose.
Report Format
Your report should be neatly typed and bound in a clear plastic folder. Use a
well-designed title page that includes a descriptive abstract. Be alert to the
possibility of using illustrative material, such as charts, graphs, drawings,
photos, and tables. All reports should have at least one figure and one
table. The following lists everything you will include in the report in
the order that it will appear:
Letter of transmittal
Title page
Descriptive abstract placed on title page
Table of contents
List of figures (or illustrations)
Informative abstract (sometimes called Introductory summary)
Introduction
The report (Supply and develop all information needed to support your
conclusions)
Factual summary
Conclusions
Recommendations
Bibliography (or reference list)
Length of Report
Your report should be a substantial effort. The report, excluding graphic
elements, should run about ten pages.
188 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Evaluation Criteria
Your report will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
Is the report complete? (Does it cover the information requested?)
Does it suit the audience and purpose?
Is it in a clear, readable format? (Format refers also to layout, white
space, use of lists integrated with prose.)
Is it written in a clear style, free from mechanical and usage errors?
Does it follow the assignment specifications?
Does it present information with coherence and unity? (Is there a
central idea that leads the reader through the report? Is data
linked together so that the reader moves smoothly through the
report?)
Please check with me immediately if you run into any problems. Well be
discussing this assignment at length in class so be sure to ask if you have any
questions. Good luck on your research.
Explanation of Commentary
This report offers many features to like. Probably its greatest, and most
obvious, strength is in its use of graphics to complement the prose. The clip-art
figure for the flow of information (Figure 1) is eye-catching and informative,
and Subramanyams figure of the flow is nicely used in later figures (Figures 4
and 6) to provide the details of the reportthe examples of different forms of
literature in the students field. Figure 7 is a bit busy and relies heavily on
symbols that probably would make it hard for the reader to use the informa-
tion; however, its an excellent attempt to illustrate the information provided in
the report in its entirety. Relying on my priority list, I chose not to make any
negative comments here, for this student, an English major, does not need to be
discouraged when she experiments with a new way to communicate. The
report also is complete and accurate, supplying the information called for in
the assignment and written in the format specified. The conventions of the
formal technical report are followed well, and the prose is chunked into
easily assimilated bits of information with headings that help the reader locate
the information presented.
This student does have some problems in her prose that I comment on,
mostly in unnecessary passive voice and diction. The major problem with this
piece, however, is its lack of coherence. The writer needs to make it more
obvious to the reader why this information has been organized in the way it
has, as I suggested toward the beginning of the report. Other comments, the
use of future tense, writing out numbers, and inconsistency in referring to
figures are related more to this students not being familiar with the conven-
tions of technical communication. I chose not to comment on the inconsistency
189 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
of using capitals in figure titles (as in Figure 6) or on the awkward and repeti-
tive way that she refers to the items in later portions of the report, for I see
these problems as the students working out these unfamiliar strategies that are
so common to technical communication, but not so characteristic of other fields
of writing. Once she has more experience handling these overt signals, the
awkwardness will probably fade. Despite these problems and a few basic,
mechanical problems like punctuation with quotation marks and typos, this
student is a good writer and has produced an accurate, complete report that
follows the specs well.
190 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
1716 Bridgehampton Pl.
El Cajon, Ca 92019
January 25, 1991
Ms. Karen Kinney
Associate University Librarian
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-5200
Dear Ms. Kinney:
I submit the accompanying report entitled A Report of
the Flow of Information in the Field of Expository
Writing:
College Instruction. This report completes the re-
search I did as described in a proposal dated January
17, 1991.
The report discusses the concept of the flow of infor-
mation and identifies, classifies, and compares twenty-
two
publications available through SDSU library that fit
into
the flow of information for expository writing. I have
charted all of these publications and fit them into a
standardized model of the flow of information.
I drew heavily from the book Scientific and Technical
information Resources, by Krishna Subramanyam, and have
used the diagrams from his book for this report.
Sincerely,
Melody L. Kilcrease
English Major
need enclosure nota-
tion
I'd use possessive pronoun here.
cap
I'd wo
191 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
A REPORT ON
THE FLOW OF INFORMATION IN THE FIELD
EXPOSITORY WRITING: COLLEGE INSTRUCTION
Prepared for
Karen Kinney, associate University Librarian
San Diego State University Library
by
Melody L. Kilcrease
Abstract
This report identifies the forms and flow of information
in the field of expository writing: college instruction.
Twenty-two publications are identified, classified and
compared. The flow of information model is illustrated
displaying the actual resources available through the SDSU
library. Conclusions are drawn and a recommendation ends
the report.
January 25, 1991
cap
Lots of
unnecessary
passive voice
here
p: quote (but
I don't think I'd use
quotes
here)
192 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0 Introduction _________________________________ iv
1.1 Definition of the Problem __________ 1
1.2 Audience Assessment ________________ 2
1.3 Scope of the Report ________________ 2
2.0 Model of the Flow of Information _____________ 3
3.0 Tertiary Literature __________________________ 7
4.0 Secondary Literature _________________________ 8
5.0 Primary Literature ___________________________ 10
6.0 Literature Comparison ________________________ 13
7.0 Factual Summary ______________________________ 14
8.0 Conclusion ___________________________________ 14
9.0 Recommendations ______________________________ 15
ii
wrong
page
#
you need to list
all items that follow TOC on it illustrations page?
Bibliography?
193 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
ILLUSTRATIONS
Figures
1. The Flow of Information, Phase 1 ____________
5
2. The Flow of Information Expanded ____________
6
3. Titles of Tertiary Literature _______________
7
4. Titles of Secondary Literature ______________
9
5. Titles of Primary Literature _______________ 10
6. The Flow of Information in the Field of
Expository Writing: College Instruction ____
12
7. Literature Comparison ______________________ 16
iii
I like many things in this
report, Melody. Your graphics are
outstanding! (aren't Macs great?)
Remember, however, they complement prose
and can never replace clean, clear
prose. Your report is complete,
following the assignment specs for
format and content. Don't forget
to proofread always carefully to
eliminate pesky, distracting problems
I'm concerned about coherence here
talk with me about this
Page
194 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
1.0 INTRODUCTION
The purpose of thi s report i s to i denti fy the forms of i nformati on avai l abl e for the
study of Exposi ti ory Wri ti ng, focusi ng on the i nformati on desi gned for the col l ege
i nstructor. Thi s report descri bes what l i brari ans refer to as the fl ow of
i nfor mati on and how i t i s navi gated i n the r esear ch pr ocess. The l i ter atur e
avai l abl e at San Di ego State Uni ver si ty Li br ar y on the subject of exposi tor y
wr i ti ng i s i denti fi ed, cl assi fi ed and compar ed, wi thi n a fl ow of i nfor mati on
model . The r epor t ends wi th a factual summar y, concl usi ons and
recommendati ons.
1.1 Defi ni ti on of the Probl em
The mi ssi on of the SDSU Li brary i ncl udes provi di ng servi ces desi gned to faci l i tate
access to i nformati on. Accordi ng to the most recent General Catal og, SDSU has
the l argest Engl i sh department i n the state. And the SDSU Pl acement Offi ce has
noted an i ncreased demand i n the marketpl ace for Engl i sh teachers. Therefore,
a ri si ng demand for i nformati on about the col l ege l evel i nstructi on of exposi tory
wri ti ng seems l i kel y, whether for research or i n support of i nstructi on.
1.2 Audi ence Assessment
The report i s desi gned to benefi t the SDSU student majori ng i n Engl i sh:
exposi tory wri ti ng. The SDSU General Catal og for 1990-91 descri bes seven areas
of study avai l abl e to the Engl i sh major , fi ve of whi ch concentr ate on l i ter ar y
topi cs, and two on wri ti ng, exposi tory and creati ve. Exposi tory wri ti ng covers
techni cal l y or cri ti cal l y ori ented nonfi cti on and i ncl udes courses i n the theory and
practi ce of exposi tory wri ti ng and the teachi ng of composi ti on.
The second or thi rd year undergraduate, usual l y a novi ce researcher, faces a
demand for sophi sti cated research i n upper-di vi si on cl asses. A researcher
passive
wordy
passive
lc
I'd hyphenate these
195 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
-2-
studyi ng how exposi tor y wr i ti ng i s taught i n col l ege meets wi th a bewi l der i ng
array of l i terature. Thi s report i s the mi ssi ng l i nk to the fl ow of i nformati on for
the SDSU student of exposi tory wri ti ng: col l ege i nstructi on.
1.3 Scope of the Report
Si nce thi s research i s sponsored by the SDSU l i brary, the fi ndi ngs are l i mi ted to
the r esour ces avai l abl e thr ough the l i br ar y. To hel p the student r esear ch, the
l i br ar y offer s a computer i zed car d catal og (CAT), a database sear ch ser vi ce
(DI ALOG), and pri nted l i sts of resources organi zed by subject (BLR). The report
assumes an understandi ng of these tool s.
2.0 Model of the Flow of Information
Fi gure 1 i l l ustr ates how an i dea can enter what i s k nown as the fl ow of
i nformati on as a questi on jotted down by a researcher. The i dea starts to fl ow
as i t i s proposed, researched, experi mented, and presented to other researchers
and schol ar s i n the fi el d. Now the i dea fl ows to a wi der audi ence thr ough
revi ews and arti cl es. Conti nui ng to fl ow, the i dea becomes a book, and then i s
i ncorporated i nto encycl opedi as, handbooks, and textbooks. Now the i dea i s a
part of the val i dated publ i c l i terature i n that fi el d. But how does a researcher
trace the ori gi ns of thi s i dea? Fi gure 2 shows an expanded model of the fl ow of
i nformati on and shows how the l ocati on of the i nformati on i s catal ogued.
(Subramanyam, p. 5). Reference gui des to reference gui des promote easy access
to the l i terature i n a speci fi c fi el d.
Fi gure 2 i l l ustrates stages al ong the fl ow of i nformati on. I deas feed the fl ow
of i nformati on, and i t i s the recordi ng of these i deas that begi n the fi rst stage: the
generati on and recordi ng of pri mary l i terature. Once the pri mary l i terature i s
publ i shed the i nformati on enters the second stage: the l i terature i s surrogated,
repackaged, or compacted i nto other publ i cati ons known as secondary l i terature.
I don't think I'd
mix these
metaphors here
passive
source?
p: quote
196 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Figure 1. The Flow of Information
good figure! I like this
-3-
197 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
Generation of Knowledge
Recording
Primary Literature
Repackaging
Compaction
Surrogation
Bibliographies
Catalogs
Indexes
Abstracts
Current
Awareness
Services
Dictionaries
Directories
Tables
Handbooks
Yearbooks
Almanacs
Reviews
Momographs
Textbooks
Treatises
Encyclopedias
Secondary
Literature
Bibliography
of Bibliographies
Directory of
Directories
Guide to Literature
Dissemination
Secondary Surrogation
Tertiary
Literature
Utilization of Scientific Information
Figure 2.The Flow of Information (Krishna Subramanyan,
New York: Dekker, 1981.)
Scientific and Technical Information Resources,
-4-
now you have
two figures
with same
title but see
Illustrations
page
Editor's Note: This figure is reprinted from Krishna Subramanyan, Scientific
and Technical Information Resources (New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1981), p. 9,
by courtesy of Marcel Dekker, Inc.
Figure 2. The Flow of Information (Krishna Subramanyan,
Scientific and Technical Information Resources,
New York: Dekker, 1981.)
198 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
The secondary l i terature col l ects i deas from a vari ety of sources and presents i t to
a wi der audi ence. Now the thi rd stage begi ns, as the catal ogues are catal ogued,
cr eati ng the ter ti ar y l i ter atur e. I t i s thr ough thi s hi er ar chy of publ i cati ons
(Subramanyam, p. 9) that a researcher moves i n pursui t of ori gi nal data.
3.0 Tertiary Literature
The ki nds of ter ti ar y l i ter atur e used i n the study of exposi tor y wr i ti ng ar e the
same gui des to r efer ence wor ks, bi bl i ogr aphi es of bi bl i ogr aphi es, and database
di rectori es used by most researchers. These di rectori es are l i sts of other reference
publ i cati ons, organi zed under general subject headi ngs.
Fi gur e 3 char ts some of the ter ti ar y r esour ces i n the fi el d of exposi tor y
writing:college instruction. Note that the library search service (DI ALOG) cata-
l ogue i s cl assi fi ed as terti ary l i terature, as i t i s used as a di rectory of di rectori es,
wi th easi l y read and cross referenced l i sti ngs of over 350 databases.
Fi gure 3. Ti tl es of Terti ary Li terature
-5-
wordy
passive
hyphen
good detail provided
here in your figure
coh = I would state here that you've
used this "flow" in a backward order
for your paper because that's an
effective
strategy for students to use
p: quote
The Humanities: A Selective Guide to Information Sources.
3rd ed. Ron Blazek and Elizabeth Aversa. Littleton: Libraries Unlimited, 1989.
DIALOG (DIALOG Information Services, Inc. Palo Alto, Calif.)
Walford's Guide to Reference Materials. A.J. Walford, ed. London:
The Library Association. vol 3: 4th ed. 1986.
199 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
The report compares these publ i cati ons i n the secti on ti tl ed Li terature
Compari son.
4.0 Secondary Literature
Secondar y l i ter atur e i s the sur r ogated, r epackaged and compacted i nfor mati on
r efer r ed to i n the ter ti ar y l i ter atur e. (Subr amanyam, p. 9) Secondar y l i ter atur e
r ear r anges i nfor mati on fr om a var i ety of sour ces to al l ow access to speci fi c i tems
fr om the mass of l i ter atur e on the subject. Refer ences sur r ogate i nfor mati on by
i denti fyi ng and l i sti ng documents accordi ng to thei r topi c or purpose. Bi b-
l i ographi es and peri odi cal i ndexes fi t i nto thi s cl assi fi cati on. References, such
as dictionaries and handbooks, repackage information when they list specific
i tems i n ways whi ch al l ow ready access. Resources whi ch have di gested i nformati on
from a vari ety of sources and combi ned i t wi th the exi sti ng knowl edge
i n the subject are sai d to have compacted the i nformati on. Styl e manual s and
encycl opedi as ar e two exampl es of l i ter atur e contai ni ng compacted i nfor mati on.
Fi gure 4 charts some of the secondary l i terature i n the fi el d of exposi tory wri ti ng:
col l ege i nstructi on.
-6-
p: quote
check
style
manual
for
format
SS:
I would
rewrite
this
sentence
to make
your
definition
more direct
(I'd eliminate
the passive voice
too)
wc I'd use
another word
here
200 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses

