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COM 2223 Scientific & Technical Communications

Course Description

Practice in the technical and scientific writing style and format, including gathering and using data to prepare reports. Includes abstracts, reports, letters, technical descriptions, proposals, and at least two oral presentations.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for audiences and purposes they serve
  • Evaluate critically your own work and that of others for accuracy, fairness, clarity, appropriate style, and grammatical correctness

Week 1

Lecture: Course Introduction
Lecture: Introduction to Technical Communication
Lecture: The Process of Writing Technical Documents
Lecture: Analyzing Your Audience and Purpose
Lecture: Writing Effective Sentences
Lecture: Numbers and Abbreviations


  • Define technical communication and its role in their careers
  • Distinguish between the two categories of people who produce technical communication
  • List the four communication skills used by professionals in the workplace
  • List examples of technical communication in business and industry
  • Describe the six major characteristics of technical communication
  • Explain the eight measures of excellence in technical communication
  • Plan a technical document using the steps outlined in the chapter
  • Draft a technical document using the steps outlined in the chapter
  • Revise, edit, and proofread a technical document using the steps outlined in the chapter
  • Apply the techniques and tools used by people who write technical documents
  • Recognize the importance of analyzing audience and purpose when planning a document
  • Classify readers into primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences
  • Describe four techniques for learning about an audience
  • Explain the impact of cultural variables on technical documents
  • Choose strategies for communicating more effectively with multicultural readers
  • Define the purpose of a technical document
  • Know how to revise information for a new audience and purpose
  • Write and format effective lists
  • Describe the reason for placing new information at the end of the sentence
  • Choose an appropriate sentence length given a document’s audience and purpose
  • Write sentences with prominent real subjects and real verbs
  • State the function of parallel structures in sentences and identify faulty parallelism
  • Distinguish between restrictive and nonrestrictive modifiers
  • Recognize misplaced and dangling modifiers
  • Select an appropriate level of formality given a document’s audience and purpose
  • Write clear and specific sentences
  • Write concise sentences
  • Recognize and avoid offensive language
  • Define the concept of Simplified English
  • Explain how to prepare text for translation

Week 2

Lecture: Writing Collaboratively
Lecture: Communicating Persuasively
Lecture: Writing Letters, Memos, and Emails
Lecture: Preparing Job Application Materials


  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration
  • Describe strategies for effectively managing a project
  • Explain how to listen effectively
  • Set the group’s agenda
  • Conduct efficient meetings
  • Explain how to critique a group member’s draft effectively
  • Use the comment, revision, and highlighting features on a word processor
  • Describe how to participate in a videoconference
  • Identify gender differences and cultural differences they are likely to encounter when collaborating
  • Identify and respond to an audience’s broader goals
  • Describe common workplace constraints and their effect on technical documents
  • Write a persuasive argument
  • Recognize common logical fallacies
  • Display a professional persona in technical documents
  • Recognize the important role of graphics, design, and ethics in persuasion
  • Project your attitude in correspondence for the working world
  • Recognize and avoid letter clichés
  • Identify and accurately use the elements of the letter
  • Describe the purposes of the four types of letters most frequently used in the workplace
  • Write common workplace letters effectively
  • Write effective memos
  • Explain how to follow the netiquette guidelines
  • Write effective emails
  • Plan an effective job search
  • Describe the best ways to look for a position based on their field of study and experience level
  • Describe the risks and benefits of using social-networking sites in the job search
  • Design an effective résumé
  • Choose content that is appropriate, honest, free of errors, clear, and specific
  • Pick the most effective résumé format based on their circumstances
  • Use tables to format a résumé
  • Prepare four different kinds of electronic résumés
  • Define the concept of selectivity
  • Write an effective job-application letter
  • Explain the steps to prepare effectively for a job interview
  • Write effective follow-up letters
  • Explain the purpose of an electronic portfolio and the steps to follow when creating one

Week 3

Lecture: Researching Your Subject
Lecture: Organizing Your Information
Lecture: Writing Proposals


  • Differentiate between academic and workplace research
  • Choose appropriate research media based on topic and audience needs
  • Use basic research tools such as online catalogs, reference works, periodical indexes, newspaper indexes, and abstract services
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of using Web 2.0 resources to research a subject
  • Employ paraphrases, quotes, and summaries as evidence in persuasive technical documents
  • Evaluate sources found either in print or on the Web
  • Describe the six major types of primary research
  • Conduct an interview
  • Collect data using a questionnaire
  • Explain the basic principles of organizing technical information
  • Describe the eight patterns typically used in organizing information
  • Choose the best pattern of organizing
  • Explain the difference between external and internal proposals
  • Explain the difference between solicited and unsolicited proposals
  • Describe the two major categories of proposal deliverables
  • Describe the readers’ needs in different types of proposals
  • Describe strategies to accommodate audiences from other cultures effectively
  • Demonstrate their professionalism in a proposal
  • Use storyboards to plan a proposal
  • Explain the basic structure of a proposal
  • Use proposal elements to persuade readers

