WRT 307: Professional Writing: Syllabus
Fall 2005 | MWF 12:45-1:40 | HL201| Section M080
Description and Overview

Course Description
WRT 307 Advanced Writing Studio: Professional Writing (3 credits)
Professional communication through the study of audience, purpose, and ethics. Rhetorical problem-solving principles applied to diverse professional writing tasks and situations.

To begin with: What do we mean by professional and what do we mean by writing? In WRT307, we'll work collectively through these and other opening questions. Why? WRT307, as designed, predicts (or presupposes) an assortment of writing activity associated with a workplace. But which workplace? Which professional registers, contexts and situations shall we privilege? Can we approach such a study as if the specific, ordinary and non-generic texts written by professionals matter just as much to us as the formal and generic texts? In WRT307, we'll analyze and create texts from some of the most common genres in professional writing, with ongoing consideration of style, design, and ethics. At the same time, we will seek to complicate the fallacies tangled up in any approach to workplace writing that presumes such activity to function merely as pre-constrained and generic.

WRT307 is centrally defined by three projects, a collection of readings, and ongoing writing activities related to workplace futures. Our class sessions will more often be conversational and informal rather than presentational or lecture-like; consequently, this is a class that will be most effective for everyone as soon as we achieve a level of familiarity and rapport becoming of a relatively comfortable workplace environment. In the weeks ahead, we'll attend especially to techne, literally making or doing, in its many variations (technology, technique, technical); we're working toward a techne of professional writing. And we'll consider the ways in which your experiences with academic writing have prepared you for the diverse purposes of professional writing.

In addition to the many workplace scenarios and simulations in WRT307, we'll also sample, through reading and research, from a series of topics implicit in workplace communications: genre, design, information flow, presentation and procedure. Additionally, we'll briefly touch upon (social/textual) network dynamics in the workplace, fixed and fluid qualities of texts, and the force of technologies.

A word or two about roles: because of the simulatory framework for this course, it follows that I, as the instructor, will step into multiple roles--as mentor and guide, as presenter and teacher, as colleague and co-inquirer, and also, at times, as boss and critic. Likewise, you will occupy a variety of roles as well, often taking on a leadership position by presenting or leading a class discussion, by directing our attention to questions or matters of concern or by submitting an agenda item to our class plan. These shifting roles will require each of us to prepare for class sessions and undertake class activities with rigor and consideration for the others who are affected by our preparation. This is especially applicable in collaborative situations. These multiple roles require of us a certain level of flexibility and commitment to professionalism.

Goals for WRT307
Writing 307 will function as an advanced, pre-professional studio:
  • Students will learn to write for their workplaces by investigating those sites, researching writing in their fields, and taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students will present their learning to their peers via oral, textual, and electronic means.
  • Students will learn techniques of document design and copyediting.
Writing 307 will simulate a workplace environment:
  • Students will produce a range of professional genres and will learn to apply their knowledge to new situations.
  • Students will learn to collaborate ethically and responsibly and to manage tasks concurrently.
  • Students will produce post-university, professional writing; the major products of this course—at least one of which will be a sustained, multiple-product group project—will be exclusively of this type.
Writing 307 will address and make use of relevant technologies:
  • Students will incorporate appropriate technologies in class processes and products and address the effects of current technologies on professional communications.
  • Students will engage in the multimedia publication of information.
  • Students will write and read non-traditional, non-paper, hypermedia as they occur in the workplace.
Texts and Materials
(available at both the University Bookstore and Follett's Orange Bookstore)
The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger
ISBN: 0-738-20431-5
Publisher: Perseus Books Group
Copyright: 2001
Format: Paper; 190 pp
Full text also available online.
The Cluetrain Manifesto
A Concise Guide to Technical Communication , 2nd ed., by Laura Gurak and John Lannon
ISBN: 0-312-14615-8
Publisher: Longman
Copyright: 2004
Format: Paper; 352 pp
You should also be prepared to provide copies of your work for everyone in the class (or in your peer response group) at various times during the semester. Supplemental readings will be available to you as PDF files in Blackboard. You should plan to download and print or, alternatively, read on the screen. Whatever the case, plan to spend as much as $10 on printing and photocopying over the course of the semester.
Responses to Work
You will receive some form of response to all of your written work this semester. You will also have ample opportunities to confer with me about your projects as they develop, and I'll respond to drafts of your work as often as you like (I'll also collect drafts from everyone periodically). Responses are ordinarily meant to be generative, constructive and candid; if ever the notes or marks you find on a piece of writing seem to you to be anything less, we should meet to chat about it.
Feel free to visit any time during posted office hours. We'll meet for a formal conference early in the semester and, depending on the pace and flow of the course, we'll likely meet a second time during the last half of the semester. I generally prefer for you to set the agenda on such occasions, although I will also have questions for you, things to discuss, etc.
Meetings Outside of Class Time
When you are working on collaborative projects, it might be necessary to arrange meetings outside of class time. Meeting on your own time with group members involves flexibility and cooperation. You are welcome to involve me if at any time you find it impossible to meet with group members or if you feel like scheduling obstacles are interferring with your projects and coordination.
Email and AIM
We will also use Orangemail for communicating outside class. While you may call and leave a phone message, it's best to use email or AIM to contact me about your coursework, to set up an appointment to meet with me outside class, or to ask a question. With rare exceptions, I will respond to all email inquiries within 48 hours.
This section of WRT307 will make use of Blackboard for accessing some of the assigned readings (often in PDF form), for collecting certain assignments, and for synchronous chats and small group workspaces. To login to Blackboard, simply go to https://blackboard.syr.edu/. You will need your SU NetID and password to access the system (note: these should match with the username and password you use to access Orangemail).
Workload and Evaluations
The work involved with the course breaks down like this:

I. Genre: Dig into the Workplace (20%)
Each student will plan and pursue an investigation into a specific workplace site. The site should resemble the professional environ you imagine for yourself relative to your major field of study, your interests, and so on. It might, alternatively, concern your current workplace. In the context of this project, "dig" is adapted from archaeology; here, we're using the term to name the cautious, strategic and detailed process of exploring a site for the patterns and relationships between texts or textual practices (workflow, policies and actual documents), the profession(al), and the workspace. This project includes the selection and analysis of at least one specific genre in the workplace site (including examples of the genre or related "discursive shards"), a map or sketch of the workspace, and an exploration of the dynamics involving the genre and specific example in the workplace. Each student will present findings to the class and submit the exemplary text(s) to our repository of workplace genres, which we will use as samples for project three.

II. Technical Procedure (20%)
Project two is an exercise in technical communication: explaining a complex procedure in clear, simple steps. Each student will define an event or operation, then establish a procedural protocol: a how-to. Project two also emphasizes working 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.

III. Presentational Assemblage (30%)
For project three, students will work in small groups to answer a CFP inviting the development of an assemblage of documents (publications and communiqués, both internal and external, formal and informal). Following the formal proposal, the document-set will be completely student-designed and student-authored; the number of documents in the collection will depend on the number of students in the group, and at least one item will make use of a medium other than paper. Students will decide on the documents to compose and present. The project is defined around a simulated professional arena, so the assemblage will be thematically persistent, following a particular business concept, an invented company of sorts. When developing proposals, we'll start from the repository of texts from project one, incorporate the following list, and add others as we see fit: graphics standards manual, web site, weblog, memoranda, product packaging, sales brochure, meeting agenda, meeting minutes, press release, product or event promotional ad, budget proposal, policy manual, notice (a posting), job ad (50 word and 250 versions), letter to a prospective customer, survey, business plan, manifesto, email, and an internal letter of complaint/criticism.
Related Work

IV. Everyday Pieces (10%)
Everyday pieces are shorter writings scattered throughout the semester. Among them: a resume and cover letter, a autobiographemic list of twenty things (twenty about-me's), a Textual/Rhetorical Turnaround (related to CNN's The Turnaround), and other brief letters, reports and analyses. During the few weeks when we read The Cluetrain Manifesto, we'll also work collectively to develop a Writer's Cluetrain, which will come under the rubric of Everyday Pieces. In general, Everyday Pieces are planned to be generative supplements to the projects; they'll be defined more fully in class and in Blackboard.
V. Portfolio: A Gathering and Reflection (10%)
Toward the end of the semester, students will compile all of their works, fashion them into a professional package or kit, and turn it in along with a self-reflective review of their work. To prepare for the portfolio, you should keep all of your work throughout the semester.