An Annotated Bibliography of Texts
on Writing Skills
MLA Directory of Periodicals: A
Guide to J ournals and Series in
Languages and Literature
New York: MLA, 1988
NTIS
National Technical Information Service
of the U.S. Department of Commerce
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
ERIC
Current Index to J ournals in Education
Resources in Education
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
The American Heritage Dictionary
Boston: Houghton Mifflin , 1990
Abstracts of English Studies
Champaign, Ill. NTCE since 1958
Form and Style
Theses, Reports, Term Papers
8th ed. , William G. Campbell, et al.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin , 1990.
Harbrace College Handbook
11th ed., J ohn C. Hodges, et al. San
Diego: Harcourt Brace J ovanovich,
1990.
Sharon Burns, New York: Garland, 1977.
The MLA Style Manual
Walter S. Achter and J oseph Gibaldi.
New York: Modern Language Association
of America, 1985
Yearbook of English Studies
Modern Humanities Research Assoc.
Websters Collegiate Thesaurus
Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1988
Clear Technical Writing
J ohn A. Brogan. New York: McGraw-Hill,
1973.
Reporting Technical Information
6th ed., Kenneth W. Houp and Thomas E.
Pearsall. New York: Macmillan . 1988
Compacted
Surrogated
Repackaged
Fi gure 4. Ti tl es of Secondary Li terature
-7-
good detail I like the
way you are building on
Subramanyam's model
201 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
The report compares these publ i cati ons i n the secti on ti tl ed Li terature Compari -
son.
5.0 Primary Literature
Pri mary l i terature contai ns the ori gi nal records of research and schol arshi p i n a
gi ven fi el d, such as confer ence paper s, r esear ch r epor ts, and jour nal ar ti cl es.
Her e i s the or i gi nal data, pr oposed and r ecor ded by the or i gi nal r esear cher .
Pr i mar y l i ter atur e, not l i mi ted to onl y for mal publ i shed r ecor ds, i ncl udes the
i nfor mal r ecor ds of r esear ch: notebooks, di ar i es and per sonal cor r espondence.
Most of these i nfor mal r ecor ds ar e not avai l abl e to gener al audi ences, but ar e
someti mes found i n speci al col l ecti ons and l i brari es. Fi gure 5 charts some of the
pri mary l i terature i n the fi el d of exposi tory wri ti ng: col l ege i nstructi on.
College English
NCTE, Champaigne, Ill
The J ournal of the Conference on
College Composition and Communication
NCTC, Champaigne, Ill
The Writing Instructor
The Freshman Writing Program,
USC, Los Angeles, Calif.
Research in the Teaching of English
NCTC, Champaigne, Ill.
Written Communication
Sage Publications
Exercise/ Exchange
Clarion University, Penn.
Fi gure 5. Ti tl es of Pri mary Li terature
The report compares these publ i cati ons i n the secti on ti tl ed Li terature Compari -
son . Fi gur e 6 shows the char t fr om Fi gur e 2, r evi sed to r efl ect twenty-two
resources avai l abl e i n SDSU Li brary.
-8-
I'd be
consistent in
use of commas
in series
p: quote
p: quote
202 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
good figure
it summarizes
the information
in the whole report
and continues to build
on Subramanyam's model
FIGURE 6. The flow of Information in the Field of
Expository Writing: College Instruction
SDSU LIBRARY
College English
NCTE, Champaigne, Ill
The J ournal of the Conference on
College Composition and Communication
NCTC, Champaigne, Ill
The Writing Instructor
The Freshman Writing Program,
USC, Los Angeles, Calif.
Research in the Teaching of English
NCTC, Champaigne, Ill.
Written Communication
Sage Publications
Exercise/ Exchange
Clarion University, Penn.
The American Heritage Dictionary
Boston: Houghton Mifflin , 1990
Form and Style
Theses, Reports, Term Papers
8th ed. , William G. Campbell, et al.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin , 1990.
Harbrace College Handbook
11th ed., J ohn C. Hodges, et al. San
Diego: Harcourt Brace J ovanovich,
1990.
The MLA Style Manual
Walter S. Achter and J oseph Gibaldi.
New York: Modern Language Association
of America, 1985
Yearbook of English Studies
Modern Humanities Research Assoc.
Websters Collegiate Thesaurus
Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1988
Repackaged
Clear Technical Writing
J ohn A. Brogan. New York: McGraw-Hill,
1973.
Reporting Technical Information
6th ed., Kenneth W. Houp and Thomas E.
Pearsall. New York: Macmillan . 1988
Compacted
An Annotated Bibliography of Texts
on Writing Skills
MLA Directory of Periodicals: A
Guide to J ournals and Series in
Languages and Literature
New York: MLA, 1988
NTIS
National Technical Information Service
of the U.S. Department of Commerce
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
ERIC
Current Index to J ournals in Education
Resources in Education
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
(DIALOG Information Services, Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.)
Abstracts of English Studies
Champaign, Ill. NTCE since 1958
Sharon Burns, New York: Garland, 1977.
Surrogated
-9-
The Humanit ies: A Select ive Guide t o Inf ormat ion Sources.
3rd ed. Ron Blazek and Elizabeth Aversa. Littleton: Libraries Unlimited, 1989.
DIALOG (DIALOG Information Sources, Inc. Palo Alto, Calif.)
Walford' s Guide to Reference Materials. A. J . Wal f ord, ed. London:
The Library Association. vol 3: 4th ed. 1986
203 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
6.0 Literature Comparison
Fi gur e 7 di spl ays a compar i son of twenty-two r esour ces avai l abl e i n the SDSU
l i br ar y on the subject of exposi tor y wr i ti ng: col l ege i nstr ucti on. The r esour ces
were compared on the basi s of l i ter atur e cl assi fi cati on, l evel of i nter est,
organi zati on, frequency of publ i cati on, use of graphi cs.
Literature classification r efer s to fl ow of i nfor mati on hi er ar chy, shown i n
Fi gure 2.
Level of interest tracks the i nterest l evel of the i ntended audi ence:
* Hi ghl y Techni cal (HT) i ndi cates those i tems i ntended for a reader wi th
a sophi sti cated understandi ng of the materi al presented
* Professi onal I nterest (PI) i ndi cates i tems cl earl y wri tten for a speci al -
i zed audi ence
* General Audi ence (GA) refers to publ i cati ons i ntended for those wi th
an i nterest i n the topi c.
Organization compares how the materi al i n a publ i cati on i s made known to
the user:
* Si mpl e (S) i ndi cates a tabl e of contents wi th cl earl y stated ti tl es
* Cross referenced (CR) i ndi cates a work wi th at l east two i ndexes
* Mul ti I ndexed (MI) i ndi cates a work wi th a vari ety of i ndexes (some up to
fi ve or si x)
The use of graphi cs and the frequency of publ i cati on are i ndi cated accordi ng to the
key.
7.0 Factual Summary
A fl ow of i nfor mati on exi sts to wi den the ci r cul ati on of i deas, fr om the i deas
gener ati on to i ts ul ti mate gener al di ssemi nati on. The fl ow of i nfor mati on i n
exposi tory wri ti ng : col l ege i nstructi on fi ts the standardi zed model . A survey of
-10-
SS: can you say
this more simply
and directly?
hint: check those
"shun" words
hyphen
unnecessary
passive
Can you unleash
a smothered
verb here?
204 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
College English P PI S N MO
CCCC J ournal P PI S N Q
Writing Instructor P PI S N Q
Research in Teaching English P HT S Y Q
Written Communication P PI S Y Q
Exercise Exchange P PI S N BA
MLA Dir. of Periodicals S PI MI M A
Abstracts of English Studies P HT S N MO
NTIS (DIALOG) S HT MI M MO
ERIC (DIALOG) S PI MI N MO
Ann. Biblio./ Texts: Wrting Skills S PI S N AR
Amer. Heritage Dictionary S GA S Y AR
Form and Style S GA S Y AR
Harbrace College Handbook S GA S Y AR
MLA Style Manual S PI S Y AR
Yearbook of English Studies S PI S Y A
Websters Coll. Thesaurus S GA S N AR
Clear Tech. Writing S PI S Y AR
Reporting Tech. Info. S PI S Y AR
Humanities: A Guide T GA MI N A
DIALOG T GA MI N AR
Walfords Guide T GA CR N AR
Key-
Literature Classification- Primary (P)
Secondary (S) Graphics - Yes (Y)
Tertiary (T) No (N)
Level of Interest - Highly Technical (HT) Frequency of
Professional Interest (PI) Publication -
General Audience (GA) As Revised (AR)
Organization - Simple (S) Annually (A)
Cross Referenced (CR) Biannually (BA)
Multi Indexed (MI) 4x Yr. (Q)
Monthly (MO)
Figure 7. Literature Comparison
-11-
I'd call this
a table
205 Sherry Burgus Little, San Diego State University
-12-
fi fteen per ti nent r esour ces i n the SDSU l i br ar y shows thei r posi ti on i n the fl ow of
i nformati on and compares thei r formats.
8.0 Conclusion
Understandi ng the fl ow of i nformati on i n the fi el d of exposi tory wri ti ng wi l l benefi t
the r esear cher by pr ovi di ng access to r esour ces especi al l y desi gned for the
fi el d. Thi s report i s a gui de to those resources and an expl ai ns how al l of the
l i ter atur e i s r el ated. The r esear cher shoul d be capabl e of a mor e sophi sti cated
l evel of work as a resul t of thi s report.
9.0 Recommendations
Based on the r esear ch done on thi s pr oject, thi s r epor t r ecommends that a Basi c
Li brary Resouces (BLR) pampl et be publ i shed, on the subject of Engl i sh l anguage-
-exposi ti on, l i sti ng the resources avai l abl e i n the SDSU l i brary.
wordy
t
check use
of figures
206 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
-13-
REFERENCES
Al uri , Rao and Robi nson Judi th Schi ek. A Gui de to U.S.
Government Sci enti fi c and Techni cal Resources. Li ttl eton,
Col orado: Li brari es Unl i mi ted, I nc., 1983.
Carande, Robert. Lecture to students. Love Li brary, San Di ego
State Uni versi ty, January 10, 1991.
Grogan, Deni s. Sci ence and Technol ogy, 3rd edi ti on. London:
Cl i ve Bi ngl ey Ltd., 1978.
Houp, Kenneth W. and Thomas E. Pearsal l . Sci enti fi c and
Techni cal I nformati on Resources. New York: Marcel Dekker,
I nc., 1981.
Katz, Bi l l and Li nda Sternberg Katz. Magazi nes for Li brari es. New
York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1980.
Sheehy, E.P. Gui de to Reference Books 10th ed. Chi cago:
Ameri can Li brary Associ ati on, 1986.
Subramanyam, Kri shna. Sci enti fi c and Techni cal I nformati on
Resources. New York: Marcel Dekker, I nc., 1981.
Wal ford, A. J. Wal fords Gui de to Reference Materi al s. London:
The Li brary Associ ati on, 1980.
good sources
207 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Chapter 5
The Commentary of
David D. Roberts
Iowa State University
David D. Roberts is Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of
Graduate Studies at Iowa State University. He was educated at Arizona State
University, where he completed a bachelors degree in mathematics. He
finished his Ph.D. in 1979 and taught for ten years at the University of Wyo-
ming. In 1976 he received an Amoco Outstanding Teacher award, the first non-
tenure track faculty member ever chosen for the honor. Also, for three years he
directed the prestigious Wyoming Conference on Freshman and Sophomore
English. In 1982 he moved to Iowa State University, where he has taught
undergraduate courses in technical writing, business communications, and
composition. His graduate teaching experience at Iowa State has included
courses in composition pedagogy as well as professional and occupational
writing. His publications have appeared in The Journal of Technical Writing and
Communication and The Technical Writing Teacher. In addition to his academic
career, he works as a writing consultant in business and industry and is a
member of the Association of Professional Writing Consultants.
208 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
For the letter of application and rsum assignment, I give students the
following written instructions:
Preliminary step: Find or invent an advertisement for the kind of entry-
level position you will seek after graduation. The more detailed the notice, the
better. If you are not graduating this year, project yourself and your creden-
tials into 1991 or 1992. If you are presently working, imagine you have decided
to change jobs, perhaps to obtain a promotion, secure higher pay, or find more
challenging and interesting work. Attach a copy of the ad to your assignment.
(If you plan to seek admission to a graduate school or professional program, no
such advertisement is necessary, but your letter should be specifically tuned to
the particular school or institute.)
Main step: Write a persuasive letter of application addressed to some
real person in the organization who placed the ad (above). While you are
working on this assignment, keep this real person in mindeven if you are not
actually going to send your letter to him or her. Include a rsum with your
application letter. The letter should be no longer than a page-and-a-half; the
one you turn in for evaluation must be an original typed (or laser-printed)
page, on good bond paper. Your rsum may be a high-quality photocopy of
the typed (or laser-printed) original. Remember that the appearance of your
letter and rsum will affect your readers, and remember how important
correctness is on this assignment, right down to the last comma.
Revision: I will make evaluative comments on both your letter of appli-
cation and your rsum, but I will grade only the former. After my evaluation,
you will have the option of revising your letter to improve your grade. You
may revise your rsum as well, if youd like my feedback on it.
Explanation of Commentary
Because I chair the graduate studies committee in my own department,
I thought extended comments might be helpful to Jeff , so my terminal com-
ment is significantly longer than the norm for this assignment.
I praised Jeff for achieving an unusual degree of specificity because
thats something most students have trouble withthey rely on boiler-plated
phrases that fail to achieve the most significant rhetorical goal of a letter of
application: differentiation from the competition.
This letter was the first version turned in (see assignment), and even so
Jeffs was quite good. For that reason I went into detail about the minor strate-
209 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
gic issues, and detailed the stylistic concerns. In other words, he was ready for
some fine points even at this early stage of the semester.
I made no marginal comments on the rsum (vita) because I would
have had to virtually re-do the page to demonstrate my points. I thought it
better to give Jeff some general directions and let him play with the layout. I
grade only the letters, and not the rsums, for three reasons: 1) I have found
that students get quite attached to the format preferred in their individual
areas, and insist they have to follow it; 2) despite my years of experience in
business and technical writing courses, I still feel much more confident in
evaluating writing than I do documents with heavy visual elements; 3) I once
had a polite but embarrassing confrontation with a student whose rsum I had
covered with red marks and given a grade of C-, not knowing that he had
already sent it out and received more interview offers than all of his peers.
210 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
103 N. Frankl i n #5
Ames, I A 50010
September 12, 1990
Dr. Ri chard J. Davi dson
Department of Psychol ogy
W.J. Brogden Psychol ogy Bl dg.
Uni versi ty of Wi sconsi n
Madi son, WI 53706
Dear Dr. Davi dson:
I am a seni or i n psychol ogy at I owa State Uni versi ty and pl an
to conti nue my academi c career i nto graduate school . Duri ng
my educati on at I owa State, I have become aware of your work
on hemi spheri c substrates of emoti on. After readi ng your
arti cl es on thi s subject i n the Handbook of Neuropsychology,
Vol . 3, and i n Emotions, Cognition, and Behavior, my i nterest
was greatl y i ncreased. Because of your i nteresti ng work, and
al so because of the commi tment to excel l ence of your fi ne
uni versi ty, I woul d l i ke to work and study wi th you i n the
Human Psychophysi ol ogy program.
I n May of next year I wi l l graduate from I SU. I have gai ned
a sol i d background i n psychol ogy wi th courses that i ncl ude
brai n and behavi or, l earni ng and memory, moti vati on,
cogni ti on. Before my change i n major to psychol ogy, my
trai ni ng i n engi neeri ng provi ded an el ementary background
i n physi cs, el ectroni cs, and computer operati on and
programmi ng. Thi s knowl edge adds to my psychol ogy
coursework i n research methodol ogy and desi gn, computer
appl i cati ons, and stati sti cs to provi de a basi c foundati on
whi ch woul d be useful i n psychophysi ol ogi cal research. My
grade poi nt average, four semesters on the Deans Li st, and
GRE scores refl ect both my commi tment to academi c pursui ts
and my potenti al for graduate work.
My formal cl assroom educati on has been suppl emented by my
i nvol vement i n vari ous research projects. Extracurri cul ar
readi ngs on cerebral l ateral i zati on under the gui dance of
Professor Mi chael OBoyl e l ed to my i nvol vement i n one of hi s
research projects, an EEG study focusi ng on hemi spheri c
2
make it active
voice?
this might make a better opener
are these
course titles?
refer to your
rsum
here?
blah?
another
weak opener?
another nice
"stroke" for
the reader
good strategy;
the degree of
detail is
impressive
211 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
di fferences precoci ous youth and normal yough concerni ng
the recogni ti on of emoti onal expressi on. Furthermore, I have ai ded
Professors Veroni ca Dark and Cami l l a Benbow i n rel ated research
on the cogni ti ve capaci ti es of verbal l y and mathemati cal l y preco-
ci ous youth. Thi s i nvol vement has gi ven me a taste of psychol ogi cal
research and has rei nforced my deci si on to pursue a research career
i n cerebral l ateral i zati on.
I n addi ti on to my educati onal qual i fi cati ons, I have worked at
the Uni versi ty Li brary shel vi ng books. Thi s job has made me
fami l i ar wi th the faci l i ti es and resources of a research l i brary.
I bel i eve thi s knowl edge wi l l be of si gni fi cant val ue for doi ng re-
search i n graduate school .
Encl osed i n thi s communi cati on i s a resume and appl i cati on
form. I have arranged for my transcri pts, l etters of
recommendati on, and GRE scores to be sent to your Graduate
Offi ce. I know that competi ti on for posi ti ons i n your program i s
ri gorous and I appreci ate your consi derati on of my
appl i cati on.
Si ncerel y yours,
Jeff Pi tzen
don't you
want to
ask for
some
specific
action from
Dr. Davidson?
combine &
tighten?
212 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
JEFF PI TZEN
103 N. Frankl i n #5
Ames, I A 50010
(515) 292-4997
PROFESSI ONAL To conti nue my educati on i n graduate school and do
OBJECTI VE research i n cerebral l ateral i zati on.
EDUCATI ON I owa State Uni versi ty, Ames, I owa. B.S. i n Psychol ogy
expected May, 1991. 1986-1988 Engi neeri ng program
at I owa State. Accumul ated grade-poi nt-average 3.33 (5/90)
GRE scores: Verbal 620, Quanti tati ve 680, Anal yti cal 710
SPECI ALI ZED Brai n and Behavi or, Percepti on, Learni ng and Memory,
COURSES Moti vati on, Cogni ti on, Research Desi gn and Methodol ogy,
Computer Appl i cati ons i n Psychol ogy, Stati sti cs 101
RESEARCH I nvol ved wi th research on rel ati onshi ps between cerebral
l ateral i zati on and emoti onal percepti on i n precoci ous and
normal youths and rel ated research focusi ng on short-
term memory capaci ti es of verbal l y and mathemati cal l y
precoci ous youth.
HONORS Deans Li st four semesters
WORK Northcrest Reti rement Communi ty, Ames, I A
EXPERI ENCE Worked as ki tchen ai de. Duti es i ncl uded washi ng di shes,
servi ng meal s, ai di ng cook i n food preparati on. Worked as
mai ntenance man and groundskeeper duri ng summers.
Duti es i ncl uded mowi ng l awns and general
groundskeepi ng, pai nti ng apartments, and odd jobs.
I owa State Uni versi ty Li brary, Ames, I A
Duti es i ncl uded shel vi ng books.
ACTI VI TI ES Treasurer for dormi tory fl oor. Responsi bi l i ti es i ncl uded
drafti ng a budget and al l ocati ng funds.
I NTERESTS Musi c, movi es, readi ng.
REFERENCES Professor Mi chael W. OBoyl e, W151 Lagomarci no Hal l
Psychol ogy Department, I owa State Uni versi ty, Ames, I A
50011 (515)294-8045
Professor Cami l l a P. Benbow, W169 Lagomarci no Hal l
Psychol ogy Department, I owa State Uni versi ty, Ames, I A
50011 (515) 294-0285
Professor Veroni ca J. Dark, W153 Lagomarci no Hal l
Psychol ogy Department, I owa State Uni versi ty, Ames, I A
50011 (515)294-1688
213 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Comments :
Letter
Youve empl oyed a number of excel l ent persuasi ve strategi es i n your l etter. I
thi nk your references to Dr. Davi dsons research i n the fi rst paragraph i s a fi ne
hook, and your return to the theme of research i n the two subsequent para-
graphs shows that you understand what graduate school i s al l about. I al so
appreci ate the l evel of speci fi ci ty you achi eve i n the second paragraphyou real l y
show the breadth and depth of your preparati on, i nstead of just cl ai mi ng i t.
Si mi l arl y, bei ng abl e to ci te i ndi vi dual facul ty members wi th whom youve worked
i s certai n to be an effecti ve sel l i ng poi nt.
I n terms of strategy, however, the l etter fades a l i ttl e at the end. For i nstance, I
thi nk i ts OK to menti on your l i brary work experi ence, but unl ess you can beef up
paragraph 4 somehow i ts goi ng to sound pretty l ame compared to the hi gh-
powered paragraphs that precede i t. As an al ternati ve, coul d you perhaps move i t
to a posi ti on of l ess emphasi s?
As for your cl osi ng paragraph, dont you want some speci fi c acti on from Dr.
Davi dson? Even i f he i s favorabl y i mpressed by your l etter, you dont want hi m to
just bury i t on hi s desk, or si mpl y pass i t al ong to some commi ttee chai r. So how
about aski ng hi m to be your advocate to the graduate admi ssi ons commi ttee? Or
perhaps you coul d ask hi m to wri te back to gi ve you some i dea of your chances for
acceptance i n the program?
My onl y other suggesti ons for i mprovement are styl i sti c ones:
1) Whi l e your openi ng paragraph i s a strong one i n content, i t starts wi th a
canned opener, and conveys no surpri si ng i nformati on. Try starti ng wi th the
second sentence and see what you get. Paragraph 2 suffers from the same thi ng.
Can you thi nk of a phrase that wi l l sel l your educati on i nstead of just announci ng
i t?
2) I s the catal ogue of coursework you ci te i n paragraph 2 a l i st of actual course
ti tl es? I f so, they probabl y shoul d be capi tal i zed. Al so, there may be some
confusi on about the groupi ng because you seem to have omi tted a comma before
the l ast el ement i n the seri es.
3) Try to get ri d of at l east two of the three weak Thi s structures your l etter
contai ns.
Resume
Though your vita contai ns favorabl e i nformati on about you, the sol i d paragraph
format you use renders that i nformati on l ess accessi bl e than i t shoul d be. My
214 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
pri mary advi ce i s to use bul l ets, i ndents, underl i nes, and spaci ng to more effec-
ti vel y l ay out the materi al under EDUCATI ON, SPECI ALI ZED COURSES (whi ch
probabl y shoul d be a sub-category under EDUCATI ON), and RESEARCH, even i f
you have to cut down on the materi al under WORK EXPERI ENCE. The audi ence
for thi s document wi l l be gl ad to know youve hel d part-ti me jobs whi l e i n school ,
but they wi l l care very l i ttl e about your responsi bi l i ti es as a ki tchen ai de and
groundskeeper. You coul d al so save some space by l i sti ng al l three of your refer-
ences wi th thei r common departmental address, si nce i ndi vi dual offi ce numbers
and phone numbers are not cruci al .
215 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Instructions
Description of Assignment
For this assignment, I give students the following written instructions:
Preliminary step: Invent a situation that calls for you to write a set of
instructions. The goal should be to enable your readers to operate some device
or perform a process used in your professional field. Describe the situation in a
paragraph or three and attach a copy to your paper.
Main task: Write the instructions. The procedure must involve at least
12 steps and should guide your readers through some specific process that
your classmates or your instructor could actually perform. Avoid writing
generic instructions for performing a general procedure. For example, do not
write instructions for Operating a Mimeograph Machine, but rather Instruc-
tions for Operating the Harley-Davidson Model SZX Mimeograph. Be sure to
divide (or segment) the overall procedure into groups of steps, rather than
presenting all the steps in a single list. Pay careful attention to the visual
design of your finished document. You must include at least one illustration,
and you must use at least two degrees of headings. If you like, you may use a
multi-column page design. One other thing: the instructions must be accurate.
Revision: I will make evaluative comments on your set of instructions,
including a letter grade. After my evaluation and our subsequent class discus-
sion, you will have the opportunity to revise your instructions to improve your
grade.
Explanation of Commentary
Pattys first version of the bathing instructions was a strong completion
of the assignment, but under "The Sponge Bath" she had 18 separate steps, only
two of them broken down into sub-steps. I suggested that she try to find three
or four major sub-steps of the actual bathing process, and use those to chunk
the instructions further. I also suggested getting rid of the numbers and using
bullets or other markers under the chunks she decided on. Clearly, she made
good use of this advicethe instructions are much more reader-friendly now.
On many sets of instructions (even on the revisions) I have to spend a
lot of time talking about the appropriate degree of specificity. When students
write instructions for a process with which theyre very familiar, they have a
difficult time putting themselves in the readers place. As a result, they some-
times short-change certain details, not realizing that a truly unpracticed reader
might have further questions that they themselves would not think of. There
are a couple of places in Pattys instructions where I might have asked for
216 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
further specificity (for instance, . . . and style [the babys hair] as desired
might leave some readers hanging). But given the scope of the assignment,
and the overall success of Pattys paper, I did not want to belabor such a com-
paratively minor point.
Crisp prose is harder to talk about and harder to achieve in sets of
instructions, since the documents flow is controlled more by logical flow than
by linguistic cohesion. Also, writing stylistic comments on a revised document
can be tricky, particularly since the student may not have another chance to
practice. But Patty is a very motivated (and savvy) writer, and I knew she
would be receptive to the stylistic comments and suggestions I made. So even
though this was our last exchange about the set of instructions, I noted that
Patty used the cause-effect syntax technique on at least two of her subse-
quent papers.
217 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
SET OF INSTRUCTIONS
English 314
October 18, 1990
Patricia Harms
The Situation
Patient eduction is a major portion of my job as
a labor and delivery nurse. Not only do I teach new
moms how to care for themselves during their post-partum
period, but I also teach new moms and dads how to care
for a brand new baby. These people receive a lot of
information in a very short period of time. To aid
memory retention, and to serve as a reference at home,
the labor and delivery nurses provide numerous hand-outs
to our patients.
At present, the hand-out given to new parents on
bathing a newborn is very sketchy and hard to follow.
The following set of instructions was written to help ease
first-time parents through one potentially stressful
situation --- their baby's first sponge bathes at home.
I guess I forgot to
mark these on your previous
draft and apparently
you didn't spot 'em either!
oops!
Editor's Note: The illustrations referred to in this assignment are seven line
drawings from A. Eisenberg, H. Murkoff, and S. Hathaway, What to Expect the
First Year (New York: Workman Publishing, 1989). Permission to reprint these
illustrations was denied by the publisher.
218 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
BATHING YOUR NEWBORN BABY
As a first-time parent, you will be learning many new
skills about baby care. The following set of instructions
was designed to help ease you through one procedure -- your
baby's first sponge bathes at home.
Keep in mind the following tips:
* Sponge bathe your baby until the navel heals.
The cord will fall off in 7 - 10 days. Healing
takes 2 weeks to 1 month.
* Bathe your baby at least every third day. Wash
the baby's creases every day with plain warm water.
* Read through all of the instructions before you
start, so you will be able to work more quickly.
* Working quickly is the most important feature of
a sponge bath. Babies dislike being undressed,
and dislike being cold even more!
* Your baby will most likely cry during the bath.
That's okay; crying will not hurt your baby. If
the baby starts getting too upset, just take a
break and cuddle her until she calms down.
A) Preparation
1) You will need:
gentle soap and shampoo
washcloth and cotton balls
clean diaper and clothing
2 bathtowels and 1 receiving blanket
soft bristled brush
basin of warm water
sink
2) Do not use:
baby powder (it is harmful to baby's lungs)
baby oils or lotions (they cause clogging of your
baby's skin)
B) Choose A Bath Site
1) Choose a room that is comfortable for you and the baby.
2) Work at an area that is comfortable for you and the
baby.
the changing table
the kitchen table covered with a soft, terry towel
your bed protected with a rubber pad and towel
the floor (as long as there aren't any drafts)
very important (?)
could this use further explanation?
(I see a potential question: "How soft?")
Note my minor alterations to
make your major headings parallel.
(B and C)
Equipment
wrong title?
the parenthetical explanations here work well
omit?
219 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
I like
the tone
here
Bathing Your Newborn Baby Page
2
C) Getting Ready
1) Collect all of your supplies before you start. Once
you start bathing your baby, she cannot be left
unattended.
2) Think ahead to prevent some unwanted interruptions.
For example, turn on the answering machine if you have
one.
D) The Sponge Bath
1) Getting Started
Undress your baby and
lay her on the towel
you plan to work on.
Leave the baby's diaper
under her to help catch
any "accidents" (see
figure one).
2) Washing Her Face
Without using any soap,
first wash the baby's
eyes. Using a moistened
cotton ball or the corner
of a wrung out washcloth
wipe from inside to out-
side with one firm stroke.
Use a clean cotton ball
or a new washcloth corner
for the other eye.
Wash your baby's face
without soap.
Wash your baby's ears.
Do not use Q-tips! What
you cannot reach with the
twisted corner of a wash-
cloth, you don't need to
clean.
Rinse your washcloth and
wring it out thoroughly.
3) Washing Her Body
Wash around your baby's
cord well, still not
using any soap.
Remove the diaper from
under your baby (see
figure 2).
reverse the
sentence
order (for
more emphasis)?
use numeral
Preparation
(?)
good
1
reverse the
phrase
order?
(see why?)
Covering your baby's bottom
half while you wash the top,
will help keep the baby warm.
Leaving the diaper under
your baby will help catch
any "accidents."
figure 1
insert Figure 1 here
insert Figure 2 here
figure 2
220 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
reverse the
phrase
order for
emphasis?
(note cause-
effect
structure)
Bathing Your Newborn Baby Page
3
Wet the rest of the baby's
body (except the diaper
area) and lather with soap.
Rinse the soap off your baby
with clean, warm water. It
works well to wring the wash-
cloth over the baby to help
you rinse off the soap.
Using a soft, patting motion,
dry off your baby with a towel.
4) Washing The Genital Area
(see figure 3)
Girls: Wash from
front to back. White or
pinkish vaginal discharge
is normal and should not be
scrubbed away.
Circumcised Boys: Wash
the penis and scrotum well.
The yellowish discharge around
circumcised area is normal
and should not be scrubbed away.
Uncircumcised Boys: Wash
the penis and scrotum well.
Do not attempt to retract your
baby's foreskin. Plan to
discuss this with your pediatrician
at your baby's 2 week check-up.
5) Drying Her Off
Wrap your baby up in a dry
towel and dry thoroughly.
Keep her wrapped in the
towel for the shampoo.
6) Shampooing Her Hair
Do this last because the head
is the area of greatest heat
loss (see figure 4).
Wet the baby's head using
warm, running water.
Apply shampoo and lather.
good specifity
will the repetition (one adjective,
one verb) cause ambiguity?
The baby's bottom is the
dirtiest and should be washed
last to prevent spreading
any germs.
The football hold will allow
you to hang on to the baby
securely while you wash her
hair.
insert Figure 3 here
insert Figure 4 here
figure 3
figure 4
221 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Bathing Your Newborn Baby Page
