We advance technical communication through our integrity and excellence in performing each task we undertake.

"Ethical Principles," Society for Technical Communication, 1998 

Technical Writing

Winter, '15-16
Lawrence Souder, Ph.D.

Voice: 215-895-2730

Classroom: online

Office Hours: by appointment

Office: Building #47, Room 324

E-mail: lawrence.souderATdrexel.edu


This course is about the performance and ethical behavior of technical communicators, and as such has two goals. First, it is designed to guide you in exploring the conventions of the various genres of technical writing. In particular it will provide the means for determining what features distinguish one genre from another, how each of these genres is composed, and why they are so designed. Second, it will introduce you to some of the primary research that informs the practice of technical writing. This course is writing intensive; you will be asked to observe professional standards as you write samples of correspondence, instructions, proposals, and reports.  This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, specificially COM 520 (Science Writing), COM 540 (Science and Technical Graphics), and COM 875 (Ethics in Science and Technical Communication).


If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:


Grading: The final grade in this course will be computed as follows:

10% = quizzes
15% = presentation 1
15% = presentation 2
10% = Project 1
10% = Project 2
20% = Project 3
20% = Project 4

The writing samples produced for this class become the primary basis for your grade and will constitute a portfolio that you can also use for career development in the field. By the end of the course your portfolio will include a sample of technical correspondence, instructions, proposals, and reports. The grading of written assignments will be based on content, form, style, and mechanics.

Scores and grades will be computed as follows: 98-100% = A+; 93-97% = A; 90-92% = A-; 87-89% = B+; 83-86% = B; 80-82% = B-; 77-79% = C+;  73-76% = C; 70-72% = C-; 67-69% = D+; 60-66% = D; <60 = F.


Professional writers must be attentive to deadlines. Late written assignments in this class will be penalized one letter grade for each class day late. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence.

Academic Honesty:

It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own will be considered plagiarism--a form of academic misconduct. For more clarification on plagiarism, see Drexel's Student Handbook.

Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, and submitting papers written in previous semesters. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action. Be advised that internet services such as EVE 2.3 and Turnitin.com make the detection of plagiarism easy.


Each week will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. See the Assignment Schedule below for details. Click on the author designators for study guide questions to help you focus on the key concepts. Click on the Preview and Project designators for specific details on the writing assignments.

In addition to the ongoing reading and writing assignments, each of you will give a formal presentation at some point in the course. Click on the link to presentations for details.

Special Needs

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVLs are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). For additional information, contact the ODS at http://drexel.edu/disability/, 3201 Arch St., Ste. 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, V 215.895.1401, or TTY 215.895.2299.

Other resources for students with special needs are available from the following:

Course Add/Drop/Withdrawal Refer to the University's policies to add, drop, or withdraw from this course.

Assignment Schedule

Week Date Topic Reading Writing/Thinking Speakers
1 1-11 What is technical writing? Brady (24) [in-class sample]  
2 -18 Instruction Writing [textbook on instruction writing] Explore this archive of instruction manuals Introduction and closing:
Safety Information:
3 -25 Killingsworth (18), Loorbach (22), Moore (18) Project Preview 1 Loorbach:
4 2-1 Correspondence [textbook on correspondence] Project 1 Formal letters:
5 -8 Limaye (10), Locker (43), Schryer (52) Project Preview 2 Locker:
6 -15 Proposals [textbook on proposals] Project 2

Introduction and closing:


7 -22 Lituchy (15), McIsaac (33), Tardy (29) Project Preview 3 Lituchy:
8 -29 Reports [textbook on reports] Project 3 Generic structure:
9 3-7 Rundblad (27), Dayton (50), Rude (35) Project Preview 4 Rundblad:
10 -14 Ethics Katz (20), Farrell (29), Scott (21), Koerber (27) Case: Three Mile Island


11 -21     Project 4