assignments

Listed below are brief descriptions of the major graded assignments for this course.
Quizzes, exercises, and participation also make up a percentage of the course grade.

assignment #1 Write a set of instructions explaining how to create screen captures.
assignment #2 Write a documentation plan for your Microsoft Word manual (see #6 below).
See the doc plan format handout (on UDrive) for tips on content and organization.
assignment #3 Submit the first third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.
assignment #4 Work with your team to solve the assigned Word challenge. Prepare and deliver a live training demonstration for the class.
assignment #5 Submit the second third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.
assignment #6 Submit your completed Microsoft Word manual and supporting documents.

schedule

This schedule may change to accommodate the needs and pace of the class. Changes will be announced in class.

date agenda, prep, work due today
(wk1) Tu Sept 5


Intro to the course: index cards, introductions, course policies and materials, UMass Box

You should have received an email from me with a link to our course Box folder. This email may have gone to your Spam folder, so check there first. If you still can't find the email and/or can't access the Box folder, let me know immediately so that we fix it.
Homework (due for our next class meeting on Thursday):
Read Tom Johnson, Heath and Heath, and Van Laan Ch 1: Calling all Tech Writers (or read the chapter online via the library)

Reading questions: What is the Curse of Knowledge? How does it relate to technical writing? Have you ever experienced the Curse of Knowledge (either as the explainer or explainee)? What is a technical writer? What types of writing, or documentation, do technical writers create? What kinds of environments might a tech writer work in?
Unit 1: Introduction to Software Documentation—Instructions and Screenshots
(wk1) Th Sept 7 What is the role of the technical writer?

In class: discuss readings due today (see above), writing instructions, considering audience
- concepts: knowledge problem, tacit knowledge, SMEs, company culture
- discuss cookie recipe exercise (due Tuesday)

Slideshow of recipe cards (Slate)
Homework (for Tues):
- read Reep, Ch 10: Instructions (UMass Box, 221-331)
- complete cookie recipe exercise

Reading questions: What are the 8 guidelines for instruction-writing recommended in the reading? How does the design of your instructions affect readers' ability to interpret and use them? What are some of the things you will want or need to know about your readers in order to make your instructions more usable? Were there any parts of this reading's advice that felt like a particularly good -- or awkward -- fit to you when revising your cookie recipe?
(wk2) Tu Sept 12 Instructions, audience, screenshots

Concepts: instructions, advocating for users, style and genre in tech writing

In class:
- discuss/submit your revised cookie recipe instructions
- introduce assignment #1
- creating a callout and a caption for your screenshot in MS Word
Homework for Thurs:
- prepare a draft of Assignment #1 for our next class; include screenshot(s) and callout(s)
- read Screenshots and Pringle, Elements of a Procedure, pp.92-98 to help you with your draft

questions: What are some of the benefits and limitations of using screenshots? What are some strategies you might use to create connections between a screenshot and the text to which it corresponds?
(wk2) Th Sept 14 screenshots, workshop assignment #1

In class:
- due: complete draft of instructions assignment #1 to workshop (2 print copies)
- discuss style concepts: stem sentences, imperative/active voice, parallel structure, etc.
- how people "read" screenshots
- workshop Assign #1 drafts
Homework for Tues:
- revise assignment #1 (due Tues at the start of class)
- read Cooper, Ch 1: Riddles for the Info Age (pp. 3-17), Inmates are Running the Asylum

Reading questions: What problem(s) does Cooper describe in this reading? What connections (if any) do you see between this reading and other issues or ideas that have come up in our readings or discussions thus far? This book is a little over 10 years old now; how relevant do you think Cooper's points are today? Can you think of present-day examples of technology that either support Cooper's point or that you think are evidence that things have changed?
(wk3) Tu Sept 19

ASSIGN #1 DUE
(SCREENSHOTS)
assignment #1 due, introduce Word manual

In class:
- due: submit hard copy of assignment #1
- discuss Cooper reading; user interaction/user experience (UX)
- introduce and discuss the Word manual assignment
- begin brainstorming ideas (user focus of your manual)
Homework for Thurs:
- read Barker, Ch 1: "Understanding Task Orientation"