4
Stimulate the baby's scalp
with a soft bristled brush.
Rinse your baby's head with
warm water.
Dry her hair with a towel
and style as desired.
7) Finishing Up
Diaper your clean baby and
apply creme or ointment to
her bottom if necessary.
Put a clean outfit on your
baby.
Swaddle your baby in a
receiving blanket and cuddle
her for a job well done (see
figures 5, 6, & 7)!
I still feel that visually this
is
left hanging: the nice closure
you have gets buried in a
bulleted substep. As an
alternative, how about some
kind of summary?
Illustrations borrowed from:
Eisenberg, A., Murkoff, H.,
& Hathaway, S. (1989). What
to Expect the First Year.
New York: Workman Publishing.
After you tuck the right
corner around the baby, tuck
up the bottom corner.
To swaddle your baby, lay
her on a receiving blanket
with the top corner turned down.
Finish by pulling the fourth
corner around the baby.
figure 5
figure 6
figure 7
insert Figure 5 here
insert Figure 7 here
insert Figure 6 here
222 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Comments:
Youve done an excel l ent job ti dyi ng up your set of i nstructi ons and maki ng them
more reader-fri endl y and more vi sual l y appeal i ng. I want to say agai n how much I
l i ke the strategy of putti ng some key warni ngs up front. These wi l l no doubt
save your anxi ous readers (and thei r babi es) a l ot of gri ef. As weve di scussed, the
two-col umn format i s parti cul arl y useful for i nstructi ons of thi s type, and you do a
fi ne job of usi ng hi erarchi cal cuei ng to gui de the reader through the vari ous steps
and sub-steps. I appreci ate the l abel s on the fi gures, toosi mpl e thi ngs l i ke that
can real l y hel p your readers.
I questi oned the soft bri stl ed brush onl y because some readers mi ght need to
know how soft. We have to assume they woul dnt use an i ndustri al -strength
cl eani ng brush on the baby, but a sl i ghtl y more speci fi c descri pti on woul d anti ci -
pate possi bl e questi ons.
Youl l note that I ve suggested phrase-order changes i n a few pl aces. You may
remember that we tal ked i n cl ass about how an i dea can be emphasi zed by preced-
i ng i t wi th a subordi nate cl ause, parti cul arl y i f theres a cause-effect rel ati onshi p.
So the fi rst poi nt under Getti ng Ready [Preparati on] can be strengthened, I thi nk,
by fi rst maki ng the poi nt about not bei ng abl e to l eave the baby unattended so the
i nstructi on about col l ecti ng al l suppl i es before starti ng becomes an effect of that
cause: Because you cannot l eave your baby unattended once you start the bath,
be sure to col l ect al l your suppl i es before you begi n. You can achi eve the same
ki nd of effect i n the fi rst bul l et under Shampooi ng Her Hai r: Because the head i s
the area of greatest heat l oss, do the hai r l ast. See what I mean?
223 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Proposal
Description of Assignment
The proposal is part of a sequence of assignments that culminate in a
final document turned in at the end of the semester. For that reason there is no
proposal assignment per se. Rather than reprint the entire five-page Major
Project assignment here, I provide below the paragraphs that explain the
purpose of the project, specify the audience parameters, and discuss a couple of
hypothetical examples of proposal-writing situations:
Purpose
The project should attempt to answer a question, solve a problem, or fulfill a
need by presenting information gathered or generated by you personally. It is
not intended (necessarily) to be a library-research assignment; however, library
research might serve to supplement your data or to provide necessary back-
ground or documentation. The situation that works best for the MP is one for
which the final deliverable is a recommendation report; but Ive also had very
successful projects that concluded with brochures, manuals, sets of instruc-
tions, and even proposals.
Many students choose to use work they are doing (or have already
done) in another class, and this is perfectly acceptable. However, it may be
necessary to adapt this other work. For example, you may need to invent a
fictional situation and refocus the central question or problem in order to give
the MP document a realistic context.
Audience
The MP document must be written for primary readers who are not
experts in the field. The document may be aimed at a multiple audience, but
the bulk of it must be readable for non-specialists. If you are adapting materi-
als from another class, this audience requirement may mean that you will have
to consider your readers very carefully; the readers specified in the MP assign-
ment may have very different needs than, say, a professor in your major field.
You will define your audience precisely when you submit your proposal.
The Formal Proposal
Your proposal will grow out of the situation you design for your MP.
In it, you will attempt to receive permission to carry out the research, observa-
tions, or experimentation that you plan to use later to create your final docu-
ment. For example, if your project involved a consulting study, your proposal
would be written to the host companys management, trying to convince them
224 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
to hire your consulting firm to do the work. If your project involved carrying
out a laboratory experiment, your proposal might be a grant-application to a
funding agency. If your project involved designing a quality-assurance pro-
gram for a box-manufacturing company, your proposal would be aimed at
management decision-makers and would have to show them why you could
do a better design job than somebody else.
Explanation of Commentary
Leslies proposal revision really was a remarkable improvement over
the first version she turned in, primarily for the reasons I covered in the first
paragraph of my remarks. The original document was significantly shorter
than the new one, so I knew she had taken to heart my mini-lecture on persua-
sion through specifics (as opposed to relying on safe, formulaic generaliza-
tions). Many students have trouble with proposals because they are in fact
writing about a study or a project that they have not fully thought outa
situation much less likely to occur on the job. I usually spend a lot of time
urging them to increase the degree of detail in their proposals precisely be-
cause that forces them to think more carefullymore concretelyabout what
theyre proposing.
I emphasize Background sections when I teach proposals because in
that situation the client must be convinced that the writer thoroughly under-
stands the problem or need. I mentioned the Benefits section because in her
original proposal Leslie had put the Benefits right after the Background, which
virtually destroyed their effectiveness in the persuasive scheme.
Even though I awarded this paper a very high grade, I knew that Leslie
had reached the point where she would be interested inand receptive to
fine-tuning concerns. Thus Ive actually offered alternative word-choices
instead of just raising questions, as I might have done were this paper to
undergo further revision.
225 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
1320 Truman Place
Omaha, NE 68137
( 402) 365-4216
Ms. Sandra Pri tchard
Vi ce-Presi dent for Publ i c Rel ati ons
Carefree Chi l d Daycare Centers, I nc.
457 Li ncol n Tower
Boston, MA 11346
Dear Ms. Pri tchard:
To provi de parents and caregi vers wi th the i nformati on and
moti vati on necessary to i ncrease readi ng and comprehensi on ski l l s,
as wel l as demonstrate several other benefi ts of readi ng wi th
chi l dren, Learn For Li fe, I nc., proposes to devel op excl usi vel y for
your fi rm a brochure enti tl ed The Need to Read.
BACKGROUND
The Nati onal Department of Educati on has reported that i n the past
ten years the average scores on standardi zed achi evement tests
have conti nued to decl i ne, despi te efforts to rai se them. Whi l e these
scores are not the fi nal goal of educati onal processes, they are a good
i ndi cati on of how wel l a students ski l l s are devel opi ng. Because
readi ng and comprehensi on ski l l s are an essenti al part of the
l earni ng process, thei r mastery i s vi tal i n attai ni ng hi gher l evel s of
thi nki ng.
I f hi gher order thought i s not attai nabl e as the resul t of i nadequate
readi ng and comprehensi on abi l i ti es, the consequences can be far-
reachi ng. I l l i teracy, for exampl e, i s one of our nati ons bi ggest
probl ems. The i nabi l i ty to read and wri te at a mi ni mum l evel has
caused more and more peopl e to avoi d hi gher educati on and seek
l ow ski l l ed, l ow payi ng jobs, many of whi ch are bei ng repl aced by
technol ogi cal advances. The resul t i s i ncreased unempl oyment and
a sufferi ng economy.
are jobs
being
replaced
by advances?
(idiom
problem)
OK thanks
for putting
it up front
good use
of cause-
effect syntax
for emphasis
do you
have any
statistics
on this?
226 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
2
Now i s the ti me when everyone, especi al l y those who deal wi th
chi l dren, must search for means to reverse these trends i n order to
promote the overal l l earni ng process of future generati ons.
Through the brochure you wi sh to create, your company i s
attempti ng to have some posi ti ve i mpact on the rai si ng of
educati onal achi evement among Ameri cas youth. Learn For Li fe,
I nc. al so real i zes the i mportance of thi s project and l ooks forward to
contri buti ng i ts knowl edge and experi ence.
OBJ ECTI VES OF P ROP OSED SOLUTI ON
The brochure we propose to devel op wi l l be avai l abl e i n al l Carefree
Chi l d Daycare Centers nati onwi de and wi l l achi eve the fol l owi ng
objecti ves:
1. To i nform parents and caregi vers of the benefi ts of readi ng
wi th chi l dren.
2. To moti vate parents and caregi vers to actual l y read wi th
chi l dren on a regul ar basi s.
DETAI LS OF P ROP OSED SOLUTI ON
Devel opment of thi s brochure i nvol ves fi ve phases: 1) research, 2)
wri ti ng and revi si on, 3) sampl e testi ng, 4) fi nal revi ew, and 5) fi nal
pri nti ng.
RESEARCH
Learn For Li fe, I nc. wi l l conduct extensi ve research concerni ng the
benefi ts of readi ng wi th chi l dren. We wi l l i ntervi ew professi onal
educators, admi ni strators, and psychol ogi sts and ask them exactl y
how readi ng affects soci al and cogni ti ve devel opment. We wi l l al so
ask what methods are most effecti ve for i ncreasi ng the qual i ty of the
readi ng experi ence, as wel l as determi ni ng parental gui del i nes for
i nformal readi ng and l i steni ng i nstructi on. We wi l l study the most
credi bl e sources of recent research, such as journal s, arti cl es, and
reports, and wi l l use a vari ety of books to gai n background
i nformati on.
quite a
lofty
goal
name a few
specific sources
in case some
readers are experts
in the field?
wrong
tense?
use company
name here?
(tone)
"fully"
?
227 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
3
WRI TI NG & REVI SI ON
I wi l l desi gn and create the brochure mysel f. I pl an to make i t
hi ghl y i nformati ve yet i nteresti ng tol read, and the tone wi l l be
persuasi ve but al so concerned and cari ng. Three of our fi rms top
consul tants wi l l revi ew the fi rst draft and make suggesti ons for
i mprovement. After I revi se the brochure, sampl es wi l l be pri nted
for testi ng.
TESTI NG
To survey the effects of the brochure, the sampl es wi l l be di stri buted
to 30 sets of parents randoml y chosen from the pre-school i n the
area. These parents wi l l fi l l out response forms before and after
readi ng the brochure. The forms wi l l be desi gned to measure the
i ncrease i n knowl edge and i ntenti ons of readi ng wi th thei r chi l dren
as a resul t of the brochure.
FI NAL REVI EW
After studyi ng the response forms, I wi l l make further revi si ons i n
the brochure, and then submi t i t to you for fi nal approval . At your
conveni ence, we wi l l meet to di scuss any concerns you have, or
changes you wi sh to propose. Gi ven Carefrees cl ose i nvol vement
wi th parents on a dai l y basi s, your i nput wi l l be hi ghl y useful i n
tai l ori ng the brochure for i ts i ntended audi ence. The fi nal versi on
we produce at thi s poi nt wi l l then be ready for pri nti ng and
di stri buti on.
PRI NTI NG
The fi nal brochure wi l l be produced by the pri nti ng company of your
choi ce. Learn For Li fe has done much of i ts pri nti ng busi ness wi th
Copi es R Us, I nc., because we have found thei r qual i ty of servi ce to
be superi or. I recommend that the brochure be typeset so as not to
exceed 20 pages, as parents may not bother to pi ck i t up i t they
thi nk i t too ti me-consumi ng to read. The choi ce of col ors wi l l al so be
yours, though I woul d suggest the col ors used on Carefrees corporate
l ogo.
] [
"those"?
good
"stroke"
should you
submit it
to the
firm?
omit?
228 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
sp
4
SCHEDULE
The fi nal brochure wi l l be compl eted i n fi ve weeks. Our suggested
ti me l i ne fol l ows:
Research Week 1
Wri ti ng & Revi si on Week 2
Testi ng Week 3
Fi nal Revi ew Week 4
Pri nti ng Week 5
QUALI FI CATI ONS
Learn For Li fe, I nc., has bui l d i ts nati onal reputati on on the f
oundati on of dependabi l i ty and dedi cati on to our cl i ents. We
undertake those projects we feel wi l l enhance the educati onal process
and i ncrease cri ti cal thi nki ng ski l l s. We are a si ncere group of
commi ted professi onal s whose common goal i s the conti nued
advancement of educati on.
As a member of thi s dedi cated team, I recei ved my Ph.D. i n
Educati onal Psychol ogy from I owa State Uni versi ty. I n addi ti on, I
have the experi ence of produci ng several successful brochures and
pamphl ets for the I owa Department of Educati on. I feel thi s
knowl edge and experi ence, combi ned wi th the cari ng and supporti ve
atti tude of Learn For Li fe, I nc., wi l l ensure that the proposed
brochure wi l l exceed your hi ghest expectati ons.
COST
Our standard rate for the proposed work i s $400 per day, pl us
reasonabl e expenses. Di stri buted among the 87 Carefree Chi l d
Centers across the country, the cost per center comes to l ess than $70
per center, not counti ng actual pri nti ng and del i very costs. After thi s
i ni ti al i nvestment, of course, you may reproduce copi es as you wi sh.
The devel opment costs are one- ti me, and wi l l gi ve you a prototype
for years to come.
best
phrasing?
modifier
question
"delivered"?
are you sure
this says
what you
want it to?
"These one-time development costs will give . . ."?
229 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
5
BENEFI TS
When l ooki ng at the posi ti ve resul ts of the proposed brochure, i t i s
most i mportant to see that Carefree Chi l d Centers i s i nvesti ng not
onl y i n the future of i ndi vi dual chi l dren, but al so i n the future of
Ameri ca, because soci ety ul ti matel y gai ns from the i ncreased produc-
ti ve capaci ty of i ts ci ti zens. Second, i n maki ng avai l abl e a qual i ty
brochure of thi s ti me, your company shows parents that you care
deepl y about thei r chi l drenyour real cl i ents. Thi rd, Carefree wi l l
been seen not onl y as a cari ng and acti ve company, but al so as a
forerunner i n educati onal i mprovement. Fi nal l y, when greater
i nterest i n readi ng devel ops as a resul t of the brochure, more readi ng
wi l l actual l y take pl ace i n your centers, thereby decreasi ng or
preventi ng boredom and resul ti ng behavi or probl ems.
* * *
Because we vi ew oursel ves as a progressi ve consul ti ng fi rm, Learn
For Li fe, I nc., i s eager to begi n work on a project as i mportant as
yours. We are concerned wi th the educati on of young chi l dren and
are qual i fi ed to assi st i n that goal by devel opi ng for you a superi or
brochure that wi l l be ready for di strubuti on wel l ahead of the
hol i days.
Ms. Pri tchard, thank you for thi s opportuni ty, and pl ease feel free to
contact me i f you have any questi ons.
Si ncerel y,
Lesl i e A. Hansen
Educati onal Consul tant
wordy
can you
see how to
tighten it?
Yes! It works much better, I
think,
to put Benefits here.
230 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Comments:
You have done a marvel ous job of revi si on. Cl earl y, you pi cked up a number of
poi nters from our cl ass di scussi on of the proposal -drafts, and you seem to have a
much better handl e on the generi c structure of proposal s. I parti cul arl y l i ke the
expanded Background secti on because i t l ends a degree of i nterest and l egi ti macy
to the probl em-component, whi ch was not the case i n your previ ous versi on. I al so
l i ke the strategy of Benefi ts l ast, whi ch I bel i eve adds si gni fi cant punch to the
proposal s persuasi ve stance.
I asked you about tone on page 2 because your company may sound generi c at a
poi nt i n the document when you want to cement your rel ati onshi p wi th the reader.
The tense questi on on the same page occurs because you momentari l y forget the
requi si te narrati ve stance for proposal s.
I have al so asked a few very pi cky word-choi ce questi ons, because you are ready for
that ki nd of fi ne tuni ng. Note especi al l y the i di omati c questi on at the bottom of
page 1that ones not opti onal because I thi nk youve i nadvertentl y skewed the
meani ng.
I appreci ate the effort youve made i n revi si ng thi s assi gnment. Keep up the good
work.
231 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
My assignment for the analytical report is based on a case exercise from
Paul Andersons Technical Writing: A Reader-Centered Approach (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987, pp. 45-47). The case addresses a manufactur-
ing companys need for a new forklift. The plant manager has asked the
production engineer to make a recommendation; the production engineer has
directed an assistant to investigate two forklifts and to write up the results of
this research in a brief report. The assistants notes on each forklift are in-
cluded in the exercise. I give students the following additional instructions:
Task: Write the assistants report. Operate under the assumption that
your boss is the type who likes to think he/she makes all the decisions, and
does not want you to include a recommendation. Additionally, assume that
your boss is not very good at oral presentations, is nervous when dealing with
the plant manager, and will probably use your report as a script when he/she
presents the final recommendation about which forklift to buy. You should
feel free to add details, or information in other categories, provided you do not
directly contradict the notes.
Explanation of Commentary
We had spent a significant amount of class time discussing the stu-
dents first draft of this report, and considerable attention was given to the idea
of significance. This term emerged from our discussion of the goals of the
document, particularly as they related to the audience considerations. Many
students came to understand that just laying out the information in a logical
and readable fashion might not be enough. Therefore I wanted to praise Brent
for having included significance statements that responded to the crucial
goal of helping his reader distinguish between the two choices.
Because this assignment came early in the term, we hadnt devoted
much time to the role of graphical elements in technical communications, so
my comments about the tables are minimal, serving mainly to alert the student
to things wed cover later.
As for stylistic concerns, Brent is a typical good writer who hasnt yet
learned to sharpen his expression so his prose will be more readable and have
greater impact. Class discussion of stylistic matters is fine, but Ive long be-
lieved the greatest benefits come when I actually show students how particular
passages might be improved. Since there would be no more feedback unless
Brent came in to discuss his paper (and he did not), I make no apologies for my
emendations.
232 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Date: September 30, 1990
To: Dave Rupp, Producti on Manager
From: Brent Cul ver, Project Engi neer
Subject: Stati sti cal i nformati on for producti on forkl i fts
Here i s the i nformati on you requested on the two producti on
forkl i fts under consi derati on for purchase. Thi s purchase i s
necessary because the present l i ft has fai l ed and repl acement
parts are unavai l abl e. I compared the two l i fts on the basi s of
physi cal features, dependabi l i ty, and cost effecti veness. The gas
l i ft was found to cost $11,770 l ess than the el ectri c l i ft over a ten
year peri od, whi l e al so bei ng fl exi bl e enough to accommodate
i ncreased demands due to company growth.
PHYSI CAL FEATURES
The two forkl i fts were physi cal l y compared agai nst features of
the present producti on forkl i ft. These resul ts are l i sted i n Tabl e
1. As you can see, both forkl i fts exceed present l i ft
requi rements i n al l categori es except maxi mum l i ft hei ght. Here
the el ectri c l i ft i s i nsuffi ci ent by 2 ft. A ramp coul d be
i mpl emented to compensate for thi s defi ci ency. However, thi s
does not al l ow for an i ncreased demand i n l i ft hei ght whi ch may
accompany process growth. By provi di ng doubl e the l oad
capaci ty of the el ectri c l i ft and a 12 ft. l i ft hei ght, the gas l i ft wi l l
al l ow for the maxi mum process growth possi bl e. The abi l i ty to
i ncrease producti on capaci ty wi l l al l ow the company to expand
i ts sal es and become more competi ti ve.
The speed of both l i fts meets the producti on requi rement.
However, onl y the gas l i ft can be governed to a speed that i s
suffi ci ent for producti on whi l e mai ntai ni ng a standard of safety
i n the work area. Thi s standard i s necessary to mi ni mi ze the
ri sk of i njury to workers and possi bl e l osses i n product damage
due to hi gh speed acci dents.
] [
"resulting from excessive
speed"?
exprs?
good theme
unnecessary?
why passsive
voice here?
putting some
key results
up front is
good strategy,
I think
"As you know"?
(reader's feel-
ings)
233 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
2
Ta ble 1: P h ysi ca l Fea t u r es
Category Present Li ft El ectri c Li ft Gas Li ft
Capaci ty 600 1000 2000
(Lbs.)
Li ft Hei ght 8 6 12
(Ft.)
Speed 15 30 40
(mph)
DEPENDABI LI TY
Both l i fts were found to operate wi th l i ttl e or no damage to
products and no i njuri es based upon records from compani es
who have used thesel i fts. Parts for the el ectri c l i ft are avai l abl e
from a pl ant 500 mi l es away and may be ordered by phone and
del i vered i n 24 hours. Thi s coul d resul t i n a producti on l oss of
$10,000 each ti me the el ectri c l i ft breaks down. On the other
hand, parts for the gas l i ft coul d be del i vered i n 45 mi nutes from
a pl ant 17 mi l es away. Si nce the gas parts are more accessi bl e
than the el ectri c parts, producti on l osses due to forkl i ft
breakdowns are mi ni mi zed wi th the gas l i ft.
COST EFFECTI VENESS
I have done a cost compari son and anal ysi s based on several
cri teri a as shown i n Tabl es 2 and 3. Three areas are covered,
wi th emphasi s gi ven to the costs for shop modi fi cati on and
shutdown ti me, si nce these showed the greatest contrast.
Several modi fi cati ons are requi red for both l i fts. A
doorway connecti ng the dock wi th the producti on
area wi l l need to be wi dened to accommodate the
si ze of the gas l i ft. Thi s modi fi cati on wi l l cost $800
and can be done over a weekend to avoi d shutdown
"would be"?
can you hear
that this is
jammed?
rhythm?
reverse the
phrase order
for cleaner
expression?
good strategy
nicely
handled
"parts must
come from
a plant . . .
and cannot
be delivered
sooner than
24 hours . . ."
why passive?
234 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
3
ti me. I n addi ti on, use of the gas l i ft wi l l requi re the
i nstal l ati on of a venti l ati on fan, whi ch wi l l cost
$780, to provi de a heal thy work envi ronment. On
the other hand, a $600 modi fi cati on cost for the
el ectri c l i ft i s requi red for the i mpl ementati on of
the 2 ft. ramp previ ousl y menti oned. The bui l di ng
of thi s ramp wi l l requi re a three-day shutdown
peri od and resul t i n a cost of $10,000 unl ess we
wai t unti l Thanksgi vi ng.
The contrast i n purchase pri ce between the two l i fts was
rel ati vel y i nsi gni fi cant, wi th the gas l i ft costi ng
onl y $250 more.
The di fference between the l i fts for fuel , mai ntenance,
and repai r costs over a ten year peri od was $3000,
wi th the gas l i ft bei ng the l ess expensi ve. Thi s
di fference i s subject to fl uctuati on dependi ng on
fuel costs. However, the annual costs of the gas l i ft
wi l l al l ow for a $300 per year i ncrease to offset any
such fl uctuati ons.
Ta ble 2: I n i t i a l For k li ft Cost s
Cri teri on El ectri c Li ft Gas Li ft
Al terati on $600 $1580
Shutdown $10,000 -0-
Purchase $17, 250 $19,000
Charger $1500 -0-
Ta ble 3: An n u a l For k li ft Cost s
Cri teri on El ectri c Li ft Gas Li ft
Mai ntenance $300 $400
Repai r $800 $600
Fuel $2000 $1800
new
needed here?
tighten?
double-space
lines as in
Table 1?
That will
make for
easier reading
and a better
"look"
235 David D. Roberts, Iowa State University
4
Thanks agai n for the opportuni ty to assi st you i n thi s i mportant
matter. I f you have any questi ons before your meeti ng wi th Mr.
Strauss, pl ease feel free to contact me.
Right! As we discussed,
this kind of statement at
the end is more than just
a formulaic close.
236 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Comments:
Thi s i s qui te a successful revi si on. I n addi ti on to doi ng a better job of bri ngi ng the
reader up to speed i n your background paragraph, you pl ace some i mportant
resul ts up front to catch the readers attenti on. But perhaps the best revi si ons
were the si gni fi cance statements you added to your comparati ve anal ysi s. As a
wri ter you have real i zed that the vari ous compari sons have val ue for the reader
onl y i nsofar as they hel p hi m (i n your case) di sti ngui sh between the two forkl i fts.
(I al so l i ked the way you added the theme of competi ti on to the otherwi se mundane
i nformati on on the forkl i fts physi cal features.) Furthermore, whi l e addi ng
si gni fi cance statements, you manage to avoi d maki ng the overt recommendati ons
that woul d vi ol ate the gui del i nes of the assi gnment.
For sti l l further i mprovement of the document, you mi ght want to spruce up the
tabl es by maki ng them more uni form, and you mi ght do somethi ng to make the
key i nformati on under DEPENDABI LI TY more accessible to the reader by usi ng
some si mpl e vi sual techni ques such as spaci ng or bol d pri nt.
Fi nal l y, I have marked a few pl aces where your expressi on coul d be sharpened to
have a more professi onal edge. Note the two i nstances of i nappropri ate passi ve
voi ce. Si nce your overal l tone i s personal and rather i nformal , the passi ves just
dont seem to fi t. Al so, when you are maki ng the i mportant poi nt about avai l abi l -
i ty of repai r parts, why not strengthen the di sti ncti on youre tryi ng to make by
usi ng more emphati c phrasi ng?
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 237
Chapter 6
The Commentary of
Carolyn Rude
Texas Tech University
Carolyn Rude is Associate Professor and Director of the Technical
Communication Program at Texas Tech University. After receiving a Ph.D. in
English in 1975 from the University of Illinois, she worked six years as a techni-
cal writer and editor at the Research and Training Center in Mental Retardation
at Texas Tech before joining the faculty in 1981. Her dissertation topic, Walt
Whitman, has been largely irrelevant in the teaching of technical writing, but
the poet may have influenced her practices of commenting on student writing
because of his affirming spirit and sense of responsibility to the people. In
teaching, she aims to encourage students by giving them strategies for assess-
ing and responding to communication situations.
Professor Rude has received two university-wide teaching awards, the
New Professor Excellence in Teaching Award in 1984 and the AMOCO Award
in 1987. She founded the student chapter of the Society for Technical Commu-
nication at Texas Tech University and was its first faculty advisor. Before
becoming Director of Technical Communication, she was Director of Graduate
Studies. She served the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing as Execu-
tive Secretary from 1986 to 1990.
She wrote the textbook, Technical Editing (Wadsworth 1991) and edited
the anthology, Teaching Technical Editing (ATTW 1985). Her other publications
also have a pedagogical focus and are driven by the goal of identifying for
students how they may achieve particular purposes in written documents by
using strategies of format, organization, and style.
238
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Introduction
To me, as a teacher, comments are potentially useful pedagogically.
They should help students either to revise the document that is commented on
or teach students to write the next document more effectively. To students,
comments may seem threatening and critical.
I discuss my attitudes about comments in class. I tell the students
outright that I want them to succeed and that I measure my success as a teacher
in terms of how well students achieve. Many classes are workshops in which I
give students suggestions about the projects they are working on, and they
work with peers in getting and giving suggestions. Students may also come for
individual help while they are working on assignments. I hope thus to cast
myself in their minds as a helper and coach rather than as a judge. I hope also
that they see my written comments as extensions of the oral comments in class
and in conference.
My comments may also reflect reactions of a reader other than a
teacher. Thus if a reader may have a question about content or if something
about the structure may confuse a reader and require rereading to sort out the
information, I may write I am confused here . . . or How does this fact relate
to. . . ? or even Im feeling defensive now because. . . . My hope is to en-
courage students to write for readers by giving them a sense of how readers
may respond to their work. I also ask them to write for real readers.
My general criteria for evaluation are the following:
match of the report to the assignment: Students must demonstrate a concept of
genre assigned (e.g., they cannot write a proposal if a feasibility study is
assigned). In addition, they must meet other criteria specified on the assign-
ment, such as type and extent of research. An ambitious project is inher-
ently worth more than a simple project.
content and organization: The document should provide sufficient evidence
and detail to answer a readers probable questions and allow the reader to
do whatever the document requires (e.g., make a decision, perform a task).
Signals about organization (forecasting statements, headings, transition
words) should be accurate.
effectiveness of presentation: This criterion relates to choice of visuals or prose,
style, and format. Effective refers to choices that enable reader access to
parts of the document and comprehension. An effective document also
establishes credibility of the writer and the information. Excessive spelling
or grammar errors will diminish or even destroy effectiveness.
formal features: The required document parts (e.g., title page, table of con-
tents, visuals) should be present and constructed according to their function
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 239
and conventions. Pages should be numbered. Spelling and grammar
should be correct.
I try to focus my comments, especially in the concluding comment, so
that students will see them in the context of these criteria. I do better at this if I
glance at the document overall before commenting on specific lines. I also try
to comment on things that a particular student can reasonably be expected to
achieve. For example, only students who are proficient with content develop-
ment and organization are likely to receive detailed comments on style, and
only students who can punctuate independent clauses correctly are likely to
receive comments on punctuating restrictive clauses.
Most of my comments appear on a separate page, prepared at the
computer, with numbers on the document indicating that there is a comment. I
often comment using the computer, particularly for long documents on which I
am likely to comment at length. I do it because I have a longer attention span
working at the computer than with a pen, so my grading sessions last longer at
the computer. Also, since I type much faster than I write and am not limited by
the space in the margins, I am likely to comment in more depth (mainly giving
more explanations) than I would by hand. I spend as much or more time
commenting in this way as I would with a pen. Students thus receive more
legible and detailed comments. The disadvantage to them is that they have to
look back and forth from comment page to document. They do read the com-
ments, but perhaps they do not always check the document to see where the
comments apply.
240
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
