Re: Info request on teaching TW

Subject: Re: Info request on teaching TW
From: Julie Tholen <julie_tholen -at- CNT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 10:37:05 -0500

Tracy -

Way back when the world was young and I was in grad school ('93), my
thesis was based upon ascertaining the impact collaborative groups
(comp. sci./Eng. students) would have on computer documentation. I spent
a lot of time interviewing the students and based on those interviews I
would respond to your question on critical skills this way:

> For the beginning TW student:
> 1) What critical _knowledge_ should be emphasized?
The student should have a foundation in the industry for which
they hope to write. If they want to work in the medical industry, they
should have medical terminology, basic understanding of processes,
familiarity with procedures, etc. Taking a few classes in the industry
of their choice or doing an internship for a company in the industry
will look great on the resume!

While it is true that this sort of knowledge can be acquired,
their credibility is increased dramatically if they possess it in time
for that first job interview.

Profound understanding of what a technical writer does and what
they are responsible for. See "The Seven Principals of Technical
Writing" for reference.

> 2) What critical _skills_ should be emphasized?
The ability to interact easily with others.
The ability to interview.
The ability to analysis complex material.
The ability to laugh at themselves - tech writing provides
numerous opportunities for making yourself look foolish.
The ability to change.
The ability to think outside of the box.
The ability to master new tools.
The ability to be flexible.
The ability to leave their egos at the door.

> 3) What critical _experiences_ should be provided?
"real-life" assignments - find some local companies and ask for
their documentation. Use it as an editing lesson. Skeletons it and use
it as organization/outline/publication plan assignment.
(you indicate a lack of industry - go to the regional library
and pull corporate reports for regional companies - have the
students write and request the documentation; scan the web - lots of
companies supply information that can be edited; there are product specs
that a preliminary doc can be written from.)
Informational interviews
STC meetings
Partner them with some computer
science/science/technology/manufacturing students. The science students
can supply raw technical information and your students can write up
outlines/information surveys/pub plans/preliminary docs.

Well that is my $0.02 worth.

Julie T.

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