This course has been designated by the department as a "writing intensive" course as part of the University's core requirements to include writing across the curriculum. While we will try not to turn this course into an English course, writing is one of the learning tools which we hope you will use effectively.
There will be several writing assignments in this course from short writing exercises in-class, to lengthy reports. Each will be designed to make you more facile in your writing abilities and at the same time will provide a learning element which hopefully will help you assimilate the contents of the course.
The writing exercises in this class are intended to give the student further experience in writing in a technical environment. In most cases, writing in organizations is in response to some requirement set by a manager or group leader and has very specific goals and expectations. Even in writing for publication, such as the ACM Communications, or the IEEE Computer Society Computer, prospective authors are given a set of guidelines that they are expected to follow. It is useful also to be able to get a copy of the questions that are asked of reviewers of potential publications to make sure that the manuscript provides answers to the questions that they are being asked in the process of deciding whether this paper is worthy of publication. In this course we will attempt to provide a set of guidelines in three forms:
One of the major guidelines to be followed is that the resulting report or paper should answer the questions posed by the prospective audience that is represented by editorial boards or other administrative organizations. Moreover the reviewer (or grader in our case) should be able to find the answers to their questions easily. Frequent use of subheadings or topical sentences in paragraphs can ease this burden. If the assignment contains a description of the questions to be answered, or the topics to be covered, then use that as the initial outline of the report or paper. Immediately you will have solved two problems:
It is necessary to superimpose on this initial outline the other guidelines of assisting the reviewer and meeting the grading expections.
While you may have been taught in earlier classes to weave your thoughts into a flowing narrative, in the case of technical writing, the major purpose is to provide information clearly and not to impress the reader with your fancy wording and clever constructions.
While NO grade will be assigned to the grammar and spelling elements of a written assignment, we will NOT consider further any assignments which present inadequate grammar and poor spelling. use the spelling and grammar checkers on the text but do not rely on the results. There are three additional steps that you can take:
If you need assistance on grammar, the university writing center provides a "hotline" to which you can submit questions by e-mail. The e-mail address is email@example.com.
As part of some assignments, we will assist you in two other ways. (1) On one assignment you will be REQUIRED to have had the work reviewed by another member of the class. The peer reviewer should not only mark up suggested changes to the text, but must also provide a critique of the work from both stylistic and content points of view. The marked-up manuscript and the critique must accompany the final report. The peer reviewer will receive a portion of the "participation" grade for this activity. (2) On one assignment you will be required to hand-in a draft for review by us two weeks ahead of the actual due date. The draft will be reviewed for both content and English. No grade will be assigned at that time.
Each assignment will compose an element of a "Portfolio" which you will construct during the course. Thus the portfolio will contain:
Your journal (a part of each assignment) should consist of two major items:
We suggest that a diary portion of the journal be kept in the form of a 4 column form:
|5 July 10 pm||At home||Read through assignment and thought about approach I would take - how computers have impacted the environment.|
|7 July 5 pm||Went to Library||Looking for PC Magazine articles on "Green Machines" Cannot find an index to issues. Started with latest issue and worked backward scanning individual ToC's. PCM ought to publish annual index!! Found reference in March 1993! Has no references of its own! But it does have a definition of a "green machine", will use in report!|
|8 July 10:15 am||Got onto Yahoo||Searched subject index, doesn't appear to be mentioned. Found interesting URL on Aviation photographs!|
|12 Noon||Having Lunch||Joe Blogs says he found something in IEEE Computer in early 1993. Will go to library again.|
|2:20 pm||In Library||Would you believe that someone has borrowed Computer for 1993? Put in request for return! Wonder if CS dept. has copies? I think Dr. Ehrich is a member. Will try to see him. Reread the defn. of a "green machine". Looks like it only covers the electrical power usage. Surely ought to include more than that. What about the manufacturing ecological impact?|
|8 July 5pm||Back at home||Think that I have enough material now to start the outline. Put references and annotations into an Access DB.|
|8 July 8 pm||At my desk||Sorted materials into a "logical order". Can see a chronology that will be useful in presenting the report. Also can see some metaphors that will be useful.|
|10 July 10 pm||In Library again||Linked back to my own machine. Downloaded assignment in HTML and extracted questions to make the basic outline. Also looked at Reviewing questions to make sure that I have all those questions covered in outline. So far only 1400 words- need to add another 600. Perhaps can add some figures (they count for 200 words each).|
|11 July 2 am||Out on date with Julie.||Asked here to read over my draft to see if it reads OK. Says she knows nothing about the subject, but will try.|
|11 July 5 pm||At desk||Printed copy of report so far. Started off by highlighting the 18 review questions so that I can see that they are covered. (Did first revision!)|
|In bathroom (don't want anyone to hear me)||Read out loud in bathroom. Found some sentences that did not work. (Corrected)|
|12 July 10 am||In class||Gave good copy to Dennis to look over for me.|
|19 July Noon||In class||Got comments from both Dennis and Julie (she marked up the manuscript with lots of red marks). In a couple of places they obviously did not get the message I was intending, so have to revise those sections a lot. In several places they suggested better explanations - that will help with the word count. Dennis suggested a figure - will have to create with MacDraw.|
|19 July 7 pm||In computer lab.||Talking to Joe, realized that I had not put in references. Need to look up format for referencing WWW links.|
|19 July 10 pm||At home||Beginning to look good. Did spelling and grammar checks. Made font changes in subheadings so that you see them more easily.|
|Midnight||etc. Read it through again and found a couple of places where spelling was right but word was wrong. (Mispelled "there", had "their".)|
|20 July 9:45 am||On way to class||Checked assignment grading schedule. Looks like I have covered all the categories. Printed off schedule and added to front of report.|
The intermediate headings used above correspond to the stages of development suggested by Jolliffe. Alternatively you may want to use the steps in the Waterfall model as discussed in the notes. Click here to get blank diary form according to Jolliffe; click here for the waterfall version.
The journal which you develop should respond to each of the following questions:
For ease of submission a formatted version of these questions is provided for you to print off.
Tichy, H.J., Effective Writing for Engineers, Managers, and Scientists, 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1988, pp. 580+xix.
A listing of do's and don'ts of writing (primarily don'ts) is to be found here.
Try this page from Carnegie-Mellon University for help also.
You may also be able to get help on-line at the University of Missouri! Also if you extra proud of your work you can submit it for publication on the WWW at the same location. If you do this, then also please let us have a copy!
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., published originally in 1918, is a classic book on writing style -- and is now on-line.
Closer to home you may want to try out the Virginia Tech Writing Center's OWL project!
One of the most appreciated helps you can get in learning almost anything is to see what your peers have accomplished. Two sources exist today that you may wish to examine:
A set of papers from a course at MIT that covered topics similar to those in this course, and
a paper by Lee Angelelli, a student in CS 3604 in Fall 1994, was incorporated into an on-line biography of Steve Jobs.
You may also want to look at the papers written by students like you that appear in the ACM Student Newsletter.