For this assignment, I ask that students write application letters and
rsums for existing jobs. They must not invent qualifications for themselves
and they must submit job descriptions along with their documentsto help me
assess whether they are demonstrating a match between their qualifications
and the job requirements, but also to help them think in terms of the
employers question (can this applicant do the job?) rather than in terms of
their own interest (what this job will do for me?).
Explanation of Commentary
Calvin Glenn used the letter and rsum to support his application for a
job he hoped to get upon graduation at the end of the semester. He was well
qualified; however, because he had worked part-time for the company and had
an inside track on the job, he did not present his qualifications as effectively as
he might have had he been depending on the printed materials alone. My
comments suggest that his complacency could backfire if a good competitor
applies. Like many students, Calvin was also concerned about repeating
details of his rsum in his letter of application, so he lapsed into generaliza-
tions (valuable exposure). I tried to reinforce the importance of highlighting
and interpreting facts from the rsum in the letter. The letter is correct in
terms of its formal features, but it is less persuasive than it could be.
While I tell students about the standards of the real world (in which a
single error can mean rejection of the letter and rsum), I am more concerned,
as a writing teacher, about content and organization and try to be consistent
with my standards on other assignments. This letter of application might fail
in the real world (though, in fact, the student got the job without revising), but
it can be substantially improved with relatively little revision because the
student basically understands the concept and structure of the documents.
When I reviewed my comments for this publication, I noted the address
of the student by his first name in the summary comments. I am inconsistent
in this practice but am probably more inclined to use the name when the
students personal stake in the document is high (as it is with the letter of
application and rsum) and when the news of the comment is not entirely
good.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 241
3206 Salisbury Apt. D
Lubbock, TX 79410
December 6, 1990
Mr. Jeep Haney
Area Manager
Terra International
P.O. Box 36
Ropesville, Texas 79358
Dear Mr. Haney:
I am applying for the position of sales representative which was
advertised on December 1 with the placement service at Texas Tech
University. The position seems to fit very well with my education,
experience, and career interests.
Your position requires experience in fertilizers, chemicals, and
consulting. With a major in agriculture, I have training with all
types of fertilizers, chemical and equipment. My practical experi-
ence in my summer jobs as a student consultant other employers gave
me valuable exposure to complex situation. Additional, I worked as
a farm manager on the family farm for three years where I gained
knowledge of the crop uses of fertilizers and chemicals. My en-
closed resume provides more details on my qualifications.
My background and career goals seem to match your job requirements
well. I am confident that I can perform the job effectively.
Furthermore, I am genuinely interested in the position and in
working for Terra International. Your firm has an excellent
reputation and comes highly recommended to me.
Would you please consider my request for a personal interview to
discuss further my qualifications and to learn more about this
opportunity? I shall call you next week to see if a meeting can be
arranged. Should you need to reach me, please feel free to call me
at 791-2400. If I am not in, please leave a message on my answer-
ing machine and I will return your call within a day.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to talking with
you.
Sincerely yours,
Calvin Glenn
4
3
2
1
242
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
CALVIN F. GLENN
PERMANENT ADDRESS TEMPORARY ADDRESS
Route 1 Box 70 3206 Salisbury Apt.D
Ropesville, Texas 79358 Lubbock, Texas 79410
(806) 562-3407 (806) 791-2400
EDUCATION:
December 1990 Bachelor of Science
Texas Tech University
Major: Agriculture Economics
Minor: Business Major GPA: 3.25
100% Self Support Through College
WORK EXPERIENCE:
May 1983 Melvin Glenn Farms Assistant
to Present Ropesville, Texas
* General farm operations
* Field Scout
April 1990 to Acuff Farm Supply Fertilizer/Chemical
September 1990 Acuff, Texas
(Seasonal) * Assisted customers
* Repair of fertilizer equipment
* Distribution of fertilizer/chemicals
December 1989 to Terra International Sales Representative
April 1990 Ropesville, Texas
* Assisted customers
* Participated in inventory control
* Sales of fertilizer and chemicals
* Assisted in administrative duties
May 1989 to December Northrup King Research
1989 (Seasonal) New Deal, Texas
* Assisted in Harvest
* Repair of equipment
* Assisted in research data entry
May 1988 to September
1988 (Seasonal) Mark Scott Farms Scout, Consultant
* Responsible for insect scouting
* Assisted in consulting
* Repair of equipment
AFFILIATIONS: Agriculture Economics Association
Intramural Football, and Softball
Campus Crusaders
REFERENCES: Available upon request:
Career Planning and Placement Service
Texas Tech University
P.O. Box 4230
Lubbock, Texas 79409
(806) 742-2210
al
ed
with? (be spe-
cific)
Manager and Field
Scout
State concretely what you did
applied fertilizer? planned
fertilizer schedule? analyzed
the
farm
bill?
al
parallelism
Delivered? Applied?
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 243
Application and Rsum: Comments
Letter
1) Instead of saying this job fits me well, state your basic qualifications for this job.
(Answer the employers basic question: Can this person do the job?) State: I will
graduate in December from Texas Tech University with a B.S. in agricultural economics.
In addition, I have worked as a sales rep for Terra International for the past year.
2) Mr. Haney knows what his job requires, so use the space to give details about what you
have learned about fertilizers, etc. Use the whole paragraph to highlight the relevant
aspects of your education.
3) Create a separate paragraph to give specific details about your work experience. What
was your summer job? What specifically was the valuable exposure? (Perhaps you
helped farmers choose fertilizers based on the crop, soil, and time of application.) You
need to make the underlined words concrete in the readers mind.
4) If you create the two detailed paragraphs suggested above, you can omit this one. The
reader will draw these conclusions for himself.
Calvinyou need to demonstrate more concretely what you know and can do. You are
making claims (exposure, knowledge) with no evidence to back them. Any other agricul-
ture major can make the same claims at least about knowledge; demonstrate what is special
about your qualifications. Do not worry about repeating the details of the rsum: you are
highlighting and interpreting the facts on the rsum that are relevant to this particular
employer. If you arent convincing in the letter, the reader may never look at the rsum.
Rsum
Your format is fine, and you have the right idea about identifying work responsibilities in each
of your categories. You can impress the employer even more, however, if you will work on
three particular goals in revision:
a) Use more specific verbs. Note how often you describe your work with the verb as-
sisted. Look for verbs that describe the primary task rather than your assistance. E.g., if
you assisted customers, did you consult with customers about fertilizer choices? If you
assisted in administrative duties, did you manage the plant, inventory supplies?
b) Aim for greater parallelism in the lists. Preferably begin with verbs in past tense: e.g.,
repaired vs. repair. Under Glenn Farms, list the tasks you completed for farm
operations. Make sure each of your job titles also reflects a position (assistant manager
and field scout vs. assistant; and sales representative vs. fertilizer/chemical).
c) Correct capitalization errors. Note that the name of your major is agricultural economics.
Calvinyou are well qualified for this job but better qualified than your letter and rsum
demonstrate! You take a significant risk if you depend on the fact that Mr. Haney knows you.
Another person may apply who demonstrates better qualifications than your printed materials
demonstrate. Then it will be hard for Mr. Haney (and his superiors) to justify hiring you.
Take this opportunity to persuade your potential employer that you are a great catch for them
(you are!).
244
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Instructions
Description of Assignment
How to Make a Topographic Profile. . . was submitted in a sopho-
more-level course in technical writing. (The other three assignments in this
series were submitted in a junior-level course.) The sophomore course intro-
duces students to technical communication and surveys basic genres. The
assignment on instructions required students to write on a task with three to
six major steps for an audience that included some classmates or people with
the knowledge that college sophomores could be expected to have. These
guidelines excluded complex instructions (such as a user's manual) as well as
simplistic tasks that most students could already perform. Students were
directed to integrate visuals with the prose.
Explanation of Commentary
In my commentary on this student's instructions, I addressed the
following issues:
match of the instructions to the assignment: The student has produced instruc-
tions on a task that is complex enough to require knowledge of writing
strategies yet simple enough to be manageable for an assignment that
claimed no more than two weeks of the semester. He has included visuals.
content and organization: The topic is interesting as well as challenging.
Many or most of the writers classmates did not even have a concept of a
topographic map let alone of drawing a profile from one, so he could not
depend on existing knowledge. The writer provided conceptual informa-
tion to define and describe as well as the specific directions. The last state-
ment, besides being self-defeating, made me wonder whether all the steps
were complete; however, the writer identified the steps meaningfully and
arranged them chronologically. The instructions seem complete enough for
a field test.
effectiveness of presentation: The instructions are more academic than I
would prefer (the formal introduction and conclusion are examples). How-
ever, the student does reveal awareness of audience expectations (my own
and the expectations of readers as they had been defined for him). His use
of illustrations at key points, the explanations and definitions, and the
formatting (headings, listing) show an awareness of readers needs and
reading patterns. His word choice is precise. The last statement suggests
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 245
that he might have restricted his aims for the instructions.
formal features: The student paid a lot of attention to details of format. He
was consistent in capitalization, spacing, and style of headings and in labels
for his figures. The typos are inconsistent with his carefulness in other
respects, but his other achievements are significant enough to warrant a
good grade in spite of the errors.
This student was a technical communication specialist and more accom-
plished in some ways than many of the students in the class. I probably would
not have commented to most other students on the inconsistency under List of
Major Steps, but this student was eager for details and was experienced
enough to understand them.
246
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
How to Make a Topographic Profile
of a Proposed Route From a Map
Introduction
A topographic profile is a diagram that shows the
change in elevation of the land surface along any given
line on a topographic map. The profile represents,
graphically, the skyline as viewed from a distance.
Topographic profiles are used by soldiers, forest rang-
ers, and hikers to determine and select the flatest route
between two points on a map.
These instructions are written for personnel who
hike through mountainous terrain and know the basics of
map reading.
Brief Overall Description of the Procedure
A topographic map is selected that covers a pro-
posed route. Then two points are ploted (marked), the
starting point and the point of destination. Next, the
contour lines are marked on a piece of paper with their
respective elevations. The elevation figures are then
put on a graph and the points connected. The connected
points of elevation make a graphic profile of the ter-
rain.
Working Definitions
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 247
2
Should it be of a particular type, such as graph paper?
Where is this available?
Topography: the configuration of the land surface
that is shown by means of contour lines.
Contour lines: an imaginary line on the surface
of the earth connecting points of equal elevation.
Contour interval: the difference in elevation
between two adjacent contour lines. The contour inter-
val is constant and is indicated on the map.
Relief: the range of topographic elevation within
a prescribed area.
Materials Required
1. topographic map
2. pencil
3. paper
4. ruler
List of Major Steps
The major steps in making a topographic profile
are as follows: (1) plot the route (2) determine
maximum relief (3) make a graph (4) plot and connect
contour points on a graph.
Instructions for Performance
1. Plot the Route
"Steps" are things
(nouns). For
consistency, you
should name your
steps with nouns
(or gerunds)
plotting
determining.
OR: Introduce the list
differently.
"To make a ...,
you will 1) plot,
2) determine.
248
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
To plot the route, select a topographic map that
will cover the entire route. Then, locate the starting
point (A) and the point of destination (B) and label them
with a
pencil. Next, draw a straight line with a ruler connection
the two points. (See figure 1.)
Figure 1. Example of a topographic map.
2. Determine Maximum Relief
The maximum relief is the difference between the
highest and lowest elevations. It is used to determine if
Contour interval 20 feet 1 inch = 2000
feet
3
Since the procedure will be new to readers, you can help
them
by explaining what seems obvious to you the difference =
60 feet;
hikers will have to climb 60 feet.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 249
a route is feasible for hiking. To determine the maximum
relief, examine the contour lines that cross the plotted
route, then substract the lowest contour line from the
highest: 1040 - 90 = 60.
3. Make a Graph
On a blank piece of paper, draw several horizontal
lines with a ruler. The length of the lines should equal
the
distance of the line connecting the starting point and the
point of destination. Next, draw a vertical line on each
end of the horizontal lines to form a rectangular graph
(see figure 2).
980
990
1000
1010
1030
1040
1050
1020
Figure 2. Cross section of a graph to be used
with a topographic map.
Now label the vertical lines with the elevation of each
contour line that crosses the route. Start with the low-
est elevation on the bottom of the graph and increase each
line in increments of 10, until the highest elevation is
reached. The scale is usually determined by the contour
intervalin this case 20 feet. However, our starting
4
250
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
point is located midway between the contour lines, hence
the scale of 10.
4. Plot and Connect Contour Points on a Graph
To plot the contour points on the graph follow
these steps:
a. Place the edge of a narrow piece of paper
(same length as the graph) against the line
connecting points A and B.
b. Mark the paper everywhere a contour line
touches the edge and indicate the elevation.
c. Remove the paper from the map and place it at
the base of the graph; make sure the edges
(ends) are aligned.
d. Place a dot on the graph, directly above each
mark on the paper, at the elevation indi-
cated. (See figure 3.)
Figure 3. Piece of paper, with contour marks
and elevations, under a cross section
5
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 251
of a graph.
e. Draw a line connecting each adjacent dot to
form the topographic profile.
Summary
Making a topographic profile is a simple process,
easily mastered by individuals with a sound basic knowl-
edge of map reading. The topographic map provided in
these instructions is oversimplified. Locating and
following contour lines on a real map is more difficult;
consequently, plotting a route, determing maximum relief,
and graphic contours is actually harder than appears.
they try a more detailed version.
You have organized and formatted well, have provided
helpful explanations, and have used the style of instruc-
tions. You have done an especially good job with the
illustrations. All of these strategies help readers under-
stand and follow your instructions.
It would be interesting to test the instructions with
a reader who represents your audience. The readers
questions would signal needs for more information or a
different expression or arrangement of information.
Good work.
6
it
Now Im discouraged! The statement
could undo all the good teaching you have
accomplished. If the task is harder than you
have made it seem, maybe you need to think of
a two-stage learning process, with the learn-
ing of a simple version preliminary to the
actual task performance. If so, you could
define the task in your introduction as pre-
liminary, with these instructions aiming to
walk people through the basic process before
in
252
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Proposal
Description of Assignment
The proposal assignment requires students to identify and elaborate on
actual problems and to propose feasible solutions for a real audience. The
proposal must elaborate on how the solution is to be implemented. I want
students to get beyond suggestion box statements to implementation plans.
A substantial proposal will also require research into the specifics of the prob-
lem and implementation plan.
Students may write different types of proposals, including proposals to
conduct research as well as proposals to change procedures or to purchase
equipment. Therefore, I am flexible about the specific sections to be included
(other than the problem statement and implementation plan). Many proposals,
for example, will require budget and personnel sections, but some (such as the
example here) do not. We discuss in class the possibilities for sections, but
students design their own proposals according to the type of proposal they are
writing and needs of their own audiences. This project was collaborative:
three students contributed to it. They included three sample leases in appen-
dixes, not included here.
Explanation of Commentary
I assume in my comments that students will revisenot for me, but for
their primary audience. They often develop a stake in their proposals because
they are working with real problems, and many will revise and send them
forward. Most of the comments on this proposal relate to organization. The
students have comprehended a proposal, their style is effective, and sentences
are correct. This topic lends itself to verbal rather than visual presentation. I
hope that focusing on organization and signals about organization will help
them to concentrate on that topic and learn something specific about organiza-
tion that will apply to the next document they write.
In addition, I require collaborators to submit individual reports of the
collaboration and their individual contributions to it. In retrospect I wish I had
also required them to submit drafts showing their specific contributions as well
as the reports. One strong writer had pulled two weaker writers along.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 253
PROPOSED SERVICE: STANDARDIZED LEASE FOR STUDENTS
Submitted to
Office of the Attorney for Students
Texas Tech University
Prepared by
Steve Mahnich
J ohn Laird
Calvin Glenn
December 3, 1990
Abstract
Confusion and misunderstandings between landlords and students often result
from unclear and confusing leases. Many leases emphasize landlord rights over
students rights. These problems would be lessened if the terms of the agree-
ment were clearly and fairly stated in the lease.
The Attorney for Students at Texas Tech University should develop and
provide a standardized student lease to help solve some of the problems that
off-campus renters encounter.
254
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
Problem....................................................................................1
Summary of Recommendation ................................................ 2
Scope and Plan of the Report ................................................. 2
NEEDS ASSESSMENT
Current Opinions ..................................................................... 2
Examples of Unfair and Confusing Terms................................ 3
The Standardized Student Leases .......................................... 4
MANAGEMENT
Attorney for Students ............................................................ 5
The Attorneys Role ................................................................ 5
Advertisement of the Student Leases .................................... 5
CONCLUSION
Summary of Proposal .............................................................. 5
Appendix A: Lubbock Board of Realtors Lease .................................. A1
Appendix B: Lubbock Apartment Association Lease.......................... B1
Appendix C: Bowling Green Standardized Lease ................................ C1
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 255
Int roduct ion
Problem
In the Lubbock community, Texas Tech University is a major part of the economy,
partly because of the large number of college students who rent apartment or
houses off of the campus. A large number of rental facilities, both houses and
apartments, exist to meet the demands of students who choose to live off campus.
Confusion and misunderstandings between landlords and students result from
unclear and confusing leases. Students normally sign a rental agreement without
having a full understanding of it. When students are looking for an apartment or
house, they are usually forced to read more than one lease, and they often do not
read them seriously, because they cannot understand them.
Often, there are unenforceable and slanted clauses in the leases that students sign.
These leases tend to try to put the power over the property unfairly in the favor of
the landlord. These confusing leases try to shift the burden on the student. These
biases in favor of the landlords cause conflicts between students and owners. This
emphasis of landlord profit over the rights of the student renter creates ill will
between the owner and the tenant.
At Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the Student Services department assists
students in making rental agreements. But at Texas Tech University, the only help
afforded students is through the office of the Attorney for Students. The office
provides a pamphlet about renting off-campus, and will help students understand
leases that they bring in, but many students do not know about this service, and it is
not readily accessible to students for several reasons. Many students do not know
where the Attorney for Students is locatedthe office is located on the third floor
PAGE 1
s
1
256
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
of West Hall. The service is publicized only by a brief mention of it in the under-
graduate catalog.
Summary of Recommendations
The Attorney for Students at Texas Tech University should offer a standardized
student lease, like that offered at Bowling Green State University, to alleviate these
misunderstandings and biases that occur in rental agreements. This service can be
advertised to encourage students to look for rentals that use the standardized
student lease.
Scope and Plan of the Report
The goal for this report is to propose a solution for the problems in off-campus
housing for students. The solution should be acceptable and fair to both students
and landlords. This report will first perform a needs assessment to see what leases
are now provided to students. Then, the report will examine Bowling Greens solution
to the problems that students have in renting off-campusa standardized lease.
Finally, the report will investigate how the Texas Tech Attorney for Students could
help alleviate some of these problems by providing a standardized lease for students.
Needs Assessment
Current Options
In researching this problem, we found that many students are forced to sign a lease
for six to twelve months. If the rental period does not correspond to the school
calendar and the student does not wish to continue renting the property, the deposit
must be forfeited. We acquired several leases that Lubbock landlords use in renting
to the general public (including students). Each lease that we examined was long,
complicated, and inconsiderate of the special needs of students. Many ambiguities
were also present in the leases. The only standardized leases that are available in
PAGE 2
4
2
discuss
3
good forecast
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 257
Lubbock are offered by the Lubbock Apartment Association and the Lubbock Board
of Realtors. These leases are used on an optional basis by member complexes, and
they are long and complicated.
Examples of Unfair and Confusing Terms in Lubbock Leases
One lease that we examine required a $100 pet deposit; however, the renter was not
aware, until the end of the term of the lease, that the deposit was non-refundable.
The Lubbock Board of Realtors lease, and other leases that we examined, release the
landlord from all responsibility from injury or death to the tenant and from all damage
to the property, regardless of whether the landlord was at fault. Several of the
leases that we examined gave the landlord broad rights in entering the property for
any reason at any time. The Lubbock Board of Realtors lease makes the tenant
responsible for all plumbing problems during the rental period, regardless of whether
the tenant caused the problem; however, one lease that we examined limits the
tenants responsibility to problems that occur two months after the beginning of the
rental period, to account for the fact that plumbing problems may occur several
months after they are caused. In several leases, the owner reserves the right to
show the property for sale or lease at his discretion. In one instance, the owner
showed the property repeatedly, with no advance warning to the tenant.
Neither the Lubbock Board of Realtors lease nor the Lubbock Apartment Association
lease mentioned joint and several liability, and the other leases that we examined
mentioned it without explanation. J oint and several liability means that every person
who signs the lease is individually responsible for the full amount of the rent. If one
of the signers of the lease is unable to pay, the others are responsible for the full
amount, not just their share. The leases that we examined also placed the full
responsibility of any court of attorney costs on the tenant. This discourages the
tenant from pursuing any legal recourse from a violation of the lease by the landlord
PAGE 3
5
258
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
PAGE 4
because the court fees could be so high. Overall, the leases that we examined were
long, complex and hard to read. They were multi-paged, not clearly printed, and
intimidating. It is easy to see how students could neglect to read and understand
the leases that they sign. The Lubbock Board of Realtors and Lubbock Apartment
Association leases are included in the appendix as an example of confusing and unfair
leases that are available for students.
The Standardized Student Lease
The solution that we are proposing to the Texas Tech Attorney for Students to help
students in renting off-campus is the development of a standardized student lease
such as one offered by Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University. A copy of
this lease is included in the appendix. This standardized student lease attempts to
equal the burden of responsibility between the landlord and the renter. The stan-
dardized lease puts the terms of the agreement in words that are easy for the
student to understand. The standardized lease is printed on a single sheet of paper
that does not intimidate the student as do multi-paged leases. Many leases are for a
fixed period of six or twelve months, but the standardized lease offered by Bowling
Green is designed for the period that can meet the students needs. This prevents
the loss of the deposit if the student cannot continue to rent for the period. The
standardized lease does not hold the student responsible for personal injury or
property damage that occurs as a result of owner negligence. The standardized
lease does not allow the owner unlimited access to the property; instead, it sets
guidelines respecting the privacy of the renter that the owner must follow when
entering the property. The standardized lease does not hold the student responsible
for repairs and maintenance of electrical, plumbing, and other systems in the prop-
erty that are not caused by the students. The standardized student lease uses an
entire section to explain joint and several liability. A standardized student lease, like
that offered by Bowling Green, will help to prevent many of the problems that Tech
7
ize
C
6
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 259
PAGE 5
students face in renting off-campus.
Management
Attorney for Students
The office of the Attorney for Students at Texas Tech has the resources to provide a
standardized student lease for students. The stated objective of this office, accord-
ing to the 1990 Texas Tech University Undergraduate Catalog, is to inform students
of their obligations and duties as well as their rights as defined by a system of law . .
. and is dedicated to the concept of preventive law. The provision of the student
lease would be well within the stated duties of this office. The attorney in this office
could easily assemble and provide a standard student lease through the office at no
additional expense.
The Attorneys Role
The Attorney for Students cannot force either landlords or students to use this
lease. The lease can only be provided to the students as a service at their request.
If many students begin to insist on the use of a standardized lease, the collective
power will encourage landlords to agree to use the lease.
Advertisement of the Student Lease
The existence of the standardized lease must be made known to students in order
for it to be effective, This can be accomplished through advertisements and notices
in the University Daily, Student Association brochures, Lubbock Board of Realtors and
Lubbock Apartment Association offices, and campus information desks.
Conclusion
Summary of Proposal
The office of the Attorney for Students at Texas Tech should develop and provide a
standardized student lease to help solve some of the problems that off-campus
renters encounter.
8
260
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Proposal: Comments
1) Show other consequences in addition to conflicts and ill will: loss of money to students?
restrictive lease terms that do not coincide with the academic year? Much of your
persuasive power will derive from showing that there is a problem that harms students
in substantial ways. If you can determine the extent of the problem (that you are not
writing from an isolated incident), that information would also be convincing.
2) In addition, its a little awkward to interrupt a rental negotiation to run to the TTU office
with a lease.
3) A report cant perform a needs assessment. (Its curious to think that an inanimate thing
could discuss a needs assessment, but that use of the verb is common and acceptable.)
4) This section could benefit from reorganization to identify specific problems more
obviously. Current options mentions the rental period but does not develop this point
(show significance) nor put it in its context. The rental period may be a topic that
deserves elaboration. The other two topics in this section seem to be unfair financial
liabilities to students and complexity of wording. (The significance of the wording
problem is that the complexity itself enables landlords to take advantage of students in
the ways just shown). Your introduction could identify these problems to prepare for the
details that appear in the next paragraphs. Each of these problems deserves a separate
paragraph, and headings for each could outline for readers the nature of the problem.
Treating these major points separately would reinforce the points of your problem
statement and emphasize that students are at substantial disadvantage in renting, not
just because they cant (or dont) read long leases.
I think your heading Current Options will change with revision, but note that it
differs from the heading in the TOC (Current Opinions).
