assignments

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.

schedule

This schedule may change to accommodate the needs and pace of the class. Changes will be announced in class.

date agenda, prep, work due today
(wk1) Tu Sept 8


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. 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). If you did not get the email, let me know immediately.
Homework (for next class meeting):*
Read Are You Suffering from the Curse of Knowledge? and The Curse of Knowledge. Recommended reading: Heath and Heath. Reading questions: What is the Curse of Knowledge, and how does it apply to technical writing?

Homework each week is to be completed for the next class meeting
Unit 1: Introduction to Software Documentation—Instructions and Screenshots
(wk1) Th Sept 10 What is the role of the technical writer?

In class: writing instructions, considering audience
- concepts: tacit knowledge, knowledge problem, SMEs
- discuss cookie recipe exercise (due Tuesday)
Homework:
- read Ch 10: Instructions, Procedures ... (UDrive, 221-331)
- complete cookie recipe exercise

Reading questions:
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?
(wk2) Tu Sept 15 Instructions, audience, screenshots

Concepts: instructions, advocating for users, style and genre in tech writing

in class:
- discuss/submit your cookie recipe revisions
- introduce assignment #1
- creating a callout and a caption for your screenshot
homework:
- read Screenshots (UDrive),
- recommended to read: Jerz, How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People
- prepare a draft of Assignment #1 for our next class; include screenshot(s) and callout(s)

reading questions:
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) Th Sept 17 screenshots, workshop assignment #1

in class:
- due: complete draft of instructions assignment #1 to workshop (2 print copies)
- discuss style concepts: stem sentences, imperative/active voice, parallel structure, etc.
- how people "read" screenshots
- workshop Assign #1 drafts
homework:
- revise assignment #1 (due Tues at the start of class)
- read Cooper, Ch 1: Riddles ... (pp. 1-17) from The Inmates are Running the Asylum

reading questions:
What problem(s) does Cooper describe in this reading? This book is a little over 10 years old now; has anything changed since then? Can you relate to any of the examples in this chapter? Why or why not?
(wk3) M Sept 21 Add/Drop Deadline
(wk3) Tu Sept 22

ASSIGN #1 DUE
(SCREENSHOTS)
screenshots, workshop assignment #1

in class:
- due: submit hard copy of assignment #1
- discuss Cooper reading; user interaction, user experience (UX)
- introduce and discuss the Word manual assignment
- begin brainstorming ideas (user focus of your manual)
homework:
- read Barker, "Approach" (xx) "What is" (xxii), Ch 1: "Understanding Task Orientation" (1-22)

reading questions:
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 might thinking about tasks help you plan the organization of your manual?
(wk3) Th Sept 24




Last day to drop with no record
user analysis, introduce Word manual

in class:
- task orientation; 2 levels of tasks
- discuss the doc plan handout (assignment #2)
- discuss your ideas for user focus; begin user analysis
- if time permits: discuss user research memo and begin preparing questions

Note: You are not required to buy/obtain any software for this class, but some of you may be interested in this free trial of Microsoft Office for students. The program is relatively new, but it appears to give you 3 months for free if you use your .edu email address. Make sure to read the fine print before you sign up. UMass also offers discounted pricing on Microsoft software through GovConnection. Mac users may be interested in How to set up your Mac to run Windows (dual boot).
homework:
- read Barker Ch 5, "Analyzing Your Users" (118-129, 136-141)
- read Weiss, pp. 52-53 and 82-87 on modular documentation (UDrive) and Barker (361-363)
- finalize your user focus for the Word manual
- optional: begin your user interviews

reading questions: Why conduct a user analysis? What are some strategies for conducting a user analysis? How can your user analysis inform the design of your documentation?
What is modular documentation? What are its features? What are its benefits and limitations?
Unit 2: Planning the Documentation Project—User Analysis, Doc Plans, and Modular Design
(wk4) Tu Sept 29

user analysis, modularity, drafting your TOC

in class:
- be prepared to report out on your user focus (for Word manual) and research thus far
- discuss modularity (Weiss, Barker), planning the contents of your manual
- begin drafting your TOC
homework:
Your user research memo is due on Thursday. It should summarize (1) your process (who you interviewed, how you prepared and conducted the interview) and (2) the key findings from the interview process: what did you learn about your interviewees' day-to-day activities, motivations, culture, software use/experience, and so on? Tasks? (3) Explain how your findings affect your thinking about the user manual and what its contents should be?
(wk4) Th Oct 1 in class:
- due: submit your user research memo
- bring anything you need (notes, files, etc.) to work on your TOC
- workshop your TOC

homework: revise your TOC and draft your doc plan for workshop on Tuesday
(wk5) Tu Oct 6




user analysis, modularity, task orientation, cont.

in class:
- due: doc plan draft for workshop
- Visio
- as time permits: time to revise your doc plan

homework: revise your doc plan to submit on Thursday (due at the beginning of class)
(wk5) Th Oct 8

ASSIGN #2 DUE
(DOC PLAN)
submit doc plan, introduce Word Challenge

in class:
- due: submit your completed doc plan
- team assignments for the Word challenge (assign #4)
- time to work in groups

Word Challenge dates, teams TBA:
Demo team #1 - (Tu Oct 20)
Demo team #2 - (Th Oct 22)
Demo team #3 - (Tu Nov 3)
Demo team #4 - (Tu Nov 3)
Demo team #5 - (Th Nov 5)
Demo team #6 - (Tu Nov 10)

homework:
- draft 1-2 modules for your first third
- read Barker Ch 3, "Writing to Guide—Procedures" (63-87)

reading questions:
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?
(wk6) M Oct 12 no class - Columbus Day
(wk6) Tu Oct 13 no class - treat as a Monday
(wk6) Th Oct 15 writing prodedures; the good, the bad, and the ugly

in class:
- discuss reading (Procedures)
- any questions about your first module(s)?
- group activity: evaluating sample manuals
- review team challenge presentation guidelines
homework:
- continue drafting modules for your first third; bring 2-3 modules (print) to workshop on Tu
- read Barker Ch 2, "Writing to Teach—Tutorials" (30-54)

reading questions:
How do elaborative and minimalist approaches differ, and what is the rationale for each approach? 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?
(wk7) Tu Oct 20

