What is Technical Writing?

What is Technical Writing?

MEC E 200: Writing Persuasively Roger Graves Professor, English and Film Studies Director, Writing Across the Curriculum Acting Director, Centre for Writers Roger Graves http://www.ualberta.ca/~graves1/index.html Centre for Writers http://www.c4w.arts.ualberta.ca/

Genres As you move through your career at U of A you will need to learn new genres Engineering genres: presentations, abstracts, reports Genres in course electives: essays, reflections, summaries, annotated bibliographies Earnings and English A study reported in Fortune magazine

showed that the top quartile in university studies earned three times what the bottom quartile earned in their lifetimes. The best communicators among you will earn millions more over your lifetimes than the least effective communicators. No matter how many technical skills you have, you still need to deal with people at a level they can understand, so communication skills are just as important as technical skills. Paula Anthony, Tech support team leader

Genres for engineering students Technical engineering documents Email to peers, professors, staff Job application materials Essays for non-engineering courses Lab reports for science courses Audiences

You will need to learn to write for distinctly different audiences: Co-workers in co-op placements Engineering professors Professors in elective courses Job search documents Purposes Writing that focuses on instrumental discourse (discourse that aims to do something)

E.g. computer manuals (print and help screens) Assembly instructions for toys, appliances, games Research articles From Walter Beale, A Pragmatic Theory of Rhetoric. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1987), 114. scientific

Informative rhetoric rhetorical Deliberative rhetoric Reflective/ exploratory rhetoric Performative rhetoric

instrumental poetic The circular model Highlights the dual aims of

discourse A piece of writing can both persuade and inform (e.g. newspaper report on school lunches) Any piece of writing has at least two aims E.g Your resume Informative and persuasive 5 Factors affecting success 1.

2. 3. 4. 5. Flexibility of your writing processes Ability to get feedback on drafts Familiarity with the genre, complexity of the genre Complexity of the task (purpose): description is less complex than analysis/synthesis Number of audiences/readers, diversity

within these groups 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. writing processesworksheets (planned for) feedback on draftsAbstract feedback template, C4W (available, planned for)

Familiarity with the genrehow many of these have you written this term? (unknown) Complexity of the task (purpose): analysis/synthesis is at top end of reasoning skills (difficult) audiences/readersinstructor (relatively easy) Audience and Purpose Understand your audience for a piece of

writing Understand your purpose for a piece of writing The better you understand your audience and purpose, the better your document will accomplish your goals Purposes in this paper Outline the issue at hand

Propose a solution based on one ethical principle convince the reader that the application of this ethical theory would prevent future occurrences of this kind Drafting the paper Launch: Utilitarian argument suggests that the greater good for society would be served by launching Abort launch: Overall safety of the astronaut is more important that meeting deadlinesKant

argues that the acts that lead to results are just as important to creating a moral society Informal Argument and Academic Writing Claim Reason Link (because) Ex. [this study] will be a unique scholarly contribution as very few studies genuinely combine oral history and the

documentary record. Challenges Evidence (How, So what, Why?) (Data, Statistics, Expert opinion, Visuals, Other studies, etc. [What counts is often discipline-specific]) Challenges/rebuttal If you are in favor of launching, how can you anticipate arguments against your position? As you rebut those arguments, you make

your own position stronger. Arguments against: Arguments for launch: Best evidence in engineering

What is the strongest evidence in an engineering context like this? Statistics? Downside risk? Credibility/past record of success? Logic? Emotion? Part 1: Explication of philosophical principle

1. Utilitarianism - John Stuart Mill 2. Virtue Ethics Aristotle 3. Formalism Immanuel Kant 4. Contractarianism - John Rawls. Part 2: Ethical dilemma explained and solved

Data suggesting the launch will not succeed Some knew it, but they didnt get their message through Management ended up hitting the impending deadline with efficiencya practical decision, but not a good ethical decision NASA managementmade decision with info on hand; engineers were ignored and their perspective not passed on

Solvedethical position Evidence doesnt support a no launch position, so there is no evidence to support a no launch decision Contractarianism holds that if the process is fair, then the outcome must be just/fair original, new. Decisions must be based on

evidence rather than on emotion. In the case of the launch of the Challenger, the decision process was flawed. . . . Looking ahead Use the C4W as a resource to get feedback before handing in final drafts Work hard at developing broad writing skills to handle the challenges of writing at work and in academic settings

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