Description and requirements

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course information

Course number and name: ENGL 305: Technical Writing
Term and year: Fall 2014
Times: Section W03 (CRN 80455), TT 11:30-12:45; Section W04 (CRN 81266), TT 2:30-3:45
Location: G06 Colson Hall
Instructor: John Jones (about), Assistant Professor
Email: john dot jones at-sign mail dot wvu dot edu
Twitter: johnmjones
Office: 231 Colson Hall
Office hours: Tue, 1-2p in 231 Colson Hall
Virtual office hours: Wed, 3-4p via Google Hangouts


Welcome to English 305! This course will introduce you to strategies for translating between discipline-specific knowledge and audiences of interested outsiders. In other words, you will be introduced to a range of skills that will enable you to communicate technical information in a form that is understandable to people who were previously unfamiliar with that information.

In this course we will explore the forms of technical writing that are common in the professions, including resumes, instructions, memos, and reports. Drawing on the expertise developed in your major, you will develop technical writing skills through your engagement with topics and issues important to the work you plan to do. While we will cover topics traditionally understood as technical—such as those in engineering, architecture, and computer science—technical writing encompasses any topic that must be explained to an involved, but not expert, audience. Because a primary assumption of this course is that all writing emerges from and responds to a particular problem, audience, and purpose, the course will focus on helping you develop multiple writing strategies for diverse communication situations.

course objectives

By the end of the semester, students who earn a passing grade in the course (C- or above) will have demonstrated their ability to:

  • Specify and adapt to the constraints of the rhetorical situation, especially an audience’s knowledge of a topic and its desired uses for a document.
  • Conduct research to gain command of a technical subject and to invent the contents of communication, including navigating the WVU library and external databases to access peer-reviewed research sources and citing research materials using the APA Style.
  • Convey clearly and precisely the technical aspects of a topic to a non-specialist audience.
  • Evaluate and modify a document to ensure its usability and accessibility for an audience.
  • Apply technology to organize and design a document in ways that support reader comprehension.
  • Speak persuasively in a professional setting by presenting a pecha kucha presentation that summarizes the findings of their scientific or technical controversy report.

In line with the goals of the WVU BA Program in English, these objectives will enable students who successfully complete the course to

  • Interpret texts within diverse literary, cultural, and historical contexts;
  • Demonstrate a general knowledge of the social and structural aspects of the English language; and
  • Demonstrate a range of contextually effective writing strategies.

required texts

  • Alred, Brusaw, & Oliu (2011). Handbook of Technical Writing. 10th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s. ISBN: 9780312679453
  • Wong (2013). The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics. W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN: 9780393347289

other requirements

additional recommendations

Tools for tracking your research, like

  • Evernote or a similar app for note-taking,
  • Delicious or a similar link-tracking service for managing Web sources, and
  • Zotero or RefWorks or another citation manager for tracking your research and formatting citations

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