re: suggestions needed for teaching a introductory college cours e in technical writing

Subject: re: suggestions needed for teaching a introductory college cours e in technical writing
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 08:36:29 -0600

re: ... one of the first courses that I took was Style in Scientific and
Tech Writing

This is the "throw them in the water and see if they can swim" approach that
seems to occur so often in academia. Instead, I'd start off with the
*psychology* of technical writing.

That is, present some ideas and have a discussion around the difference
between secretary and technical writer and the expectations the writer is
likely to face in a real job--many times the expectation can be just "super

Discuss the notion of technical project management using tools such as
Microsoft Project to manage product development activity and discuss how and
when the technical writer fits in the plan and which writer activities might
be considered milestones. This is important, I think, so spend some time on

Discuss the implications of the "never read the manual" approach. (From
both the product developer and the customer viewpoint.)

Discuss a little the differences and similarities between software projects,
mechanical engineering and electrical engineering projects, bioscience
projects, etc.

Ideally, I'd even discuss gender expectations in the workplace, as it's my
view that very often the tech writer - subject matter expert relationship
mirrors that of nurse - doctor, and I'd discuss strategies for dealing with
as many expectations as you can think of that the writer might face.
Discuss aggressiveness and passivity.

To summarize, discuss the psychological/social tools and skills required as
well as providing an overview of the tools and skills needed to actually put
words that are readable and useful on paper or a screen. Real world
examples (guest speakers?) would be good.


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