Week 4

Lecture: Writing Coherent Documents


  • Write coherent titles
  • Write effective headings
  • Write coherent lists
  • Describe the difference between body paragraphs and transitional paragraphs
  • Structure effective paragraphs by using a topic sentence followed by support
  • Use coherence devices within and between paragraphs
  • Revise documents using a top-down approach
  • Recognize the value of headers, footers, and typography in enhancing coherence

Week 5

Lecture: Writing Informational Reports
Lecture: Writing Recommendation Reports
Lecture: Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions


  • Explain the process for planning, drafting, and revising informational reports
  • List the four basic formats for informational reports
  • Describe the purpose of the five types of informational reports discussed in the chapter
  • Write an effective progress or status report
  • Write effective meeting minutes
  • Use the problem-solving model for preparing a recommendation report
  • List the kinds of questions a recommendation report addresses
  • List the three kinds of questions a feasibility report answers
  • Apply the steps discussed in the chapter to preparing a recommendation report
  • Develop required and desirable criteria
  • Organize the elements of a typical report effectively
  • Include appropriate and persuasive content in a report’s introduction, methods, results, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Explain the role of definitions and descriptions in various kinds of technical communication
  • Use an understanding of a technical document’s audience and purpose to select effective kinds of definitions and descriptions to write
  • Write effective parenthetical, sentence, and extended definitions
  • Write an effective description of an object, mechanism, or process
  • Describe the role of instructions in the workplace
  • Explain the importance of assessing audience when writing instructions
  • Write clear safety information
  • Introduce and conclude instructions effectively
  • Write clear and accurate step-by-step instructions

Week 6

Lecture: Designing Documents and Websites
Lecture: Creating Graphics
Lecture: Reviewing, Evaluating, and Testing Documents and Websites


  • Evaluate technical documents using the principles of proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast
  • Plan the design of a technical document based on audience needs and expectations
  • Explain how to choose effective sizes, paper, bindings, and accessing tools
  • Explain the principles of chunking, queuing, and filtering
  • Use columns, page grids, and white space to design a document’s page layout
  • Define common typographical elements
  • Apply principles of typography to design an effective document
  • Design titles and headings so that they are visually distinct
  • Describe the uses of rules, boxes, screens, marginal glosses, and pull quotes in technical documents
  • Apply effectively the five design principles discussed in the chapter to create or evaluate a site and its pages
  • Explain techniques for designing sites for readers with disabilities
  • Explain techniques for designing sites for multicultural readers
  • Discuss ethics and copyright law as they relate to the Web
  • Describe the functions of graphics
  • Use the six characteristics of an effective graphic to assess graphics in technical documents
  • Integrate graphics and text effectively
  • Explain the process for creating graphics
  • Discuss how to cite graphics used in technical documents
  • Describe each graphic discussed in the chapter in terms of its purpose and what it does best
  • Choose an appropriate graphic based on a document’s audience and purpose
  • Create graphics for multicultural readers
  • Create basic graphics using graphics software
  • Describe three strategies for improving the usability of a document or website
  • Describe the three factors to consider when deciding whether to test or evaluate a draft
  • Discuss the review a document or website
  • Conduct a usability evaluation
  • Conduct a usability test

Week 7

Lecture: Writing Lab Reports
Lecture: Ethical and Legal Consideration
Lecture: Making Oral Presentations


  • Describe the role of persuasion in lab reports
  • Describe the process of writing lab reports
  • List the eight basic elements of a lab report
  • Describe the role of science and engineering articles in the workplace
  • Write a lab report
  • Explain why technical communicators and technical professionals need to understand basic ethical and legal principles
  • Explain how the ethical standards of rights, justice, utility, and care can be applied in thinking through ethical conflicts in the workplace
  • Explain the basics of four different bodies of law relevant to technical communication: copyright law, trademark law, contract law, and liability law
  • Analyze a code of conduct
  • Define whistleblowing
  • Explain the basics of communicating with cultures with different ethical beliefs and communicating with countries with different laws
  • List the nine principles of ethical communication and use these principles to meet workplace obligations
  • Discuss the role of oral presentations in the workplace
  • List the four basic types of presentations
  • Deliver a presentation designed for a specific audience and purpose
  • Manage their time effectively during a presentation
  • Select appropriate media for a presentation
  • Design effective presentation graphics that use the claim-support structure
  • Use effective language
  • Rehearse effectively
  • Describe strategies to calm their nerves
  • Describe strategies to use their voices and bodies effectively
  • Discuss how to respond to common question-and-answer situations
  • Evaluate an oral presentation

Week 8

Lecture: Connecting with the Public


  • Describe the role of persuasion in connecting with the public
  • Describe elements of effective documents such as newsletters, brochures, white papers, and podcasts to present information to the public
  • Use electronic tools such as discussion boards, blogs, and wikis to effectively communicate with the public

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. February 2012