Module 1: Technical Writing Case Study

Learning Objectives (Purpose)

After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Perform a case study of technical writing documentation
  • Understand that genres of documentation are actually complex social interactions amongst people, texts, and technologies
  • Use case study research to improve documentation

writing Technologies

You will use 3 software applications to complete this module:

  1. a web browser (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari)
  2. a word processor
  3. the online presentation application Prezi: http://prezi.com/

Description (Situation)

This is a class in technical writing, but before we can “train up” as writers who work in a specific industry, we must first understand what we are doing, or, in other words, what technical writing is. As we will learn throughout this class, though, technical writing is a lot of things. The goal of this module, then, will be to introduce the idea of doing a case study on a particular form of technical writing, a professional practice that will pay off in dividends any time you need to create a form of documentation for the first time.

You are encouraged to work in groups on this module. If you do so, there should be some logical reason, such as the fact that you are all interested in the same industry context.

Documents You Must Produce for this Project (Media and modes)

The following writing and review tasks must be completed in Eli by the following dates / times:

  • Brainstorming Research Topics – 8/27 by 12 PM Eastern Time
  • Review of Brainstorming Research Topics – 8/27 by Midnight ET
  • Annotated Bibliography of Ten Sources – 8/29 by 12 PM ET
  • Review of Annotated Bibliography of Ten Sources – 8/29 by Midnight ET
  • Data Collection Summary – 9/5 by 12 PM ET
  • Review of Data Collection Summary – 9/5 by 12 Midnight ET
  • Prezi Draft 1 – 9/10 by 12 PM ET
  • Review of Prezi Draft 1 – 9/10 by Midnight ET

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following date / time:

The following must be posted to this course website by the following date / time:

  • A link to your Prezi – 9/12 by 12 PM ET
  • A comment on the posts of each of your peers – 9/16 by Midnight ET

Audiences

The primary audience for your module is your peers, who will receive valuable information about primary contexts, issues, and concerns regarding technical writing. You should keep them in mind when compiling your Prezi. Your instructor is an important audience member as well, however, who will evaluate your report/presentation based on the grading criteria for this module.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 8/27 by 12 PM Eastern Time

Do Homework #1

Do some brainstorming and then post your ideas to the “Brainstorming Research Topics” task on Eli.

The point of this project is to due a limited case study of a form of technical documentation. Below are some possibilities for how to do go about this:

  • What is a professional context for technical writing? What is a specific job description that is associated with being a technical writer? In what professions or professional locations do people use technical writing?
  • What are all the ways that technical writers deal with a problem specific to a particular industry (being a service discipline to ‘real’ careers, keeping abreast of latest developments in their content area, etc.)? Another way to research this is to ask: what kinds of problems does a technical writer within a particular industry work to solve?
  • What types of documents/writing are technical writers within a particular industry usually responsible for creating?
  • What kinds of skill sets/credentials do you need to become a technical writer within a particular industry?
  • What is an important subset of the term ‘technical writer’ (such as strategic or corporate communicator, science communicator, usability expert, content strategist, etc.)? What does this person do exactly and why?

2) 8/27 by Midnight ET

Complete the “Review of Brainstorming Research Topics” on Eli and help your peers flesh out their ideas.

3) 8/29 by 12 PM ET >>

Do some research and find some cool sources. Post your “Annotated Bibliography of 10 Sources” to Eli.

Here are some tips to help you with your research:

  • The Technical and Professional Communication Library Page, accessible from the Useful Links page, is your best resource for conducting your research.
  • Remember to cite all sources. Use MLA documentation or another recognized system (APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Remember that sources should be current, reliable, and authoritative (hint: you might want to put these sections after every source you cite and make notes about why the source is each of these things).

4) 8/29 in by Midnight ET >>

Complete the “Review Annotated Bibliography of 10 Sources” on Eli

5) 9/5 by 12 PM ET >>

Collect some data from a real world context that will be useful for your research, summarize what you noticed about that data, and post your “Data Collection Summary” to Eli.

Be sure to reference this link on Case Study Research from the homework to guide you: https://www.gslis.utexas.edu/~ssoy/usesusers/l391d1b.htm.

Here are some possibilities for data to collect:

  • Publicly available documents from a particular workplace
  • Links to all electronic documents you can find by a particular organization (websites, social media accounts, blogs, etc.)
  • An interview with one or more professionals within a particular industry you are interested in

Your data collection summary should then articulate what patterns you noticed about the data you collected. Here are some ways of looking for patterns in data:

  • Were there closely-related themes that arose again and again?
  • Where there important terms, images, or design choices you noticed again and again?
  • Were there a lot of familiar plot points in the overall story you heard or saw?
  • Did you notice a lot of similar interactions by various people in your data?

6) 9/5 by Midnight ET >>

Complete the “Review of Data Collection” on Eli.

7) 9/10 by 12 PM ET >>

Complete the “Prezi Draft 1” writing task on Eli.

Your Prezi should eventually cover the following aspects of your research topic, and should be based on specific information from both your sources and the data you collected:

  • An industry context for your research topic, meaning an explanation for why people are doing what you say they’re doing/why the professions you mention exist, etc.
  • Specific examples that help us conceptualize your research topic in concrete terms
  • A few possible implications having to do with your research topic, meaning that you should provide some thinking beyond your sources (so, if you want to be a content strategist, you should probably… this trend seems to be headed…)

8) 9/10 by Midnight ET >>

Complete the “Review of Prezi Draft 1” on Eli

9) 9/12 by 12 PM ET >>

Submit your Cover Letter and a link to your Prezi to Blackboard

Submit a link to your Prezi to this course website

10) 9/16 by Midnight >>

Comment on the posts of each of your peers on this course website

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module