5) Good analysis of lease terms: it shows that you are not just whining because leases are
difficult but that you have identified specific, questionable terms in the leases. The
details give the reader some direction about terms to consider in a standardized lease,
and they create an impression of you as informed and thoughtful.
6) Signal that you are making a new point by using a new paragraph (see point #4).
7) Go on: what terms do you think are more fair? You can shape the way the attorney
develops a TTU lease by analyzing content strengths of the lease as well as terms.
Later: Down the paragraph I can see that you have done just this. Now I think that I
was misled by the order of sentencesyou introduce the idea of equalizing the burden,
move to the language, and then return to the subject of liabilities.
8) Be careful: the reader (the attorney who will implement your proposal, you hope) values
her time. Thus, while no dollars will be exchanged, there will be an expense.
Overall, you demonstrate a good concept of how a proposal functions and how it develops.
You have provided details of the problem, and you have offered a specific solution that
seems feasible to implement. The analysis of terms of the leases (existing and proposed) is
especially persuasive.
At the sentence level, your writing is strong. You have been careful with punctuation and
spelling, and style is fine. Format is fine, too. You could be more persuasive about the
problems and solution by reorganizing somewhat to emphasize the two or three types of
problems that create the overall problemthe rental period, the terms that disadvantage
students financially, and the complexity of the wording. That would require paragraph
divisions in your needs assessment (as suggested at #4 above) but also a pattern throughout
of discussing disadvantages to students in these terms and in the same order.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 261
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
This assignment is a problem-solving report (analytical, recommenda-
tion, or feasibility report). The assignment requires at least two topics of
investigation and at least two methods of research (e.g., interview, survey,
library research, site visit). In addition, the assignment requires formal compo-
nents, including a title page, table of contents, and executive summary. I
encourage students to identify specific, local problems (rather than theoretical,
global issues) and to prepare their reports for a real client.
Explanation of Commentary
In response to this assignment, Josh Vorheis submitted A Study of the
Feasibility of Standardizing Network Emulation Software. His report ex-
plains the problems resulting from the use of different network emulation
software on campus and recommends standardization. As a network techni-
cian himself, Josh had a personal stake in his recommendation and felt strongly
about the waste and ethical issues. Furthermore, his oral recommendation had
already been rebuffed by the Associate Vice President for Computing Services,
and he felt defensive and even indignant. With the written report, he hoped to
detail the problem in a convincing way so that his recommendation would
become less threatening. His supervisor agreed to forward the report to an
office above the Associate Vice Presidents and thus the choice of the Board of
Regents. I commented on the paper with the assumption that Josh would
revise and send the report forward. Before this version, I had seen his report
worksheet and part of a draft and had discussed with him the topics and
methods of investigation. I had worked mainly to get him to look at the prob-
lem analytically rather than emotionally.
I evaluated the report according to these criteria:
match of the report to the assignment: Josh labeled his report feasibility
study, but it does not really answer the question of feasibility. The prob-
lem is at the title level, however; he produced an analytical report in which
he analyzes the components of a specific problem and shows how his
recommendation will solve the problem. His research included interviews
and analysis of technicians records.
content and organization: This report sets forth the nature of the problem
nicely. However, readers are likely to question how many departments and
different types of software are involved. This information is not readily
262
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
available, but an estimate would help show the scope of the problem and
whether the lack of departmental cooperation can be overcome. Readers
may also want to know what package would be ideal.
effectiveness of presentation: Joshs presentation is entirely in prose, except for
records of the technicians work orders in the appendix. A table would
summarize the costs on pages 3-4. A schematic of local and university-wide
networks might help readers visualize the problem. Joshs style needs to be
more formal if the audience he addresses is to take him seriously, and he
needs to delete indications of his defensiveness. Knowing that he intended
to send the report forward, I was conscious of proofreading, but I ignored
some errors that readers would be unlikely to recognize. I tended not to
explain the proofreading because there were larger issues for him to concen-
trate on.
formal features: The required parts were present and constructed according
to their function, but the executive summary needed to be more factual.
In the comments, I tried to show how his argument could be stronger
with more information or better displayed information. I was probably influ-
enced in grading by Joshs gains in becoming analytical about this problem.
He made good progress from the time he first conceived of the report. He
identified a problem of significance and analyzed specific components of the
problem. He gathered facts to persuade. The overall organization reflects the
nature of the problem as he saw it. The report would be stronger if it projected
the costs of continuing leniency, identified a specific emulation package, and
identified the extent of the problem in terms of departments involved. How-
ever, he met the requirements of the assignment overall with a difficult project.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 263
University Computing Facilities
P.O. Box 4039
Lubbock, TX 79409-3051
November 5, 1990
Board of Regents
TTU & TTUHSC
P.O. Box 4039
Lubbock, TX 79409-2011
Dear Sirs:
The feasibility report contained with this letter deals with problems currently
being experienced by Texas Tech University Network Services and possible
solutions of such problems. It seems that the influx of several different
emulation packages used to access the IBM network are causing varied
problems. Problems dealing with software piracy, software compatibility,
departmental cooperation, etc. must be addressed before they become any
larger.
After interviewing many of the people in positions of knowledge in TTUCF, I
came to the conclusion that something must be done now to stop this problem.
The problems caused by having different emulation programs accessing the
same system are going to stop the formation of a better network and continue to
waste the time of people in TTUCF. The longer this problem goes without being
eradicated, the worse it will become.
If you have any questions concerning this report, please feel free to contact me
any time.
Sincerely,
Joshua Stephen Vorheis
Mr. Bucy
Your statement
will be stronger
without "seems"
and cost of technical services
more specific than
"etc."
is
Mr. J. Fred Bucy, Chair
address to the
chair
264
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
A STUDY OF THE FEASIBILITY OF STANDARDING NETWORK
EMULATION SOFTWARE ON TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY WITH AN
EMPHASIS ON TIMING OF STANDARDIZATION.
Submitted to
Board of Regents
Texas Technological University
Prepared by
Joshua Stephen Vorheis
Assistant, TTUCF
Texas Technological University
November 5, 1990
Abstract
The problems caused by the non-standard emulation packages used to access the
Texas Tech University have been plaguing Network Services. The problems include
software piracy, too much technician time spent on troubleshooting, uncooperative
departments, and the fact that under the present system, an ideal network cannot be
achieved. Standardization now would lower costs, save time, and set up the network
to became an ideal network.
This information
can appear in your
descriptive abstract.
The title is already
long.
AT
No longer! "Tech" is
the
full name, not an
abbreviation
network
good
gives a concrete
description of the
content and goals
of the report
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 265
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ................................................................................................i
Introduction .............................................................................................................1
Ideal Network ..........................................................................................................2
Technicians Schedule ............................................................................................3
Ethical Considerations ............................................................................................4
Department Cooperation.........................................................................................5
Conclusion ..............................................................................................................5
Recommendation....................................................................................................6
Appendix (time sheets) ...........................................................................................7
References..............................................................................................................10
266
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Executive Summary
The problems facing Texas Tech University Network Services stems from
the fact that we have been lenient in the past as to which emulation package
should be used to access the IBM mainframe. Now, however, it is becoming
impossible to be lenient any more. The lenience of the past has caused wide-
spread software piracy, security breeches, wasted time on troubleshooting, and
has made it impossible for an ideal network to be configured. As the time passes,
the problem grows, The only way to stop the problem is to enforce a standard
emulation package for all departments to use. The departments will not cooperate
with this, but it is necessary to the future of the network.
I propose that we do not waste any time implementing these standardiza-
tions, for the longer we wait, the worse the problem becomes. With the arrival of
new installations and the individual departments becoming more and more set in
their ways, it could become increasingly difficult to enforce the standardization as
time goes by.
agr
This summary needs to be more factual about the time spent
troubleshooting and other problems that led to your
recommendation as well as about the specific recommendation
(e.g., which standard package). Readers should know the
basic facts as well as the overall argument & recommendation
after reading this summary.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 267
INTRODUCTION
In the past, Texas Tech University Computing Facilities have been
lenient as to the type of emulation package used by individual departments to
connect to the IBM mainframe network. However, in the present we (TTUCF) are
faced with a growing list of problems spurred on by this leniency. Widespread
software piracy, security breaches, software compatibility, and having no idea how
some of the emulation packages operate are at the top of the list. The mixture of
these problems has left Network Services clueless as to just how many machines
have access to the mainframe and what they are using to do this.
One option many departments are not considering at the present time is
the future. The ultimate goal of the University Computing Facilities is to produce
the ideal Network. All departments owning a local area network will want to be
interconnected through the IBM mainframe. The present systems software is
incompatible and, therefore, will not allow this ideal network.
On the surface, the situation mentioned above may seem a little trivial.
After all, the mainframe keeps track of who logs on and when, but from the
technicians point of view, it is a highly undesirable situation. Different software
configures keyboards differently. This statement in itself is not awesome, but
when coupled with the fact that the technicians do not know which software
package the machine has (or which keys to hit to perform a function), the situation
becomes a problem. Without knowledge of the emulation software, the Network
Technicians cannot do their job efficiently.
Computer ethics is another consideration to take into account. The
various companies producing the emulation packages could take legal action
against Texas Tech University for retribution against software piracy. Another
ethics consideration is the fact that varied emulation packages make it easier for a
hacker to gain access to the mainframe. Either one of these could create an
undesirable situation for Texas Tech.
The main obstacle in the way of standardizations is one of departmental
cooperation. It would seem that the departments who buy the machines to be
hooked up to the mainframe believe that they can run whatever software they
please on their machines, after all, they own them. Plus the fact that very few
(
1
; (sentence composed of two independent
clauses)
phrase makes
the sentence
incompleteomit
go on: significant time is lost,
costing
the university money.
This qualifier
weakens your
argumentomit.
) (
which system?
)
and Unclear whom
this phrase
modifies.
You'll need
an explicit
subject
"Technicians
have no idea...."
Complete
the previous
sentence
and begin a
new one.
268
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
present
departments would be willing to go through the expense of buying new emulation
packages. In other words, cooperation from individual departments is not to be
expected.
This report is trying to show whether or how there is an advantage to
starting standardizations now. Information for this report was gathered by inter-
views with Steve Strickland (Manager of Texas Tech University Network Services),
Gay Johnston (Help Desk Operator, Texas Tech University Network Services),
Donna Chafin (Software Specialist, Administrative Information Services), Bill Hale
(Director, Administrative Information Services), through ethics research, time
sheets, and through my own experience as an assistant to the Network Techni-
cians.
IDEAL NETWORK
In the future, departments with their own independent local area networks
are going to desire to interconnect via the IBM mainframe. This would allow for a
more efficient campus (i.e. an ideal network). The only problem is that, with the
system, this goal is not possible. According to Donna Chafin, there is not a way to
interconnect all of the different local area networks on campus because companies
purposely make their software incompatible with another brands emulation soft-
ware. This way, the company forces each local area network to be standardized.
The problem arises when you attempt to hook two or more different type of local
area networks together. Since the software will not be compatible, the connection
cannot be made unless one network purchases the others brand of software.
An example of this would trying to connect Administrative Information
Services (AIS) with the College of Education. Although both systems use IBM token
ring networks, they cannot be connected together. The hardware used is the same,
but the software packages are configured so that they become incompatible.
Differences such as these are found between almost all departments on the Texas
Tech Campus.
These differences lead one to believe that, under the present circum-
stances, an ideal network cannot be achieved without major changes. Tech
software must be standardized before the network can ever achieve its goal, but the
question of when still stands.
2
This paper describes the ideal network and then considers
the issues of technicians' schedules, ethics . . .
(give a forecasting statement)
How many departments
are involved? How
many emulation
packages are
there? (Even if
you must
estimate, give
readers a sense
of how big the
problem is.)
good
explanation
be
of a single emulation package
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 269
(
How many
departments
are currently
networked?
What % of
the total?
TECHNICIANS SCHEDULE
The influx of up to ten different types of emulation programs used to
access the network has left the Network Technicians a little confused to say the
least. At the present time, up to sixty-five percent of the technicians time is spent
on troubleshooting. I estimate that about one third of this time is lost due to
unfamiliar software packages. According to Gay Johnston, over seventy-five
percent of the calls for assistance which she receives daily are due to people
striking the wrong keys, or simply not knowing which keys to hit. Then, about half
of those calls are serious enough to dispatch a technician. According to those
figures, the technicians are dispatched to more calls because of ignorance of
emulation programs than genuine network problems.
In response to this, Network Services began teaching classes on how to
use the system. This has not had much of an effect because TTUCF neither has
the man power or the time needed to teach a class for each type of emulation
software. Since the emulation software acts as a user interface between the user
and the network, the original problem still stands.
Because of the time spent on teaching and troubleshooting, the list of new
installations needed to be completed keeps growing. The technicians are in a
rather difficult position because they know that with each new installation the
problem grows. Each time a new machine is hardwired to the network, a new (but
not always different) emulation package is brought in. Therefore, for the immediate
future, the problem causes by past leniency show signs of becoming even a larger
problem.
If one system was decided upon and reinforced, not only would classes in
network usage be more effective, but also more money could be made by TTUCF.
The average technician is paid approximately eight dollars an hour. The price of
labor for four technicians for one week is approximately $1280.00. If sixty-five
percent of the technicians time is spent on troubleshooting, TTUCF is spending
eight hundred and thirty-two dollars a week on troubleshooting (the time estima-
tions here come from the time sheets appended in the rear of this paper). If a
collective time of fifty-six hours out of each week were spent on new installations
(at an hourly rate of twenty-two dollars and fifty cents each), then TTUCF would
3
good info.
)
busy with
identifying the
program and
how it
functions
rather than
with solving
problems.
good facts
$832
use figures
and the $ symbol
(to aid
calculations)
$22.50
These calculations could be effectively
displayed in a table & thereby show readers
at a glance the $ significance of the problem
)
(
keep the focus on
the problem
rather than on the
technicians
270
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
bring in $1260.00. This amount is twenty dollars less than the amount they paid out
for labor. However, if you eliminate the time spent on studying software packages,
only forth-three percent of the technicians time will be spent on troubleshooting. If
the rest of the time was spent on new installations, TTUCF would bring in $2052.00
a week. This is seven hundred and seventy-two dollars more than they pay out.
Therefore, TTUCF could actually make money if troubleshooting time was cut down.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
In most professions, randomness increases a systems security. Random
access codes are installed on many locks to keep people out and for the most part,
they are effective. However, having many different software packages running of
the same system has the opposite effect. The more different emulation which are
used to access a system, the better chances a hacker has to infiltrate the system.
Since there are no records as to the placement of the different software packages,
there are very few effective ways to protect against such an invasion into the
system.
Another ethical consideration which tends to aggravate the situation even
farther is the widespread software piracy which is occurring on the Texas Tech
Campus. Inside the individual departments, people copy other peoples software in
order to conform to the rest of the department. This presents many problems. For
instance, when you copy software, you do not get manuals. This would explain
much of the ignorance of emulation packages.
Software piracy as a much more serious side than the example mentioned
above. If a company finds that an organization has been misusing its copyrighted
software, they have the right to take legal action against the user. Precedents thus
far have been to charge the organization for the amount of copies in circulation
beyond what can be proven as legally purchased, or suspend the users right to the
software (Turner, 1988). For example, the most common type of emulation software
is produced by IBM. The Majority of machines networked on the Tech campus use
this software for emulation. If Tech were to be restricted from using this software,
the network would be crippled for almost two months (emulation packages are
presently back-ordered for six weeks at a time). After that time, almost a year would
4
s
u
("Tends" is like
"seems" it
weakens the
statement.)
f
$20
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 271
interfere seriously with
research,
teaching, and
administration
(be concrete
about
consequences)
be spent catching up on data entry. Coupled with the purchase of new emulation
packages, this temporary loss of time could set Texas Tech back for quite a while.
However, if Tech were to decide on one software package, the purchase of
such package would be controlled through Purchasing. Purchasing would keep
records on which department bought the software and how many software pack-
ages they had. This would make it much easier to catch and stop software pirates.
DEPARTMENTAL COOPERATION
Along with everything else which must be considered, you can always count
on the fact that your decision is going to affect someone. Bill Hale was able to
explain that cooperation from the individual departments was not to be expected.
Thus far, each department has created a system suitable for their needs and the
technicians have installed it without asking any questions asked. If the department
liked what had been installed, the future installations follows with that same set-up.
Now, we propose to ask them to change their system to conform to standards
shared by the rest of the university. Not only that, but we are asking them to pay
for the change. Mr Hale concluded that the individual departments would resist this
action as much as they possibly could.
Mr. Hale was correct. The fact that up to this point in time there were no
standards is obviously going to spark some rebellion when the standards are put
into place. Mr. Hale explained that, as in the case of his departments, the ma-
chines in the department were configured with the same software. However, since
he had bought a software packet for each machine, he had not committed software
piracy. He also stated that his department would be very unwilling to change from
their present system. However, is it not ironic that the way he had set up the
system for his department is much the same as the proposed standardization of the
entire system.
CONCLUSION
As seen by this paper, the worst problems facing Texas Tech University
Network Services can be traced back to leniency on the type of emulation software
5
go on: How many departments would be
affected? Can this problem be overcome?
Could the university pay for the change?
Could you establish a standard for all future
installations? (If you can't overcome this
barrier, the standardization will not be
feasible.)
.
( )
272
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
to use. This problem will have to be corrected not only to create an ideal system,
but also to lower the expenses of the university. No control until the present time
has led to confusion on the part of the Network Technicians, which has led to
wasted time. The university is in danger of a lawsuit if the software companies
discover their software is being misused, and the system is under increasing
danger of intrusions. Departments will not cooperate with standardization, so the
problem just keeps growing. Sooner or later, the emulation packages will have to
be standardized.
RECOMMENDATIONS
It is my recommendation that standardization of the network emulation
programs be started now. If started in the near future, the ideal system could be
obtained much sooner without worries of a lawsuit for software piracy or increased
rebellion from departments with new systems.
[Note: An appendixa three-week time log of TTUCF showing technicians
projects and time spentwas included in the original but is omitted here. It
demonstrates that troubleshooting claims a high percentage of the technicians
6
Can you be more specific about what
should be done first? For example,
you might want to identify the most
commonly used or most reliable program
and suggest that as the standard.
Then you could suggest informing
departments that all
new installations
use this
program. I
don't know
what you want
to
recommend for
existing
installations.
Carolyn Rude, Texas Tech University 273
time.]
Resources
Turner, Brian. Reflections on Some Recent Widespread Computer Break-ins,
Communications of the ACM. 1988.
7
References
Place before the appendices
vol. #? page #? Check
capitalization, punctuation, and
order of items against the standard
form.
274
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Report: Comments
You have demonstrated through your research and analysis of the problem of network
emulation a clear grasp of the problem, and you have been convincing in your
interpretations of its significance to the university.
Before you send the report forward, I suggest a few revisions to strengthen the
presentation:
The issue of department cooperation is significant as it seems to be the main
obstacle to your recommendation. You can put it in perspective by estimating how
many departments now have local networks. If, say, 15 out of 100 departments
have variant software, the issue isnt so great as if the number totals 75 out of 100.
Chances are some of the departments are now using software that you would select
as the standard (such as Hales). How can the problem be overcome? Could you
require all departments that create networks from now on to use one program?
That wouldnt solve the problem, but some standardization beginning now would
keep the problem from growing. Could you establish a date after which you would
not support other packages than the standard one? Could the university pay for
the change if just a few departments are involved? You need to make your
recommendations more specific.
Consider presenting some material visually, especially the cost projections on pages
3 and 4 . Readers will be able to find the figures more easily in a table. A schematic
diagram of the local networks and the university-wide network would help readers
visualize the problem.
The summary needs to be far more factual: include details such as that trouble-
shooting takes 65% of the technicians time and costs TTUCF $832 per week;
standardization could result in new income of $xxx. Widespread piracy threatens
the universitys rights to use software and could result in a loss of two months of
network use. Departments with networks already installed would object to paying
for new installations, but . . . .
Also note some suggestions on the text for places to strengthen sentences. Verbs such
as tends and seems weaken statements, and colloquial verbs (set back) make the
problem seem less serious than it is.
Overall, this is your best writing of the semester. Good luck with the report.
275
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
Chapter 7
The Commentary of
Scott P. Sanders
University of New Mexico
Scott P. Sanders is Associate Professor of English and Director of Cre-
ative and Professional Writing at the University of New Mexico. He is editor
of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. His articles on technical
and professional writing have appeared in many journals. His essay, How
Can Technical Writing Be Persuasive? received the 1989 National Council of
Teachers of English award for Best Article on Philosophy or Theory of Techni-
cal or Scientific Communication. In 1991 he was awarded a Distinguished
Educator grant from the Public Service Corporation of New Mexico. He is a
frequent consultant to industry in technical writing and editing. Most of the
student work in this collection, for example, comes from in-house courses in
technical writing that he taught at Sandia National Laboratories in 1990 and
1991.
276
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
To explain this assignment, I give students the following written in-
structions:
This assignment has three parts: a preliminary memo informing me of
your choice of scenarios for the second and third parts; a letter of introduction/
application; a one page rsum.
I. The Memo
Use a standard memo format to write a brief memo telling me which of
the scenarios you will choose for this first assignment. Include reasons for
your choice and some indication of your plans for writing the letter and
rsum. See the choice of scenarios below.
II. The Letter
You have two scenarios to choose from for this first assignment.
1. Assume that this class has a competitive admissions policy and that
your letter is an application for admission to the class. Write a letter in which
you introduce yourself and apply for admission to the class. Some basic points:
What in your background makes you a good candidate to succeed in and
benefit from this class? What are your goals for taking this course? How do
you expect the courses content to help you achieve those goals?
2. If you have applied, are applying, or will apply soon for a profes-
sional writing position, use this assignment to try out your application letter.
In this scenario, write to me as if I were the person to whom you would apply.
Format for the Letter in Both Scenarios: Use full block style (all text
lines begin flush with the left margin) and standard business letter format
(your address and the recipients address at the top; be sure to date the letter).
Length should be no more than two pages, single spaced; if you single space,
double space between paragraphs.
III. The Rsum
Submit a one page rsum with your letter. Follow any appropriate
rsum format that you feel presents you best; pay attention to second and
third level headings in your rsum.
The rhetorical problem requires that students convince either me or a
potential employer of their worthiness for admission to the class or employ-
ment. This requires that they establish that they possess three qualities: high
277
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
credibility regarding their abilities as writers (ethos); real desire to be accepted
or hired (pathos); and some degree of professionalism, as demonstrated by
writing a letter/rsum with proper format and clean presentation (logos).
To do this assignment well, students must analyze their audience and
adjust their presentation of the basic material (their own background) to ad-
dress what they forecast my needs for students or an employers needs for
employees to be. The adjustments of the given facts of their background
may involve format, the rhetoric of the presentation of content, dictionin
short, nearly everything that a writer must consider in a professional or techni-
cal writing task. Thus the letter/rsum is a quick overview of all of the issues
that will be central throughout the class while at the same time it introduces me
to the students and the students to me.
I hand out my own letter of introduction and rsum, in effect seeking
their acceptance to be their instructor in this class. We analyze the format,
rhetoric, and diction of my letter and rsum. We consider tone, the use of
specific information, how the the letter and the rsum complement each other,
and, finally, what assumptions they feel I make about them in my presentation
of the material as I try to persuade them of my fitness to be their instructor.
I show the students my curriculum vitae to demonstrate how a one-page
rsum adapts information to suit its particular rhetorical purpose. I point out
that the second and third level headings are the most important: they give
information specific to the writer; the first order headings (Education, Experi-
ence, and so on) are generic; the real rhetorical problem is to devise a second
and third order heading structure that calls attention to the writers particular
attributes. We hold rsum editing sessions in which students critique each
others letters and rsums.
Explanation of Commentary