>> MAP

writing to teach, workshop the first third

in class:
- due: Word challenge team demo #1
- due: bring 2-3 modules
- discuss module introductions
- mini-workshop
homework:
- read Barker Ch 12, "Getting the Language Right" and Microsoft Manual of Style, “Punctuation” (171-182, esp. quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and ellipses)
- finish drafting modules for your first third; bring full draft for workshop

reading questions:
What are en dashes and em dashes? When are they used? How are they different from hypens?
(wk7) Th Oct 22

Mid-semester date
(the last day to drop with 'W')
drafting the first third, Word Challenge (demos begin)

in class:
- due: Word challenge team demo #2
- due: bring a full draft of your first third (digital files are ok)
- review the Writing Transmittal Letters/memos handout; any questions?

mid-semester check-in
arrange to see me if you have questions/concerns about your performance in the course
homework
- revise and polish your first third: due on Tuesday at the start of class (graded)
Unit 3: Creating Visual Signposts: Page Design, Typography, Visual Hierarchy
(wk8) Tu Oct 27

ASSIGN #3 DUE
(1ST THIRD)
Visual hierarchy, drafting the 2nd third

in class:
- due: first third, transmittal memo
- discuss visual hierarchy
- browse Ch 7 on reviews, cover letters for reviewers (225), walkthroughs
homework:
- read Edward Tufte, "Smallest Effective Difference" from Visual Explanations
- begin thinking ahead to user testing in week 10 (who can you ask to test?)

reading questions: What does Tufte mean by "smallest effective difference"? How can this concept be applied to the work we're doing in 380?

recommended: 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.

(wk8) Th Oct 29


drafting the 2nd third, visual page design

Reading on visual hierarchy/design; written reading response/activity
homework:
- read about page design/layout (UDrive)
- begin to analyze and reassess your page design(s) up to this point
- begin drafting modules for your 2nd third

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 zone
(wk9) Tu Nov 3 drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge (demos cont.)

in class:
- Word Challenge team demos #3 and #4
- discuss readings, Tufte, as time permits
homework:
- continue drafting 2nd third (at least 1 module of content)
- 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) Th Nov 5


typography, Word Challenge

in class:
- Word Challenge team demo #5
- workshop focusing on page design
homework:
- finish drafting 2nd third for Tuesday (workshop)
(wk10) Tu Nov 10 Word Challenge, drafting the 2nd third

in class:
- Word Challenge team demo #6
- workshop full draft 2nd third
homework: revise and polish your 2nd third (due Thurs, printed in color)
(wk10) Wed Nov 11 Veterans' Day - no classes
Unit 4: User Testing Your Documents
(wk10) Th Nov 12

ASSIGN #5 DUE
(2ND THIRD)

drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

in class:
- due: second third of Word manual (must be printed in color)+ transmittal memo
- group activity: user testing
homework:
- read Document Usability (UDrive)
- begin drafting your user test plan
(wk11) Tu Nov 17


user testing, drafting the last third

in class:
- user testing, discuss your user testing ideas
homework:
- bring a fully-developed draft of the plan for your user test
- you may begin testing
- continue drafting modules for your last third

additional resources: Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think!, How to do your own testing, sample testing script (for testing websites)
(wk11) Th Nov 19 user testing, drafting the last third

in class:
- bring a fully-developed draft of the plan for your user test
- continue drafting modules for your last third
homework:
- finish user testing of your manual with 2-3 users and write memo (due Tuesday)
- continue drafting modules for your last third

*memo details
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) Tu Nov 24





user testing, drafting the last third

in class:
- due: memo* reporting results of completed user testing (in-class upload to UDrive)
- report out on the findings of your test
- continue drafting modules for the last third of your manual
- think about cover design
homework:
- finish drafting the last third of your modules (due Dec 1)
- read about print production (UDrive); see traditional offset printing (video clip)
- figure out your printing plan (see note below)

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.
(wk12) W Nov 25 Thanksgiving recess begins after last class
(wk12) Th Nov 26 Thanksgiving holiday
(wk13) Tu Dec 1


FINAL THIRD DUE
final third due, writing the introduction (part I)

In class:
- Submit electronic draft of final third, via email, to jlsolber@english.umass.edu.*
- writing the introduction (part I); thinking about front matter, TOC, etc.
- time to work on your manual

*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) Th Dec 3

writing the introduction (part II)

today's prep:
- 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.
(wk14) Tu Dec 8
feedback and finishing touches

in class:
- Have your files available to access in the lab; last chance for feedback and finishing touches
- Discuss details for final submission
(wk14) Th Dec 10

ASSIGN #6 DUE
(COMPLETE WORD GUIDE + SUPPORTING DOCS)
final manual due

in class:
- submit Word manual (as hard copy) and final cover memo
- submit digital PDF copy of manual (as discussed in class)
- in-class activity
Have a safe and happy holiday break!
(wk14) F Dec 11 -- last day of UMass classes
(wk16) Dec 12-13 -- reading period
(wk16) Dec 14-19 -- final exams -- Grades due Dec 28

resources

UMass student discount on Microsoft software
Microsoft Office 365 for students.
Online storage/backup tools: UDrive, Google Apps at UMass, Google Drive, Dropbox