Professional Writing writing in the disciplines

ENC 3254: Dr. Shannon Butts

Course Description

Professional Writing in the Disciplines introduces students to the rhetorical concepts, theoretical principles, and diverse formats needed for writing in professional environments. The course is designed to help students learn a variety of communication strategies and genres of writing relevant to professional settings, including everyday acts of communication, such as email, memos, and letters, as well as more specialized documents such as technical descriptions, instructions, and reports. In this class students learn how to research, organize, and present technical information in effectively written documents, work in collaboration with other professionals, and use various technologies to support their communication efforts. Throughout the class, students will work with topics and ideas that come from their own disciplines (majors, areas of study, or profession). Usually, a class has a variety of students working across fields such as medicine, business, media and communication, engineering, humanities, education, and journalism. Researching and writing in specific disciplines helps familiarize students with the common types of reports, innovations, and publications in their chosen field. In addition, participants will be able to identify key issues, propose solutions and write to initiate changes. Ultimately, the goal of our course is to help you learn more about professional writing as a practice and more about how your field writes and communicates.

Course Materials

Mike Markel. Technical Communication e-book, 11th ed. Boston: Bedford (2015)

All other readings will be on Canvas

Course Objectives

  • Demonstrate forms of effective writing (focusing on analyses, arguments, and proposals)
  • Learn different writing styles, approaches, and formats and successfully adapt writing to different audiences, purposes, and contexts; effectively revise and edit their own writing and the writing of others
  • Organize complex arguments in writing, using thesis statements, claims, and evidence
  • Employ logic in arguments and analyze their own writing and the writing of others for errors in logic
  • Write clearly and concisely consistent with the conventions of standard written English
  • Use thesis sentences, claims, evidence, and logic in arguments

Major Assignments

Crafting a Professional Bio

Establishing your identity in a community is a common first step in a position that you have recently secured. Professional bios generally include a well-chosen mix of personal and professional information; together, this information both advertises your professional skills and interests while cultivating a personal, real-world identity, too. For this assignment, students will use the Canvas Profile or LinkedIn to craft a professional bio.

Job Application Portfolio

In this multi-part assignment, students will first identify an internship or job they are interested in and could reasonably apply for. Next, students will research the field and construct a profile for the ideal candidate for this position. Finally, students will write a letter of application and a résumé for this particular job.

Instruction Manual

Students will write instructions for a device, process, or task in their discipline, major, or intended profession. The instructions will contain descriptions and specifications, warnings, maintenance and troubleshooting advice, and any other information the user is likely to need to use the device, complete the process, or accomplish the task. The instructions should consider diverse users, from an experienced professional to a novice. The assignment will be assessed on the quality and clarity of the instructions, on the functionality of the instructional visuals, on the effectiveness of the design, and on the rhetorical style of the steps, sequencing, and transitions.

Innovation White Paper

White papers can be used within an organization for the purpose of informing peers as well as externally to educate clients or the public. Our version of a white paper will be an objective explanation of an innovation in your field—its history, its current state, and a current detailed example of it. Technical language is usually defined within the context of the paper, with key terms getting longer explanation.

Field Report

Workplaces frequently request data reports before making decisions. In this assignment, students will research a current topic in their industry or sector (such as public image) in order to make suggestions for industry-public relations. Evaluating the current "state of the field," students will identify a problem or current trend and work to understand the background, causes, participants, and possible solutions. The project will begin with a survey designed by students, include current market research, social media campaigns, and incorporate both academic and trade publications to support summary, analysis, and suggested recommendations.

Apps Proposal

Drawing from the field report assignment, students will research and recommend mobile apps for their professional field. From healthcare to investment banking, companies and professional organizations are increasingly using mobile apps to gather information, track outcomes, and deliver information. For the apps proposal, students will research five apps currently in use in their field, evaluate content, popular use, problems, and new opportunities for application. Deliverables include a research report, proposal, an infographic comparing different mobile applications and demographics.

Created By
Shannon Butts


Course content developed by Mickey Schafer and Shannon Butts