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English 318, Section 05, Fall 1997


New Mexico State University

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD
  • CLASS MEETINGS: TTh, 8:55  - 10:10 a.m, MH 163
  • OFFICE: EN 218
  • OFFICE HOURS: TTh, 10:30 -11:30 a.m., & by appt.
  • PHONE: 646-3931 (English Dept.), 646-2239 (office/voice mail)
  • EMAIL:

  • Objectives | Assignments | Policies | Texts | Grades | Calendar

    1. Objectives.

    English 318 is an advanced writing course for upper-level undergraduates in scientific and technical fields.  Students in the course receive practice in producing effective and responsible professional communication; and they are introduced to central problems in the rhetoric of science and technology.

    As part of their general education requirements, all NMSU students must take at least two writing courses.  The first is English 111.  For students in scientific and technical majors, the second course is usually either English 218, Technical and Scientific Communication, or English 318, Advanced Technical and Professional Communication.  The two differ in that English 318 is restricted to juniors and seniors; it is intended for students who are further along in their majors and already working on projects that require significant writing.  English 318 students are expected to bring material from their own majors into all writing assignments.

    Writing is an important part of professional life.  Although scientists, engineers, and other professionals don’t always think of what they do in terms of writing, the situations in which they operate are typically saturated with written discourse of various kinds: reports, proposals, manuals, journals, papers, memos, letters, books, etc.  Because writing is so pervasive, it is easy to overlook.  It’s also easy to think that writing skills are "natural," that you’re either born with them or not.  It is probably more accurate to think of writing as both highly constitutive of "content" (i.e., knowledge, character, community, action, etc.) and highly artificial: capable of being learned, analyzed, and changed.

    I come at the study of writing from the perspective of rhetoric.  Rhetoric is a 2,000-year-old discipline that has its roots in ancient Greece and was the centerpiece of secondary and higher education from before the Roman Empire to, in many places, the 19th Century.  Rhetoric has meant many things to many people; I define it as the study of good speaking and writing, where "good" here is intentionally ambiguous; it can refer to discourse that is either variously or simultaneously correct, intelligent, elegant, effective, and responsible.  Classical and medieval rhetoricians confined their study of discourse to oral, public speeches -- the language of the senate, bar, and pulpit.  Later, rhetoricians began to look more closely at written texts, especially those associated with the academy (e.g., philosophical, historical, and literary discourse).  Recently, rhetoricians have turned their gaze to scientific, technical, and workplace communication.  In such contexts, one finds complex rhetorical problems worthy of sustained theoretical and practical attention.

    The study of good speaking and writing can take many forms.  For example, rhetoricians have developed various "arts" to help speakers and writers actually produce "good" discourse.  An "art" of rhetoric is more often than not a metalanguage for isolating, understanding, and managing communication goals, resources, and situations.  In this course, we'll learn one such art.  But learning the art is useless if one doesn’t practice applying it.  I will simulate some of the situations which call forth professional communication in the interest of improving your ability to handle them.  You'll be asked to identify yourself in different ways, as a member of various communities or "publics," to imagine writing to different kinds of audiences, and to practice writing about different topics for various purposes.  Finally, in addition to art and practice, rhetoric is also a kind of criticism, a perspective on discourse that can help people not only produce language but better understand, analyze, and criticize it.

    2. Assignments.

    Work in the course will proceed through lectures, readings, discussions, workshops, and written and oral projects.  You are expected to read assigned texts on time and with care.  For each of the five reserve readings, you will write a one-page response (summary, criticism, analysis, or elaboration) to be turned it in at the beginning of class on the day the reading is to be discussed.  And you are expected to participate in all class discussions.

    As for the projects, there will be five: 1) a rhetorical analysis of writing in your field; 2) a technical report of actions taken or progress made in some project, experiment, course, trip, or work experience; 3) an instructions manual for a technology or procedure used in your field; 4) an oral presentation of a technical concept made understandable and interesting for an audience of non-experts; and 5) a letter of application to a prospective employer for a position in your field.  These five projects embody different genres, different audiences, different objectives, and different problems; doing them all well will require open-mindedness, flexibility, hard work, and attention on your part.

