EGL 134 – Composition II:  Writing about Technical Topics

Spring 2006


Instructor:                  Dr. Paul Madachy, English Dept


Office Hours:             Marlboro Hall 3059

                                    M/W 10:30-12:00      

                                    Tu/Th 10:00-11:00


Phone:                           (301) 322-0836

                                       department phone number:  (301) 322-0561




I will respond to all email within 48 hours.  Please do not expect an immediate response to any email, particularly emails sent late at night or just before class.  


Required Texts (available at the PGCC Bookstore)


  • Technical Communication, 7th ed., by Mike Markel.


  • Any good, recent grammar/documentation handbook


Course Objectives

The written communication of ideas is an essential element to almost every conceivable job.  Proposals, evaluations, feasibility studies, experiments, pamphlets, presentations, progress reports—even job applications themselves—are all examples of technical writing that most employees in any field are likely to encounter.  This class attempts to provide practical experience for students who will encounter many of these types of documents in their future professions. 


At the end of the course, students should be able to:


1)       Analyze audience needs and accommodate them in writing.

2)       Use a variety of composition modes effectively, including description, definition, comparison/contrast, and process.

3)       Present technical information, explanations, and recommendations clearly and effectively, using formal grammar, usage, mechanics, and formats.

4)       Prepare reports, proposals, abstracts, memoranda, and career-related communications, researching and documenting primary and secondary sources appropriately.

5)       Identify legal, ethical, and cultural considerations regarding technical communication.

6)       Prepare employment résumé and application letter.



This course consists of five documents of varying length:  a process analysis, a résumé/cover letter, an abstract, a progress memo, and an extended group proposal.  Students will also give a group presentation toward the end of the semester.  The course also involves a great deal of groupwork (some of which will take place outside of class), reading, and additional, smaller writing assignments. 


Format for Assignments

All external assignments must be typed or produced on a word processor.  Word processing is preferable because it makes the mechanics of revision--rearranging, adding and deleting--much easier.  If you do not have your own computer, computer labs are available on campus with word processing software that is easy to learn. 


Since this course focuses on writing as a process, I would like to see all of the work that leads to the final paper.  So when you turn in your final draft, place it in a folder with pockets, and include all efforts that led to the final (prewriting, peer response evaluation, rough drafts).  That way we can keep track of your progress on the specific writing features you need to work on. 


Since this course requires the creation of papers that require different formats, more detailed information will be given with each assignment.



Attendance is required. 


You are responsible for what goes on in class, whether you are present or not, so, if you are absent, seek out another student for an explanation of what was covered that day.  Moreover, since the class involves group activities throughout the semester, missing class can directly affect your grade.  This course operates in part as a workshop, where writing and peer reviewing activities take place in class.  In addition, there is a heavy emphasis on class participation.  Therefore, consistent attendance is essential to the satisfactory completion of this course.  You may have two (2) absences in this class without official penalty.  For each absence after that, your class participation grade will be lowered by one grade.  Habitual lateness is also a problem as it results in missed information on the student’s part and a distraction for the rest of the class, and will also affect your class participation grade.


If you miss a class, you are responsible for finding out what you missed—talk to a classmate to get any notes or announcements.


If essays are due on a day that the college is closed, the new due date is the next class session.  Check the PGCC website ( for school closing information.  In the event that the instructor has to cancel a class unexpectedly, a notice will be posted on the classroom door with instructions regarding the schedule.



Process Analysis                                                                 100

Résumé/Cover Letter                                                           150

Abstract                                                                                                100

Progress Report                                                                   50

Proposal                                                                                200

Oral Presentation                                                                 100

Class Participation                                                               200

Total                                                                                       900


Class participation includes homework, in-class writings, draft workshops, peer evaluations and taking an active role in the class.  In order to pass the course, all major documents and presentations must be completed—no incomplete grades will be given for this class.



Late papers will be marked down one letter grade for each day they are late.  If you have a valid reason for your lateness (which does not include printing problems, for example—make sure you do not wait until the last minute to print out your paper because something not only can go wrong but often does), please talk to me as soon as possible.  I will not accept papers that are more than one week late without a very good reason.  Papers are due at the beginning of class on the day they are listed on the syllabus.  All essays must be completed in order to pass the course. 


If you are unable to attend class on the day that an assignment is due, you may email me the assignment any time before that class to receive credit for turning it in on time.  You must also bring a hard copy of the assignment to the next class.


Revising:  each student may revise one paper that receives a grade of D or lower (if the paper was not handed in late), not including the final group proposal.  If you wish to revise a paper, you must meet with me to discuss your plan of revision, and resubmit it to me one week from the date of that meeting.  Rewrites will be graded and then averaged with the original grade to produce the final grade for that document.


Academic Integrity (Plagiarism)

Don’t do it.  Plagiarism is illegal, unethical, and dishonest.  It is taking someone else’s language or ideas and using them as your own.  Plagiarism puts both of us in an extremely difficult situation.  If you have any questions about your work or how to cite the work of others, feel free to come talk to me.  Academic dishonesty includes cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty and plagiarism. 


