At 12:06 AM 10/6/99 -0700, you wrote:
>Although Margaret Proctor asked a similar question in 1995, I think an
>update is probably justified: Who is teaching technical writing/scientific
>writing courses at the undergrad level, and what do those courses look like?
I've included an excerpt from a published Penn State model for a senior
technical writing course. It's listed as a second year course but, because
of high demand, is usually taught to seniors . I think this course is
particularly good because it combines practice in writing in conventional
genres with rhetorical analytical, and critical thinking skills (which both
professors and employers in the technical professions have been stressing
for some time now). A description of the assignments is available at
<http://www.psu.edu/dept/english/comp/engl202c.html>. Though this is
clearly a technical writing course, it is easily adaptable to the needs and
interests of potential professional technical and science writers. The
mixing of students from various disciplines in fact helps to stress the
importance of audience accommodation and the differences between writing for
a professional and lay audience. Some instructors also include readings from
what might be described as science literature to emphasize the
thinking/invention process or the concept of discourse community, for
example, but that doesn't make it a literary science writing course. (Penn
State offers that type of course as an English lit. option.)
ENGL 202C—Technical Writing
ENGL 202C, Technical Writing, serves students who are studying and preparing
for careers in the sciences and applied sciences (particularly engineering).
This advanced course in writing familiarizes students with the discourse
practices prized in their disciplinary and institutional communities—and
helps them to manage those practices effectively in their own written work.
In this way the course teaches those writing strategies and tactics that
scientists and engineers will need in order to write successfully on the
job. Accordingly, students in the course can expect to:
• Discover and understand the discourse features that distinguish their
disciplinary and institutional communities from others.
• Discover and specify the purpose(s) of their writing.
• Develop a range of writing processes appropriate to various writing tasks.
• 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.
• Invent the contents of their communications through research and reflection.
• Arrange material to raise and satisfy readers’ expectations, using both
conventional and rhetorical patterns of organization.
• Reveal the organization of their communications by using forecasting and
transitional statements, headings, and effective page design.
• Observe appropriate generic conventions and formats for letters, résumés,
memoranda, and a variety of informal and formal reports.
• Design and use tables, graphs, and technical illustrations.
• Compose effective sentences.
• Evaluate their documents to be sure that the documents fulfill their
purpose and to ensure that they can be revised if necessary.
• Collaborate effectively with their peers in a community of writers who
provide feedback on each others’ work and occasionally write together.
• Write several specific kinds of documents that recur in technical and
• Employ computer technology effectively in the solution of communication
• Communicate in an ethically responsible manner.
[ . . .]
Your grade in Technical Writing will be determined by the grades you receive
on written assignments, according to the following weighting:
#1 Short Report 10%
#2 Job Application Package 15%
#3 Proposal for Report 10%
#4 Instructions 15%
#5 Rhetorical Analysis 10%
#6 Report 25%
#7 Portfolio 15%
The instructions for the assignments are included in this packet and will be
explained in detail.
[ . . . ]
Text. Mary Lay, et al, Technical Communication. Chicago: Irwin, 1995.
>My immediate reason for asking is that UNBC has a course on the books called
>English 370 Scientific Writing, and it is to be planned and spring into
>action. Although the title, chosen maybe 5 years ago, suggests teaching
>science students how to write lab reports, this is not the case. The course
>is open to all students, and more students from the arts and social sciences
>have expressed interest than students from the sciences (Chemistry has an
>upper division science-writing course which any science student can,
>technically speaking, enroll in.)
>One basic decision is whether to offer a technical writing course or to a
>scientific and science writing course (scientific writing being pieces by
>Galileo etc. and the modern research report; science writing being writing
>about science, usually popularizing scientific knowledge).
>I'd like to get a feel for what other universities are offering, and I'm
>open to any guidance and comments from folks who have been involved in
>planning and teaching such courses.
>Coordinator, Learning Skills Centre
>University of Northern BC
>3333 University Way
>Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9
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To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
the annual conference, and publications, go to the Inkshed Web site at