Monday, May 3, 2010

Based on what you've seen . . .

So, here is your last blog prompt! Congratulations for reaching the end of the semester! So, for this final blog reply, please think about your peers' presentations. In your opinion, which presentation best exemplified the features of effective technical communication? To answer this thoroughly, you'll need to reflect on what those features are-- we have been examining them all term. Be specific in your comment. Describe how your peer's presentation exemplified the clear communication of technical information to a non-technical audience. Describe how your peer incorporated text and images together in an aesthetically powerfully way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Technical Report

In this blog-posting reply, I want you to take some time and image a circumstance in your dream profession in which you might have to write a "technical" report for a non-technical audience. In what kinds of situation might you find yourself wherein you would have to convey your findings, or present your recommendations, to an audience that does not necessarily share all of your discipline-specific vocabulary? Develop the scenario for me and tell me how this project, in ENGL 341, might or might not have prepared for such an eventuality or possibility.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Intellectual Property

Please read this article:

What is your response to this? I have mentioned before in class that not all cultures share American standards for citation, "plagiarism," and academic honesty. Some of you might think that the domain of "plagiarism" is unclear. I don't want to give you a lot of prompting here; I am just interested in reading your responses to this news story.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Citation Style

I would like each of you, in your response to this post, to tell me what citation style you are using and how it compares to other prominent styles (how is it different? Or similar?). What is the practice for "in-text" citation in your style? What are the conventions for "References" or "Works Cited" page style? And why, do you think, does this particular style suit your discipline (as in, why do journal editors in your field like this style, possibly)? Finally, what is the purpose of an in-text citation, in general?

Friday, March 26, 2010

IRB approval/Secondary Research

For your response to this posting, I want you to think about two aspects of your technical report process. The first will really only pertain to some of you, but I invite all of you to say something about it. "IRB Approval" is a process that all students incorporating interviews, surveys, and observations need to complete before they proceed with the writing and completion of their technical report. Do a little looking into "IRB approval." What is it? Why do researchers need to go through the process? Who does it "protect"? Here's your second question: why do you need to incorporate, do you think, "secondary research" into your technical report? Why, as far as you can tell, does this research need to come from predominantly "peer reviewed" sources? I look forward to reading your responses!

Monday, March 1, 2010

James, Ryan, Paul, and Eddie

Definition: Passive voice occurs when you make an object of an action into the subject of a sentence. The basic formula is:

form of “to be” + past participle = passive voice


Example 1: Light penetration is reduced by sediment, and bottom dwelling organisms may be smothered by layers of sediment.

Solution 1: Sediment reduces light penetration and smothers bottom-dwelling organisms.

Example 2: Bottled water is purchased by many people.

Solution 2: Many people purchase bottled water.

Passive voice occurs when you make an object of an action into the subject of a sentence. It creates ambiguity in the meaning of a sentence, and makes statements lack confidence. It is typically in the form a conjugated form of “to be” followed by a past participle such as “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” By making road the subject of the sentence, it emphasizes the role of the road instead of the chicken in the question. In some cases, such as informal documents, passive voice may be appropriate or even preferable.

Estela, Lee, and Josh

1. Water quality is determined by factors.

Many factors determine water quality.

2. Suspended and dissolved substances are contained in all natural waters.

Natural waters contain suspended and dissolved substances.

Passive Voice Examples

Passive Voice Summary

In a passive voice sentence, the action is preformed on the sentence. In an active voice sentence, the sentence subject performs the action.

Stacey, Courtney, and Nick

1. Water quality is determined by many factors.

a. Many factors determine water quality.

2. Suspended and dissolved substances are contained in all natural waters.

a. All natural waters contain suspended and dissolved substances.

3. The amounts of those substances are controlled by the environment.

a. The environment controls the amount of those substances.

4. But some dissolved substances are produced by pesticides.

a. Pesticides produce some dissolved substances.

5. Another element of quality is sediment that is deposited in water from fields, livestock feedlots, and other sources.

a. Sediments deposited from fields, livestock feedlots, and other sources also affect water quality.

6. The bottom life of streams and lakes is affected by suspended sediment.

a. Suspended sediment affects the bottom life of streams and lakes.

7. Light penetration is reduced by sediment, and bottom-dwelling organisms may be smothered by layers of sediment.

a. Sediments reduce light penetration and, when present in many layers, smother bottom-dwelling organisms

8. The quality of water in city systems is measured frequently at laboratories.

a. Laboratories frequently measure the water quality in city systems.