There are five basic forms of plagiarism:


1)       copying a source word for word without using quotation marks and without identifying the source

2)       extensive borrowing of words and phrases from a source without using quotation marks and without identifying the source

3)       too close paraphrasing

4)       using others’ ideas or information (including graphics, statistics, observations, or research data and findings) without giving credit to the source in the text of your paper or in a footnote or endnote

5)       submitting the work of someone else as your own.


Plagiarized work will receive a zero for that assignment, and may be referred to the Office of the Vice President for Student Services for disciplinary action.


Disability Support Services (DSS)

Students requesting academic accommodations are required to contact the Disability Support Services Office (M-1042) or call (301) 322-0838 (voice) or (301) 322-0122 (TTY) to establish eligibility for services and accommodations.  Students with documented disabilities should discuss the matter privately with me at the beginning of the semester and provide a copy of their Student/Faculty Accommodation Form.


Food/Drink Policy

Students may bring in snack foods only (i.e. chips/candy from a vending machine) and drinks as long as they maintain a clean classroom—no meals, please.  Upon the first spill or trash left behind, food will be prohibited.


No food is permitted in any computer labs on campus.


Additional Resources

When you feel the need for more guidance with your writing, you can see me during my office hours, schedule an appointment with me, or use PGCC’s available resources:


·         Student Assessment Services Center (Testing Center)

                                Bladen Hall, Room 100; 301-322-0090

                                <>                                     (Check the web site for hours and policies and procedures.)

·         Tutoring and Writing Centers     <>

                                Bladen Hall, Room 107

                            (Stop by or call 301-322-0748 to make an appointment.)


If you have the feeling that something is missing from your studies, the Tutoring Center can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together with free one-on-one or group tutoring.


The Writing Center offers one-on-one tutoring for all students who are working on any writing assignment in any course. 


·         Student Development Services: 301-322-0886


Student Development Services has various programs that provide students with mentoring, advising and individual counseling.  Call or check the website for more information.


·         Library (Accokeek Hall); <>                                                                


                         General information: 301-322-0105

                                Circulation services: 301-322-0475

                                Reference services:   301-322-0476

      The Learning Resources Division provides a range of library and media services.

      Refer to the web site for hours and more information about the services.


·         Campus Bookstore <> 

                                Largo Student Center, Room 116; 301-322-0912


All cell phones/pagers must be turned off (or put on silent mode) before class begins.


By remaining in this class, you agree to adhere to the course policies as outlined above


Engl 134:  Writing about Technical Topics


(This syllabus is subject to change upon notification)

All assignments/readings are due on the date they are listed (except the first class)

Bring Technical Communication (TC) to every class, even if no readings are listed


Jan.                        24            Tu           Course introduction

                                                                Readings:  TC 4-13


                                26            Th           Process Analysis assigned and discussed

                                                                Readings:  TC 522-532


                                31            Tu           Visual elements

                                                                Readings:  TC 288-294, 319-329


Feb.                         2              Th           Audience and Exigence

                                                                Readings:  TC 74-100


                                7              Tu           Draft workshop (Process Analysis)

                                                                Due:  Complete, typed draft of paper                                                              


                                9              Th           Definitions                                                                                                                                                                                            Readings:  TC 194-204

                                                                Due:  Process Analysis


                                14            Tu           Definitions


                                16            Th           Résumé and Cover Letter assigned and discussed

                                                                Readings:  TC 393-419


                                21            Tu           Revising

                                                                Introduction to collaborative writing

                                                                Readings:  TC 42-50, 52-68


                                23            Th           Proposal assigned and discussed

                                                                Abstract assigned and discussed

                                                                Readings:  TC 432-452, 269-272


                                28            Tu           Draft workshop (Résumé/Cover Letter)

                                                                Due:  Complete, typed draft of paper


Mar.                       2              Th           Persuasive argument and rhetorical appeals

                                                                Readings:  TC 105-120

                                                                Due:  Résumé/Cover Letter


                                7              Tu           Persuasive Argument


                                9              Th           Research techniques

                                                                Readings:  TC skim 124-156


                                14            Tu           Student Conferences


                                16            Th           Student Conferences


                                21            Tu           Groupwork on Proposals


                                23            Th           Ethics and documentation

                                                                Readings:  TC 26-28, skim 592-620


                                28            Tu           Draft workshop (Abstract)

                                                                Due:  Complete, typed draft of paper


                                30            Th           Progress Report assigned and discussed

                                                                Readings:  TC 466-470

                                                                Due:  Abstract


Apr.                        4              Tu           Creating effective presentations

                                                                Readings:  TC 570-589

                                                                Due:  Progress Report


                                6              Th           Style:  Tone and diction

                                                                Readings:  TC 248-260[PM1] 


10-16                                  No Class—Spring Break


                                18            Tu           Appliance manual analysis

                                                                Due:  Bring in a manual from any appliance/electronics/assembly-                                                                                            required item along with short (1 page) analysis of its effectiveness


                                20            Th           Groupwork:  preparing the presentation and proposal


April 21st is the last day to withdraw from 15-week classes


                                25            Tu           Groupwork:  preparing the presentation and proposal


                                27            Th           Oral Presentations


May                        2              Tu           Oral Presentations


                                4              Th           Review  

                                                                Due:  Proposal

 [PM1]Perhaps a lesson on powerpoint???