Projects & Activities

1. Employment Project

You will be asked to locate a job for which you are qualified and apply for it. Step 1 of the project asks you to learn about and use various web-based resources for job seekers and ultimately to select one job or internship to pursue. Steps 2 and 3 ask you to prepare the all-important "Job Application Letter" and a resume specifically designed for the job or internship you've selected in Step 1. In Step 4, you will assess your experience in a "Project Assessment Document." In the process of completing each step, you will work closely with your peers and your instructor to shape your writing so that it represents you and your experience fully and effectively, given the rhetorical circumstances. You will also study and respond to examples from the textbook.

(Individual; 15% of course grade.)

 

2. White Paper Project

The focus of Project 2 is the white paper, a common report genre in the professional world. White papers are used in business, industrial, and governmental contexts to sum up the gist of what’s known about a subject. During this project you will learn about

 All group members will keep a project log and submit Collaborative Project Evaluation forms.

(Collaborative: 25% of course grade.)

 

3. Usability Study and User Documentation in Multimedia

 For Project 3, you will work collaboratively in project teams on a client-based service-learning project that teaches you to manage complex writing challenges in real contexts that matter. You will learn principles of project management, collaboration, document cycling, usability testing and study, and client-based research. Because you will work with clients--either in the community, online, or theoretical--you will also learn important principles of professional and ethical communication. The goal will be to start with the White Paper Projects produced already this semester and then, after user-testing and usability study, produce a user-guide that teaches a critical and (perhaps) complex application of the technology to an interested client. You have the choice of thinking of and contacting clients who may benefit from having such your report, or accepting a theoretical client. The project will consist of several components, including a short multimedia, web-based presentation. (Collaborative; 40% of course grade.)

 

Project 1: The Employment Project

During the Employment Project, you will learn strategies for seeking and securing employment or an internship, with particular attention to the documents people normally use to represent themselves and their prospects to potential employers. This project asks you to work individually, but there will also be chances for you to work with your peers to exchange ideas and feedback in your blogs.

Project Prompt and Summary

Locate a real and specific job or internship for which you are qualified and prepare the application materials for it. If you already have a good job, find one that would be an advance for you, then prepare application materials for that position. Alternatively, you may want to apply for an internship that will give you valuable experience. Step 1 of the project asks you to learn about and use various resources for job seekers and ultimately to select one job or internship to pursue. Steps 2 and 3 ask you to prepare the all-important "Job Application Letter" and a resume specifically designed for the job or internship you've selected in Step 1. In the process of completing each step, you will work closely with your peers and me to shape your writing so that it represents you and your experience fully and effectively, given the rhetorical circumstances. You will also study and respond to examples from the textbook.

Project Goals

This project emphasizes several important goals that all professional writers should bear in mind and that are consistent with those of the Professional Writing Program at Purdue. In the Employment Project, you will learn to shape your writing for very specific situations and purposes:

Writing in Context

  • writing for a range of defined audiences and stakeholders

Project Management

  • Understand, develop and deploy various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing documents both individually and collaboratively.
  • Select and use appropriate technologies that effectively and ethically address professional situations and audiences.
  • Build professional ethos through documentation and accountability.

Document Design
Make rhetorical design decisions about workplace documents, including

  • understanding and adapting to genre conventions and audience expectations
  • understanding and implementing design principles of format and layout
  • interpreting and arguing with design
  • drafting, researching, testing, and revising visual designs and information architecture

Teamwork
Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork and collaboration, such as

  • working online with colleagues
  • responding constructively to peers' work

Research
Understand and use various research methods to produce professional documents, including

  • analyzing professional contexts

Grading

The Employment Project is worth 15% of your course grade. The breakdown for each of its components is as follows: Step 1: Skills Inventory, Job Description and Job Ad Analysis (10%); Step 2: Job Application Letter (45%); Step 3: Print Resume (45%).

Grading Criteria

When grading your project, I will pay particular attention to see whether you have effectively adapted your documents to the job for which you have applied. Your writing will need to be precise, accurate, and well-suited to the context (the job/field) and to the rhetorical occasion (in terms of tone, style, and content). In this case, a generic, catch-all resume and cover letter will not satisfy the requirements of the project.  No document with even ONE typo, misspelling, or grammar error will get an A.

Deliverables

Step 1Skills Inventory, Job Description and Job Ad Analysis . Find a job ad and produce an exact copy of it. Then do some analysis and reflection. Fill out the Job Ad Analysis form - due Friday, January 23. 

