Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
Fall 2011 Course Descriptions
Dr. Susan Popham

Course Description:  Introduction to fields of scientific, technical, and corporate writing; relevant theories in the fields, including classical rhetoric, modern discourse theory, cognitive psychology, and semiotics; extensive practice in writing and analyzing technical documents. Students will become familiar with theories underlying technical and scientific writing and will integrate these theories with practical applications of technical communication. For this class in particular, we will examine the field through the lens of disciplinarity: What elements makes it a discipline? Should it be a discipline? How has it developed through time? How will it change in the future? What other areas or fields impact technical writing?  How does it relate to or impact other fields and disciplines? We will examine the central tenets of the field, along with exploring recent and current developments impacting the field.  These current issues—areas of discipline instability and controversy—give the field its momentum (and a good bit of interest) for continuing into the 21st century.  Such areas include the tension between: practitioners and scholars; professionalization and certification; innovative technologies and traditional tenets; rhetoric and applied knowledge; humanistic and instrumentalist epistemologies; globalization/internationalization and localization; among many others.

Learning Objectives:
  • Develop an informed definition of and engage in a scholarly discussion about the terms “technical communication,” “technical writing,” “rhetoric,” and related concepts.

  • Be familiar with and discuss theories and challenges underlying technical writing as a research discipline.

  • Identify workplace problems and develop communication solutions to them.

  • Demonstrate understanding and some facility with technical writing skills, including rhetorical analysis, effective style, visual rhetoric, online communication, oral communication, etc.

  • Frame and pursue a research project in technical writing.

Course Assignments:

  • Class participation, including leading one class discussion

  • Annotated Bibliography

  • Problem-based proposal

  • Final Exam

Probable Course Texts:

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1962. (any publisher or copy is fine)


Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart Selber.  Central Works in Technical Communication.  NY: Oxford UP, 2004. ISBN: 0-19-515705-2.

Hayhoe, George F. and Helen M. Grady. Connecting People with Technology. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing , 2009. ISBN: 978-0-89503-375-8.

Zachry, Mark and Charlotte Thralls. Communicative Practices in Workplaces and the Professions.  Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-89503-372-7.

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