Writing in the Professions
Writing for the Professions
Instructor: Dr. Roberta Binkley
Office: 547A Languages and Literature Bldg.
Web Site http://www.public.asu.edu/~rbinkle
You are the focus of this course, your hopes, plans, ambitions, and future. Now, as you move toward the conclusion of your college career, is the time to take personal stock of your abilities and goals, and to consider how to communicate these and other aspects of yourself in relation to the working world. You will produce as well as critically analyze documents and genres in common use in the business world. This course is a hybrid course.
What is a Hybrid Course?
In a hybrid course a significant portion of the learning activities are moved online. That means that part of the course (Thursdays in this case) is moved online and only on Tuesdays does the class meet face-to-face. The goal of a hybrid course is to join the best features of in-class learning and teaching with online learning. Using computer-based technologies, I will use the hybrid model to redesign some lecture and discussion content into new online learning activities, such as tutorial, peer editing and comment, and online group collaborations.
Time flexibility is the most popular aspect of a hybrid. Most students like the greater convenience that allows coursework on Thursday to be scheduled flexibly and decreases time spent commuting and finding parking. However, while the class does not meet on Thursdays in the classroom, there will be some Thursdays when I will ask to meet with you for individual conferences and group conferences. Otherwise, I will try to make the online day as flexible as possible generally asking that you have your online work submitted by midnight on Sunday.
Fundamental to any writing course and especially to technical communication is the idea that writers need to know how to adapt to the rhetorical context which includes audience, subject, purpose, and media. In this course you will practice exercising critical reading, thinking, and writing skills which include:
? Synthesizing, analyzing, and evaluating multiple points of view
? Articulating and supporting your own position
? Adjusting your writing to multiple audiences, purposes, and conventions
The Goals for this course include:
1. Understanding how a writer adapts to a discourse community
2. Understand and use strategies appropriate to professional discourse generally used by the business community and the academic community
3. To critically analyze discourse patterns and strategies generally in use in the business community
4. To develop methods of inquiry that allow you to continue to research, question, read, write, and reflect on professional discursive practices once you enter the working world.
Most of the course, as I teach it, is focused on the students’ own life and work. We know that students write best about things that matter to them; their lives and their futures, obviously, are pretty important to them. Hence, you write best and learn the most dealing with these personal issues.
Overview of Course Organization
Unit 1–Information Interviews/Networking
In the course as I’ve formed it, I ask you to interview someone who they don’t know, someone whose job they’d like to have. I talk about networking and the fact that 80% of the job market is hidden. Then I ask you to write up the interview using sensory detail, description and quotes. I don’t want a typical Q and A format. Thus,you begin with the experience of doing an interview as opposed to being interviewed which I hope gives you deeper insight into the whole process. My aim in terms of your writing and thinking (both are inextricably intertwined) is to try to push you out of your comfort zone and the patterns of academic writing that you’ve become so used to doing almost mechanically.
In individual conferences, I will ask you to tell the interview as a story with a beginning, (but not starting at the beginning) the middle and the end (writing conclusions is even harder than beginnings). I ask you to use heads. I stress that prose in business needs to be “scannable,” and we discuss ways to do that. I also specify that you have to bring yourself in as an active participant.
You have to use “I” and acknowledge that you come from a standpoint as does every writer no matter how impersonal the prose. We talk about that too in class, impersonal prose and the ideology and ethics around it. We also work in groups reading aloud and critiquing each other. In addition, I also ask that you e-mail letters to each other. On the day you turn in projects, I ask a number of students to read them aloud to the class. Finally I hand out an individual Writer’s Response Sheet with questions to help you reflect on your own work. Your work should have gone through two or three drafts by this point.
“Parable of the Saddhu”/ Business Ethics
Early in the semester I show the film “Parable of the Saddhu” produced jointly by the Harvard School of Business and the public television station, WETA, Boston. Briefly, it’s a re-enactment of a mountain climb in the Himalayas by an anthropologist and a wall street banker, “Buzz McCoy.” A nearly-dead holy man, a Saddhu, is handed off to them by the party ahead. They give him some blankets and food and then hand him off to the next party behind him who in turn give him some more supplies and point him to a hut down the mountain which he can’t make. The situation is then dissected by a large panel composed of business ethicists, editors, mountain climbers, and business people. We discuss the situation and the discussion that follows in the film, and then students write personal responses to it after they’ve also reacted on-line.
Unit II Applications, Resumes, Followups
In the next unit, again following through with at least two and preferably three drafts, I ask for two letters of application, two followup letters, and a resume. We search the web for jobs to apply for using the large group of search engines. Here again, I attempt, in a postmodern way, to push you in your writing. Letters of application have to come from somewhere...someone. They need to reflect a personality, a voice. This concept may still be new to you, and you may struggle. I also use these letters to help you apply to graduate schools. Many choose to write their personal statements to graduate school and the writing gets pretty intense with your life on the line. I’ve gone through as many as 5-10 drafts with some students. Their comments are that it’s the toughest writing they’ve ever done. It is, you are trying to write their lives persuasively, but you’ll learn a lot about how to write an interesting, appealing letter that at the same time addresses the questions that need to be covered.
