Listed below are descriptions of the graded assignments for this course.
Quizzes, exercises, and participation also make up a percentage of the course grade.
|assignment #1||Write a set of instructions explaining how to create screen captures.|
|assignment #2||Write a documentation plan for your Microsoft Word manual (see #6 below).
See the doc plan format handout (on UDrive) for tips on content and organization.
|assignment #3||Submit the first third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.|
|assignment #4||Work with your team to solve the assigned Word challenge and prepare a live demo for the class.|
|assignment #5||Submit the second third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.|
|assignment #6||Submit completed Microsoft Word manual and supporting documents.|
|date||agenda, prep, work due today|
|(wk1) W Sept 3|| intro to the course: policies, index cards, introductions, course materials, UDrive
You should have received an email from me with a link to our course UDrive folder; if you did not get the email, let me know immediately.
When prompted, apply the built-in UDrive bookmark to this folder so that you can access course readings and materials quickly and easily (note that this bookmark is internal to UDrive and not part of your browser).
recommended reading: 14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing
|Unit 1: Introduction to Software Documentation—Instructions and Screenshots|
|(wk1) F Sept 5||what is the role of the technical writer?
today's prep (to be completed before today's class meeting):
- read The Curse of Knowledge
- what is the Curse of Knowledge, and how does it apply to technical writing?
- discuss cookie recipe exercise (due Monday)
- concepts: tacit knowledge, knowledge problem, SMEs
|(wk2) M Sept 8||instructions, audience
- read Ch 10: Instructions, Procedures ... (UDrive, 221-331)
- bring completed cookie recipe exercise
What will you want/need to know about your readers in order to make your instructions usable? What are the 8 guidelines for instruction-writing recommended in the reading? How does the format or organization of your instructions affect readers' ability to interpret and use them? How would you update this reading to better reflect digital/Web environments?
concepts: instructions, readers/users/audience
**The tasks listed for each class meeting under "today's prep" should be completed in time for that day's class; this applies to all class meetings on the schedule.
|(wk2) W Sept 10||screenshots, introduce assignment #1
- read Screenshots (UDrive)
- create a practice screenshot on a PC; insert and crop it in Word
- creating a callout and a caption for your screenshot
- introduce assignment #1
- concepts: stem sentences, imperative/active voice, parallel structure, etc.
What are some of the benefits and limitations of using screenshots? How can you create stronger visual connections between a screenshot and the text to which it corresponds?
|(wk2) F Sept 12||definitions
- read "Definitions" (pp. 180-189, on UDrive)
- bring drafts of definitions for Assignment #1
reading questions: Why/when are definitions used? What are the 3 types of definitions described in the reading? When writing a definition, what are some of the things you want to avoid doing?
|(wk3) M Sept 15
Last day to drop with no record
|screenshots, workshop assignment #1
- bring a complete printed draft of instructions assignment #1 to workshop (2-3 copies)
- recommended reading: Jerz, How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People
Webopedia: a free dictionary of words, phrases and abbreviations that are related to computer and Internet technologies.
|(wk3) W Sept 17
ASSIGN #1 DUE
|user analysis, introduce Word manual
- due: submit hard copy of assignment #1
- begin reading Barker Ch 5 for Friday (see below)
- discuss Word manual assignment
- begin user analysis
|Unit 2: Planning the Documentation Project—User Analysis, Doc Plans, and Modular Design|
|(wk3) F Sept 19||user analysis
- read Barker Ch 5, "Analyzing Your Users" (118-129, 140-141)
Why conduct a user analysis? What are some strategies for conducting a user analysis?
|(wk4) M Sept 22
||user analysis, task orientation, drafting your TOC
- read Barker Preface and Ch 1, "Understanding Task Orientation" (1-22)
What is software documentation? What is task-oriented documentation? What are some features of docs that are *not* task oriented? Try to think of examples of tasks that could be relevant for your Word manual. How can thinking about tasks help you plan the organization of your manual?
user research memo:
Your user research memo is due this Friday. It should summarize the process (who you interviewed, how you prepared and conducted the interview), and most importantly the key findings from the interview process: what did you learn about day-to-day activities, motivations, culture, software use/experience, and so on?
|(wk4) W Sept 24||modularity
- read selections on modular documentation (UDrive) and Barker (361-363)
- read through the doc plan handout (assignment #2)
- be prepared to report out on your user research (memo due Friday)
- recommended: begin drafting your TOC (see Barker 185-186 for examples)
What is modular documentation? What are its features?
What are its benefits and limitations?
|(wk4) F Sept 26||user analysis, modularity, task orientation, cont.
