Course Goals | Required Texts and Technologies | Projects | How to succeed | Grading Policy | Attendance | Dropping the Course | Due Dates and Submissions | Technology Requirements | Plagiarism | ADA and Religious Holiday Statement | Back to Index

Schedule for ENGL 4810

Schedule and readings subject to change

Course Blog



Class Plan

Class Preparation/ Assignment Due

Jan. 15


Introductions and expectations

Sign up for presentations

Discuss blogs (for example, Wordpress) and making writing accessible


Jan. 20

What is technical and professional writing?

Discuss Miller

Miller, C. R. (1979). A humanistic rational for technical writing. College English, 40(6), 610-617.

Miller, C. R. (1989). What’s Practical about Technical Writing. In B. E. Fearing & W. K. Sparrow (Eds.), Technical Writing Theory and Practice (pp. 14-24). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Jan. 22

The Workplace: Knowing your audience

Discuss the workplace and postings

Solving Problems in Technical Communication (SPTC)


2: What are the work patterns in technical communication?

3: How can technical communicators fit into contemporary organizations?

Blog Posting 1

Jan. 27


Discuss Interview Assignment

Discuss Ethnographies

Macnealy, M. S. (1999). Ethnography. Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing (pp. 214-231). New York: Longman.

Bring a printed draft of your letter to someone to interview and a draft list of questions to class.

Jan. 29


Discuss Geertz, practice thick description

Geertz, C. (1973). Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture. The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.

Feb. 3


Ethnography Practice

Bring a notebook/clipboard. We’re going on a fieldtrip to the student union.

Feb. 5


Discuss Ethnography Practice Results

Blog Posting 2 due BEFORE class.

Extra Credit Assignment (3 points): Following this class, submit to me ~300 words outlining your plan for a formal ethnography based on our informal ethnography and discussions. Provide a research question, method, and what you (would) hope to accomplish, all supported with references to our informal work. Please submit your extra credit by February 24.


Feb. 10


From student to professional

SPTC 4: How can technical communicators develop as both students and professionals?

Guest: Aaron Alford, Managing Editor of Southern Humanities Review

Feb. 12


Presentation 1


Feb. 17

Technical and Professional Writing—History and Power

Discuss Longo


Longo: Introduction-Ch. 2


Feb. 19


Discuss Longo and postings

Longo: 3-4

Blog Posting 3

Assignment 1 Due: Interview and analysis

Feb. 24


Discuss Longo

Discuss Workplace Analysis progress

Longo: 5-6


Feb. 26


Discuss Longo

Longo: 7-Conclusion


Mar. 3


Presentation 2


Mar. 5


Review for Midterm/ discuss eportfolios/ Discuss Assignment 3

Discuss eportfolios

Mar. 10



Midterm Exam

Mar. 12



Bring a past paper to class--we'll start discussion on these if time permits.

Guest: Jeana Baker

Mar. 17


No class in classroom

SPTC 9: How can technical communicators work in an ethical and legal manner?


Mar. 19


No class in classroom

Work on your reading response, choose platform and begin eportfolio

SPTC 10: How can technical communicators plan for users?

Blog Posting 4

Assignment 2 Due: Workplace Analysis

Mar. 31

The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences and Ethics

Discuss Rhetoric of Inquiry and your individual readings

SPTC 5: How can rhetoric inform the practice of technical communication?

ROHS 1: Rhetoric of Inquiry

Apr. 2



ROHS: Reader's choice (other than 5, 8, or 20). Be prepared to offer a 3 - 5 minute overview of the chapter you chose in class

Apr. 7


Discuss Darwin & rhetoric

Discuss portfolios, look at examples

ROHS 5: Charles Darwin: Rhetorician of Science

Apr. 9


Discuss citation formats/Bazerman, Discuss the intellectual’s role in society

ROHS 8: Codifying the Social Scientific Style: The APA Publication Manual as a Behaviorist Rhetoric

ROHS 20: The Rhetoric of Social Science: the political Responsibilities of the Scholar

Blog Posting 5

Apr. 14


Presentation 3



Apr. 16



Rhetoric test (in class)

Apr. 21



On writing

SPTC 15: What do technical communicators need to know about writing?

