Tag Archives: 3050 Project Three

3050 Session Ten: Writing Instructions from Graphics

Let’s Practice Writing Instructions.

With your team, on paper, do the following for the image below:

  1. Create a title.
  2. Write a caption for each panel with no more than 6 words per panel.
  3. Determine a use for the blank panel.  Describe a picture, write a caption, and indicate where it should go in the sequence.Wash-Hands-Sign-NHE-13173_600

Let’s try with something a little more complex like Ikea Instructions.

Using this link or your own internet search, find a set of fake or real Ikea Instructions.  Complete the following on a team member’s blog:

  1. Post the image you chose (right click, “Copy Image” then paste it into your blog editing page.
  2. Translate the Swedish (or, faux Swedish) title and provide a new one using a phrase such as “How to…” or “Building a…”
  3. Write a short passage, at least two sentences or bullet point entry, for each image.  Don’t forget an introduction  for the first image, a parts and tools list.
  4. Comment on what images and instructions you may change, delete, or add for better comprehension.


Write: Final draft of Project Two, proposal memo due by 11:59 pm Thursday, October 2. Email a properly formatted word document to me and post a copy on a team member’s blog page devoted to Project Six documents.  Please email a link to  your document page.

Email a short (@ 150-300 words) memo detailing and defending your “rank-and-yank” ratings for Project Two.  Include your group’s decision made on your team charter. Remember, do not include yourself in the rankings.

Homework for Tuesday, 10/7

Read: Ch. 14 “Creating Reader-Centered Graphics” and Ch. 16 “Designing Reader-Centered Pages and Documents” in TC.

Write: Each team member should submit a short memo (@200-300 words) to me and your teammates detailing on what you would like to provide instructions.  Indicate your topic, your interest in working on it, your qualifications for taking on the topic. You may also wish to note one or more of your teammate’s qualifications as well.  If your team has not chosen a topic, this is a chance to persuade them to work on the topic you like best.



3050 Session Nine: Project Two Peer Review 9-30-14

On Tap for Today:

Let’s take a look at what you’re proposing.

  1. Briefly scan the document you currently have and see if it is a recognizable variant of the superstructure for proposals as described on p. 487 of Technical Communications.
  2. Does the document clearly articulate WHO is involved in the communication? Creators? Primary audience (not me)? Help the writers pinpoint a precise reader within an organization.
  3. Does the document clearly indicate WHAT will be studied?  By writing questions on the document, suggest appropriate background or contextual information the “Problem” section may benefit from. Does the “Methods” section detail specific research methods? Suggest at least one more.
  4. Comment on how persuasive the writers are in their “Qualifications” section.  Indicate whether you feel they adequately prove they are capable of performing the proposed research and/or implement a suggested solution.
  5. Comment on whether you feel the schedule strikes an appropriate balance between ambition and pragmatism or leans heavily towards one end of the spectrum or another.
  6. Are the criteria indicated applicable to the project proposed. Suggest criteria that the writers may not have considered for evaluating potential solutions.

Writing How-To Documents

What Makes Instruction Documents Good?



  • Knowing your audience or user group


In the case of your projects, it would likely be best to seek advice from the members who most fit the bill of your project’s likely user (i.e., the one who does not already know how to do the process but who might be interested in learning it).


  • Including an overview of procedures


Given the knowledge base we are contributing to (wikiHow), your overview will likely be most important as an opportunity to let a reader know if the tutorial is “right for them” – you should target their potential interest but also be open about the relative difficulty or ease of the project (consider, for example, the entry on How to Migrate to Open Source Software; for a negative example, see How To Cheat on a Test). Sections on such items as necessary materials (“Things You’ll Need” and/or “Ingredients”) and possible risks (“Warnings”) are integrated into wikiHow‘s format, so you can include that information in those places rather than in the overview.


  • Writing Usable Steps


Key strategies for composing usable steps in a how-to is include dividing each action into its own step, using chronological order, and putting your statements in the imperative (see the entry on How to Make a French Breakfast for imperative and non-imperative phrasings.)


