Technical Writing Showcase

The following three selections (two legislative histories and a white paper) are not in the traditional essay or paper format, and represent only a small sampling of the ever widening range of technical genre being produced in Writing Program classes. Students in 307 might write manuals, brochures, reports, and proposals. Students in Civic Writing might frame policy statements, write newsletters, or work on grant proposals. Students in 407 (for engineer students) might construct complex multimedia presentations to report on extensive research projects. Whatever these students are working on, they are gaining vital, transferable writing experience. As these students transition from the university to the workplace, they will be better equipped to handle their new writing challenges. Below is some background from the teachers of these talented writers.

From Catherine Smith: Writing Public Policy (WRT 407) prepares students for active participation in public policy making, administration, and implementation. Based on their interest or experience in community service, public affairs, or government at any level, students choose an issue to work on throughout the course. "Teenage Pregnancy" and "Domestic Violence: A Crime Against Women" are two responses to the assignment to write a legislative history of the chosen issue. In practice, legislative histories are used by courts to discern the intent of law, by nonprofit organizations to inform their advocacy, and by government professionals to develop new legislation. In WRT 407: Writing Public Policy, goals of the legislative history assignment are to gain knowledge of U.S. federal law regarding an issue of concern; knowledge of the Congressional legislative process; understanding of issues based on legislative records (rather than secondary sources); skill in doing government documents research in a library and on the Web; skill in recognizing key policy concepts or changes in policy direction in masses of detail, summarizing complex information for general readers, organizing a document for use and easy referral, and using standard citation styles for government documents and publications.

From Louise Phelps: My 307 class in professional writing did a collaborative project investigating the evolution of white papers into a family of genres. They discovered that many white papers are posted on the internet, including technical white papers and papers that advocate positions on policy issues. In a subsequent assignment, students were asked to write their own white papers. (You can find Michael Gallagher’s white paper and more comments from the teacher starting on page 67.)

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