In the letter, my marks point out stilted diction (most often poor predi-
cation, occasionally overly formal or standard expressions) by editing it out
and suggesting alternative constructions or word choices. See, for example, my
changing of has made me familiar to I used in paragraph three of the
letter. Students are prepared for such direct marking of their work by seeing
draft copies of my own professional technical writing (from consulting work)
that have been heavily edited by colleagues and supervisors.
I try to talk about tone in the letters, responding with my feelings as I
read the letters. I also often find myself asking for more specific information.
In the rsums, most of my marks ask for more specific information and
formatting that will highlight that information, calling it out to me at the
second and third levels of headings. I use a highlighter for this type of mark-
ing. See the rsum and my specific suggestion that second level heads need to
emphasize the writing and editing experience, given the rhetorical situation the
rsum addresses.
278
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Date: January 23, 1991
To: Scott Sanders, Director
From: Faith Puffer
Subject: Letter of Introduction/Application and Resume
After reviewing your list of possible scenarios, I have chosen
Scenario 1 for my letter of introduction/application and resume.
Since I am presently unqualified for a professional writing
position, my resume under Scenario 2 would be slim. Please
expect my letter of introduction/application and resume on
February 1, 1991.
approved
Incomplete Subj line
Scenario Choice
OK
BF to make these stand out as headings
good!
:
279
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
119 Isula NE, #400
Albuquerque, NM
87109
Janaury 30, 1991
Scott Sanders
Department of English
Humanities 257
University of New Mexico
Dear Professor Sanders,
The 1991 Spring Schedule lists English 290 as accepting
applications for the coming semester. Although technically
a Creative Writing major, I intend to become an English major
with a professional writing concentration upon completion of
your class, Introduction to Professional Writing.
My writing experience began with professional correspondence
in 1986, and led to the revision of a government publication
in 1989. Editing and rewriting the Project Officers Handbook
convinced me to rethink my major and consider a career as a
professional writer. Admission to English 290 would refine
my writing techgniques, and help me develop the skills
necessary in my career choice.
My work at the Loma Linda University Medical Center and the
Phillips Laboratory has made me familiar with several word
processing and spreadsheet packages. In addition, I have
experience working with the public, and operating under
deadlines.
I would be happy to meet with you at your convenience and
provide you with any additional information you may need. You
can reach me either at my home address, or at (505) 555-6347.
Sincerely,
Faith Puffer
Solid letter. A few verb choices
could be simplified made more
direct. Maybe more info on you
in paragraph 4 would be helpful.
OK
time
frame?
I am
now
give this
more
narrative
sense
In
I used
simplify
explain
280
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Enclosure: Resume
FAITH PUFFER
119 Asula, NW, #400
Albuquerque, NM 87109
(505) 555-6347
Employment Objective
To develop the skills necessary for a career in professional
writing.
Education
University of New Mexico
August 1987 - present
Major: Creative Writing
Minor: Womens Studies
BA expected: December 1991
Related Courses: English 240, Traditional Grammar. English
220, Expository Writing. English 290, Analysis of Litera-
ture. English 320, Nonfiction (in progress). Several
required literature courses.
Employment Experience
Phillips Laboratory/PRC
Kirtland AFB, NM 87117
Computer Clerk
Helped rewrite and edit Project Officers Handbook, May 1989 -
October 1989. Currently enter and disburse contracting data.
Proofreadsing.
(May 1989 - present)
Loma Linda University Medical Center, Medical Library
2000 University Drive, Loma Linda, CA 92354
Library Technician
Established links with other libraries for Inter-Library Loan
purposes. Maintained correspondence with subscription agencies.
Circulation.
(August 1986 - June 1987)
Special Skills
Knowledge of Enable 2.15; Wordperfect 5.1; Paradox 3.0; Quattro
Pro; and Wordstar. I have a certificate of training in floristry,
and am a member of the National Organization of Women.
References
Available on request
OK
Look at the 2nd level heads.
Can you re-design to pull out
the writing experience emphasize it?
Get that BA at the top!
parallelism?
This is not a skill.
281
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
Instructions
Description of Assignment
This exercise is taken directly from Dean G. Halls description of it
given in his brief article, Technical Writing Class: Day One, in Dwight W.
Stevenson (Ed.), Courses, Components, and Exercises in Technical Communication
(Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1981, pp. 159-162).
The exercise has three steps. First, I tell students to take out three
sheets of notebook paper and fold one of them into a paper airplane of any
size, any style.
Second, I ask them to take about 20-30 minutes to write instructions for
folding the airplane they have made. I tell them to do the best they can in the
admittedly short time allowed. I describe the audience for these instructions as
people unfamiliar with paper airplanes specifically and with aerodynamics in
general. These people need to fold a paper airplane. I tell the class that visuals
(line drawings) are certainly allowed. I give no more advice and answer no
more questions.
Third, as soon as all are finished writing (and it takes at least twenty
minutes), I ask the students to exchange papers and, using their third and final
sheet of paper, to fold a paper airplane following the instructions presented to
them. If they cannot proceed past a certain point, they mark that point on the
paper and stop. Otherwise they fold on to the end, no matter what the object
they produce may look like.
In a class of 20-25, three to five airplanes will more or less exactly match
the instructions-writers original. Another five to seven will be incomplete,
having stopped after one to three folds. The remainder will be somewhere in
between.
The wrap-up discussion is a brief one in which readers recount what
they would have liked (or were lucky to have got) in their instructions. I tell
students to take their drafts home with them and, following this usability test,
rewrite them to hand in the next class. When the next class comes, before
students hand in their instructions, we discuss the revisions that were made
and why.
This assignment is a good way to start a course in technical writing for
a couple of reasons. First, it emphasizes that the difficulty of technical writing
is not the communication of technical content, but the difficulty of working
with rhetorical context, of understanding audiences, of matching the writers
purpose with the audiences need to know. Second, many of the stylistic and
format decisions found in technical writing may be addressed in this reader-
centered, rhetorical context: what visuals are helpful and why? how should
headings be placed? why use complete syntax? why number the steps in the
instructions? and so on. For me, this exercise is an excellent way to begin the
282
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
semester because I can touch on nearly all of the issues that I will deal with in
greater depth later and I do so always emphasizing what for me is the central
aim of my course: teaching students to be aware of and eventually to shape the
reader-centered context of use in which the technical content is presented.
Explanation of Commentary
The real commentary here is given on the three-page evaluation sheet:
the marks on the papers that I return are definitely secondary, so much so that I
dont care to remark upon them here. I do not copy and distribute this first
evaluation form to the class; instead, I display it on television monitors in the
classroom and discuss my general comments with the class.
These comments are divided into three sub-categories: Layout Con-
cerns, Audience Concerns, and Textual (Writing) Concerns. I hope the remarks
on this evaluation sheet reflect what I said in the rationale section above: I try
to touch on most of the issues in technical writing while keeping audience
analysis the central point of reference for all of the individual points of interest.
On the Sample Problems page, I use sentences and phrases from the
students papers to illustrate a few of the concerns. Note, however, that even
what might be seen as proofreading (the need for a comma after hand in the
Syntactic Markers section) is discussed in terms of audience. The problem is
not that a rule is broken; the problem is that without the comma after hand
the reader cannot on first pass tell what the sentence means.
The evaluation sheet prepares students for the peer review guidelines
that we will later devise through class discussions as the last stages in our
preparation for the writing assignments to come. And that is why I never hand
out this evaluation sheet. It is itself a guideline for these later peer review
guidelines. If students were to have this evaluation sheet in their possession,
they might use it not as an example, but as a template.
283
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
BUTTERFLI ES, I NC.
ALBUQUERQUE, N. M.
date: September 1, 1990
to: I.W. Buildem, Prototypes Dept.
from: N.M. Nelson, Blue Sky Dept.
subject: Scale Model of our Paper Aeroplane In-
vention
We have made an extensive effort studying the aerodynamics of
flying insects native to this area. This effort lead us to
the invention of a paper flying device which we have named the
Paper Aeroplane. We want to confirm the success of our
discovery by having scale models prepared in your prototype
shop before we release our invention to the marketing
department for sale to the public. Please have your model shop
prepare three scale models per the following instructions:
1. Use a sheet of 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch paper (1/
4" x 1/4" graph paper or equivalent).
2. Place the paper on a flat surface with the long
side nearest you.
3. Fold the paper in half by lifting the bottom
corners up to the top corners and creasing the
middle.
4. Unfold the paper.
5. Fold the left top corner down to the middle
crease.
11
4 1/ 4
good
This is
addressed to
a slightly different
audience than the
one assigned
outside
contractor?
give illus.
captions and
# them.
Fig One
Fig Three
Fig Two
284
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
6. Fold the left bottom corner up to the middle
crease.
7. Fold corner b down to the middle crease.
8. Fold corner d up to the middle crease.
9. Refold through the middle crease as shown.
10. Fold side F/G down along line K/H.
11. Fold side E/C down opposite to side F/G.
12. Make two other Paper Aeroplanes using the
above instructions for the full scale model except one is
to be a 1/2 scale model and the other to be a 1/3 scale
model.
Please send the three models to I.M. Soaring, Flight Test-
ing Dept., by September 10, 1990, per our telecon of August
30.
Your continued support in providing us with fine scale
models of our inventions is truly appreciated. I look
forward to working with you again as we continue to make
B
D
B
D
B
D
E C
F G
H
F/ E G/ C
1" G C
K
H
F G G
C
K
H
G C
K
TOP
VIEW
Only very minor problems with the visuals when
you add two views at Step 9 w/out preparing
the reader
relationship
of views?
page two name
285
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
EVALUATION AND REVIEW: The Paper Airplane Memos
1. Layout Concerns
Clarify what is a heading and what is text
For example, the TO/FROM/SUBJ/DATE parts of the memo formats top
matter are headings, the information following those headings are
textso boldface, use all caps, use indentation, or use a combination
of these features to make that distinction clear. Similarly, indent
numbers as well as the text of the instructions to set their special
content off from intro/concluding paragraphs.
Parallelism of Headings and Layout Throughout
Whether headings in the text or captions for figures, use the same
placement and style for like headings. If
FIGURE ONE: Top View Step One
is the format for figure one (all caps, bold for the head; initial
cap not bold for the caption; text centered under the visual itself),
successive heads (figure two, three . . .) should be like the first.
Use enough white space
Dont try to save paper. Give your reader every possible bit of help
you can by using vertical and horizontal spacing to clearly delineate
blocks of text, blocks of instructions, headings, and visuals.
2. Audience Concerns
Write to a specific audience with a specific purpose
The audience for this first assignment was an in-house fabrication
group charged with producing a prototype model of the paper airplane.
Most of you wrote to different audiences with different goals
(users,executives). The most common problem was allowing sales
pitches to creep into the instructions; also, general discussions
of the topic (the joy of paper airplanes) wandered away from specific
focus on the process (the need to fold one) that is the purpose of
this set of instructions.
3. Textual (Writing) Concerns
Telegraphic Prose
Dont leave out the articles (a, the, an, and so on) that human-
ize as well as clarify your writing.
Memo Subject Line
Give enough information to identify the project now AND six
months from now. Paper Airplane is not enough. Thats the
286
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
topic only, nothing about the thesis (the need to construct
one).
Paper Airline Evaluations page two
Give the reader a clear conclusion
Tell the reader that the final step is the final step by having
a clearly marked concluding paragraph (probably the best way), or
in some other fashion (such as telling the reader before the
instructions begin how many there are). A thoughtful conclusion
would probably include your phone number so the reader could reach
you with questions if he/she has problems with the instructions.
What to do with this Evaluation
Evaluate your paper in terms of your writing process. How do you
need to adjust your writing process? Do you need more time? at what
stage of your process?
Evaluating the audience
(probably the pre-writing stage)
Getting a workable format
(an initial part of the composing stage)
Making sure there is enough context to communicate the
content
(the middle to latter parts of the composing stage)
Proofreading to catch and adjust or correct telegraphic
prose,
287
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
other diction problems, spelling errors and other
mechanical problems, and so on
(either late composing or the proofing stage)
SAMPLE PROBLEMS FOR DISCUSSION
Audience problems:
TO: XYZ
FROM: QRS
SUBJ: Paper Airplane
A paper airplane is a piece of paper that glides through the air
because it has been folded in an aerodynamic manner. A paper
airplane is made from one piece of paper and is constructed by
following the steps below. (Does the audience need that first
sentence? Or the second?)
Telegraphic prose
Before: Fold
paper in half and place on table or flat surface
long side nearest technician.
After: Fold the paper in half and place it on a table or a
flat sur-
face with the long side oriented nearest to the
technician.
Phrase-for-a-word department
"as" for "because"
"due to the fact that" for "because"
". . . a sheet of paper manipulated by a series of
folds to
resemble an airplane" or just "folded to resemble . . .."
Syntactic MarkersNot Just Punctuation or Style as Ornament
Before: With right hand fold far right corner of paper
over to center of original sheet and crease.
After: With [the]right hand [,] fold [the] far right corner of
[the] paper over to [the] center of [the] original sheet
and crease [it].
In the "before" version, is "fold" a noun or a verb? is
"crease" a noun or a verb?
288
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Proposal
Description of Assignment
LA-701 is an in-house training seminar at Sandia National Laboratories
and therefore is the most service-oriented of service courses; that is, the
seminar exists solely to help students with their writing at work, outside of the
classroom. It would make little sense to have students complete for-class
assignments throughout the sixteen weeks of the seminar.
The proposal assignment comes in the middle of the course after stu-
dents have completed the paper airplane assignment, have edited for stylistic
improvement many inelegant sentences, and have written a short memo
report analyzing the audience they address in their workplace writing. This
range of work represents an internship in technical writing, preparing
students to design, through their proposals, the shape of the assignments they
will complete for the remainder of the course. For the second half of the term,
students are urged to use the class as a writing/editing session applied as
directly as possible to the writing they do in their everyday work at Sandia.
In this new context, my role as the instructor shifts to being more a
consultant chief writer/editor, a mentor who guides colleagues (not students)
in the production of documents they will present for ultimate evaluation in
their work outside of the classroom. The proposal written for this assignment
becomes a contract that defines the new relationships that I will have with each
of the students. The task, then, is to propose what documents will be the basis
of this work, relating for-class writing to for-work writing regarding such
variables as the types of documents to be worked on and the deadlines (in and
out of class) for their completion.
The juggling of the competing demands of classroom requirements and
workplace deadlines can be confusing, but struggling through these issues
makes the proposal assignment very real. Of course, I teach the basic formats
associated with proposals. But the interesting problem for proposal writers is
making the proposal persuasive, which, in technical writing, means demon-
strating to the buyer that the bidder understands the buyers needs and can
satisfy those needs. This process often involves some subtle display of
accomodation and negotiation in the text of the proposal itself. That is, a
winning proposal must be credible on both sides of the bargain it proposes:
buyers need to see that they will get what they want; buyers also need to see
that bidders will get what they want, too. The lowest bid is not always the
winning bid.
This proposal assignment requires that students balance their desire to
do for-work writing with my desire to evaluate for-class writing. This is tricky
business, but I feel it requires exactly the sort of persuasion through accommo-
dation and negotiation that is appropriate in technical writing. In nearly every
case, I accept the proposals offered with some qualifications that will be
289
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
worked out either through a brief conference or in the course of the work itself,
with any changes reported in a subsequent progress report.
In classroom preparation for this assignment, we review the materials
on proposal writing offered in our text and we discuss a list of guidelines that I
distribute regarding the typical sections and headings used in proposals. The
discussion focuses not on format but on rhetoricthe problem of describing
the relationship between the for-class and the for-work writing.
At the end of this session we work on designing an evaluation/review
sheet for the proposals. Students design their own evaluation/review sheets; I
keep notes on the discussion and devise a more general evaluation/review
sheet that I will use in my marking of the papers.
On the day the proposal is due, students exchange papers and fill out
the evaluation/review sheets. After the review, they may hand in their papers
or choose to revise them, mailing them to me before the next class.
Explanation of Commentary
I use the evaluation/review sheet I have prepared from our class
discussion, checking for specific information and ending with a general com-
ment and the specific notation of whether or not the proposal is accepted,
rejected, or modified in some way.
I sign the sheets, giving myself the title evaluator. The idea behind
this bit of role-playing is to begin the shifting of my role away from being the
instructor of this class to being each writers personal writer/editor/mentor,
working with them individually on the work they have proposed.
Most of my marks on the papers themselves are limited to proofread-
ing, minor stylistic editing, and positive comments such as good or OK, or
the check marks that I use to indicate places in the text where I feel a good
point has been made. Occasionally I will note that a particular discussion
belongs in a different section or make some other in-context comment. But the
real marking of the paper is on the review/evaluation sheet.
290
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
DATE: October 16, 1990
TO: Scott Sanders, Instructor
FROM: Tamara K. Locke, Technical Aide
SUBJECT: Proposal for Technical Writing Documents
Four challenges are now before me I want to improve my
Sandia memo writing skills, and I must prepare three docu-
ments for Technical Writing class. I can combine these
projects so that the Sandia memo I intend to produce and the
class assignments are mutually beneficial. In other words,
both job and classroom challenges can be achieved simulta-
neously.
I am anxious to begin this project and to present my ideas
in more detail.
SCHEDULED DOCUMENTS
I will deliver three documents for this project: a progress
report, a format specification memo, and a final report.
All three documents will be written for Scott Sanders (the
primary audience) and will be authored by myself (a student
in
Dr. Sanders Technical Writing class at Sandia Laborato-
ries).
The classroom documents:
I. Progress Report
The progress report will consist of an analysis of
a Sandia audience. The Analysis will include
an egocentric organization chart and a PERT
chart. The report will be entitled,
Audience Analysis for Whitestar Memo.
II. Format Specification Memo
The format specification memo will detail the
overall format to be used in the final
report. For example, any headlines
planned for the final report will be
Boldface?
good
specific audience?
for this report?
Boldface?
is this a heading? an Intro sentence?
good
291
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
described. Also, all visuals (charts or diagrams) I
plan to include will be discussed, along with the
locations of these visuals within the final re-
port. Furthermore, any techniques
planned to make the final report more
visually pleasing and easy and inviting to
read will be cited. The title of the memo will be
Format Specification Memo for the Whitestar Report.
III. Final Report
The final report will include one of my previously
written memos, my revision of this memo, and an
analysis of both versions. It will incorporate
the information gained by conducting the
audience analysis for the progress report as
well as the format presented in
the format specification memo. The final
report will be 5-12 pages.
PROCEDURES/GOALS
My overall goal is to produce an effective revised Sandia
memo
to use as a model for future memos. I also plan to produce
three well-written Technical Writing class documents. I
would like to facilitate both projects by making each
support the other. For example, my Sandia memo could
provide the subject material, format type, and audience, all
necessary to complete
my class assignments. The class documents, in turn, would
certainly improve my Sandia memo. I have provided more
explanation concerning how these two areas reinforce each
other in the outline below and in Figure 1 (following the
outline).
I. The classroom assignments will benefit from the
Sandia project.
A. The progress report would benefit from the
Sandia project because the Sandia
memo provides the subject
material for the progress report and gives
it a foothold in reality an actual on-the-job
audience will be analyzed.
B. The format specification memo would also derive
good
Boldface
good
2
292
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
its subject matter from the Sandia memo. The
format specification memo is very dependant
upon the Sandia document because the
former will
specify all format considerations of the final
report, and the subject of the final report
encompasses the original and revised
Sandia memos (and the analysis of
the two).
C. The final report would be totally dependant
upon my actual on-the-job assignment.
As previously mentioned, the final
report will consist of the Sandia
memo and the revised memo, as well as an
analysis of the two versions. Obviously, working
on the Sandia project will simultaneously
provide me with material for my
SUBJECT
MATERIAL
ACTUAL ON-THE-JOB
APPLICATIONS
PROGRESS REPORT:
AUDIENCE ANALYSIS
FORMAT SPECIFICATION MEMO:
STRUCTURE OF FORMAT
FINAL REPORT:
MEMO ANALYSIS AND
MODEL MEMO
SANDIA MEMO CLASSROOM DOCUMENTS
Figure 1Shared Benefits Of S andia Memo/Classroom Documents
or in here?
looks like
everything
is shared?
what's in
here?
good
3
293
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
final report.
II. The Sandia memo will profit from the classroom
assignments.
A. The progress report will provide the audience
analysis I must have to write an effective
memo.
B. The format specification memo will structure
the visual aspects of the Sandia
memo.
C. The final report will help me to understand
why my revised memo is preferable
to the original, and pro-
vide me with a model for future memos.
WRITING SCHEDULE/COMPLETION DATES
The three documents will be completed and submitted on the
following dates:
Progress Report - November 6, 1990 (#11 Class Session)
Format Specification Memo - November 20, 1990
(#13 Class Session)
CLASS
WEEK
DOCUMENT
PROGRESS
REPORT
FORMAT
SPECIFICA-
TION
MEMO
REVISED
SANDIA
MEMO
FINAL
REPORT
OCT 31
to
NOV 6
NOV 7
to
NOV 13
NOV 14
to
NOV 20
NOV 21
to
NOV 27
NOV 28
to
DEC 4
DEC 5
to
DEC 11
Figure 2 Writing Schedule/Comple tion Dates
OK
4
294
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Final Report - December 11, 1990 (#16 Class Session)
The revised Sandia memo will be completed by November 27,
1990, then will be presented as a part of my final report
on December 11, 1990.
I will be using my conclusions from the progress report and
the format specification memo to write and structure the
final report. Therefore, I plan no definite starting date
for the final report, but will work on sections of it while
writing the first two documents.
Refer to the chart in Figure 2, below, which illustrates
the above dates.
QUALIFICATIONS
For the folowing reasons, I feel I am fully qualified to
handle this project:
I have recently completed an audience analysis, much
of which can be used in my progress report.
I have on-the-job plus classroom experience in memo
writing which would be very useful in preparing the
format specification memo.
From my college training, I have had years of
experience in writing reports.
Furthermore, I have a very strong incentive to do
quality work in preparing the three documents
they will be very useful to me in preparing my
revised Sandia memo.
COST
I estimate I will need four hours each week, from October
31 through December 11, 1990 (6 weeks) to complete these
proposal accepted!
good
bullets use lower
case "o's" and
fill them in with
black ink
awk passive in this sen-
tence
5
295
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
Evaluation and Review: Proposal
Describe the main idea of this proposal in a sentence or two.
Work on memo writing/report writing skills by focusing on a
memo for the Whitestar project, documenting audience,
format, and evaluating before/after versions.
Content Checks:
1. SOW: Three papers: progress report when?
spec memo when?
good
final report when?
(oral report)
2. Are the headings complete? Do they accurately describe
the
discussions they introduce?
good use of heads - suggestion: use boldface to
clearly delineate subheads from
major heads (see pp. 1 & 2)
3. Where is the relationship between for-class and for-work
writing, researching, and so on discussed? Is this
relationship clearly described and related to the persua-
sive thrust of the proposal?
In the Intro and especially in sub-heads of the
Scheduled Documents section. Generally well done
and persuasive. Procedures/Goals also well done.
Summary Comment:
Accept the proposal as is? If not, with what changes?
Proposal accepted. You have chosen a very appropriate
task that clearly relates in-class goals & work to
your for-work goals and work. Good job!
12/11
11/20
11/6
296
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
As I noted in the earlier discussion of the proposal assignment, LA-701
is an in-house training seminar that exists solely to help students with their
writing at work, outside of the classroom. Consequently, there is no final
report assignment requiring a finished document. Instead, students work on
the projects they proposed in the proposal assignment: an assortment of
workplace tasks ranging from professional journal articles, to designing for-
mats for memos and reports, to manuals and instructions for everything from
complicated software to using an automated telephone system.
In nearly every case, these projects have deadlines that do not coincide
with the end of LA-701s semester, so I find myself editing/reading/grading
drafts, at best penultimate drafts. So it is with the example offered here, a first
final draft of a journal article to be submitted to Applied Physics Letters. In this
manner I continue playing the role of a colleague writer/editor regarding the
students writing, and, in this case, read and marked this draft when I received
it, mailed to my home three weeks after the final class session.
In classroom preparation for this assignment, we review materials on
report formats (front matter, body, back matter, and appropriate headings),
writing abstracts, writing executive summaries, methods of citing references,
using appendices, proper use and placement of visuals, and, finally, a review of
diction issues. This review involves four classes involving lectures and exer-
cises referring to readings taken from textbooks, professional journal articles,
and the SandReport (the title given to a common form of an in-house, Sandia
report) on how to format SandReports.
The final lecture session focuses on designing a peer evaluation/review
sheet for the documents that students are preparing. Students design their own
evaluation/review sheets; unlike the proposal assignment, I do not devise a
more general evaluation/review sheet for my marking of the papers.
In the final two classes of the term, students present their works-in-
progress in oral reports. Sometimes final reports are submitted in time to be
returned at the final class. More often, I receive drafts in the mail and return
marked copy, sometimes weeks after the final class session, as in this case.
Explanation of Commentary
Sarah Everist signed up for this class, to a great extent, to work on this
particular journal article. Earlier in the term during the audience analysis part
of our study, she analyzed the style of three articles similar in length and
approach to hers that had been published previously in Applied Physics Letters.
297
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
She was particularly attentive to passive voice use, discovering that introduc-
tions and conclusions used active voice with personal pronouns, but that
discussions of methods and procedure used impersonal, passive voice con-
structions.
My marks focus on giving the paper a strong, narrative dimension: the
reader needs to know who does what to whom, when, and with what result.
Doing this in Sarahs writing often means changing passive constructions to
active ones (as in line 5), or, as in line 12, simplifying the predicate to focus on
the action involved. Unlike an editor, I do not offer an alternative reading for
the line 12 sentence (which, like an editor, I did in line 7). To reinforce the
narrative, active writing I want to see developed, I underlined and applauded
the clarity of the active, declarative construction we developed a technique
which significantly improves endurance given in lines 17-18, implicitly sug-
gesting that other sentences would be improved by following this one.
My preoccupation with verbs continues on page two and on to the end.
Here and farther down I also suggest where headings (which are part of the
journals format) might appear. My end comment is upbeat and positive. I do
find the article very readable, and I hope by saying so to influence Sarah to
edit the few places I have marked (and on her own to edit other, unmarked
places) in her final draft to make the article more readable still.
298
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
High Endurance Cycling of Silicon-Oxide-Nitride-Oxide-Semiconduc-
tor
Transistors Using Asymmetric Write/Erase Pulses
Sarah C. Everist, Samuel L. Miller, and Jerome F. Jakubczak
Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185