Reading questions: What is software documentation? What is task-oriented documentation? What are some features of docs that are *not* task-oriented? Try to think of examples of tasks that could be relevant for your Word manual. How might thinking about tasks help you plan the organization of your manual?
Unit 2: Planning the Documentation Project—User Analysis, Doc Plans, and Modular Design
(wk3) Th Sept 21




user analysis, doc plans

In class:
- task orientation, user-centered design, user analysis - Why conduct a user analysis? What are some strategies for conducting a user analysis? How can your user analysis inform the design of your documentation?
- discuss the doc plan handout (assignment #2)
- share your ideas for user focus; begin user analysis
- discuss user research memo and begin preparing questions

Note: You are not required to buy/obtain/install any software for this class, but some of you may be interested in the Microsoft Office 365 Education program. As a UMass student, you can get free access to the latest Microsoft Office programs. Mac users interested in running Windows may be interested in How to set up your Mac to run Windows (dual boot).
Homework for Tues:
- read Weiss, pp. 52-53; 82-87; 361-363 on modular documentation
- read Van Laan, Ch 7: It's All About Audience, pp. 73-86
- finalize your user focus for the Word manual and begin your user research/interviews

reading questions: What is modular documentation? What are its features? What are its benefits and limitations?
(wk4) Tu Sept 26

user analysis, modularity, drafting your TOC

in class:
- be prepared to report out on your choice of audience for the Word manual and research thus far
- discuss modularity (Weiss, Barker), planning the contents of your manual
- begin drafting your TOC
Homework for Thurs:
- Your user research memo is due on Thursday. It should summarize (1) your research process (who you interviewed, how you prepared and conducted the interviews) and (2) the key findings from the interview process: what did you learn about your interviewees' day-to-day activities, motivations, culture, software use/experience, and so on? Tasks? (3) Explain how your findings affect your thinking about the user manual and what its contents should be.
(wk4) Th Sept 28 in class:
- due: submit your user research memo and report out on your research findings
- bring anything you need (notes, files, etc.) to work on your TOC
- workshop your TOC
Homework for Tues:
- read Pringle, Doc Plans (pp. 30-45) (UMass Box)
- revise your TOC and draft your doc plan for workshop on Tuesday
- take a look at I Drank Beer and Wrote Release Notes ... (if you'd like, you can browse examples)
(wk5) Tu Oct 3




user analysis, modularity, cont.

in class:
- release notes
- due: bring your doc plan draft for workshop
- jot down feedback from workshop; begin revising your doc plan (as time permits)
Homework for Thurs: revise your doc plan to submit-- due at the start of class
(wk5) Th Oct 5

ASSIGN #2 DUE
(DOC PLAN)
submit doc plan, introduce Word Challenge, the good, the bad, and the ugly

in class:
- due: submit your completed doc plan
- assign teams for the Word challenge (assignment #4)
- activity: evaluating sample manuals

Word Challenge dates, teams TBA:
Demo from team #1 - (Tu Oct 17)
Demo from team #2 - (Th Oct 19)
Demo from team #3 - (Tu Oct 31)
Demo from team #4 - (Tu Oct 31)
Demo from team #5 - (Th Nov 2)
Demo from team #6 - (Tu Nov 7)

homework:
- draft 1-2 modules for your first third
- read Barker Ch 3, "Writing to Guide—Procedures"

reading questions: What is a rhythm (or pattern) of exposition, and why is it important? What does Barker present as the Standard Format, and what features does it commonly include? What are its advantages and disadvantages? What's a hanging indent? On p. 85, take a look at Step #2 of the "Stronger" example and consider the following: Are the actions described in the elaboration paragraph required or optional?
(wk6) M Oct 9 no class - Columbus Day
(wk6) Tu Oct 10 no class - treat as a Monday
(wk6) Th Oct 12 writing prodedures; Word Challenge