Assignment 3: Paper Revision Due Before Midnight, April 22

Have a copy of your paper ready to share (either in hardcopy or electronically) in class for peer review and discussion

Apr. 23


Workshop résumé

Workshop portfolios

SPTC 16: What do technical communicators need to know about information design?

Bring existing résumé to class

Example résumés:

Apr. 28


Workshop Portfolios

General work day

Meet in HC 3143

Apr. 30


Workshop Portfolios

Peer review of cover memo day

Bring draft of cover memo to class

Meet in HC 3143




ePortfolios due by end of exam period, May 4, 8:00-10:30 AM.


Course Goals

During your time as a student at Auburn University you have taken many classes, written many papers, and taken many tests. You have developed as a professional, and as a scholar. This Capstone course in Professional Writing will ask you to expand upon work you have done in other courses to consider what it means to be a professional. Course readings and assignments will ask you to contextualize existing work against different rhetorical frameworks and consider the role of writing in both academic and nonacademic workplaces. In considering how writing works, you will develop and apply your knowledge of effective writing, organization, editing, and design. Assignments will include presentations, reading responses, the construction of a professional portfolio, and writings designed to both reflect on the design process and analyze rhetoric associated with different writing styles and exigencies.
By the time you complete this course, you should be able to:

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Required Texts and Technologies

Longo, B. (2000). Spurious coin: A history of science, management, and technical writing. SUNY Press.

Nelson, J. S., Megill, A., and McCloskey, D. N. (1987). The rhetoric of the human sciences: Language and argument in scholarship and public affairs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Johnson-Eilola, J., and Selber, S. A. (2013). Solving problems in technical communication. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

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  1. Interview and Analysis: Interviw someone who has a job that you would eventually like to do one day. If you want to go into editing a scientific publication, for example, pick out a scientific journal, find out who edits that journal, and get in touch with them. Ideally, you should find someone who works for an organization, or in an industry, that you want to go in to. You may conduct your interview electronically, in person, or over the phone. Write up a report summarizing your interview. The content you write (not including interview responses) should be roughly 500 words long. (10) To effectively complete this assignment, you should:
          1. Identify an organization, a job within that organization, and an individual to whom you will be writing
          2. Develop a short list of questions to either ask in person or email. For credit on this assignment you must include some version of questions listed in bold. Questions should be designed to help you understand what they do, and how they got that job. For example, you might ask:
              1. What are the primary responsibilities of your job?
              2. How did you get in to this line of work?
              3. Could you take me through, briefly, a standard day in your line of work?
              4. What would be your advice to someone who wants to get in to this line of work?
              5. How does writing play into your job on a daily basis?
          3. Write and proofread an interview request--please take time to make this polite and professional
          4. Submit a report which includes:
              1. A brief summary of the workplace your interviewee is in and a brief bio of your interviewee
              2. The reason you selected this workplace and person
              3. Your list of questions and their answers
              4. A section discussing what you learned from their responses
  2. Workplace Analysis: Based on the methods discussed in class, conduct an ethnography of a workplace of your choosing (make sure you obtain appropriate permissions). Write up your findings in the form of a 1500 word scientific report using the IMRAD format. (10)

  3. Rewrite/revise an existing paper written at any point in your college career in light of course readings. Include revised paper, extensive justification for revisions (and examples), and explanation of intended impact of revisions re: audience and purpose. You should refer extensively to the literature we have discussed in class. The reflective component of the paper should total 1000-1500 words. (15)

  4. Group Presentation: Working as a group (4 - 5 people), plan an entire class day designed to sum up the material/lessons covered in the previous section of class and solidify potential workplace application. Your day should consist of AT LEAST a lecture/presentation component, a discussion component, and an activity. EACH INDIVIDUAL GROUP MEMBER must have a speaking role of at least 5 minutes: Rather than having you present a final project at the end of class, your speaking role in this presentation will be used to assess your oral communication skills as required Auburn University student learning objective 7. (10)