9. If legal levels are exceeded by pollutants, the citizens must be notified by city officials.

a. City officials must notify the citizens if pollutants exceed legal levels.

Bottled water is purchased by many people.

a. Many people purchase bottled water.

Bottled water is thought to be safer, but in truth a different taste is all that is purchased.

a. People purchase bottled water for a different taste, thinking it is safer.

Definition of passive voice:

The website about passive voice starts not with the definition of passive voice but instead with some myths about passive voice. The first myth is that using passive voice constitutes a grammatical error. The article states that passive voice is a style issue that pertains to clarity rather than a grammatical error. The next myth states that ANY time the phrase “to be” is used this constitutes a grammatical error. This is not always true. Summed up, the 3 myths go over how first person can still be in the form of passive voice, why it is sometimes ok to use passive voice, and explains why you should not always rely on the grammar checker to catch the passive voice in writing.

After clearing up some of these myths, the article defines passive voice in an easy to understand manner. It defines passive voice as a passive construction that occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. That is, whoever or whatever is performing the action is not built as the grammatical subject of the sentence. The article uses a great example of passive voice.

Why was the road crossed by the chicken?

Or in active voice…

Why did the chicken cross the road?


This website contains links to a bunch of documents that illustrate passive voice in a variety of situations.

James, Aaron, and Hugh's Group

7. Light penetration is reduced by sediment, and bottom dwelling organisms may be smothered by layers of sediment.

Sediment reduces light penetration, and layers of sediment may smother bottom-dwelling organisms.

10. Bottled water is purchased by many people.

Many people purchase bottled water.


Passive voice means the subject is acted upon or receives the action of the verb. The easiest way to recognize passive voice is to notice the presence of a be-verb, such as am, is, was, were, are, or been. Also, if a sentence includes a “by the…” phrase it is generally passive voice. However, you cannot just assume that simply because there is a “to be” in the sentence that it is passive. Using passive can make the meaning of your sentences confusing and it can force your sentences to become too wordy and very complicated.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Document Aesthetics

We've spoken a bit this semester about the harmony that must exist in a technical document between the content of the text and the design of the text. What are some of the principal features that an effective piece of technical communication should have in terms of document design? Think of some of the pieces of technical communication we've examined so far this term (that your book has also discussed): corporate ethics policies, resumes, instructions manuals, memoranda, etc. What kinds of choices does the technical communicator need to make in terms of document design?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Corporate Ethics Policies

Last week, we discussed corporate ethics policies. Your book outlined the features of an effective corporate ethics policy. We analyzed Google's ethics policy, located on their "investor relations" page, and we examined whether it protected members of the public even while it represented and detailed the corporate ethos. Please take a look at what our friend Wikipedia has to say about "business ethics." Scroll down to the section "corporate ethics policies":

Of the information included in the Wikipedia entry, what corresponds to your book's information and what does not? Given what the Wikipedia entry says, think about the Google policy again. What are your comments on it? In your post, reply to both of my questions here.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Implied Warranty

Your book gives an example of an "implied warranty" -- a rock-polishing device being used by a child. Please consider the ethical idea of the implied warranty. Can you find any product images -- produced by a company and included on their website -- that might be conceived of as an implied warranty that is suspect, ethically, for some reason? Provide a link to the image you find and give me and your classmates an explanation of what you perceive as the problems with the image and/or text.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hello students! Welcome to ENGL 341!

This semester in Technical Writing, ENGL 341, you will be working on your writing with the specific goal of focusing on audience. Given your increasing expertise in your area of study, and your increasing fluency in the disciplinary and "specialist" language of that field, it is important now that you begin working towards presenting technical information clearly and comprehensibly for non-expert audiences. That is the primary goal of this course.

Also, I want you to already begin thinking about our final project in this class: a technical report of fifteen or more pages. The main thing you need to start thinking about now is the "primary research"part of this project; this is research in which you are engaged, as an investigator, an observer, a data-compiler or -calculator, an interviewer, or an experimenter. The "primary" part is what you need to think about now. With what kinds of research projects in your major field of study are you involved?

If you are involved in a research project, tell me and your classmates a little bit about it in your comment here. Remember, we're not all experts in the same areas, so be sure you are presenting your research project in terms comprehensible to the largest number of us -- your audience. If you are not involved in a research project, start thinking about what kinds of "primary research" you might be able to begin in the next nine weeks.