in class:
- discuss reading (Barker, Procedures)
- any questions about your first module(s)?
- time to work on your Word Challenges in teams
- review team challenge presentation guidelines
homework:
- read Sun, Ch 3: Writing Style
- continue drafting modules for your first third: aim to have at least 2-3 modules drafted by Tues; full printed draft of your first third due to workshop on Thurs
- work on your team demos, as needed (Team #1 presents on Tuesday)

reading questions: What guidelines or strategies from the reading are helpful for creating writing that respects the reader?
(wk7) Tu Oct 17



writing to teach, workshop the first third

in class:
- Word challenge team demo #1
- due: bring questions about your module drafts (you should now have ~2-3 mods drafted)
- discuss: writing introductions for your modules (content, style, etc.)
- if time permits: introduce the Writing Transmittal Letters/memos handout
homework:
- finish drafting modules for your first third; bring full draft for workshop
- familiarize yourself with “Punctuation” (171-182) in Microsoft Manual of Style (esp. the sections on quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and ellipses)

reading questions:
What are en dashes and em dashes? When are they used? How are they different from hypens? Where does punctuation (commas, periods, etc.) go in relation to quotation marks?
(wk7) Th Oct 19

Mid-semester date
(the last day to drop with 'W')
drafting the first third, Word Challenge (demos begin)

in class:
- due: Word challenge team demo #2
- due: bring a full draft of your first third (digital files are ok)
- review the Writing Transmittal Letters/memos handout; any questions?

mid-semester check-in
arrange to see me if you have questions/concerns about your performance in the course
homework:
- revise and polish your first third: due on Tuesday at the start of class (graded)
Unit 3: Creating Visual Signposts: Page Design, Typography, Visual Hierarchy
(wk8) Tu Oct 24

ASSIGN #3 DUE
(1ST THIRD)
Visual hierarchy, drafting the 2nd third

in class:
- due: first third + transmittal memo
- Helvetica and the rhetorics of typography
homework for next class:
- read 4 Basic Principles of Design (Williams)
- begin thinking ahead to usability testing in week 10 (who can you ask to test?)
- begin the Ch 5: Pages reading for next Tuesday-- the first 10 pp. or so

reading questions: What are the four design concepts discussed in the Williams reading? How can you apply these concepts to your manual? To other documents you've created in PWTC courses? What is visual/information hierarchy, and what are some of the ways you can communicate hierarchy through your design choices?

(wk8) Th Oct 26


drafting the 2nd third, visual page design

In class:
- discuss design concepts, visual hierarchy
homework:
- read Hawkins, Ch 5: Pages; analyze and reassess the page design of your manual
- begin drafting modules for your 2nd third

reading questions + concepts: What is visual hierarchy, and what are some of the ways you can communicate information hierarchy through your design choices? Be prepared to explain the concept of "negative space" and its application to the page design of your Word manual. Consider, as well, the following concepts as they apply to your current page design: alignment, contrast, enclosure, proximity, power zone

recommended reading: read Edward Tufte, "Smallest Effective Difference" from Visual Explanations and "Layering and Separation" in Envisioning Information. Pay attention to how Tufte's redesigns bring more important visual information to fore by quieting down surrounding visual elements. reading questions: What does Tufte mean by "smallest effective difference"? How can this concept be applied to the work we're doing in 380?
(wk9) Tu Oct 31 drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge (demos cont.)

in class:
- Word Challenge team demos #3 and #4
- discuss readings, as time permits
homework:
- continue drafting 2nd third (at least 1 module of content)
- read Ch: Typography
- reassess the page design of your modules -- what needs to change?
- revise 1 module and bring it to class (digital is ok; you can bring more than one design)

Be able to explain the following concepts and how they might relate to your page design: serif vs. sans serif, leading, justification, rivers (in text), crystal goblet.
(wk9) Th Nov 2


typography, Word Challenge

in class:
- Word Challenge team demo #5
- discussion of design readings thus far -- questions/clarifications?
- workshop focusing on possible revisions of your page design
homework: finish drafting 2nd third for Tuesday (workshop)
(wk10) Tu Nov 7 Word Challenge, drafting the 2nd third

in class:
- Word Challenge team demo #6
- workshop full draft 2nd third
homework: revise and polish your 2nd third (due Thurs, printed in color)
Unit 4: Testing Your Documents
(wk10) Th Nov 9

