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English 2950: Scientific and Technical Report Writing
In the summer of 2009, recognizing the impact new technology has had on professional and technical communication and new opportunities for students to participate in community engagement, a group of UT instructors explorednew assignments and learning objectives for this course in order to make it fit contemporary situations that our students will encounter in their career fields. Students are encouragedto explore writing done by technical professionals and to engage new media as they study technical and scientific writing in this course.
This common syllabus is a key for instructors to use in developing their individual course syllabi if they have been assignedto teach sections ofENGL2950 at theUniversityofToledo. Technical writing is an important skill for persons in many scientific and technical professions, and our students have benefitedfrom the lessons in this course for many generations.
To ensure that all students share a uniform experience, all instructors of ENGL 2950 should use the material that follows as the foundation for a customized syllabus.
Course Description and Overview
ENGL2950 Scientific and Technical Report Writing [3 hours]: Instruction and practice in writing informational and analytical reports to variedaudiences in medical, scientific or technical fields. Prerequisite:ENGL1100 or 1110 English core course
The core of this course consists of the following four skill areas.
- Research Skills (using primary and library research to discover information)
- Correspondence Skills (learning the generic conventions of each)
- Explanatory or Demonstrative Writing Skills (to disseminate technical information to either non-technical or technical readers, such as descriptions, instructions, informational handouts, FAQs, etc. [not persuasive, per se])
- Visual and Multimedia Communication Skills (may appear as separate assignments or as components of other assignments)
Course Learning Objectives
Note:The Higher Learning Commission of Ohio now requires that all course syllabi include a list of course learning objectives. These course learning objectives must be included as written on your syllabus.
First, students in Composition II courses will be expected to continually build upon and strengthen the learning outcomes from Composition I (ENGL 1110); the following are the learning outcomes for Composition I:
- Establish a purpose and create a thesis in their own writing and be able to identify purpose and thesis in the writing of others (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge);
- Demonstrate the knowledge of how genres influence reading and writing by producing writing in multiple genres and by incorporating various tools of arrangement, including the successful use of organizational patterns, transitional and topic sentences, and audience awareness (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge);
- Develop arguments and perspectives through the successful incorporation of research, examples, details, rhetorical appeals, and counter-arguments (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge and 2) Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing);
- Demonstrate effective revision skills (global revision, editing, and proofreading) that leads to clear, concise and error-free prose (TAG: 3) Knowledge of the Composing Process and 5) Knowledge of Conventions);
- Develop critical reading skills, including the ability to locate rhetorical features in a text, identify the audience for a given text, and identify strengths and weaknesses in an author’s arguments and reasoning; (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge and 2) Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing)
- Locate credible scholarly sources, evaluate the reliability of those sources, and effectively use those sources within a text, including the ability to cite sources in-text and develop a works cited page (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge and 5) Knowledge of Conventions);
- Use electronic environments for the drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and submitting of texts (TAG: 3) Knowledge of the Composing Process and 6) Composing in Electronic Environments); and
- Demonstrate the ability to critique their own and peers’ writing by understanding the collaborative and social aspects of the writing process (TAG: 3) Knowledge of the Composing Process and 4) Collaboration).
In addition, students who successfully complete ENGL 2950 will also be able to:
- Model effective scientific and technical communication in the workplace by actively participating in writing activities, both individually and collaboratively. (TAG: 3) Knowledge of the Composing Process and 4) Collaboration);
- Apply technical information and knowledge in practical documents for a variety of a.) professional audiences (including peers and colleagues or management) and b.) public audiences (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge).
- Write professional documents that are concise, clear, accurate, and ethical (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge, 2) Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing, and 5) Knowledge of Conventions).
- Use professional writing strategies: Direct order organization, objective voice, unbiased analysis and summary, and use of transitional devices to create coherence (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge and 5) Knowledge of Conventions).
- Recognize, explain, and use the rhetorical strategies and the formal elements of specific genres of technical communication, such as technical abstracts, data based research reports, instructional manuals, technical descriptions, web pages, wikis, and correspondence (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge and 6) Composing in Electronic Environments).
- Collect, analyze, document, and report research clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically; understand the standards for legitimate interpretations of research data within scientific and technical communities (TAG: 1) Rhetorical Knowledge, 2) Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing, and 5) Knowledge of Conventions).
- Recognize and develop professional format features in print, html, and multimedia modes, as well as use appropriate nonverbal cues and visual aids (TAG: 5) Knowledge of Conventions and 6) Composing in Electronic Environments).
- Revise and edit effectively in all assignments, including informal media (such as email to the instructor) (TAG: 3) Knowledge of the Composing Process and 5) Knowledge of Conventions).
- Demonstrate professional work habits, including those necessary for effective collaboration and cooperation with other students, instructors, and, if applicable, Service Learning contact representatives (TAG: 4) Collaboration).
Students will produce a minimum of 7,000 words in final draft form over the course of the semester. This will mean roughly 20-24 finished pages. At least one paper will be a documented report using either MLA or APA format and incorporating a number of sources with a sustained discussion that results in a paper of at least 8 pages.
Required Course Assignments & Assessment
The following core assignments are provided so instructors understand the amount of coursework to assign; each core should be incorporated into all 2950 courses. Because one of the goals of the course is to simulate workplace experiences (resulting in some assignments being produced in different media environments), specific page-counts or word-counts are less important than writing to meet the expectations of a management audience. The main goal is to create a common experience across sections and to answer the question "What should every student who has taken English 2950 be expected to know how to do?"