Step 2Job Application Letter. The job application letter is critical to your efforts to secure a job, perhaps as critical as your resume itself. For Project 1, your letter should be no longer than one or two pages (one is preferable in most cases), following the suggestions and models discussed during class. You must bring a hard copy of your cover letter rough draft on Friday, Jan. 30. Your letter should be context-specific and should contain the required five parts (heading, greeting, opening, persuasion, closing) in the format shown in our text (the Rhetoric of the Job Application Letter and Types of Employment Documents) and in resources like the OWL.

Step 3Print-Based Resume. Your printable resume (one or more pages in length, depending upon the type of job and the depth of your experience) should adapt features drawn from the samples discussed in class or available for review at the Online Writing Lab. It's critical that you shape your resume to the specific job or internship you have chosen to apply for (that it's suited to the context), so be sure to include only the relevant aspects of your professional experience. As in the Job Application Letter, your writing needs to be error-free, concise, and presented in an easily readable format. The rough draft of your resume is due by 11:00 pm Monday, Feb. 9. E-mail it to me. We'll begin resume conferences on Tuesday.  Make sure to review the principles, guidelines, and resume samples in PW Online as well as the Resume Powerpoint and attempt to apply the content and design guidelines to your resume.

 

Final Drafts of Cover Letter and Resume Due Monday, February 16.


 

Project 2: White Paper Project

During the White Paper Project, you will learn to identify ethical, controversial, or technological issues or problems relevant to a professional setting, to research and synthesize information, and to present that information in an objective fashion which calls your audience to action. Although this project involves some individual elements, the majority of the project is the result of collaboration.

A white paper is an informative and definitive overview of a well-focused topic. White papers typically include an "Executive Summary," "Background Information," "Key Issues" or "Key Developments," "Resource List," and a number of other sections, depending on the nature of the subject matter (a chronology, remaining challenges, future prospects, etc.)


Project Summary

  • Groups of 3-4 members will be asked to do web-based and library research and then to write an informative white paper addressing a contemporary issue regarding technology which may be ethical, controversial, or unresolved. For instance, you might examine p2p file sharing and copyright law, safety issues, identity theft, or a host of others.
  • This research will result in a visually sophisticated (well-designed) document of 1700-2100 words that presents findings to appropriate audience(s) and rhetorical situation(s). Ultimately, you will investigate the extent of a particular problem and evaluate measures that have been taken to solve that problem, addressed to the company which this problem concerns.
  • After producing the final draft of the white paper, groups will present their findings to the class in a brief and engaging oral presentation, complete with PowerPoint and handout(s).

 

Project Goals

This project emphasizes several important goals that all professional writers should bear in mind and that are consistent with those of the Professional Writing Program at Purdue. The White Paper Project emphasizes shaping research, writing, and design to very specific situations and purposes:

Writing in Context
Analyze professional cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse.

Writing Process Develop and understand various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing documents that respond effectively and ethically to professional situations and audiences.

Collaboration
Learn and apply strategies for successful collaboration, such as working and communicating on-line with colleagues, setting and achieving project goals, and responding constructively to peers' work.

Research Understand and use various research methods to produce professional documents, including analyzing professional contexts, assessing and using information resources, and determining how various media and technologies affect and are affected by users and readers.

Technology Develop strategies for using and adapting various communication technologies to manage projects and produce informative and usable professional documents.

Document Design
Learn to argue with visual data, understanding and implementing various principles of format, layout, and design of professional documents that meet multiple user and reader needs.

Rhetorical Situation

The primary audience for your white paper consists of readers who are concerned in implementing solutions to the problem you are addressing - in other words, the company being affected by the problem. Though they are experts in their field, their awareness of the issue and their familiarity with the technology and policies needed to address the issue will vary. The purpose of the white paper is to identify a problem and provide objective information about the success and failures of current measure being taken to solve the problem.


Length and Format

The length of your white paper will depend somewhat on your choice of topics, but it should be within 1700-2100 words (formatting will vary based on the design employed by each group, but every white paper should be visually sophisticated.)

Your white paper should meet the following criteria:

  • Between 1700-2100 words in length
  • Include at least one graphic (with corresponding citation)
  • Professionally spiral-bound with a cardstock cover
  • Appropriate page numbers and headings
  • In-text citations for each item of supporting evidence
  • Contain the following elements:
    • Title page
    • Table of contents
    • Table of figures (if the document contains four or more figures)
    • Executive summary which
      • Is written for a specific audience
      • Presents the paper's highlights (no new information)
      • Identifies the issue or need leading to the report
      • Offers key facts, statistics, and findings (but doesn't get too detailed)
      • Includes a condensed conclusion (basically an overview statement)
      • Is concise (the above can be combined into the same sentences when need be, for instance)
    • Introduction
    • Background:
      • History of problem
      • Extent of problem
    • Discussion of current solutions - their successes and failures (discuss no more than three)
    • Conclusion
    • Works Cited (good databases to use for research are LexisNexis, Proquest, and CQ Researcher)

 

Deliverables

There will be both group and individual deliverables for this project.