ASSIGN #5 DUE
(2ND THIRD)

drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

- due: second third of Word manual (must be printed in color)+ transmittal memo

in class:
- what is usability testing?
- activity: usability testing
- as time permits: begin working on your usability testing documents
homework:
- read Document Usability (UMass Box)
- begin drafting your usability test plan
(wk11) Tu Nov 14


usability testing, drafting the last third

in class: discuss your ideas for testing your Word modules

homework:
- bring a draft of the plan/script for your usability test; consult Document Usability for guidance
- continue drafting modules for your last third

additional resources: Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think!, How to do your own testing, sample testing script (for testing websites)
(wk11) Th Nov 16 usability testing, drafting the last third

in class:
- bring a fully-developed draft of the plan for your usability test
- continue drafting modules for your last third
homework:
- carry out usability testing of your modules with 2-3 users; write memo (due Tues, Nov 28)
- continue drafting modules for your last third

*memo overview*
Write up your test findings in a memo addressed to me (1-2 pp). The memo should:
1) explain your test design and objectives
2) describe your test participants
3) report your findings
4) reflect on the testing process itself
(wk12) Sun Nov 19 through Nov 26





THANKSGIVING BREAK





(wk13) Tu Nov 28 usability testing, drafting the last third

in class:
- due: memo* reporting results of completed usability testing (in-class digital submission)
- report out on the findings of your test
- continue drafting modules for the last third of your manual
- think about cover design (video)
homework:
- finish drafting the last third of your modules (due Dec 1)
- read about print production (UDrive); see traditional offset printing (video clip)
- figure out your printing plan (see note below)

In preparation for printing your manual:
Do some research to decide how and where you will print and bind your manual. Contact local print shops for information on turnaround time, file formats, bindings, prices, hours of operation, and so on.  If you plan to use your own color printer, make sure you have enough paper and ink to print your entire manual at high quality, and make sure the paper you plan to use will take the ink without smudging.
(wk13) Th Nov 29


FINAL THIRD DUE
final third due, writing the introduction (part I)

In class:
- Submit electronic draft of final third, via email, to jlsolber@english.umass.edu.*
- writing the introduction (part I); thinking about front matter, TOC, etc.
- time to work on your manual

*This third will not receive formal feedback, but completion is required and will be recorded in the gradebook. Your email message will serve in place of the usual cover memo.
homework:
- write the introduction to your manual
- make sure you have drafted all required elements of the manual (see project handout)
(wk13) Tu Dec 5

writing the introduction (part II)

in class:
- bring your introduction to workshop
- make sure you have drafted all required elements of the manual (see handout)
- continue to work on your manual

Your manual should now be completely drafted, and you should be polishing, fine-tuning, and proofreading at this point. By now, you should have determined how you will print and bind your manual, as well as contacted print shops for information on hours of operation, turnaround time, file formats, prices, bindings, and so on. Allow ample time for printing and binding. Assume that printing will take longer than you expect, and that something will probably go wrong.
homework: continue to revise and polish your manual
(wk14) Th Dec 7
feedback and finishing touches

in class:
- Have your files available to access in the lab; last chance for feedback and finishing touches
- Discuss details for final submission
homework: continue to revise and polish your manual
(wk14) Tu Dec 12

ASSIGN #6 DUE
(COMPLETE WORD GUIDE + SUPPORTING DOCS)
last class meeting : final manual due

in class:
- submit Word manual (as hard copy) and final cover memo
- submit digital PDF copy of manual (as discussed in class)
- in-class activity
Have a safe and happy holiday break!

resources

UMass student discount on Microsoft software
Microsoft Office 365 for students.
Online storage/backup tools: UMass Box, Google Apps at UMass, Google Drive, Dropbox
https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/Documentation/Conventions/Writing_style#Use_present_tense