  5. Create a professional eportfolio that is representative of you and your abilities. (20)

    This portfolio has three major parts.
    • 7.5 Points: A reflective cover memo (2000 words) which explains your document choices in relation to our class readings. This should be full of references to both theory and practical application. Use APA for citations. In this document you should discuss theories relevant to professional and public writing, and discuss how you specifically apply those theories in the documents you chose to include in your portfolio.
    • 5 Points: Résumé
    • 7.5 Points: 5 well-edited, carefully-chosen pieces of work from any classes you have taken at the university you believe to be representative of you as a writer, formatted into a professional-quality portfolio. Your grade for this aspect of the include will include both your revisions and the way in which you present your professional portfolio. Please make your choices specific to your post-graduation intentions/ If, for example, you intend to go into editing, please make sure that your portfolio includes evidence of your editing skills (documents showing markup, for example).

  6. Blog Postings (5): Blog postings should be clear, coherent, well-edited, and cite source material where appropriate. Either use APA style, and append references to the end of each posting, or direct the audience to the source material through hyperlinks and parenthetical citation. 15 points: 3/posting, at least 300 words/posting.

  7. I encourage you to use the blog as a reflective tool as well--consider using it as a place to write up your thoughts on our discussions and as a place to try to make sense of what we are learning. My own blog, for example, is located here.

    Each posting will be written in response to one of the following prompts:

      1. What is the role of the technical/professional writer, and how has the material from any one of your NON English-based classes helped prepare you for better technical/professional communication?

      2. What is the importance of audience analysis and understanding the workplace for a technical/professional writer? Reflect on a paper or assignment completed for a different class, and consider how audience analysis/workplace ethnography might help you re-envision this work for improvement, your portfolio, or another purpose altogether. Make sure you consider our recent class research.

      3. How does codified academic knowledge (like that found in textbooks) work to discipline you towards particular ways of knowing?

      4. Examine a paper written for any other class: What was the role of rhetoric in shaping the information you used to form the basis of the paper? For this posting read any other chapter in SPTC that you feel applies to your work.

      5. You’ve been asked to cite source material all through your university career. How do the different styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, ACS, etc.) meditate the way we present and read information?

  8. Midterm: (10)
  9. Rhetoric test: (10)

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You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0).

Grades on assignments will be determined according to the following criteria:

Projects submitted more than 7 days after the due date will not be accepted for a grade (they will receive a zero), though I will be happy to look over the project and offer constructive commentary.

Team Assignments

Team assignments receive grades based on group and individual work. It is possible that unsatisfactory participation in team assignments will result in a lower participation grade or a lower grade on the team assignment itself. You may be called upon to evaluate your own or your team members' performance on group assignments.

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The following policies intend to help you develop and display professional work habits, both in individual and team work. These habits include meeting deadlines, doing required work, and regular attendance. Please read these policies carefully.

How to Succeed in this Course

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Attendance and Tardiness Policy

*While all students should plan to attend every class, graduate students, in particular, should not miss class. Ever.

You are allowed 2 unexcused absences in this class. All unexcused absences beyond 2 will result in a loss of 1 point from your final semester's point total for each absence.

The 2 absences that do not deduct points from your grade are not considered "allowed," "free," or "permitted"-- they only result in no points being deducted from your grade. Any quizzes or participation grades given on a day when you are absent without documentation will result in a grade of zero (0) for that quiz/participation assignment and may not be made up.

Do not show up late to class. If a participation grade or quiz is given during the first 15 minutes and a student arrives late, a grade of zero (0) will be received for that assignment.

A student will be excused from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for documented University-approved functions (such as competing in an athletic event), or the observance of a religious holy day and the time necessary to travel for this observance. The student will not be penalized for the absence and will be permitted to take an exam or complete an assignment missed during the excused absence. The policy applies only to the documented University-approved events and official holy days of tax-exempt religious institutions. No prior notification of the instructor is required, though is requested.

Other than exceptions related to university-related events and religious circumstances, only a note from a doctor or death notice for an immediate family member will result in an absence being excused. Personal circumstances are not considered acceptable for excusing an absence.