Groups will be responsible for the following:

Group Deliverable 1: Proposal
Due Feb. 23

You will have the opportunity to review individual proposals on our course website and to discuss possibilities and form groups. Each group will turn in one hardcopy of a 250 word topic proposal, in the form of a memo. This memo will include information about the topic under consideration, the potential solutions to be examined, and possible resources. Follow the guidelines for memo writing outlined at Purdue's Owl and your text. You should also refer to the "Hints on Good Memo Headers." Remember that you are selling an idea -- this is a persuasive, not descriptive, document. This means presenting the problem or issue as worthy of consideration, and the information as relevant. Your audience is a company who is dealing with the issue you have chosen. You are explaining to the top level execs why they need to be concerned - they are aware of a problem, but you are providing details about its severity.

Group Deliverable 2: Draft of White Paper
Due March 25

Each group will be required to have minimum 2, maximum 5 hard copies of their white paper (must be printed before class) in class for peer review. Remember that a draft is a complete version. These do not have to be bound.

Group Deliverable 3: Final Draft of White Paper
Due March 30

Each group will be required to submit one hard copy of their white paper. In addition to the print copy, each group will email me a PDF version of their white paper.

Group Deliverable 4: Presentation
Due March 30

Each group will present their material to the class in a professional presentation. Presentations will run 10-12 minutes. They must include multimedia elements (such as the use of PowerPoint) and be accompanied by a handout (see guidelines). Each group member will be expected to take part in the presentation.  Consult Successful Presentation Guidelines as well.



Individuals within groups will be responsible for the following deliverables:


Individual Deliverable 1: Topic Proposal
Due Feb. 18

Each individual will post a 100-word project topic proposal related to one of the following areas to their blog by classtime Feb. 18:

  • Music downloads
  • Video downloads
  • Image downloads
  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Online role-playing games
  • Wikis (ie Wikipedia)
  • Chatrooms
  • Search engines (ie Google)
  • Internet censorship
  • E-Commerce
  • Ebay


The project topic will deal with a problem that arisen in any one of these areas. It can be a copyright problem, an industry problem, an artist problem, a privacy problem, an efficiency problem, an ethical problem... you name it. You are not expected to SOLVE the problem now, only identify one.

You will post a blog entitled: Topic Proposal: [statement of problem goes here]. For instance, if I were to choose music downloads, I could write Topic Proposal: Demo Versions of Artists' Songs Being Leaked Before Album Release. Then, I would write at least 100 words explaining why that's a problem in my blog. I'd mention musicians' frustrations at unfinished work being "out there," how it could hurt them - maybe give an example such as the leakage of Guns N' Roses' tracks from Chinese Democracy. By classtime Feb. 18, all the blogs will be posted on our site. In class, students will discuss their projects, respond to blogs and work out groups as directed for a final topic.

Individual Deliverable 2: Weekly Research & Work(b)logs
Updated at least once weekly, starting Feb. 18 and ending March 30


Each individual will be required to keep a blog which a) records his/her research and b) details his/her contributions to the project. Each student will be expected to have at least four blogs. Work(b)logs will be updated every week until the project concludes, with the exception of Spring Break.

Individual Deliverable 3: Peer Evaluation
Due March 30


An important component of your project is successful collaboration. Each member will reflect on his/her participation in the project and on the experience of working in a group by completing the
Peer Evaluation Form.


Grading

The White Paper Project breakdowns as follows:

Group Components

  •     Group Deliverable 1: Proposal: 10%
  •     Group Deliverable 2: White Paper Draft: 10%
  •     Group Deliverable 3: White Paper Final: 40%
  •     Group Deliverable 4: Presentation: 20%


Individual Components

  •     Individual Deliverable 1: Topic Proposal: 5%
  •     Individual Deliverable 2: Research & WorkBlog: 10%
  •     Individual Deliverable 3: Peer Evaluation: 5%


Grading Criteria

When I assign a grade to your project, I will pay particular attention to see whether your white paper is informative and accurate and that you avoid as much as possible arguing a particular position. You should strive for a balance of perspectives and accurate coverage of a focused topic. The point is not to advocate for a position or "pamphleteer," but to establish a foundation of knowledge about the subject that future students and researches will find useful. I will also weigh your feedback on the Collaborative Project Assessment form in assigning a grade for your participation in the project.


