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Examination of the Writing Culture in Your Major
Part I - interview a professional in your major about his or her writing in the discipline.
Part II - examine and write a technical report on various documents in your discipline written for different audiences and purposes .
The purpose of this assignment is to help you become familiar with some of the forms of writing produced by professionals in your discipline. Many students think that their writing days are over when they leave school. Depending upon your career, you may be composing business letters, memos, proposals, support documentation for computer programs or other instructional material, technical manuals, research papers, employee evaluation reports, committee reports, articles for popular magazines on subjects in your field, newsletters, justifications for promotion in your job. Those specializing in health or science fields may be writing patient diagnoses, patient treatment plans, write-ups of original scientific research.. The list goes on....
Part I. Interview someone in your field (a computer scientist, engineer, biologist, doctor, nurse, professor, or other individual who can speak to writing in your field of science). Remember to get permission to share the interview. At the top of your interview, right hand corner, include the title "Interviewer - your name." Below that put "Interviewee - and that person's name, title, institution or business address, and phone number/e-mail address. The interview should be in a Q & A format, typed, double spaced, edited for mechanical errors, with appropriate margins. Make an appointment with the prospective interviewee and ask the questions included with this assignment. Be open to any additional responses the person wants to add. Let the person you interview be aware that this is a class assignment and get permission to share the information with the class. Please focus on the writing aspects for your interview.
Conduct your interview with a professor or other professional in your major based on the set of questions below:
Remember to send a written "thank you" to the person who took time out from his or her busy schedule to answer your questions. Now---- on to Part II.
II. Write a technical report on your analysis of at least three different types of documents in your field written for various purposes. One article of the three articles must be a research paper with a reference page. No more than one should be a research paper. One of the three may be a web-based document. The other two may be in the form of a letter, memo, a proposal, a write up of the proceedings of a conference, or other type of professional document. Some documents sent over e-mail are professional documents. It may be possible to include a document from the person you interviewed and a research article you will use for your research paper. Also look at professional journals in your field (preferably on a subject you can use for your research paper), from your job if you work in your field, and from other individuals in your field. If necessary, for privacy's sake, you can blank out any names of individuals, companies or product names in the documents (unless they are published in the public domain) and in the examples you will attach as appendices when you turn your report in your portfolio.
You will be analyzing the different approaches the authors use (the format of the documents, the form of citation, use of supporting evidence, specialized or non- specialized language, types of graphics) because of the different purposes and perhaps for the different audiences for which the articles were written. When analyzing the research article, the journal in which the article is published can give you clues about the audience. Try to get the full journal, not just a copy of the article. How an article is situated in a professional journal can say a lot about audience, purpose, etc. What's the title? Do the other articles give you any clues about the audience? Describe the ads. What are they trying to sell? What does this tell you about the interests of the readers? Do all the articles deal with variations on a particular subject or a particular area of scholarship? Are the articles written on a variety of subjects? Do any of the articles have a research format with bibliographies? What do these clues tell you about audience and purpose?
Number all pages beginning with the Executive Summary. Double space before and after each heading, and leave 1 inch margins all top, bottom sides.
Be sure that the texts you analyze and report on are clearly identified. Use clear, concise language. Use the active voice. It is okay to use "I" in your report where appropriate - for example, in explaining your research methods and your conclusions and in other cases where the use of "I" fits naturally. Assume your report will be read by a broader audience than people only in your field of study. Define any technical terms and don't assume your audience will know any acronyms or abbreviations.
Proof read your report for punctuation, spelling, grammatical errors.
Your analysis should be in the form of a technical report with these required parts:
Cover Page with the title (3-4 in. below the top of the page) that explicitly covers the report's purpose and subject. If the title is longer than 6 or 8 words, put on two lines, centered, single spaced. Drop 7 spaces, then center on separate lines, single spaced - the course info - Professor's name, course, semester. Drop 7 more spaces, then center on separate lines, single spaced - your name, section #, email address. Drop 10 spaces and center date.
Executive Summary: Put on a separate page - cannot be longer than one page. This will be an informative summary which will should stand alone as a mini-report. This mini report should be readable by all the members of the class, not just the ones in your discipline. Be brief, but try to include the main points. It should include:
Introduction Discuss in more depth what the purpose of your study is, how you gathered your material for the study, what you hope to achieve by analyzing the documents for this report.
Profile of Documents: Discuss why you chose these documents and what types of communication they represent. Identify each by title and author and give a very brief summary of the purpose and content of each. Analyze each in the same order in which it is introduced.
1. Analysis of (identify each document by title and author):
You need to provide evidence from the documents (quote when appropriate to make your point and if the document is lengthy, provide the page number) to support the points of analysis you are making. Relate these points of analysis back to the audience and purpose. Discussion should be based on:
Cover the points above
3. Analysis of (identify your third article):
Cover the points above.
Conclusion: Interpret your findings. Based on your analysis of the documents, draw some conclusions about the kinds of writing some professionals produce in your major (taking into account, of course, that this is a small sampling and does not represent all possible texts produced in your discipline). It is NOT your purpose to decide if the writing is "bad" or "good" writing - don't set yourself up as on authority on writing in your field. But if you feel that, as a reader, you couldn't understand some of the documents because you are not yet a full member of this discourse community, or if you felt any of the documents were not clear to you for whatever reason, you can make that point and explain why. But don't critique the documents as if you were giving the authors a "grade" or setting yourself up to show them how to write.
Also include what you learned by analyzing these documents. Did you learn anything new or add to your knowledge about your discipline? What value do you think these types of documents have in your field? What kinds of political implications can various documents have within a profession? What did you learn about writing for different audiences and purposes?
Appendices: Make each document a separate appendix, lettered accordingly, for example: APPENDIX A - Memo discussing arrangements for the Cincinnati Convention.
If the articles were not published except "in-house," get permission to use the documents for this class. Also use the APA style of documentation for the unpublished documents. Mention where you got the articles, address of organization, contact person, job title, and other contact information, if possible, such as e-mail address. Please try to use documents that do not involve privacy issues. If there is a confidentiality issue, when you turn in your report with attached documents in your portfolio, and you want only me to be privy to the documents, I will honor the confidentiality. Of course, no classified documents will be allowed.
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