Tag Archives: 3050 Project Two

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.

3050 Session Seven: Project One Wrap-up and Teamwork 9-18-14

On Tap Today:

Hey you! Yeah, you! The team member that got “yanked”! You may be interested in this…

Vader not impressed

As we discussed, every one of these submissions could be improved.  Wikipedia submission or citation issues, formatting (links, graphics), and content issues can all be fixed. So, for a chance to redeem yourselves in my eyes, and to score a few bonus points (enough to significantly alter your final grade on the project, and perhaps the class) perform some sort of correction by 11:59 pm Thursday, 9/25. If you suspect that you may be the team member that was “yanked” (lost a point due to the evaluations of your peers) you may want to seriously consider this offer.

Teamwork Talk

As you may have discovered, there are multiple ways of working well (or not) together.

Three primary models are:

  • The Round Table

https://stablerenglish.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/f6371-37109chb-37110chb-37111chb-38247-instl.jpgPros: Quick sharing of ideas among team members; Real time debate of pros and cons of project.

Cons: Difficult to schedule time to meet; Difficult to control input if there is only one keyboard operator; Can produce conflict that impedes production.

Most effective for brainstorming, task scheduling and progress reporting.

  • Divide-and-Conquer


Pros: Assigned task can be completed in the least amount of time.

Cons: Minimal collaboration; Difficult to recover if a task is not completed by a team member; Inconsistencies in tone and style; Replications or gaps in final product

Most effective for small, specific tasks that are part of a larger project.

  • Layered Approach


Pros: Each member has multiple opportunities to provide input, critique, and revise; More motivation due to ownership of the project; Similar to professional workplace collaboration

Cons: Different roles may create inequalities; Requires thoughtful and careful planning.

Most effective for drafting and revising tasks.

Team Charters:

Before work can truly begin on Project Two (and Six), even before you decide on a research problem, it would be helpful to know how your team will plan to work.  With your group mates, develop a team charter.  Address the following points:

  1. Overall, broad team goals for the project
  2. Measurable, specific team goals
  3. Personal goals
  4. Individual level of commitment to the project
  5. Other factors that might affect the project
  6. Statement of how the team will resolve impasses
  7. Statement of how the team will handle missed deadlines
  8. Statement of what constitutes unacceptable work and how the team will handle this
  9. Decision on “rank-and-yank” (will you only “rank”, only “yank”, or do both?)


Read Handout on Team Writing

Project Two Page and Examples

Write: “Apply Your Expertise” #3 on p.  409 by tonight, 9/18 Write a memo (300 words) to your teammates in response to “Apply Your Expertise” #3.  Consider your execution of Project One and suggest three ways your team can improve productivity heading into Projects Two and Six.  Persuasively explain each suggestion.

Team Charter. Memo format from the team to me. Post it on a team blog page and email the link to me. Print and have all team members sign/initial a copy to be retained by me. by Tuesday 9/23

3050 Session Six: Starting Project Two 9/16/14

On Tap Today:



Project One  is due by 11:59 pm Tuesday, 9/16/14:

Post to Wikipedia (or other knowledgebase) and provide a copy of the text with a link to the Wikipedia entry (see an example here). Provide “before” and “after” screenshots as linked files with your references on your team blog page.

Send me an email by 11:59 pm Thursday, 9/18/14

Every team member will be responsible for an email that includes the name of your team and a numbered ranking of your teammates. Numbers are based on the number of people in your team excluding yourself (you will not rank your own contributions). The highest number should be assigned to the person who you felt turned in the best performance while working on this project (e.g., if your team has five members, in this ranking the highest number will be four).

The teammate with the “highest” score will receive a bonus point. Likewise, the teammate with the lowest score will lose a point from their grade for this project.

Project Two and Project Six

Project Two: Audiences and Contexts

Choosing an Organization

Project Two requires you to devote a significant amount of time and work toward researching the processes of a particular organization. It also requires you to be in contact with the “decision-maker” for your particular objective (i.e., the individual or individuals who have the power to consider and/or implement the recommendation you will make in Project Six). As such, the organization you choose for the project should be one that you belong to or at least one with which you have some familiarity/contact. Likely candidates include:

  • An organization that you belong to (such as the one that employs you or the one that you volunteer for)
  • An organization containing one or more members that you have contacts with (such as a business run by a family member or that employs a family member) (e.g., the former student projects involving a cabinet-building company and a dental file manufacturer)
  • Some segment of the University, including student groups (e.g., the previous project on creating a wireless campus at Wayne State or refashioning student government at WSU)
 Choosing a Problem


You may already be aware of a problem facing the organization you choose, or you may query a representative of the organization in regards to what problem they would like assistance with. In any case, the problem should be one that requires technical or professional communication as a tool of analysis or even possible solution (i.e., the problem you identify might be a breakdown in communication, but whatever the problem is, you will use technical and professional communication both to obtain information and present recommendations to your decision-maker).

Analyzing Problems

Types of Problems

The easiest problems to identify are the ones that are significantly hindering an organization or stopping it from achieving its goals. However, the problem you identify might be also be one revolving around possible opportunities or the need to decide on future actions. The following are the three primary problem categories that you might use to brainstorm:

  • Problems in functioning, wherein there is “conflict, discrepancy, or inconsistency between an actual or existing situation and the ideal situation” or goal.
  • A problem of “potential missed opportunity” in which an organization need to figure out how to maximize productivity. For instance, a “company doing well in its present operations may see the possibility for expansion.”
  • Similarly, an organization may simply be faced with a decision that that they are having difficulty making (for instance, which operating system the should choose when updating their IT); in this scenario, you might offer to do the research and evaluation needed to make this decision.
The Problems of Problems (Criteria and Research Methods)

Organizational problems that require decision-making reports are often social in nature and ill-defined – this is what makes them “worthy” of formal attention.