 
More White Paper Resources:

Sample White Paper About White Papers

Sample Plain White Paper

Several Sample White Papers

Project 3: Usability Study and User Documentation in Multimedia

Overview

For Project 3, you will work collaboratively in project teams on a client-based project that teaches you to manage complex writing challenges in practical contexts. You will learn principles of project management, collaboration, document cycling, usability testing and study, and client-based research. You will also learn important principles of professional and ethical communication. The goal will be to produce a user-guide that teaches a critical and (perhaps) complex application of the technology to an interested client. You have the choice of thinking of and contacting clients who may benefit from having such a report, or creating your own client/company scenario. The project will consist of several components; you may add an optional web-based multimedia tutorial for 10 points extra credit.


Component One: Proposal of Problem

As stated above, you must identify a problem with either a client of your choosing or create a company scenario that involves issues with user-friendliness of one of their products. Your documentation/tutorial will solve those issues.  You must write a one-to-two page proposal on the problem your group will be addressing, due Wednesday, April 8.  It will include as an additional page a Gantt Chart detailing your group's deadlines and delegation of tasks, as we will go over in class.  The proposal is worth 10% of your project grade and should include the following:

  • Definition of users and their problem(s). Consider:
    • who is the typical user of the product
    • what are some of the characteristics of the "typical" or "average" user
    • what does the typical user use the product for
    • what problems might they have with it
  • Why a tutorial/documentation would benefit the employer/client
  • How you plan to test usability of your documentation
    • what methods will be used to recruit and select users
    • what problems the student researchers anticipate may occur before, during, and/or after the test sessions
  • Gantt chart showing timelines, deadlines, and delegation of tasks; you can use any software you like. There are various tutorials for making one in Excel at places like YouTube if you choose that route.
  • Memo form as detailed for Project 2

 

Component Two:  Storyboard

You've conducted research on audience, purpose, and context of use for your documentation. Now you’ll start putting some of that research to work. In this component, you will present storyboards to the class outlining what you're putting in your documentation. You can use PowerPoint slides as your "storyboard" elements. Each storyboard represents one subsection of your documentation, or one step in your tutorial.

 

Component Three:  User Documentation

After studying a problem of concern to your client dealing with an aspect of their company's product that is either missing or currently flawed regarding user-friendliness, you will create documentation to address that problem. We are using the term "documentation" in its technical writing sense, where it consists of a user guide/tutorial in order to demonstrate to a user how to handle a certain task or tasks.

Length is not rigid; some may be able to write shorter documentation than others.  It depends on the prior knowledge of your audience - how much do you have to explain to them about the product from the get-go?  How much are you trying to cover?

For 10 points extra credit on your overall project grade, you have the option of using Captivate or a similar software to create a multimedia, web-based presentation tutorial.


Component Four: Usability Study and Report

After finishing a draft of the documentation, your group will conduct a usability study field-testing the tutorial. 6-9 test users  (depending on your needs) will attempt to follow your instructions; any flaws in your documentation will become evident. After this study, you will work to correct any issues that have arisen.

The usability testing materials package should include:

  • Pre-test background survey about user experience
  • Observational data sheet to record user reactions to and interactions with the product
  • Follow-up survey or interview questions

You should select 6-9 subjects that:

  • Are from a variety of backgrounds, taking into consideration such factors as gender, race, education, prior knowledge about the product, level of expertise in the product, etc.
  • Do not have a personal connection with any of the team members.

Each test session, including debriefing, should last approximately 30-45 minutes.

Incorporate the information you've learned into your documentation as an appendix. The report in the appendix should be brief; keep it to about 900-1200 words. It should include:

  • Adequate information on the background of the product tested
  • The methods used (user profiles, researcher roles, testing facility, data collection and analysis methods and procedures)
  • Discussion of test results (key findings and recommendations). See CIF (Common Industry Format) guidelines developed by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Testing) and adapt these guidelines for your purposes

 

 

Component Five: Individual Elements

  • Keep up the weekly maintenance of your blogs (worth 4% of grade)
  • Turn in a peer evaluation (worth 1% of grade); due May 6


Grading Percentiles:

  • Proposal: 10%
  • Storyboard: 10%
  • Rough Draft: 10%
  • Usability Study and Report 20%
  • Final Draft: 45%
  • Blogs: 4%
  • Peer Evaluation: 1%

 

Important Dates:

April 8: Proposal due

Apr. 15: Storyboard Due

Apr. 22: Rough Draft of Documentation Due to present in usability testing

May 6: Final Draft of Documentation Due

May 6: Peer Evaluation Due