    3. Policies.

    Regular attendance is essential for success in this class.  Students who, for any reason, miss two (2) consecutive class meetings or three (3) total class meetings before the last day to withdraw from the course (Oct. 15) will be reported to the dean with a recommendation that they be dropped from the course.  Attendance will be considered in final evaluations; a poor attendance record (4 or more absences) will adversely affect your grade.  Although the university does not recognize "excused" absences, if you anticipate being absent from class, notify me.  You are responsible for making up work missed due to absence, although such work may be penalized.  Late arrival to class may also be counted as an absence.

    Papers should be turned in at the beginning of class on the date due and either typed or word-processed.  Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each day late.

    As for plagiarism, it is academically dishonest, and often illegal, to present someone else’s ideas or writing as your own.  You cannot use even short phrases or parts of sentences obtained from other sources unless you properly document those sources.  Documentation includes marking quotations as well as providing notes, citations, and a reference list.  In addition, it is academically dishonest to submit your own previously written work for a current assignment or to submit an assignment in more than one class without the prior permission of the instructors.  Plagiarism and academic misconduct of any kind may constitute grounds for failing the course and may result in further disciplinary action according to university policy.  Consult the NMSU Student Handbook regarding your responsibilities and rights concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

    If you have a disability that affects you as a student in this class, you are invited to notify me and/or to call the Disabled Student Programs Office at 646-1921.  Your notification will remain confidential.

    4. Texts.

    Readings in the class will come from the following required texts:
  • Killingsworth, M. Jimmie. (1996). Information in Action: A Guide to Technical Communication. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (Killingsworth)
  • Brusaw, Charles T., Gerald J. Alred, & Walter E. Oliu. (1997). Handbook of Technical Writing, 5th ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press. (Handbook)
  • Williams, Joseph M. (1997). Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 5th ed. New York: Longman. (Williams)
  • In addition, there are five (5) articles on reserve in New Library.  These are:
  • Fahnestock, Jeanne. (1986). Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts. Written Communication, 3(3): 275-296. (Fahnestock)
  • MacDonald, Susan Peck. (1994). Sentence-Level Differences in Disciplinary Knowledge-Making. Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 147-69. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP. (MacDonald)
  • McCarthy, Lucille Parkinson. (1991). A Psychiatrist Using DSM-III: The Influence of a Charter Document in Psychiatry. In Charles Bazerman & James Paradis (Eds.), Textual Dynamics of the Professions: Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities, 358-78. Madison: U of Wisconsin P. (McCarthy)
  • Paradis, James. (1991). Text and Action: The Operator’s Manual in Context and in Court. In Charles Bazerman & James Paradis (Eds.), Textual Dynamics of the Professions: Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities, 256-78. Madison: U of Wisconsin P. (Paradis)
  • Swales, John, & Hazem Najjar. (1987). The Writing of Research Article Introductions. Written Communication, 4(2): 175-191. (Swales & Najjar)

  • 5. Grades.

    Evaluating extended discourse, whether written or oral, especially when one is concerned with more than grammatical or factual correctness, is an inexact science.  Nonetheless, valid and reliable grading of student writing is possible.  I will try to provide you with grading criteria for each project.  I'll also give you feedback on drafts and proposals; and you’ll have the benefit of peer critique as well.  In addition, I’ll provide you with model texts, including papers written by your peers.  Finally, for most of the assignments, you’ll have the chance to turn in a revised paper for a new grade (but note that you can only revise once and the revision must be turned in no later than one week after receiving the original grade).  If, at any time, you think my grading unfair or incomprehensible, please talk with me about it.

