Sometime ago I promised a few references on group projects from the
perspective of technical communication.
First, an apology. These references are late because my system crashed for
the second time in less than 4 weeks. And this is to let you know that
Viruses really exist and they can really muck up your computer's life. I
now have a mega virus program installed with all options in place. But I am
still discovering all the damage the damed thing did to my system.
Here are three useful references and a few observations:
Lanyi, Gabriel. --Managing Documentation Projects in an Imperfect World--
Columbus, Ohio: Battelle Press, 1994.
This is a real techne book--written by a tech com professional
describing the way he manages complex projects. It's usefull becuase many
of the techniques could be imported directly into the class room i.e.
actually teaching students how to set up and manage their own projects.
It's a cold, hard book in some ways because it also makes a case for
contracting out projects--but it also articulates the other point of view as
well--an argument for developing expertise within an organization. Project
management, by the way, is becoming increasingly important in this world of
Lay, Mary M. and William M. Karis. eds, --Collaborative Writing in Industry:
Investigation in Theory and Practice-- Amityville, NY: 1994.
This collection provides some good information about the ways
documents are produced in organization. It's useful for convincing students
that they need to learn to work in groups and respond to external critique.
It also has some useful classroom applications.
Forman, Janis, ed. --New Visions of Collaborative Writing--Portsmouth, NH:
Boynton Cook, 1992.
This is an interesting cross over collection of articles between
people in composition and people in tech comm. Again a research orientation.
Other observations--most of the recent tech comm text books have extensive
sections on project management--not only the necessity of group work, but
also some good management tools i.e. progress charts etc.
None of this means, however, that group projects are easy or unproblematic.
I use them a lot and have learned a lot mostly by means of some ghastly
failures and some successes as well.
If people want to continue this conversation talking about the things that
seem to work vs. the ghastly failures, just start hitting the reply key with
Ps. another name to look out for is JoAnne Hackos--she has developed a
workshop in project management that is now travelling around the country
(supported by the Society for TEchnical Communication <STC>).
Catherine F. Schryer
Dept. of English
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
(519) 885-1211 (ext 3318)