  • Subdividing Processes


Dividing instructions into not only individual steps, but also subsections dedicated to smaller segments of the overall process (“chunking”), will make them more attractive to a potential user and more valuable once they are using them. Due to the format of our knowledge base, you might also be able to incorporate existing tutorials into your how-to. (Consider the subdivision that takes place in the tutorial on How To Paint the Interior of a House)


  • Illustrating Procedures


Illustrations might be a necessary tool for your instruction set, or they might just be useful as “eye relief” or an attention-getting device. You might, for instance, need to use screen shots if you are relating a software process (cf. How to Remove Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications or How To Rip a DVD with DVD Decrypter). If you are providing instructions that contain multiple physical manipulations, particularly ones that are very precise or may be unfamiliar to your reader, you might need to provide an image for all or most steps (cf. How To Fold a Towel Monkey). For both of these cases, you may use some combination of the three categorical text-visual relationships your text describes: supplementary, complimentary, or redundant. If your how-to does not necessarily need illustrations to make instructions clear to your reader, you might provide one or more “background” visuals to make the document more visually appealing (cf. How to Save a Wet Cell Phone, How to Cheat a Polygraph Test, or How to Flirt).


  • Doing Usability Testing


Usability testing is one of your easiest and most valuable ways to gauge the success of your how-to before its submission. I would recommend recruiting friends and family to try out your instructions in order to iron out any kinks.

Homework for Thursday 10/2

Read: This post; Ch. 17 “Revising Your Drafts” in TC; and  Macrorie “Cutting Wasted Words

Write: Final draft of Project Two, proposal memo due by 11:59 pm Thursday, October 2. Email a properly formatted word document to me and post a copy on a team member’s blog page devoted to Project Six documents.

Email a short (@ 150-300 words) memo detailing and defending your “rank-and-yank” ratings for Project Two.  Include your group’s decision made on your team charter. Remember, do not include yourself in the rankings.

Homework for Tuesday, 10/7

Read: Ch. 14 “Creating Reader-Centered Graphics” and Ch. 16 “Designing Reader-Centered Pages and Documents” in TC.

Write: Submit a short memo (@200-300 words) detailing for what you intend to provide instructions.  Indicate your topic, your interest in working on it, your qualifications for taking on the topic.

Quiz on Thursday 10/9 on ch. 14, 16, 17, 28 of TC

Ongoing: Final draft of Project Three is due by 11:59 on 10/21

Work on Project Six. Final draft is due 12/2

3050 Session Eight: Proposal Memo Sections 9-25-14

Today’s Agenda:

So you think you have a problem?


Group workshop on creating viable research questions.

Take some time with your group to perform the following exercise:

  1. Take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of key words about your topic.  What do people debate about it? What do you find most compelling about it?
  2. Write at least one question that could be raised about your issue that starts https://i0.wp.com/www.scribewise.com/Portals/202647/images/Better%20Questions.jpgwith each of the following words: who, what, when, where, how, why, should, would. In other words, you need to come up with eight (8) questions total.
  3. Answer the following:
    • What is your ultimate goal in writing about this topic? Are you informing? Defining? Evaluating or comparing? Proposing a solution?
    • Who is your audience? What will they be interested about your topic?
  4. Eliminate the questions from step 2 that do not fit your goal or audience.
  5. Of the questions that remain identify the most compelling.  Which is the most interesting?
  • Extra nuances to create open-ended questions:
    • Use a phrase such as “To what extent…” “What are the effects…” “What would happen if…
    • Combine two of your original eight questions.

Finally, you may wish to consider other prewriting strategies such as:

  • cluster mapping

Sample Cluster Map

  • Freewritinghttps://i2.wp.com/www.library.dmu.ac.uk/Images/free_writing.gif

The Proposal Memo (Project Two)


The first step toward the decision making report is to draft a short (two to three page) memo (in standard memo format) that will use the superstucture on p. 487 of Technical Communication to provide the following details:

  1. Who is going to undertake this research?
  2. Who will the final report be addressed to (i.e., who has the power to implement your solution)?
  3. What is the problem you are going to examine?
  4. What kind of research do you think this problem will necessitate?
  5. Why have you chosen this project (does it relate to your major, other course work, a personal interest, etc.)?
  6. What kind of format do you see the final report following (feasibility study, cause-effect analysis, comparative study, etc.)?
  7. What is your schedule for completing this project?
  8. What kind of criteria will be involved in making your final recommendation?