    I use letter grades on papers but translate these to numbers for computing your final grade.  Rough numerical equivalents for letter grades are as follows:

  • A+ 97-100
  • A 94-96
  • A- 90-93
  • B+ 87-89
  • B 84-86 Poor
  • B- 80-83
  • C+ 77-79
  • C 74-76
  • C- 70-73
  • D+ 67-69
  • D 64-66
  • D- 60-63
  • Your final grade will be computed using the following formula:
  • Summaries (@2% ea. X 5)   10%
  • Exercises (@1.25% ea. X 4)   5%
  • Peer critiques (@1% ea. X 5)   5%
  • Project 1 (rhetorical analysis), incl. core doc.  16%
  • Project 2 (technical report), incl. core doc.  16%
  • Project 3 (procedures manual), incl. core doc.  16%
  • Project 4 (oral presentation), incl. core doc.  16%
  • Project 5 (letter & resumé)   16%
  • Final Grade   = 100%

  • Calendar

    Week 01 Th Aug 21 • Introduction to class;
    • assign Project 1, Rhetorical Analysis

    Week 02 Tu Aug 26 • read Killingsworth, ch. 1, “Rhetoric, Management, and Ethics in Technical Communication,” pp. 5-43;
    • read Paradis, “Text and Action: The Operator’s Manual in Context and in Court”;
    • Summary 1 due
     Th Aug 28 • read Swales & Najjer, “The Writing of Research Article Introductions”;
    • Summary 2 due

    Week 03 Tu Sep 02 • core document 1 due;
    • read MacDonald, “Sentence-Level Differences in Disciplinary Knowledge-Making”;
    • Summary 3 due
     Th Sept 4 • read McCarthy, “A Psychiatrist Using DSM-III: The Influence of a Charter Document in Psychiatry”;
    • Summary 4 due

    Week 04 Tu Sep 09 • read Fahnestock, “Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts”;
    • Summary 5 due
     Th Sep 11 • read Killingsworth, ch. 7, “Editing and Polishing,”
    pp. 227-239
    • peer critique 1

    Week 05 Tu Sep 16 • Project 1 due;
    • workshop in rhetorical invention
    • Exercise 1
     Th Sep 18 • workshop in rhetorical structure
    • Exercise 2

    Week 06 Tu Sep 23 • workshop in rhetorical style;
    • read Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace;
    • Exercise 3
     Th Sep 25 • workshop in rhetorical style;
    • read Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace;
    • Project 1 rewrite due (optional);
    • Exercise 4

    Week 07 Tu Sep 30 • assign Project 2, Technical Report
     Th Oct 02 • core document 2 due;
    • read Killingsworth, ch. 8: “Technical Reports,” & ch. 9, “Experimental Reports and Scientific Papers,” pp. 243-337

    Week 08 Tu Oct 07 • read Killingsworth, ch. 6: “Designing an Effective Document,” pp. 178-216
     Th Oct 09 • peer critique 2

    Week 09 Tu Oct 14 • Project 2 due;
    • assign Project 3, User’s Instructions
     Th Oct 16 • core document 3 due;
    • read Killingsworth, ch. 12, “Technical Manuals,”
    pp. 433-487

    Week 10 Tu Oct 21 • read Killingsworth, ch. 3: “Developing Purposeful Graphics,” pp. 82- 129
     Th Oct 23 • peer critique 3;
    • Project 2 rewrite due (optional);

    Week 11 Tu Oct 28 • Project 3 due;
    • assign Project 4, Oral Presentation
     Th Oct 30 • core document 4 due;
    • read Killingsworth, ch. 4: “Planning and Delivering Oral Presentations,” pp. 130-151

    Week 12 Tu Nov 04 • practice presentations
     Th Nov 06 • peer critique 4;
    • Project 3 rewrite due (optional)

    Week 13 Tu Nov 11 • Project 4 presentations
     Th Nov 13 • Project 4 presentations

    Week 14 Tu Nov 18 • Project 4 presentations
     Th Nov 20 • Project 4 presentations

    Week 15 Tu Nov 25 • assign Project 5, letter of application
     Th Nov 27 • Thanksgiving Holiday

    Week 16 Tu Dec 02 • peer critique 5;
    • read Killingsworth, ch. 13: “Correspondence,”
    pp. 491-526;
    • Project 4 self-evaluation due (optional)
     Th Dec 04 Last day of classes

    Week 17 Tu Dec 09 Exam Week
     Th Dec 11