Abstract (still to be written)


Nature and scope of investigation
Principal results
Conclusion

High endurance-cycling of silicon-oxide-nitride-oxide


semiconductor (SONOS), silicon-nitride-oxide-semiconductor
(SNOS), and metal-nitride-oxide-semiconductor (MNOS) memory
transistors results in degradation, reducing data retention time
(1, 2, references). Positive shifts in the threshold voltages
are observed for both the logic 1, or excess electron state,
and the logic 0, or excess hole state. However, the logic 0
state experiences a larger positive shift, relative to the logic
1 state. This results in a reduction in the retention window
size (the difference in the threshold voltages of the logic 1
and logic 0 state). Shifts in the logic 0 threshold voltage
are accompanied by an increase in the decay rate of the logic 0
state (1, 2, references).
Cycling degradation is accompanied by an increase in the
density of Si-SiO
2
interface states (references). Hole transport
through the tunnel oxide, resulting in the creation of hole traps
in the SiO2 and the generation of Si-SO
2
interface states, has
been hypothesized to be the major source of cycling degradation
(3, references). Using this hypothesis, we developed a technique
good
simplify predicate? active verb?
shifts to the positive(?) Again more action/narration?
find an active voice
construction to place
the topic before the
reader in a narrative
context as
part of
a story
with
actors,
actions,
&
consequences.
Check
against
your
analysis
of the
journal's
dominant
style
299
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
which significantly improves endurance. If cycling degradation
is caused by hole transport through the tunnel oxide, one should
be able to improve endurance by limiting hole injection. This
can be accomplished by cycling the transistor with an asymmetric,
strong write, weak erase pulse.
This hypothesis was tested using SONOS n-channel
transistors, which were fabricated on the same wafers with SONOS
16K memories. These transistors consist of a thermally grown,
tunnel-oxide of 16 angstroms and a deposited nitride of 250
angstroms. The nitride is oxidized to form an approximately 50
angstrom top-oxide and a final nitride thickness of approximately
225 angstroms. After the polysilicon gate deposition and prior
to metalization, the transistors receive a hydrogen anneal for
one hour at 900 C.
We cycled these transistors, using strong write, weak erase
pulses to achieve an initial positive threshold voltage of
approximately 2.0V and a negative threshold voltage of 0 to -
0.5V, respectively. We used either an asymmetric pulse amplitude
or an asymmetric pulsewidth; either condition produced similar
results. For the asymmetric pulse amplitude, pulsing conditions
were 16V, 1ms for the write pulse, and 11.5V, 1ms for the erase
pulse. For the asymmetric pulsewidth, we used 16V, 1ms for the
write pulse and 16V, 20us for the erase pulse. Other transistors
were cycled using symmetric, write-erase pulses of +/-16V
amplitude and 1 ms pulsewidth.
Threshold voltage measurements at 10uA drain current were
taken after each decade of cycling from 10
3
to 10
8
cycles.
Programming conditions for the retention tests were identical to
High Endurance Cycling of SONOS Transistors Page 2
end of intro
(New Heading Here)?? Methods (?)
top-oxide layer of
s
good
use
same verb
construction
We took
lc
.
300
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
the cycling conditions. During the retention tests, the
threshold voltage was monitored for 100 seconds. After 10
8
cycles, longer duration retention measurements were taken. These
retention tests lasted 3x10
4
seconds. For the longer durationerm
retention tests, both symmetrically and asymmetrically cycled
transistors were first programmed asymmetrically and measured,
then programmed using symmetric programming conditions, and re-
measured. For either cycling condition, asymmetric cycling pulse
amplitude or pulsewidth, results are similar if the initial
threshold voltages are the same.
Fig. 1 shows the threshold voltage for both logic 0 and
logic 1 states, measured 100 seconds, as a function of the
number of cycles, for both symmetrically and asymmetrically
cycled transistors. For the symmetrically cycled transistors,
the initial retention window, measured at zero cycles, is
approximately 4 volts. However, the degradation becomes severe
as the number of cycles increase, reducing the window to
approximately 1.25 volts by 10
8
cycles. The asymmetrically
cycled transistors have a smaller initial window of approximately
2 volts; due to the weaker clear pulse, the logic 0 state is
less negative. They experience little degradation. After 10
8
cycles, the window is approximately 1,88 volts, greater than 0.6
volts larger than that of the symmetrically cycled transistor.
Retention time can be further increased by reprogramming,
using a symmetric pulse, after asymmetric cycling. The memory
window, measured after 10
8
cycles is shown in Fig. 2 as a
function of retention time, for both symmetrically cycled and
asymmetrically cycled transistors. Asymmetric cycling, followed
High Endurance Cycling of SONOS Transistors Page 3
Results (new heading)
more
reference?
D
s
:
.
301
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
by symmetric programming, results in the largest window over a
period of 3x10
4
seconds. A linear extrapolation of the data
suggests the window size will still be several tenths of a volt
after 10 years. Samples cycled asymmetrically with no change in
programming have a larger window than the symmetriclly cycled
samples. The extrapolated data suggest longer retention times as
well; on the order of one year for asymmetric cycling, 3 days for
symmetric cycling. Based on the extrapolated values in Fig. 1,
this difference would be expected to increase with increasing
cycles.

Discussion (3 paragraphs still to be written, including several


of the following)
Result of effects:
Extrapolating the data is reasonable.
Trade-off between long retention and high number of cycles.
Discuss decay-rate?
Principles, relationships, generalizations shown by results
Any exceptions, lack of correlation, unsettled points.
How results and interpretations agree or contrast with
other published work.
Theoretical implications.

Two types of applications for asymmetric programming are


feasible. In the first, a high number of cycles is required,
followed by a short retention time. This can be achieved by
programming with asymmetric, long write, short clear pulses. In
the second application, long retention times are required after
periods of cycling. The part can be programmed with asymmetric,
long write, short clear pulses, to reduce degradation due to
cycling. When long retention is needed, the part can be repro-
grammed with symmetric pulses. However, it must be determined in
High Endurance Cycling of SONOS Transistors Page 4
Very readable! Can you make the narrative stronger
with more active voice at the top? Look also at
headings to guide the reader through the discussion.
CONCLUSION?
302
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
advance when longer retention times are required, in order to
change the programming conditions. This may be acceptable for
systems which shut down as a response to some external stimulus.
In summary, we have demonstrated a technique to achieve
retention times greater than approximately 10 years after experi-
encing in excess of 10
8
cycles. Useful retention times after 10
10
cycles appears to be achievable.
References
1
A.I. Agafonov, A.F. Plotnikov, V.N. Seleznev, Mikroelektronika 10
127 (1981).
2
P. Gentil, S. Chausse, IEEE Trans. Electron Devices, ED-25 1042
(1978).
3
E. Suzuki, Y. Hayashi, J. Appl. Phys. 52 6377 (1981).
High Endurance Cycling of SONOS Transistors Page 5
303
Scott P. Sanders, University of New Mexico
LOGIC '1'
LOGIC '0'
CYCLES
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
-3
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
10
8
10
9
10
10
V
T
H

@

1
0
0

s
e
c
.
ASYMMETRIC CYCLING
SYMMETRIC CYCLING
FIG. 1. Threshold Voltage Shifts for both the Logic '1' and the Logic '0' state, measured at 100
seconds, for a SONOS transistor cy cled with symmetric write/erase pulses and a SONOS transistor
cycled with asymmetric strong write/weak erase pulses. Dashed lines represent extrapolated data.
LOGIC "1"
LOGIC "0"
304
Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
TIME (S)
5
4
3
2
1
0
10
0
10
1
10
2
10
3
10
4
10
5
10
6
10
7
10
8
10
9
10
10
ASYMMETRIC CYCLING/SYMMETRIC PROGRAMMING
ASYMMETRIC CYCLING/PROGRAMMING
FIG. 2. Decay of the retention window, measured after 10 cycles for SONOS transistors cycled with
either symmetric write/erase pulses, or with asymmetric strong write/weak erase pulses. After cycling
the transistors were programmed with pulses identical to the cycling pulse, and retention measurements
were taken. The asymmetrically cycled transistor was then re-programmed with a symmetric write/erase
pulse and measured. Dashed lines represent extrapolated data.
W
I
N
D
O
W

S
I
Z
E

(
V
)