- bring your completed user analysis memo; be prepared to talk about it
- bring anything you need (notes, files, etc.) to work on your TOC
due Monday: a draft of your TOC (table of contents)
|(wk5) M Sept 29||doc plans
- read An Overview and What's a doc plan? (UDrive: pp. 31-39)*
- draft of TOC due for workshop
- look over doc plan handout (see assign #2)
*note: I've divided the readings on doc plans between today and Tues, Oct 5, but you are welcome to read or skim ahead as you draft your TOC -- in particular, Barker's discussion of TOCs on pp. 184-186 should prove helpful.
|(wk5) W Oct 1||doc plans
- Barker Ch 6, "Planning ..." (174-178, 184-186, 191-192, 196-197, 207-213)
- draft of doc plan* due for workshop
recommended: read “Ten Things Every Microsoft Word User Should Know”
|(wk 5) F Oct 3||Visio
- bring your doc plan (including project schedule)
in class activity: you will use Visio to create a chart to submit with your doc plan. You will need access to a copy of your doc plan's project schedule for this exercise.
|(wk6) M Oct 6
ASSIGN #2 DUE
|submit doc plan, introduce Word Challenge
- due: submit your completed doc plan (with Visio chart)
in class: team assignments for the Word challenge (assign #4)
Word Challenge dates, teams TBA:
Demo team #1 - (W Oct 15)
Demo team #2 - (F Oct 17)
Demo team #3 - (W Oct 22)
Demo team #4 - (F Oct 24)
Demo team #5 - (W Oct 29)
Demo team #6 - (F Oct 31)
|(wk6) W Oct 8
||writing prodedures; the good, the bad, and the ugly
- read Barker Ch 3, "Writing to Guide—Procedures" (63-87, esp. 63-73 and 80-87)
- draft 1 module for your first third (this can be a rough draft)
- in class: discuss Word Challenge assignment, as necessary
What is a rhythm (or pattern) of exposition, and why is it important? What does Barker present as the Standard Format, and what features does it commonly include? What are its advantages and disadvantages? What's a hanging indent?
links of possible interest:
Microsoft free trial or try the link from here (do your research before you sign up)
How to set up your Mac to run Windows (dual boot)
|(wk6) F Oct 10||writing to teach, begin drafting the first third
- read Barker Ch 2, "Writing to Teach—Tutorials" (30-54)
in class: discuss module introductions
Which ideas in this chapter seem relevant or helpful for thinking about your Word manual, and why? Of the types of tutorials described in the chapter, which have you encountered? Where? What are the features of the "Quick Start" and how does this type differ from the others? What are some "typical-use scenarios" for users of your Word manual, and how might these influence the organization and structure of the manual? How do elaborative and minimalist approaches differ, and what is the rationale for each approach?
|(wk7) M Oct 13
||COLUMBUS DAY - no classes
|(wk7) Tu Oct 14
Follow Monday schedule
|drafting the first third, mini-workshop
- bring 2-3 print modules to workshop; cont. drafting modules for your first third
- read Barker Ch 12, "Getting the Language Right" and Microsoft Manual of Style, “Punctuation” (171-182, esp. quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and ellipses)
What are en dashes and em dashes? When are they used? How are they different from hypens?
|(wk7) W Oct 15
Last day to drop with 'W'
|drafting the first third, Word Challenge demos begin (assign #4)
- review the Writing Transmittal Letters/memos handout; any questions?
- continue drafting modules for your first third
- begin thinking ahead to user testing in week 10 (who can you ask to test?)
Word Challenge team demo #1
arrange to see me if you have questions/concerns about your performance in the course
|(wk7) F Oct 17||drafting the first third, Word Challenge demos
- bring a full draft of your first third (digital files are ok)
Word Challenge team demo #2
|(wk8) M Oct 20
ASSIGN #3 DUE
|first third due
- first third of Word manual + transmittal memo due
in class: visual hiearchy and page design
|Unit 3: Creating Visual Signposts: Page Design, Typography, Visual Hierarchy|
|(wk8) W Oct 22
||drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge
Word Challenge team demo #3
- read Edward Tufte, "Smallest Effective Difference" from Visual Explanations
- begin drafting modules for your second third
reading questions: What does Tufte mean by "smallest effective difference"? How can this concept be applied to the work we're doing in 380?
|(wk8) F Oct 24||drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge
Word Challenge team demo #4
- continue drafting modules for your second third
|(wk9) M Oct 27|| drafting the 2nd third, page layout
- read about page layout (UDrive)
reading questions + concepts:
What is visual hierarchy, and what are some of the ways you can communicate information hierachy through your design choices?