Please see Auburn University's policies for additional materials relating to what constitutes an "excused" absence.

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Dropping the Course

If you drop the course, you must do so in person at the Office of the Registrar. I cannot drop you from the course. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of the drop dates.

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Due Dates and Submission Technology

You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0). It is your responsibility to turn in your work on time. Computer-related excuses will not be accepted. In the event of difficulties with our course management system (i.e., Canvas), you may email me your work to get it in on time, though you will still be responsible for submitting it through the appropriate channels when the difficulties are resolved. If you believe you have a legitimate excuse for submitting late work you may submit to me a formal appeal. I reserve the right to reject your appeal.

If you are absent the day a physical assignment is due, I will not accept the work via email. You must make arrangements with me to submit work before the deadline or put your work in my department mailbox. If extenuating circumstances apply (see below), your work will be due the day after your return from your athletic event or the day after you attend the emergency appointment or funeral.

Electronic documents must be saved in the following format: lastname_firstinitial_assignmentname.

Documents saved in the .docx format are generally compatible across systems. However, formatting is a major aspect of this class. To that end, you may wish to save your file as a .pdf to insure that all formatting appears to me exactly as you intended. There are several free options available to you, beyond those offered by most office software suites, including bullzip,pdfill, and cutepdf, among others. The excuse "it didn't look like that on my computer" will not be accepted.

I may give quizzes at any time during the class. These quizzes cover the specified readings, but they may also cover material introduced in previous classes/chapters. I do not offer make-up quizzes for any reason other than absences for university business (and only with proper university documentation), documented illness (a clinic must document the episode of illness if you have a chronic illness), or the death of an immediate family member. Additionally, late homework exercises will not be accepted under any circumstances.

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Basic Technology Requirements


You are expected to be familiar with the day-to-day operation of computers including email (and sending attachments) and standard software. If you are not familiar with basic computing skills, speak to me as soon as possible, so that we can familiarize you with basic procedures.

You are also expected to have regular access to computing technology whether it be your computer at home or the computers provided by the university. The statement, "I don't have access to a computer" is not acceptable.

Hardware and Disk Media Requirements

It is your responsibility to ensure that the computer(s) and disk(s) you use are functional and that you have, in the case of technological failure, backed up your data. Bring a USB drive to class, keep your work on it, and keep your work updated.

Email Requirement

You are required to have a viable email account.

When sending email to me, your instructor, or to your classmates, please ensure the subject line is formatted as:

RE: ENGL 7030- [Your Last Name]

Identifying emails from students is difficult, especially when sent from accounts outside of the university. If you do not include a valid subject line it may go straight to junk mail, or I may delete your email myself.

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Plagiarism includes any use of words or ideas of another writer that would allow readers unfamiliar with the source to assume that the words or ideas originated with you. THIS INCLUDES USE OF IMAGES. Policy does not allow me to judge whether an instance of plagiarism is accidental or deliberate. If I find in your work 1) another writer's work inserted without quotation marks or acknowledgment, 2) a close, unacknowledged paraphrase of someone else's writing, or 3) another writer's research or analysis presented without acknowledgment, then I will treat it like a plagiarized assignment and deal with it appropriately. Sanctions range from failing the assignment to expulsion from the university. I take the issue of plagiarism very seriously, and will enforce the university's plagiarism policies to their full extent.

Please see Auburn University's policies relating to plagiarism and penalties.

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Special Needs

Auburn University makes reasonable accommodations for people with documented disabilities. I will adapt methods, materials, or testing for equitable participation. During the first week of class, set up a meeting with me. Bring the Accommodation Memo and Instructor Verification Form to the meeting and discuss what you need for equitable participation in this class. If you do not have an Accommodation Memo but need special accommodations, make an appointment with the Program for Students with Disabilities (Haley Center 1244; 334-844-2096; or All communication between a student, the Program for Students with Disabilities, and his or her professor is confidential.

Religious Holidays

Students requiring to miss class due to the observance of an officially recognized religious holy day are asked to consult with me in advance so we can schedule missed work accordingly.