WRT 307: Project II
Fall 2005 | MWF 12:45-1:40 | HL201| Section M080
Technical Procedure

Project two involves technical communication: explaining a complex procedure in clear, simple, reproducible steps. The documented technical procedure is quite common in professional writing; oftentimes it is necessary to share specialized procedural knowledge with others using written steps that are easy to follow and concise while also communicating important contextual factors.

For this project you will define an event or operation, then establish a procedural protocol: a how-to. With project two you are also encouraged to work with unfamiliar writing technologies, not limited to images, typesetting and typography; screencasting and podcasting, and combinations of image and text to compose usable technical procedures.

Details and Considerations
Begin by identifying a procedure or operation you want to work with. You have quite a bit of flexibility in making this choice. You can select something about which you are already expert, something you want to learn more about (and will, therefore, become expert with through this assignment), or something you are interested in beyond the genres and activity we have already associated with professional writing. Consider the following factors as you identify a procedure or operation:

1. Technical complexity. One of the challenges of this project will be determining a procedure with an appropriate degree of complexity and then simplifying it into a written set of manageable and relatively unambiguous instructions.

2. Negotiating concise action steps and contextual details. Successful sets of technical procedures will be both direct and concise and also incorporate enough contextual clues that the process can be completed by a novice or inexperienced user.

3. Usability. The technical procedure document you produce should be usable in the sense that it renders the complex sequence simple and reproducible. In planning the project, you should consider those who would find the procedure difficult or impossible and the specific experiences, knowledge and skills assumed or take for granted in the project.

4. Expert contributions. Make an 'original' and expert contribution by choosing a process that is not already widely documented. If you choose to re-create a technical procedure already in circulation (which we might determine using a simple online search), think about the ways your technical procedure improves the process or is distinctive in the explanation.

5. (Optional) Visual components. In the examples linked below, you'll see that it is common to incorporate visual elements to accompany the textual descriptions and directives. You are not required to use visual components, but you should be decisive about their place in your project.

You can take this project as an invitation to explore newer technologies that you have only recently heard about or that you find interesting. I want to encourage you to venture into the realm of the unfamiliar, taking on procedures or operations that you are actively learning about rather than reporting exclusively on knowledge and experience you already had coming into the course. On a related note, you might consider the applicability of screencasting or podcasting for project two.

We will talk about options and look at examples of technical procedures in the upcoming weeks. For project two, due Friday, October 28, you will write two documents:

  • A three-page technical procedure document (draft due on October 21). The length may vary depending on whether you decide to publish your procedure to a web page or present it in an alternative medium. If you decide to compose a screencast, consider 10-15 slides or frames an appropriate length.
  • A three-page concept essay. The concept essay will account for your processes, decisions and considerations throughout the project. You should compose the concept essay after you have written and tested the technical procedure document. Use this essay to reflect on the factors implicit in the technical procedure document.

Links and Resources
O'Reilly's MAKE: Examples of technical procedure documents updated daily.
Peachpit Samples: Chapters from selected technical manuals.
Ex. Creating a Podcast
Ex. Document Design with Style in Word 2003
Kuro5hin: How To Shuffle and Cut a Deck of Cards One-Handed
Screencasting overview
Wink: A free screencasting application for PCs

Derek Mueller
Office: HBC 002
Fall '05 office hours: Mon., 11 a.m.-Noon and by appt.
Phone: (315) 443-1785
AIM: ewidem