Purpose (the Why)
After doing this assignment, you should be able to:
- Understand the focus of the field of technical communication
- Understand some of the central methods technical communicators use in their work lives
- Write a technical report that explains a complex topic to a lay audience
On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies that you personally own, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.
You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:
- A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
- A word-processing application that allows for the production of documents in standard formats (.doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf; Microsoft Word, Open Office’s Writer, or Apple’s Pages are recommended)
- A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)
Genre (the What)
Technical communication is a field involving the effective communication of complex topics with a variety of audiences. It typically requires its practitioners to work with various kinds of experts such as researchers, doctors, engineers, and software developers to create documentation that allows them to replicate key processes.
Today’s technical communicators make use of a wide variety of technologies, from social media to help documentation software. They also work with a wide variety of people to meet their communication needs by producing everything from reports and manuals to wikis and other types of websites.
Your assignment is to practice the art of technical communication by producing a technical report. A technical report is a document that explains a complex topic, often to a non-expert audience.
Documents You Must Produce for this Project (Media and Modes)
The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following dates / times:
- 8/22/18: Homework #1 is due to Blackboard by the start of class
- 8/24/18: Homework #2 is due to Blackboard by the start of class
- 9/7/18: Cover Letter and a final draft of a technical report is due to Blackboard by midnight ET
The following writing and review tasks must be completed in Eli by the following dates / times:
- 8/31/18: Draft of Technical Report is due to Eli by the start of class
- 8/31/18: Review of Draft of Technical Report is due to Eli by the end of class
Audiences (the Who)
The only audience for your cover letter is your instructor, who will use it to evaluate the choices you made when constructing your documents. Your primary audience for your technical report is the type of person you are preparing it for. Your instructor is an important audience of this document as well, however, as he will assess it based on the grading criteria for this module. Your peers will also act as an audience by helping you respond effectively to this overall writing situation.
To Complete This Project (Workflow)
1) 8/22/18 by the start of class >>
Do Homework #1
2) 8/24/18 by the start of class >>
Do Homework #2
3) 8/24/18 – 8/31/18 >>
Do some brainstorming about what topic you want to research for your technical report. It should be a topic that is complex enough that a lay audience might struggle to understand it. Look to your intended field (i.e. nursing, business management, etc.) to choose a topic. Below are some ideas.
- Identify a complicated trend in your intended field and explain the key elements of this trend.
- Explore a specific skill set that is often misunderstood in your intended field and explain why it is misunderstood or misapplied.
- Explain how people outside your field view professionals within your field and explain what these professionals really do (as opposed to the public perception of this work).
- Explain a complex process from your intended field so that anyone with basic knowledge of your field could replicate it.
Do some research to help you write your technical report. Below are some possible sources to use.
- Google (of course)
- Google Scholar (only searches scholarly articles by experts)
- Wikipedia (a good place to START your research, but don’t finish it there; instead, follow links from articles to find more information on your topic)
- ECU Library One Search (another good source of information from experts)
- Websites of professional societies (websites for groups of professionals who belong to a given field)
4) 8/31/18 by the start of class >>
Draft of Technical Report is due to Eli
Compile your findings from your research into a draft of a brief 1-3 page report with the following sections and then upload this document as an attachment to Eli:
Executive Summary: Provide a brief, 1-2 paragraph summary of your findings from your research including:
- What the overall purpose of your technical report is.
- Any trends or patterns you will be highlighting in your report.
- Any important differences between possible audience perceptions of your topic and what you will be explaining.
Findings: Describe your findings from your research in detail, being sure to use examples such as screenshots, quotes, or links to illustrate your main points.
Take-Away: Tell your audience what they should understand about the specific topic you researched. What is the most important thing for them to understand about this topic and why?
5) 8/31/18 by the end of class >>
Review of Technical Report is due to Eli
Do a review of two of your peers’ documents in Eli. Remember: the key to a good review is to indicate what is successful and also what needs work. Doing only one of these things will not help the people you review.
I will also look through the drafts and make class-wide comments on the course website.
6) 9/7/18 by midnight ET >>
Revise all documents you’ve created. The point of these reviews is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to Eli is the same as the draft you hand in as your final. Revise, revise, revise.
Be sure you log in to Eli to see what you reviewers said about your draft as you work on your final draft. Listen to your reviewers and make critical choices to improve your documents based on what they say.