Be prepared to explain the concept of "negative space" and its application to the page design of your Word manual. Consider, as well, the following concepts as they apply to your current page design: alignment, contrast, enclosure, proximity, power zones.
. . . . .
Read Edward Tufte, "Layering and Separation" in Envisioning Information. Look at the illustrations. Pay attention to how Tufte's redesigns bring more important visual information to the top of the visual hierarchy by quieting down the visual elements that surround it. What does Tufte mean by "1+1 = 3"?
|(wk9) W Oct 29
||typography, drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge
Word Challenge team demo #5
- read about typography (UDrive)
- reassess the page design of your modules -- what needs to change?
- revise one module and bring it to class (digital is ok)
Be able to explain the following concepts and how they might relate to your page design: serif vs. sans serif, leading, justification, rivers (in text), crystal goblet.
|(wk9) F Oct 31||drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge
Word Challenge team demo #6
- bring a more refined version of your page design (should be finalized)
- bring any files you need to work on your draft in the lab
|(wk10) M Nov 3||workshop, drafting the 2nd third
- bring drafted content for your second third to class; print at least one module in color
- bring any files you need to work on your draft in the lab
|(wk10) W Nov 5
ASSIGN #5 DUE
|second third due
- due: second third of Word manual (must be printed in color)+ transmittal memo
in class: we will either do user testing activity or discuss introductions
|Unit 4: User Testing Your Documents|
|(wk10) F Nov 7
- read Document Usability (UDrive)
in class: user testing plans
|(wk11) M Nov 10
||user testing, the last third
- bring a fully-developed draft of the plan for your user test
- continue drafting modules for your last third
concepts (in class): user testing
|(wk11) W Nov 12
Tues, Nov 11 is Veteran's Day
|Follow Tues class schedule
|(wk11) F Nov 14||user testing, the last third, cont.
- complete user testing of your manual with 2-3 users for Monday
|(wk12) M Nov 17
||user testing, drafting the last third|
- due: memo* reporting results of completed user testing (in-class upload to UDrive)
- continue drafting modules for the last third of your manual
additional resources: Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think!, How to do your own testing, sample testing script (for testing websites)
Write up your test findings in a memo addressed to me (1-2 pp). The memo should:
1) explain your test objectives and test design
2) describe your test participants
3) report your findings
4) reflect on the testing process itself
|(wk12) W Nov 19||user testing, drafting the last third
- bring your Word manual files
|(wk12) F Nov 21||drafting the last third; printing and binding
- read about print production (UDrive); see traditional offset printing (video clip)
- finalize your printing plan (see note below)
- bring the files for your manual draft (note that the last third is due on Wed.)
In preparation for printing your manual:
Do some research to decide how and where you will print and bind your manual. Contact local print shops for information on turnaround time, file formats, bindings, prices, hours of operation, and so on. If you plan to use your own color printer, make sure you have enough paper and ink to print your entire manual at high quality, and make sure the paper you plan to use will take the ink without smudging.
|(wk13) M Nov 24||writing the introduction (part I)
|(wk13) W Nov 26
FINAL THIRD DUE
|final third due today
Submit electronic draft of final third, via email, by 8:00pm (email@example.com). This third will not receive formal feedback, but completion is required and will be recorded in the gradebook. Your email message will serve in place of the usual cover memo.
|(wk13) F Nov 28
||THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY - no classes
|(wk14) M Dec 1||writing the introduction (part II)
- bring drafts of your introduction
- make sure you have drafted all required elements of the manual (see handout)
- bring your Word manual files
Your manual should now be completely drafted, and you should be polishing, fine-tuning, and proofreading at this point -- as well as pulling together your final supporting documents. By now, you should also have determined how you will print and bind your manual, as well as contacted print shops for information on hours of operation, turnaround time, file formats, prices, bindings, and so on. Allow ample time for printing and binding. Assume that printing will take longer than you expect, and that something will probably go wrong. You might find this handout helpful, though some of the info may have changed since last year.
|(wk14) W Dec 3||finishing touches
today's prep: TBA
In class: a last chance for feedback and finishing touches. Have your files available to access in the lab. Discuss details for final submission.
|(wk14) F Dec 5
ASSIGN #6 DUE
(COMPLETE WORD GUIDE + SUPPORTING DOCS)
| last day of UMass classes
submit completed Word manual in class
submit hard copy (color, bound) *and* PDF version,
with supporting documentation, as discussed in class
|(wk15) Dec 6-7 -- reading period|
|(wk15) Dec 8-13 -- final exams ... final grades due by midnight, Dec 22