Section-by-section advice:

  1. Who are you?
    • Include all team members’ names in the “From” entry.
  2. Eventual Primary Audience:
    • Identify the planned recipient of the final report (Project Six) being proposed in this memo (question #2 above); although Project Two is addressed to me, the final project will be written with your chosen organization’s “decision-maker(s)” in mind and you need to know this information in advance both to plan your research strategy and identify appropriate criteria.
  3. The Problem Section
    • Don’t forget that the proposal memo is addressed to me (though I may not be the “primary audience” for whom you are writing). Although presumably relevant details, field terminology, and “industry jargon” will be familiar to your eventual audience, you may need to provide appropriate background for me at this stage in the project. That might require adding an additional “background” section preceding the problem statement section, or including an “overview” (see the overview in this previous student proposal, for instance).
  4. The Research Methods Section:
    • Your research section should detail, as specifically as possible, the types of research you will need to undertake to produce the final report. These items may include:
      • interviewing (relevant parties such employees, management and other stakeholders);
      • reading existing research on the problem (e.g., if your problem involves improving morale or motivating the member of a committee, you would do well to read the current literature on these issues in professional journals and trade magazines),studying the ways this problem has been approached/solved by other organizations;
      • analyzing data generated in research (see the analysis mentioned in this sample);
      • calculating potential costs and benefits (both in dollars and more generally); and/or
      • comparing/testing various possible solutions or components of possible solutions.
  5. Qualifications Section:
    • Question #5 above asks you to indicate (this information could alternately appear in your problem statement) why this particular project was chosen.List all of the qualities held by one or more team member that will aid in the completion of the project. Items listed under qualifications might include:
      • Previous experience with a similar problem;
      • Familiarity with organization and available access to its members;
      • Relevance to  field of study; and
      • Any “special skills” that make team members particularly prepared for taking on such a project.
    • Remember: the qualifications component of the proposal memo is meant to make the reader (me) feel confident that you have chosen a project that you are qualified to research and solve.
  6. Eventual Formats:
    • Although your project may take unexpected turns during its research phase, at its “proposal point,” you should have at least a working notion of what final format the final project will take (question #6 above). A cause-effect analysis is a report that identifies why a problem is occurring and suggests a solution. A feasibility study analyzes whether a proposed course of action, or multiple possible courses of action, are possible. A comparative study presents research comparing two or more possible courses of action.
  7. Schedule Section:
    • Writing the schedule section will allow you to do some upfront planning of how to distribute the the workload between team members and throughout the semester. It is presumed, of course, that your schedule (or, perhaps more precisely, your success at keeping to this schedule) may change throughout the semester due to unexpected events. Keep in mind, however, that when I ask you to write progress reports for your semester-long project, I am primarily asking after whether or not you are making adequate progress in your schedule.
    • Strike a balance between pragmatic and ambitious.
  8. Criteria Question
    • The most common misstep with the criteria section of the Proposal Memo is a lack of specificity in identifying the criteria you will use to evaluate potential solutions.
      • Technical criteria (those that relate to basic questions of feasibility)
      • Managerial criteria (those that relate to the quotidian operations of the organization)
      • Social criteria (those that relate to values and the impact of possible solutions on stakeholders)

      Here’s a great example of a criteria section that includes specific details. https://i0.wp.com/www.arcplan.com/en/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/collaborative-bi-solution-criteria.jpg

    • The Proposal is due by 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 30. It is worth 150 points, roughly 15% of the semester grade. Email a properly formatted word document to me and post a copy on a team member’s blog page devoted to Project Six documents.

HOMEWORK for Tuesday, 9/30/14

Write: Project Two.  Bring two printed copies to class on Tuesday.

Read: Project Three description and ch. 28 of Technical Communications. “Writing Reader-Centered Instructions”
Register for WikiHow and click around the site.  Be sure to peruse their page of requested topics to generate ideas for your instruction set.

Begin working on Project Six.  This is an ongoing assignment that you should work on throughout the remainder of the semester.