Note: Modules describing typical assignments and how they meet learning objectives are available on the course site. You can use these as guidelines for planning individual assignments. Additionally, you may refer to the Common Syllabus Components Chart to clarify how each assignment outlined below fits one of the four course focus areas previously outlined in this common syllabus.
The following core assignments should be assigned in all 2950 courses:
- Correspondence documents such as emails, memos, letters, internal blogs.
- A Set of Instructions or Procedures describing a process that might be encountered in a workplace situation.
- A Technical Description or Definition of a mechanical object, or complex process.
- An Analytical Report, White Paper, or Proposal based on extensive primary and secondary research.
- A Final e-Portfolio to be uploaded into theUniversity ofToledo Institutional Matrix.
The following elements should be incorporated into the assignments above:
- An Abstract that effectively summarizes a longer professional document.
- Collaboration: At least one of the above documents should be a collaborative effort between two or more students.
- Graphics: At least one document incorporating graphical representations of data.
- Visual Rhetoric: Use of visual and document design strategies, such as bullets, sub-headings, white space, etc…
- Technology and Multi-media: Assignments should incorporate some innovative technologies, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, webcasts, presentation software, or webpages.
The following list contains suggestedpolicies that should be incorporatedinto a course syllabus distributedto students.
- Computer Access and Proficiency
Most sections of this course will be assignedto computer equippedclassrooms. In addition, the university makes access to computers for student use at numerous locations on campus.
As instructors, you should assume that all students at the beginning of the course have a basic knowledge of writing on computers, including knowledge of how to create, save and store files in a format assignedby the instructor. Students should also know how to submit files to drop boxes,edit and view documents sent as email attachments, and access university sponsoredsoftware.
Please refer to the Sample Student Syllabi for an example of a computer proficiency statement.
- Peer Reviews
Collaboration in the workplace is a common activity. Therefore, this course should stress the needfor students to develop peer evaluation skills. In addition to offering students a collaborative experience, peer review develops a student's own sense of the standards for good writing, as well as aids other students in their revision. The Composition Program strongly recommends that instructors incorporate peer review activities as part of each assignment. See the Faculty Handbook for examples of peer review activities.
- Service Learning, Community Engagement & Experiential Learning
A number of opportunities exist for classes to partner with UT campus programs engaged in the university's sustainability initiatives as well as institutions in the surrounding community for service and experiential learning projects. Students in classes engaged in these projects would write, as class assignments, research, instructional/informative, and new media documents that met needs of partner offices or agencies. While optional, these collaborations would allow students to experience the reality of writing in an institutional environment, receive feedback from readers outside the classroom, and make a material impact on campus and the city ofToledo.
Please refer to the Service Learning section of the Professional and Technical Writing Faculty Handbook for further information regarding service learning and community engagement. Also, see the Sample Student Syllabi for an example of a service learning/community engagement statement.
- Grading and Course Evaluation Criteria
Final grades earnedfor this course will range from "A" (highest) to "F" (lowest) in accordance with the university's normal 12 point grade reporting system. Plusses and minuses are includedwith grades B through D. Entry in to some majors and professional programs may require a minimum passing grade of C.
All instructors must include a statement regarding how final course grades will be assessed on either the course syllabus or as a separate policy handout.
Please refer to the Sample Student Syllabi and/or Sample Grading Criteria handouts for sample grading criteria.
Article VIII-A under the Conduct and Discipline System (Section 5) of the Student Handbook outlines the University's Policy regarding Academic Honesty for Undergraduate Students:
Academic dishonesty, including, but not limitedto, cheating and plagiarism is a violation of acceptable standards of behavior and a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Cases of allegedacademic dishonesty shall be resolvedat the departmental, college, or graduate level in accordance with procedures printedin the University catalogue or printedin departmental, college, or graduate school publications. The accusedstudent has the right to request that the case be reviewedby the Student Grievance Council (See Student Handbook Academic Grievances Section).CollegeofLawcases are dealt with under theCollegeofLaw Honor Code. (34).
The University of Toledo Student Code of Conduct provides students with a minimal definition of plagiarism:
Plagiarism - A student shall not represent the work of another as his or her own, or use a passage or idea from the written work of another without proper quotation marks, citation, or other explanatory insert. (22)
TheCollegeofArtsand Sciences provides a more comprehensive description of actions that constitute academic dishonesty. That description can be found at the following web address:
Instructors should, therefore, include a plagiarism statement in which they clearly define plagiarism on their syllabus.
Please see sample plagiarism statements on the Sample Student Syllabi.
- Collegiate Standards for Human Research Subjects
Student projects which involve study of individual human beings through direct observation, survey or other data gathering techniques must abide by the national standards for Human Subject Research. If the finishedwork is posted, publishedor otherwise reportedoutside the specific classroom environment, research projects may needto be approvedby the university IRB (Internal Review Board).
Instructors are cautionedto discuss Human Research Subject guidelines with their class members, make sure to obtain written permissions of subjects who participate in surveys or studies, and, in general, encourage students to respect the privacy rights of human beings being observedin college research projects.
For more information, see the University of Toledo Department for Human Research Protection website:
- Course Accessibility
Federal requires that all syllabi include a statement of accessibility. See the Sample Student Syllabi for accessibility statement models