English 362: Foundations of Technical Writing

Instructor: Chris McKitterick

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Measures of Good Technical Communication

Technical Communication Defined

About McKitterick

This course provides a hands-on introduction to the principles of organizing, developing, writing, and revising technical documentation in today's fast-paced world of science and business. It is designed to help prepare you for the kinds of writing and other communication you'll be doing in your future career, and to enhance your attractiveness to potential employers in the scientific and technical fields. Scientists, engineers, and businesspeople who possess good tech-writing skills enter the high-tech world of science and industry with an advantage over their peers who cannot write good proposals, lab reports, or other forms of documentation that they regularly need to create. For English students, this course is designed to prepare you to enter the field of technical communication.

We'll review and practice essential tech-writing elements and survey document forms common to scientific and technical disciplines. You'll gain valuable experience through performing research, real-life technical-writing exercises, peer review and other collaborations, and presentations.

McKitterick's course focuses on three primary areas:

  • Elements of technical writing. The pieces that build a good technical document.
  • Forms of technical writing. How to design and write various final products, such as lab reports, specification documents, websites, and user manuals, among other forms. You will be assigned to write several such documents during this course.
  • Advanced projects. Putting everything together to successfully create and manage complex documentation projects, including the semester project.

Classes have a one- or two-part structure, consisting of the following:

  • Lecture and discussion, both in-class and online. Focus on elements, forms, or both.
  • Writing practice to reinforce content and discussion. You'll create documents, graphics, and so forth, and then review other students' work.
  • Peer-reviews to practice editing and collaboration skills. These often initiate more discussion.

Types of technical-writing forms that you learn to create include technical or scientific articles and papers, doc plans, abstracts, proposals, specification documents, technical reports, websites, oral and audio-visual presentations, and manuals. Includes an introduction to technical-writing software tools.

Note: This is not a generic Professional Writing class; rather, it is a technical writing class. It is designed for all students expecting to write technical documents in their careers, but it is especially designed for those headed into the fields of science, engineering, design, technology, and business.

McKitterick's class might differ from English 362 sections offered by other instructors. Check with your instructor to learn more about what a prospective course offers.

Last updated 8/27/2014.