As such, there will likely be many possible solutions to the problem and you need to figure out how to evaluate multiple solutions using three types of criteria:

  • Technical criteria (those that relate to basic questions of feasiblity)
  • 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)

Below are examples of criteria used when considering remodeling a school library.

These criteria, as well as the general dimensions of the project you are taking up will drive your selection of research methods (e.g., as in the chart below reproduced from our reading):

As show above, criteria based on concerns over size, structure, access, displacement effects, and cost led to such research methods as interviews, site inspections, stakeholder surveys, and professional consultations

Our Itinerary

Steps in the Project

The work leading up the Recommendation Report will take place in three sequences, starting with Project Two, continuing with progress reports, and ending with Project Six. The actions for each of these sequences are listed below:

 Initial Objectives (for Proposal Memo)
  • Defining the Problem
  • Identifying Research Questions
  • Establishing Research Methods
  • Establishing Selection Criteria
  • Establishing a Schedule for Conducting Research and Composing the Final Report
Intermediate Objectives (for Progress Reports)
  • Forecasting Possible Solutions
  • Researching and Interpreting Information
  • Adjusting Existing Schedules
Final Objectives (for Final Report)
  • Presenting Research
  • Identifying Feasible Solutions
  • Applying Criteria
  • Making a Recommendation


Project One is due by 11:59 pm. Post to Wikipedia and your blog. Provide screenshots on your blog of the changes made in Wikipedia.

Email rankings (excluding yourself) are due by 11:59 pm Thursday, 9/18.

Read TC, ch. 19.

Write a memo (300 words) to your teammates in response to “Apply Your Expertise” #3.  Consider your execution of Project One and suggest three ways your team can improve productivity heading into Projects Two and Six.  Persuasively explain each suggestion.

3050 Session Five: Finishing Project One; Intro to Project Two; 9/11/14

On Tap Today:

  • Submission protocols for Project One reviewed (again)
  • Ranking message for Project One (explained, with example)
  • Common problems with Project One (for you to avoid)
  • Super-Secret Sneak Peek at Project Two (for the ambitious students)


Project One  is due by 11:59 pm Tuesday, 9/16/14:  Post to Wikipedia (or other knowledgebase) and provide a copy of the text with a link to the Wikipedia entry (see an example here). Provide “before” and “after” screenshots as linked files with your references on your team blog page.

Every team member will be responsible for sending me an email by 11:59 pm Thursday that includes the name of your team and a numbered ranking of your teammates. Numbers are based on the number of people in your team excluding yourself (you will not rank your own contributions). The highest number should be assigned to the person who you felt turned in the best performance while working on this project (e.g., if your team has five members, in this ranking the highest number will be four). Here’s an example:

ranking email


The teammate with the “highest” score will receive a bonus point. Likewise, the teammate with the lowest score will lose a point from their grade for this project.


Common Wikipedia Problems with Project One Executions (and common strategies for avoiding them)

1. Entry does not serve knowledge base 
  • Expand a stub, make an entry for a section of an existing article, or choose a “wanted” or “most wanted” entry 
  • Enter your contribution into Wikipedia in advance of the due date (to allow time to gauge readers/editors responses)
  • Familiarize yourself with what kinds of entries are cut (and why)
2. Entry does not follow formatting/style guidelines of knowledge base
3. Entry contains inaccuracies, unverified claims, and/or grammar/punctuation mistakes
  • Research your topic thoroughly
  • Be sure to cite sources appropriately using Wikipedia’s guidelines
  • Perform common editing/spell check functions, including importing your text into a word processor

Common Student Problems with Project One (and common strategies to avoid them):

The Procrastination Situation:
  • You decide to wait until Tuesday to familiarize yourself with Wikipedia’s markup language and editing procedures, only to discover that they are a bit more complicate than you anticipated and are thus forced to watch, teary-eyed, as the midnight deadline rolls past you like a giant boulder crushing your dreams of academic success.
    • https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/af/TK_sandbox_icon.svg/1024px-TK_sandbox_icon.svg.pngPro-tip: Play with Wikipedia. Start today in the sandbox.  A link to your personal sandbox will appear in the upper right corner when you are logged in to your Wikipedia account.
The Citation Situation:
  • You compile your facts and evidence behind your entry from websites that you forgot to document and/or things your mother or some drunk guy told you, only to discover that Wikipedia, despite what its various critics (and possibly your mother or some drunk guy back when, as mentioned, they were acting as your primary research source) have suggested, actually has fairly formal standards for documenting evidence and listing citations.
The Illustration Situation:

Rough Draft Review

Hand a copy of your rough draft to a different team.  As a team, review your peers’ work. Complete the following tasks:

  1. Can you identify a sentence definition? Is it conveniently placed? If one is missing, would it help the readability?
  2. Is there a clear organization of information? How could it be improved?
  3. What questions remain unanswered?
  4. Identify the primary readership of this article.  Be as specific as possible.

Project Two will begin in earnest on Tuesday.  be sure to read chapter 24 in Anderson if you have not already done so.