@

1
0


C
Y
C
L
E
S
8
10 YR
SYMMETRIC CYCLING/PROGRAMMING
8
305 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
Chapter 8
The Commentary of
Dorothy Winsor
GMI Engineering & Management Institute
Dorothy A. Winsor is an Associate Professor of Communication at GMI Engi-
neering & Management Institute in Flint, Michigan. She teaches written and
oral communication to engineering co-op students. She does research on the
writing of engineers, publishing in such journals as College Composition and
Communication, The Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Written
Communication, and IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. She
received the 1991 National Council of Teachers of English award for Best
Article on Philosophy or Theory of Technical or Scientific Communication.
She has a Ph.D. in English from Wayne State University.
306 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Letter of Application and Rsum
Description of Assignment
In a senior course on written and oral communication, this assignment
asked the students to select real jobs for which they were qualified and would
like to be considered. They could include real information only.
Students received the standard instructions to talk about what they could do
for the company, rather than vice versa.
Explanation of Commentary
This is a nice letter and rsum. Of course, it should be. It was written
by a senior who had good co-op work experience to list, and it was edited in
class by two other students before it was turned in. A number of things make
it a good piece of work:
The opening paragraph of Brians letter cites a name the reader will be
familiar with, identifies a specific position, and suggests a willingness to be
useful. The listed evidence of his qualifications is specific and relevant. Indent-
ing it makes it very visible.
The letters final paragraph makes it easy for the reader to contact
Brian. Brians rsum gives much of the same material but in different words
so as not to sound repetitious. He presents experience, education, and refer-
ences so as to demonstrate his strengths. Both the letter and the rsum are
attractively arranged.
Brian chose to change names, addresses, and phone numbers here, in
order to protect his and his companys privacy.
307 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
123 Elm Street
Flint, MI 10010
October 11,1989
Mr. Tony Moore
Personnel Manager
ABC Corporation
2244 Lakeshore Drive
Chicago, Il 80050
Dear Mr. Moore:
At the suggestion of Mr. Tom Nelson, Supervisor of
brake testing and assembly, I am writing to apply for the
position of test stand engineer. My work experience as a
co-operative
student in test stand development and my education at Gen-
eral Motors Institute will help me to make contributions to
brake systems development and manufacturing. My qualifica-
tions
include:
Three years of work experience at ABC Corporation in
Chicago, Il. I was assigned to the Antilock clean
room
assembly and test area, where I designed and pro-
grammed
hydraulic and pneumatic test stands.
Development of a data collection network using per-
sonal computers and data modules for early
detection and
elimination of problem components in the assembly
process.
Exposure to manufacturing processes of disc brakes,
master cylinders, and wheel cylinders.
I expect to receive my Bachelor of Science Degree in
Electrical Engineering in June, 1991, from General Motors
Institute. I look forward to hearing from you. I can be
reached any evening at (313)-222-7575. Thank-you for your
consideration.
Sincerely,
Brian Hall
capitalize both letters for a zip code abbreviation
As I'm sure you know,
this is no longer the name
of the school. If you want
to include the old name
for recognizability, you
can say "GMI Engineering &
Management Institute (formerly
General Motors Institute)"
Nice letter
308 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
BRIAN HALL
123 Elm Street
Flint, MI 10010
(313)- 222-7575
Professional Objective
A position in an automotive electronics manufacturer,
specializing in automotive braking systems. I feel my
experiences in assembly and testing of braking systems will
enable me to make significant contributions in brake sys-
tems
development.
Work Experience
1986-1991 Employed as a co-operative student
for the ABC Corporation for three years.
While there I gained experience in:
Programming of programmable controllers
and design of hydraulic and pneu-
matic test stands.
Development of a data collection network
using data modules and Allen-
Bradley programmable logic
controllers. This network
allowed for early detection of faulty
components during the processes assembly
and testing.
Working knowledge of computer aided
drafting in electrical and hydraulic
layouts.
Education
1986-1991 Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engi-
neering
with a minor in management, from GMI
Engineering & Management Institute.
Activities
Institute of Electrical and Electronic
Engineers
National Honor Society
Management Club
References
Tom Nelson Dave Nash
Supervisor of Brake Supervisor Test
Test and Assembly Stand Technicians
Chicago, Il Chicago, Il
(312)-492-4241 (312)-492-4241
Ext 450 Ext 400
Good evidence
Clear language
with
move over two
spaces to show
it's not a new
item
309 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
Instructions
Description of Assignment
This assignment from a freshman course in written and oral communi-
cation was taken from The Technical Writing Casebook by Thomas N. Trzyna and
Margaret W. Batschelet (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1988, pp. 148-154). It called
for students to write a set of instructions for maintaining a laser printer. It was
a typical case assignment, in that it provided the writer with a role (technical
writer for the company making the printer), an audience (office workers whose
company purchased the printer), and a purpose for writing (instructions were
to be included in the Users Guide for the printer). The case gave the writer all
the information needed to write the instructions, but in a jumbled and redun-
dant form that the writer would have to sort through and organize.
Explanation of Commentary
These instructions were the second writing assignment completed by a
freshman during his first term at GMI. Given the early point at which this
work was done, its quite good. The instructions are clear, parallel, and in the
imperative mood. Warnings are given at appropriate spots, and the student
has made a good effort to position sub-sets of instructions where the reader
will be able to find them. Notice, for instance, the two options under step four
of Clearing Paper Jams or the material on special kinds of paper at the end of
the section on Adding Paper.
One problem on page three is typical of case assignments. In describing
how to clear paper jams, the student writes of removing a toner drum, but not
a printer drum. The case was somewhat ambiguous about whether there really
were two separate drums, but I think there were. I am inclined to be lenient
about grading this area, however, because neither the student nor I have any
way to verify our conclusions. When I returned these instructions to the class, I
pointed out that this was an ambiguity they would have been able (and re-
quired) to clear up at work.
A similar problem occurs at the end of the Adding Paper section on
page two. The instructions for orienting the tops of letterhead and double-
sided paper are contradictory, but they echo the case accurately. The student
knew they were contradictory; he just didnt know what to do about it.
Some of the things Ive marked are trivial (like moving the heading on
the bottom of page two), but I want students to know that trivial things matter
in determining peoples reactions to a report at work. I want them to know
that accurate information is a necessary but not sufficient quality for a good
report.
310 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Sometimes Ive marked things because I know the student will need to
know them for a future task. This is the case with aligning Roman numerals,
which the student will need to do when he writes his undergraduate thesis as a
senior.
Students turn reports in to me marked only with their student ID
number rather than their name, so that I can grade them anonymously. Be-
cause the number is also the students social security number, he removed it
when he consented to this assignments appearance in this book. He opted not
to substitute his name.
311 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
ELGIN ELECTRONICS, INC.
MAINTENANCE PROCEDURES FOR ELGIN 734 LASER PRINTER
This section describes the step-by-step maintenance
procedures for the Elgin 734 laser printer. These proce-
dures are divided into five easy-to-follow categories:
I. BASIC INFORMATION
II. ADDING PAPER
III. ADDING TONER
IV. CLEARING PAPER JAMS
V. REMOVING COPIES
Important information relevant to a procedure is marked
throughout this text with an asterisk (*) and should be
read before following the next procedure.
I. BASIC INFORMATION
1. The PAUSE button must be pressed before any maintenance
procedures are to be performed.
2. The front panel door must be unlocked with the supplied
key to gain access to maintenance areas within the printer.
3. The printer will not operate with the front panel door
open.
II. ADDING PAPER
* The ELGIN 734 comes standard with eight removable differ-
ent trays of which three are inserted into three different
input drawers. These drawers are inserted into the printer
inside the right end of the printer. The remaining five
trays are stored elsewhere (not within the printer).
* Any type of paper may be used at any time in the printer.
However, the right type of paper must be put into the right
tray before operation. All trays are color coded to sim-
plify this process. Check the Users Guide for a listing
of all various paper sizes and their corresponding input
trays.
1. Press PAUSE. * Wait until light stops flashing.
2. Unlock the front panel door.
3. Pull out the desired input drawer.
4. Pull out the tray from the imput drawer.
At any time,
can
can be
should be
(give page #)
A
It's customary to line up
Roman numerals on right
(by period), rather than on left.
the pause
312 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
5. Put the proper type of paper into the tray. * There is
maximum of five hundred sheets that can be inserted into
the tray.
6. Insert the tray back into the imput drawer.
7. Insert the imput drawer back into the printer.
8. Push the front panel door closed.
9. Press RUN to resume normal operation.
* For pre-printed letterhead paper, the printed side must
be placed face down in the tray with the top of the paper
pointed toward the back of the tray.
* For double-sided printing, the paper must be turned with
the printed side up and top pointed toward the front of the
tray.
III. ADDING TONER
* WARNING: Use only ELGIN 1830 TONER or serious damage can
occur to printer.
* WARNING: Toner causes irreversible damage to clothing,
desks, etc.... Care should be taken to avoid spillage
during filling.
1. Press PAUSE.
2. Unlock the front panel door.
3. Push the lever in front labelled TONER RELEASE to the
right.
4. Pull out the toner drum located behind the release
lever.
5. Remove the top off of the toner drum.
6. Add toner.
7. Secure the top back on to the toner drum.
8. Push the toner drum back behind the release lever.
9. Slide the release lever back to the left (normal posi-
tion).
* If lever will not resume normal position, push the toner
drum as far back as possible.
Move the heading
to the next page.
Wait for the PAUSE light to stop flashing.
313 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
Commas
& periods
go
inside
quotes.
1 I think you also have to remove
a printer drum.
2 You may want to repeat the
warning about the toner
stains.
sp
10. Close the front panel door.
11. Press RUN to resume normal operation.
IV. CLEARING PAPER JAMS
* If a paper jam occurs, the console screen located on top
of the printer will flash PAPER JAM AT... and give the
location.
1. Press PAUSE.
2. Unlock the front door panel.
3. Look in the location specified.
4. Clear all paper from jammed area.
* If jammed at the paper trays, pull the tray out of the
imput drawer, remove the jammed paper, and insert the tray
back into the drawer.
* If jammed at the printing drum, press the lever in front
labelled TONER RELEASE, remove the toner (see ADDING
TONER), remove the jammed paper, and insert the toner drum
back into its original position.
5. Close the front panel door
6. Press RUN to resume normal operation.
V. REMOVING COPIES
* After copies are produced, they are sorted into one of
six bins located on the left side of the printer. The bins
can be designated for each type by following the instruc-
tions in the Users Guide.
1. Press PAUSE.
2. Open the bin door.
3. Take copies out of the bins.
* If confidential copies are desired, a lockbox with a
seperate locked tray is provided for one of the bins. Two
keys are needed: one to get the lockbox out of the bin and
one to unlock the lockbox. To use the confidential option:
1. Press PAUSE.
2. Unlock the lockbox from the bin.
3. Pull the lockbox out of the bin.
314 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
4. Unlock the lockbox.
5. Take the desired copies out of lockbox.
6. Press PAUSE.
7. Slide lockbox back into bin until the lockbox clicks
back into place. * The lockbox must be unlocked and
emptied before it is to be put back into place in the bin.
8. Press run to resume normal operation.
Nice job
RUN
315 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
Proposal
Description of Assignment
Directions for this assignment were given orally and supplemented by
instructions to read the chapter on proposals in Paul Andersons Technical
Writing: A Reader-Centered Approach (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1987).
The assignment called for seniors to write a proposal to their co-op
sponsor requesting that they be allowed to write their undergraduate thesis on
a topic of their choice.
All GMI students co-op, and the normal degree program takes five
years to complete. In the fifth year, students spend nine months at their spon-
soring company, working on a major project that GMI and the company have
agreed on. The student then writes the project up as the final requirement for
graduation.
The choice of topic is important to the student both because it domi-
nates his or her life in the last year of college and because it often determines
the area the student will be hired to work in after graduation. At most spon-
soring companies, students can request a thesis topic, but the sponsor has to be
convinced of the topics value in order to approve it. Many students writing
this assignment planned to use the document they produced.
In order to facilitate my reading of the proposal, I asked students to
attach a cover memo explaining anything I would need to know to understand
the document.
Explanation of Commentary
Sometimes I think the most valuable part of this assignment is the cover
memo. In order to write it, the student must make judgements on what I can
be expected to know and what must be explained. It is thus a good exercise in
audience analysis that I am in a position to evaluate well. Eric judges (cor-
rectly) that I will know what ergonomics is and that I will not need to be
reminded that the Anderson text calls for a section giving a possible solution.
On the other hand, he knows I will need to be told about information specific
to his employer, such as his relationship to the reader of his proposal or the
name of the die casting process his employer uses. He varies the textbook
model when he thinks it appropriate, but explains the reason to me so I wont
think he was just careless. All this is good work.
The opening of Erics report now seems very clear to me, but I left my
original reaction on it because if I had to read the opening more than once for it
316 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
to be clear, then someone else might have to also. I think the report should be
as clear as possible the first time through.
The content and organization of Erics proposal are strong, but hes
made a number of small language errors that hurt his grade. The Anderson
text notes that reports asking for something (like a proposal) need to be more
highly polished than informative reports.
The conclusion section of Erics report is a slightly altered version of the
conclusion used in the sample proposal in the Anderson text. In general, I
dont like such direct cribbing, but this version reads pretty well and seems to
be appropriate.
317 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
GMI-EMI
Interschool Memorandum
TO: Dr. Dorothy Winsor
FROM: Eric Gonzales
DATE: October 20, 1989
RE: Terminology in Project Proposal.
The following are some terms or names you should be
familiar with while reading my report:
LEOMACS - A vertical die casting process. I
did not explain each of the letters because
I could not remember what they stood for.
Also, It is usually not explained in
the reports at work. It is used as a name.
Kevin Brown - He is our Divisional Materials
Engineer. However, he oversees the project
coordinator involved with LEOMACS.
Synchronous Manufacturing - It has been de-
fined in my division as the elimination of
waste. It mainly involves the process of
getting a part out the door in the least
amount of time.
PPMP - This is the Product Program Management
Process which is a guide to bringing new
products or processes into production. It
currently does not include synchronous
manufacturing objectives.
Capacity vs. a Just-In-Time system - The
capacity oriented system judges its effective-
ness in terms of man-hours required to pro-
duce a part and volume producing capability.
Just-In-Time systems measure effective-
ness in lead time (the time it takes to
convert raw materials into a product and
ship it to the customer).
An optimized work cell is a work area designed
so that a worker can operate effectively
and efficiently. Ergonomics and
methods analysis are typically used to
optimize human and machine resources within the
cell.
Methods Analysis - The process of breaking
down an operators movements into spe-
cific acts so they may be improved.
I did not feel that the possible solution section was
applicable to my proposal. I am primarily concerned with
implementing synchronous manufacturing in a different phase
of development. Right now we wait until the process is
developed before we make it synchronous.
Helpful information,
especially the last two
sentences.
318 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
PROJECT PROPOSAL
TO: Kevin Brown
FROM: Eric Gonzales
DATE: October 20, 1989
SUBJECT: Fifth year thesis proposal to implement
synchronous manufacturing on the LEOMACS die
casting process
As a fifth year thesis project, I request permission
to implement synchronous manufacturing on the LEOMACS die
casting process. The project would generate the criteria
needed to make smooth transition from new process develop-
ment to production.
Current Synchronous Activities
The present Product Program Management Process
(PPMP) does not include synchronous manufacturing criteria
for new processes. Making processes operate effectively
and
efficiently has always been Advanced Manufacturing
Engineerings responsibility.
Synchronous activities, in general, take place
after a process has been implemented. An often sought
approach is to have consultants develop material handling
systems around new equipment instead of developing the two
together.
Problems with the Present Approach
The fact that synchronous activities are not in-
cluded in the PPMP leads to the following problems:
Changes in product features to accomodate
production equipment.
Specialized material handling systems that add
to overhead costs. This includes a com-
mitment to material handling systems that
could have been avoided.
Additional floor space required to accomodate
buffer zones used for scrap or line balancing.
Development of capacity oriented systems that
limit Just-In-Time delivery techniques and
capabilities.
A lack of synchronous commitment up front creates a
domino effect that is very difficult to correct. For
example, an increased buffer zone requires more floor space
which means
used
sp
1
The link between
the first & second
sentence
here is
not clear
to me,
although
it may
be to
Brown
(as I
read this
through
the second
time, I
could see
the
connection
better.
319 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
2
Good explanation of problems with current system
S-V
higher taxes, higher heating bills, more lights, more
maintenace for the lights, more trucking to and from the
buffer zone, more batteries and maintenance for the trucks,
etc. More importantly, unforeseen problems resulting in
product feature changes
has created dissatisfied customers.
Objectives of the Proposal
The project I am proposing will focus on the following
areas:
Inventory Reduction.
Quick die changes for small, flexible batches
of products.
Flow simplification through line balancing
activities.
Optimization of human and machine resources.
Uniform equipment loads.
A preventative defect system.
A preventative maintenance system.
Details of the Project
Much of the work will consist of developing an opti-
mized work cell layout that will facilitate high utilization
of machine and human resources. A computer model will be
developed to simulate machine operation. The computer model
will include differences in processing rates, cycle times,
downtimes, and die change rates that will be analyzed to
determine the optimium operating characteristics.
Individual workstations will be developed utilizing
ergonomics and methods analysis. Therefore, workers will be
fully utilized with the least amount of physical and mental
stress.
A preventative maintenance team will be formulated to
develop criteria that will keep the LEOMACS process running
at expected uptimes.
A statistically based sampling system of produced
parts and operating parameters will be designed to facili-
tate a
preventative scrap system.
Resources Needed
The following items will aid project completion.
Use of Modern Data Systems (MDS) personnel to
aid in developing a simulation
copmuter model.
320 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Jones Engineering will be contracted to draw
the final work cell layout.
Machine information including drawings, cycle
times, expected scrap rates, and estimated
product demand.
Schedule
Exhibit I shows the critical planning meeded to
successfully complete the project on time.
Qualifications
I have conducted similar projects at school that
were based on case studies. I have experience with
SIMAN, the simulation program MDS uses. I have had
ergonomics, facilities planning and design, material
handling systems, and advanced methods analysis. All
of these will aid in implementing the project.
Conclusion
I am very enthusiastic about this project and
would like to see LEOMACS be more successful than it
already is. I hope you will let me utilize my services
in this endeavor.
classes in
3
This item is a sentence and the
other two are phrases Make
them
parallel
321 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
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Exhibit I
322 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Analytical Report
Description of Assignment
GMI students all spend six months of each year working full-time as co-
op employees. This assignment, the first one in a senior course, called for
students to analyze the speaking and writing they had done at work. I told
them that I was their audience and that I wanted information about what really
went on at work to use for teaching and research. I asked them to discuss the
writing and speaking they did, how they learned to do it, and their evaluations
of how well they performed. They were limited to three pages.
Explanation of Commentary
This is a nicely done analytical report. Chriss handling of it reflects
some of the things we had been talking about in class, and I tried to reward
him for that. We had discussed purpose statements, for instance, as described
in Mathes and Stevensons Designing Technical Reports (Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1976), and we had covered direct organization. Chris manages both of
those techniques well. He also includes good specifics on what happened at
his work place. Some of his classmates wound up giving good general advice
about writing, which was inappropriate given that I was the audience. (As I
prepared my contributions for this book, I realized how often I evaluate the
work of one student based on the pitfalls other students have fallen into.)
I dont teach grammar in the senior class, so I find its often useful to
explain grammatical errors in the margins of student papers. My students are
usually educable enough that they dont make the mistake again.
For this example, the student has changed the name of the company.
323 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
TO: Dorothy Winsor
FROM: C. Brua
DATE: October 14, 1988
SUBJECT: Written & Oral Communication II; Assignment #1
Purpose
Engineering co-op students are often expected to relate
information in the form of written and oral reports.
Instructing these students in the proper procedure for giving
such reports is therefore quite important. However, proper
instruction cannot be given without first learning what type
of writing and speaking experience the students have.
Consequently, I was asked to give an account of the types of
speaking and writing tasks I have done during my various work
sections. The purpose of this report is to relate my writing
and speaking experiences at work.
Summary
Working at Acme Products Inc., I have not been required
to give formal oral presentations, but have had to relay
information orally through informal meetings. I have had to
write informal documents such as memos and work requests, that
have a limited audience, but are used quite often. My formal
writing experience includes test reports and product descrip-
tions. These documents have a specific format that is used,
and often have a large audience. I was not given much training
in informal writing, but I was aided when it came to formal
writing. I spend about half of my time performing writing tasks
of some kind, and whether it is formal or informal, all writing
should be informative and easily understood by anyone
(regardless of their background).
Discussion
Background
I work for ACME Products Incorporated in the Product
Development Center (PDC) in Detroit, Michigan. ACME is an
automotive supplier, dealing mainly with electronic control
modules. The PDC is composed mainly of engineers and
technicians who do all of the product development and prototype
testing/fabrication for the company. The facility employs
about 30 engineers, 10 technicians, and 5 managers.
weak heading
- not
informative
good
purpose
statement
good
direct
org.
324 Technical Writing: Student Samples and Teacher Responses
Oral Presentations
During the three years that Ive worked at ACME, I have
never been required to give a formal oral presentation. I have,
however, headed several informal meetings. These meetings
usually dealt with minor subjects such as: testing procedures,
initial designs, and project status updates. They were always
very informal, which took some of the nervousness out of
speaking in front of a group of people. I believe the relatively
small size of the place in which I work has a lot to do with
the informality Ive encountered. Everyone feels like were
a large family, and that comes across in the way we work with
each other. Needless to say, if I am ever called upon to give
a formal presentation, I will have no experience to draw on and
am likely to be ill-prepared.
Written Reports
Any formal communication at the PDC is almost always in
writing. I have had experience in many different types of
wrirting including: memos, work requests, test reports, and
product descriptions.
Whenever I need information from someone, I write them
a memo requesting whatever it is that I require. These memos
are quite formal in their style, but are rarely seen by anyone
other than the person Im writing the memo to. I found it odd
that a document of such limited scope would have such a formal
appearance. I was never given any advice on how to write a memo,
so I began by looking at memos that other employees had written,
and based my own memos on them. Once I got used to it, memo
writing became very easy to do, and I used them quite often as
a basic form of communication among the other employees.
Work requests are another basic form of written
communication that is used quite often where I work. Any task
that is required of the technicians (such as testing, or
prototype fabrication) must be conveyed in writing via a work
request. The reason for this is so that the technicians have
a step-by-step procedure to follow in performing their task.
This alleviates any confusion that might be caused by requesting
a task by word of mouth. I was not given any help in this type
of writing either, but again, by looking at requests that others
had written, I was able to convey tasks to the technicians
without any difficulty.
Test reports are a formal presentation of the results of
some type of testing that has been done. I was required to write
a test report for every test that I requested from the
technicians or that I performed myself. The audience for these
reports was usually my
good
prediction
325 Dorothy Winsor, GMI Engineering & Management Institute
supervisor, although I was aware that it would probably be
read by the other engineers and anyone else who was interested
in the type of testing that the report was about. Again, I
was not prepared for this type of writing. Because I submitted
my reports to my supervisor, however, he was able to proof-
read them for me and give me advice as to how they should
be written. The format for these reports was quite different
from the academic reports that I had written up to this point.
The reports had to convey the test results in a clear and
concise manner that could be understood by anyone. I learned
that not everyone has the time to read an entire report, thus
the reports must be written so that the background (reason
for performing the test) and results can be found easily and
understood without having to read the body of the report.
Product descriptions were the most formal writing that
I was required to do. They are documents that describe a
product that ACME manufactures. The audience for these
writings is ultimately a customer, so great care must be taken
to be informative and easily understood. Because of the
audience, I was given a manual that directed me as to the
content of the document, style with which it was to be written,
and contained several examples to use for reference. The
product descriptions had to be approved by my supervisor, the
head of engineering, and the head of sales, before they could
be printed out and distributed. I was surprised that
documents of such importance were given to me to write, but
my supervisor convinced me that it was necessary for me to
get used to this kind of writing since engineers are often
required to relate information to potential customers when
salesmen lack the technical background that is necessary.
General
I estimate that I spend about half of my time doing
writing of some kind. The time that I spend designing a
circuit or testing a prototype is almost always equalled by
the time I spend documenting the design or reporting the test
results. Good communication is a necessity at work. It allows
people of diverse backgrounds to work together to achieve a
common goal.
Research shows that right
justifying a document
tends to decrease its
readability.
Nice report. Good
specifics & good
organization.
CS
=comma
splice
=two
complete
sentences
joined
by a
comma
?
parallelism
-my
change
still
doesn't
fix
it
because
you can't be
"directed
...as to"
"several
examples"
the