English 362: Foundations of Technical Writing
Hybrid Course Lessons

Module 2: Good Technical Documentation and Peer Reviewing

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

This module covers the following topics:

  • What makes good technical documentation?
  • The peer-review process.

Check out this week's short video (about 5 minutes) from McKitterick:
A few comments about the discussions, plus a quick guided tour of Blackboard and this week's projects:

And a bonus video this week!
Just a short video tutorial (about 1 minute) for using Blackboard to turn in class assignments:

Because this is a new version of this course, check the syllabus and modules list frequently,
as I will continue to add new content and update the website and modules throughout the semester.
Many modules might get examples and new (short) videos.

Textbook Readings

Finish the readings before the discussion starting on Monday at noon.

Supplementary Readings

Finish the supplementary readings before the discussion begins on Monday. These and lots more are also available on the Handouts page.

This Week's Discussion

Everyone leads discussions this week! We have two separate categories: Measures of Good and Standout Communication and Peer-Reviewing. Discussion threads must be posted by noon on Monday - so everyone has a chance to read and respond in a timely manner. Prepare to discuss at least three of the measures in terms of the good (or terrible) document you found. Also prepare your thoughts for a discussion on peer reviewing.

A) We'll discuss in-class what you had to say in your Survey exercise, so have that ready.

B) We'll also discuss the "Measures of Good and Standout Communication" (create a new thread in the second week's Discussion Board for each topic).

For this discussion:

  • Create a new thread for the measures or topics whose discussion you're responsible for leading.
  • What makes good technical communication? Prepare to share your sample from the assignment due.
  • Give us a good critical analysis of your document in terms of that measure:
    • How did it succeed in meeting that quality measure (with examples)?
    • How could it have been done better?
  • Discuss material from the readings this week, especially in terms of how they apply to your own writing.
  • What stands out to you most in the readings?
  • What have you found lacking in real-life examples, and how has that affected the quality of communication?
  • How has good or poor technical communication affected you, your work, or so on?
  • Everyone replies to at least three of the measures discussions with examples from the document you analyzed.

C) Everyone participates in this week's Blackboard discussion about "Peer-Reviewing." I'll post a single, separate thread.

Things to consider for this thread:

  • What stands out to you most in the various readings?
  • What did you learn from peer-reviewing this project or from doing prior peer-reviews?
  • Tips, recommendations, and so forth.
  • Everyone replies at least once to this thread.

Discussion leaders usually start the conversations by noon on Monday. Everyone else: Get involved right away. Everyone is required to lead at least two discussions, and everyone is required to participate in these discussions by posting useful responses to the student leaders' 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!

Rating Discussions

Please also rate your fellow students' posts and responses each week: If your discussion posts earn high ratings (more stars) from your peers, this gives a bonus effect at semester's end so do your best when posting discussion prompts and responding to others' posts. At the same time, the "star" rating for semester-end bonus doesn't work unless everyone participates....

Assignments

Analysis of a good technical document due to Blackboard before class on Wednesday.

Drive-Car procedural document due to Blackboard before class on Wednesday, where you'll exchange with a peer-reviewer. You do not need to revise this document per your peer-reviewer's comments, but look them over for hints on how to improve on future projects. 


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 turn it in or 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 ("Good Tech Doc" and so forth). Don't turn in projects via email unless requested.

Peer Review

Exchange your Drive-Car procedural document with your chosen partner on Wednesday (or in the room during class) - earlier is better! You can contact other students directly (tutorial here) through Blackboard.

  • This is our first peer-review project, so familiarize yourself with what I'm looking for by reading the Peer-Reviewing handout.
  • Use the peer-review guide document (in .doc format) when critiquing your partners' work.
  • Use Revision Tracking to mark-up the document (for example, when making inline edits) and to provide comments on larger issues.
  • When you're done marking it up, send your peer review of your partner's project back to the original author by Friday at noon - obviously, earlier is better! Also send the filled-in peer-review guide document to your partner. That gives you plenty of time to review, revise, and comment on your partner's document. Early is better than waiting until the last minute.
  • Submit the peer-review that you performed on your partner's project and the filled-in peer-review guide document to Blackboard under the appropriate peer-review assignment slot ("Technical Report Peer Review") by Friday at noon. Note that Blackboard can accept multiple files attached to any assignment.

We'll do peer-reviews several more times, so it's a good idea to make efficient collaboration habits now!

Checklist

  • Come to class!
  • Watch McKitterick's short videos.
  • Participate in this week's Blackboard forum discussion starting on Monday at noon or sooner, if discussion leaders choose to start sooner.
  • Read the textbook and supplementary readings by Monday at noon.
  • Turn in the Analysis of a good technical document on Blackboard before class on Wednesday.
  • Turn in the Drive-Car procedural document on Blackboard before class on Wednesday.
  • Exchange the Drive-Car procedural document with your partner for peer-review during or before class on Wednesday - earlier is better!
  • Turn in your peer-review of your partner's work and the peer-review guide document to the appropriate peer-review assignment slot on Blackboard at the same time you return it to your partner by Friday at noon - earlier is better.
  • Turn in your Reading Response on this Module's required readings before class on Wednesday.
  • Earn a bonus point by uploading a second Reading Response to reflect your thoughts on more readings and reflections on the week's discussions. Due by Sunday at 5:00pm.

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Last updated 8/24/2015.