Course Outline

cowgirl with a whip.jpgInstructor:

Jeanette Novakovich


Contact Information:



English- S-LB 683.02


Office Hours:

Thursday 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.



Office Phone:

 848-2424 ext 4674





 Technical Communication by Mike Markel. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007. Ninth or Tenth edition.



Internet Resource Guide 



Technical Description



Instruction Set









In-class writing exercises/quizzes/attendance/participation







ENGL 395, Technical Writing, examines written and visual strategies for communicating information in technical fields. Practice includes experience in audience analysis and visual design in the preparation of such documents as technical abstracts, reports, proposals, descriptions, and instructional manuals.


Accordingly, students in the course can expect the following:


  • To write several specific kinds of documents
  • To collaborate effectively with their peers in a community of writers
  • To communicate in an ethically responsible manner


In addition, when designing and writing documents, students will utilize the following process:


  • Identify their readers and describe the characteristics of their readers in a way that forms a sound basis for deciding how to write to them
  • Research and invent the contents of their communications  
  • Observe the appropriate generic conventions and formats for technical documents and arrange material to raise and satisfy readers' expectations
  • Reveal the organization of their communications by using forecasting and transitional statements, headings, and effective page/document design
  • Design and use tables, graphs, and technical illustrations
  • Evaluate and revise their documents to be sure that the documents fulfill their purpose 





In this course, I will try to hold you to the professional standards that prevail in your field.

Professional Standards


Promptness. In this course, as in the working world, you must turn in your work on time. All projects are due on the dates indicated on the syllabus. Assignments turned in late will be penalized one letter grade unless you have made other arrangements with me in advance. I will not accept late papers after a week has passed the due date.


Appearance. All work should be neatly prepared, using margins and spacing and design techniques that are conventional for the genre. Whether it is a resume, memo, or report, your communication should exhibit complete and appropriate format. All writing for the course will be posted on the Blogs @ Penn State Web space assigned to each student, but I also reserve the right to ask you to turn in any assignment as a word processing file or in hard copy.


Grammar, Spelling, Proofreading. At work, even a single error in spelling, grammar, or proofreading can jeopardize the effectiveness of some communications (depending on the rhetorical situation). Grading will reflect the great seriousness with which these matters are frequently viewed in the working world. If you would like special assistance with any of these skills, I can recommend sources for extra help.


Back-up Copies. Always back-up your electronic files. Sometimes I will request a copy of one of your documents so that I can use it as a sample, to illustrate effective and problematic responses to assignments. Unless I completely obliterate any marks that might identify it as yours, I will never use your work in class without your permission.


Revisions. You will receive feedback on your writing at various stages of the writing process. You should try to apply the comments to improve not only the particular assignment you are working on at the time but also your strategies for writing in general.


Appropriateness.  When publishing text on the World Wide Web, you will need to consider the broad spectrum of possible audiences your writing may reach.  The blogging platform allows you a high level of personal control, and you should be creative in your design of that space; you should also be aware, however, of the public nature of Web texts.  Possible audiences for your blogging sites include, but are not limited to: potential or future employers, professors, and University administration.  Please restrict the content of your site accordingly.


In addition to the requirements outlined above, you are expected to work until the class period has ended; to complete all reading assignments on time; to help your classmates learn by your responses to their writing; to choose projects that require significant research and analysis; to spend at least six hours per week out of class for writing and class preparation; and to be courteous and considerate.





You are expected to attend class every day and to have your work with you. Regular attendance is required, because course instruction depends on your active participation. Two absences will probably not affect your performance too much (unless you miss a rough draft session--a major problem); but try to limit it to that.


Excused absences are appropriate, of course, but beyond that, let me repeat English department policy: A student whose absences are excessive "may run the risk of receiving a lower grade or a failing grade," whether some of those absences are considered "excused" or not. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to get assignments, complete any work, and submit any due papers.


It is particularly important for you to attend--and be prepared to participate in class workshops on drafts of your documents. The more you have written before peer-review sessions, the more you will benefit from them. Although your drafts need not be "polished," in general, they should be complete enough for you to receive substantial help from your peers. Under no circumstances will I accept a "final" version of a document unless I have seen rough drafts.






See me when you have questions about an assignment, when you would like to try out some ideas before a document is due, or when you have questions about a comment. You should also see me to get help with particular writing problems, to resolve differences about grades, or to suggest ways to improve the course.




A         superior; the work is of near professional quality. The document meets or exceeds all the objectives of the assignment. The content is mature, thorough, and well-suited for the audience; the style is clear, accurate, and forceful; the information is well-organized and designed so that it is accessible and attractive; the mechanics and grammar are correct.


B         good; the document meets the objectives of the assignment, but it needs improvement in style, or it contains easily correctable errors in grammar, format, or content, or its content is superficial.


C         competent; the document needs significant improvement in concept, details, development, organization, grammar, or format. It may be formally correct but superficial in content.


D         marginally acceptable; the document meets some of the objectives but ignores others; the content is inadequately developed; or it contains numerous or major errors.


F          unacceptable; the document does not have enough information, does something other than the assignment required, or it contains major errors or excessive errors.


When grading your papers, I will also consider your participation during the unit, including the completion of the planning worksheet and participation in the draft workshop.


Note: It will be difficult to get an "A" for the course if you miss more than two classes or turn your work in late. Unless you make arrangements ahead of time, late work will be docked one letter grade per day that it is late. Work without drafts or peer review participation will lose a letter grade. 































   Below 50


   Below 20        



   Grade not









Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.


Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University for possible further disciplinary sanction.


Talking over your ideas and getting comments on your writing from friends are NOT plagiarism. Taking someone else's published or unpublished words and calling them your own IS plagiarism: a synonym is academic dishonesty. When plagiarism amounts to an attempt to deceive, it has dire consequences, as spelled out in the English department regulations.


Class Cancellations    


In the event that the instructor cancels class, an email will be sent directly to students at least one-hour prior to the start of class.  Be sure to check your email before each class.  Information concerning University-initiated cancellations can be secured through the usual channels. 


*Note this syllabus is a guideline



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