English 362: Foundations of Technical Writing
Hybrid Course Lessons

Final Project Module

Module Contents:
    Sample Final Projects
    Textbook Readings
    Supplementary Readings
    Discussion
    Assignments
    Peer Review
    Checklist
    Back to Syllabus
    Back to Course Index Page

Sample Final Projects

Want to see some examples of final projects created by students from previous classes? Here you go! These are all good examples of things you might want to use as models - good, but not necessarily perfect. More coming soon. I hope you find them useful and enjoyable!

Also, I sometimes get anxious messages from people who aren't sure what to work on for their final project. Successful final projects range all over, from personal projects (installing networked entertainment system in a house with five room-mates, building a home-made sailboat, and so on), to start-up businesses (installing new speakers, building a home-made sailboat, running a nonprofit activity), to reference guides for engineers, to how-to instructions for cooking paleo, to tips & tricks guides for games, and many more.

Consider what you're most passionate about, especially with an eye toward creating something you might later use as a writing sample when applying for jobs.

If none of this gets your ideas flowing, think about your major field of study: What drew you to it? What will you be doing once you graduate and land a career? What kinds of project would best prepare you for that career, or would be otherwise useful.

Hope that helps!

Combinatorics for Dad:
Example of an Excellent Document-Based Manual

This manual (.pdf) is a great example of how you can use the final project for personal purposes: A student created this manual for his father, who wanted to learn more about his son's specialty. It's highly technical (specialized math), but accessible, clear, well-illustrated with callouts and samples, and well-organized for getting the point across. Also notice that he made the document more useful and accessible by creating navigation tools.

How To Develop Film:
Example of a Video-Based Manual

With cameras capable of making good-quality movies becoming ubiquitous - even embedded in phones - and the rise of useful (and often free) software for editing these movies, videos have really taken off recently as a popular form for sharing instructional information. Sometimes they're quite straightforward (as with some on this page), sometimes they're funny or entertaining, and other times they're downright artistic, as with this one:

Notice how the video's creator used absolutely no spoken words, and only used text when necessary for clarity. The final impression you get is appropriate for a manual with this subject-matter, which enhances the viewer's experience and becomes more memorable in its unique, attractive approach.

ABCs of Puppy Training:
Example of a Traditional Manual

This is the type of manual that most people create for their final project: a document-based instructional guide (here it is in .pdf format).

Here's a short video I made that walks through the project. I hope you find it useful:

Textbook Readings

For reference, to help guide you: The Elements of Technical Writing, by Gary Blake and Robert Bly: Chapter 9.

Supplementary Readings

More content for reference:

Discussion

This week's discussion forum is where everyone can share questions, comments, recommendations, tips, and so forth - material relevant to success in the Final project:

  • What have you learned (to do or to avoid) that could help others?
  • Have you discovered a great sample document that others could learn from - or a terrible one, so we can all see what to avoid?
  • Tips, tricks, elements ideas, and so forth.

Start the conversations on as soon as you have something to offer. Everyone: Get involved early, and feel free to continue dropping in to read and respond to new posts throughout the last two weeks. Everyone is required to participate in these discussions by posting useful responses to questions and prompts, or at least in response to other comments in the discussion forum. Your participation level - even when not leading discussions - strongly affects your semester grade, so get fully engaged every week!

Exercises and Assignments

Final project is due this week. A note on page-count: I only include a page-count for those who best visualize a document in pages. More important is the word-count. If you use good organizational elements, a table of contents, tables, callouts, sidebars, headings, charts, illustrations, and so on, you'll end up with more than 300 words/page (which is typical for nothing-but-block-text documents) and approach the 20-page rough estimate noted in the assignment.


After completing each assignment, make sure to back it up (I recommend using a low-cost USB flash device like this or a Web service like Dropbox) before you send it to your peer-review partner. Even if you are late creating a project, you can often avoid getting zero points for that assignment by completing it and turning it in to Blackboard late. Be aware that turning in late projects could harm your peer-review partner's score, as well, so be thoughtful.

Upload all exercises and assignments to Blackboard only after you address your peer-review partner's suggestions. Use the appropriate Blackboard assignment slot (for example, "Final Project"). Please don't turn in projects via email unless requested.

Peer Review

Required for this project.

Exchange your final project with your partner with your peer-review partner to help one another create the best work possible. To maintain feedback consistency and offer ongoing feedback from problem statement through final-project handoff, you will work with the same partner from now through the end of the semester. Treat this as a developmental-editing project, where you get involved from the early planning stages through final delivery. Don't just think of these as single-stage reviews; instead, continue your peer-review relationship with your partner - or partners - through Finals Week. When you have completed your responses, turn in the peer-review that you wrote for your partner's project in the appropriate Blackboard assignment slot ("Doc Plan Peer Review"). If you want more feedback - or if your partner is a deadbeat - by all means just drop a note to whomever gave you the most-useful feedback so far, or let me know and I can suggest a second reviewer.

Whenever you contact your partner, it's important to share your most-recent planning documents and draft content so she can offer the best feedback. This should be great!  

If you haven't gotten useful feedback from your partner, or if you want more feedback, by all means just drop a note to whomever gave you the most-useful feedback so far, or let me know and I can add a second reviewer. If you give a second peer-review, you get bonus points: Just make a second "attempt" to turn in your peer-review assignment, and I'll give you twice the score!

Stay in touch throughout the process. You're helping one another develop and create the best possible final projects. Ask lots of questions in both directions - getting or giving the review. At this point, use questions appropriate for everything from remaining concerns from the Developmental Edit section as well as new comments from the Line Edit and Copyedit sections of the Editing process handout. Don't forget to take advantage of the Measures of Good and Stand-out Technical Communication page, including the handout with detailed descriptions of each measure. Address every one of the necessary ones, and strive for the stand-out measures!

Here are some questions to keep considering:

  • For example, from the reviewer's POV:
    • Who is your audience?
    • What problems do they most need to solve?
    • Consider using [certain kinds of callouts, illustrations, screenshots, charts, video, and so forth].
  • From the manual-writer's POV:
    • What do you think is the best type of manual to present this information?
    • Would it be helpful to add a [element] here?"

Whenever you contact your partner, it's important to show her the most-recent planning documents and draft content so she can offer the best feedback. This should be great!

Course Overview and Evaluations

Hang onto the projects of which you're most proud, give them a solid revision, and prepare ways to show them as writing samples for future job interviews. These are precisely the kinds of documents that employers most understand, and proving you have solid communication skills goes a long way toward getting started in your career of choice. Dig down to the root of success and you'll find a drive for self-development, a passion for what you do, and unfaltering focus on the audience or customer. Those "Career Competencies" or "Success Factors" listed on that page I created for you? They all boil down to that.

I hope I've been able to get across to you the importance and usefulness of the types of things we studied and worked on throughout this semester. They're all of huge practical value. But if you only come away with one lesson, it's that if you strive to understand theory while keeping your focus ever on the audience, your passion and drive for innovation will lead to success!

Thanks, and have a great break!

Checklist

  • Participate in the ongoing discussion.
  • Peer-review of your partner's Final project due to your partner and Blackboard by 5:00pm on Sunday, December 13.
  • Turn in your Final project to Blackboard by 5:00pm on Wednesday, December 16.
  • Finish all remaining projects you haven't yet turned in! Late projects due by noon on Friday, December 18.
  • Congratulations on completing a challenging course!

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Last updated 8/24/2015.