VI. Professionalism: Activity, Involvement, Leadership (10%)
While attendance is a basic expectation in any course, professionalism in WRT307 is an assessment of the role you take in class as an active, prepared, contributing member. Professionalism accounts for your activity and involvement as a peer, as a prepared and inquiring reader, and as one whose stance toward the work of the class reflects leadership and rigor. How will this be evaluated? After each class, I will make a note of your activity and involvement for the day by using a system of check, check-plus and check-minus. A simple check reflects a level of involvement that was satisfactory, with signs of engagement and investment in the ideas of others. A check-plus means that you were not only satisfactorily present and engaged, but you also contributed to the class session with questions and insights, as a helpful peer, as an attentive listener, or as otherwise exceptionally involved. A check-minus means that you were late, underprepared or visibly disengaged. These measures don't automatically hinge on speaking up, necessarily, so it's possible to earn a check-plus with a quiet or reserved presence (alert, active, involved). If, at any time, you would like to check with me about your involvement in class--whether reviewing previous marks or discussing ways to improve--feel free to contact me. A preponderance of plusses accord to the A range; checks match up with a B range, and minuses are in line with the C range.
On Handling Multiple Pieces of Work Simultaneously
One dimension of WRT307 is learning to handle multiple project at the same time; therefore, you will find that some of the projects overlap and the Everyday Pieces are interspersed with other work. This means that you will encounter at least a few organizational challenges. Early in the semester, we will talk about systems for optimizing the organization of a personal workload.
All graded work will be assigned a letter grade corresponding to a 4.0 scale.
    B+ 3.333 C+ 2.333        
A 4.0 B 3.0 C 2.0 D 1.0 F 0
A- 3.667 B- 2.667 C- 1.667        
Course Policies
Writing studios are courses in language learning, and language is learned in communities; therefore, it is essential that you attend class. Absences will affect your classmates' work as well as your own. Our syllabus is only a projection and may be subject to changes and revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. That is another reason why your attendance is vital. As a general rule, you do not need to explain reasons for absence unless you anticipate an extended absence.
If you anticipate an absence, you are welcome to inform me in advance, but it is ultimately your responsibility to contact your peers and to visit the class schedule, check email, and visit Blackboard, to inform yourself about the work underway during the missed class session and subsequent sessions. Missing presentations and scheduled conferences will dramatically lower your grade.
The Rule of Ask Three
If you must miss a class, you are responsible for work assigned or missed, so it's a good idea early in the semester to get acquainted with three peers who will share notes or recaps of missed class sessions. Please realize, however, that class time cannot be reconstructed or made up, and that your performance, your work, and your final course grade will be affected by absences.
Special Needs and Situations
Students who need special consideration because of any sort of disability or situation should make an appointment to see me right away. You should also refer to the Office of Disability Services for additional information.
Use of Student Writing
It is understood that registration for and continued enrollment in this course constitutes permission by the student for the instructor to use any student work composed for the course.
The Writing Center
Nearly all writers benefit from interchanges and discussion; as noted above, all forms of thoughtful feedback inform your understanding of the ways written texts perform for various readers and, therefore, such feedback is valuable throughout the writing process. Consultants in the University's Writing Center are available to consult with you at any stage of the writing process. For more information about The Writing Center's hours of operation and instructions for scheduling an appointment, check out the Center's web site: http://wrt.syr.edu/wc/wcintro.html.
Computers, Multimedia and Technologies
Most of the work you do for this class will require familiarity with the basic uses of computers to compose documents, to save and backup your work, and to send files as email attachments. Additionally, we will be reading and engaging with sites on the internet throughout the semester. If you have any concerns about the role of technologies in this course, you should arrange to meet with me within the first week of classes. While we will run through a few of the basic writing technologies in the early weeks of the course, I encourage you to raise questions when you have them.
Computer technology provides us with an impressive range of tools and applications for composing. Such technologies confront us with numerous choices as well as the potential for multimedia enhancements and greater compositional experimentation, neatness and efficiency. Nonetheless, the sage warnings about saving your work apply. When relying on computer technology, take appropriate steps to ensure that your work is backed up and plan extra time, as needed, for integrating multimedia features in your work.
Derek Mueller
Office: HBC 002
Fall '05 office hours: Mon., 11 a.m.-Noon and by appt.
Phone: (315) 443-1785
AIM: ewidem