Unit III Persuasion, Bad News, and Writing
The third unit is a bad news letter and a persuasive letter and a personal book review of Natalie Goldberg’s book about writing, Writing Down the Bones, or another book about writing. Here I as you to reflect on you own writing and process. Here again there are drafts before the final draft, and you turn in all your process work. I push you to try to be as self-reflexive as they can be. For the persuasive letter, I ask you to write to someone requesting a letter of recommendation.
Unit IV Final Project
Then, of course, there’s the final project. The longest and most comprehensive project of the course. Here I hand out and upload a model done by one of my students in Tennessee contrasting and comparing the 3-law schools in Tennessee. I ask for a 2-3 page proposal which we discuss in class, in groups, and evaluate via e-mail. Then there’s the memo of transmittal, an executive summary, the body of the report, and works cited (I generally ask for a minimum of 3-primary sources and 6-10 secondary sources).
In this project you can evaluate graduate schools you’re applying to, contrast and compare cram courses for the GRE, MCAT, CPA, etc. Some chose to prepare model portfolios, evaluate a business, or do a business plan to start their own business. My only stipulation is that it apply to your life. I don’t want an academic report on something that doesn’t immediately affect you. I’ve had some amazing reports. Students have suddenly caught fire and changed their lives as well as improved their writing dramatically.
Finally, the last part of the course is dedicated to individual Power Point presentations where you share your projects with each other.
Throughout the course, I insist on journals where you practice two types of writing as you review each assigned chapter in the book. I ask first, for a tight summary/abstract of what you have read. That’s something that many students have trouble with, they don’t know how to write a succinct abstract. So there’s a lot of back-and-forth early in the semester around abstracts. Then in the second section of each chapter journal, I ask you to switch your writing and to write from a personal viewpoint, using “I” and discussing the material as it applies to your own life using specific examples. These journals will be electronic or paper depending on whether the course is a hybrid course.
I use Blackboard for on-line assignments and information as well as the course syllabus and a list of resources.
Obviously much of the course applies digital technologies to the academic, professional, civic, and personal realm of your lives. The text I use, Bovee, Thill, and Schatzman, Business Communication Today, 7th edition (2003) includes chapters such as “Writing for the Web” and “Communicating Through the Internet and Other Technologies.” We use the web for research and information, evaluating the veracity and bias of web sites as well as building problem-solving skills with computer and web-based resources. Such problems as information technology’s influence on issues that involve ethics, privacy, and security as well as universal access are discussed and addressed.
The film, “The Parable of the Saddhu” is something that students discuss both in their papers and on-line in an asynchronous discussion of the whole group where I ask each one to make a substantial entry and to comment on two other entries.
But perhaps one of the most important uses of computers in the classroom, for me, is to encourage freewriting. Throughout the course, we brainstorm, and I ask you questions to freewrite around and to follow. We return to that writing in a self-reflective way, evaluating and discussing it. This has been one of the most effective ways I’ve found to encourage fluency. It is an especially good way to deal with the problems of writer’s block, something we examine in depth.
Group work is done in face-to-face meetings, with asynchronous discussions as well as the exchange of e-mails.
We also do a lot of work in class with process writing, and drafting. It’s easier to teach revision on the computer because you aren’t quite so wedded to you work when you know you can cut and rearrange and change. If it doesn’t work, there’s always the first draft to go back to. So the concept of drafts becomes clearer to you. In my experience most students are “the night before” writers. By requiring multiple drafts that we conference on and discuss one-on-one and in groups, you’ll come to realize that first thoughts are not final, and that you original organization might be made more effective with the input of your peers and the instructor. You will begin to understand, and perhaps to actually enjoy, the process of rewriting as a conversation and re-envisioning.
Along the way, we’ll work with a variety of professional communication forms, primarily written and used in the business world. I’m looking forward to an exciting and creative semester working with you. I’ll help you in every way that I can, and I hope you’ll take this opportunity to stretch, dream, and create.
TEXT AND REQUIRED
1. Bovee, Courtland, John V. Thill, and Barbara Schatzman. Business Communication Today. Seventh Edition
2. Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones
3. An e-mail account which you check frequently
4. An Asurite I.D. to log onto Blackboard
5. At least 2 computer disks (3.5”) in protective casing
6. A 3-hole notebook and access to a 3-hole punch. I give a lot of handouts and they get mislaid and lost unless you systematically file them in a notebook
Just as in the business world punctual attendance is mandatory. If you are habitually late and/or tend to miss part of a class, I will count two of these instances as an absence, and I may encourage you to drop the course. Because this is a workshop course, active, in-class, participation is necessary. Your work online will also count as part of your attendance. No work for the Thursday class meeting will mean that you not only receive a 0 for the day but an absence as well. Beginning with each absence after three absences, each missed class will lower your TOTAL COURSE GRADE by one letter grade. It is department policy that after five absences, no matter what the reason, that you will fail the course.
You will be called on to discuss your homeowrk online, or in the face-to-face class. Failure to hae read the material will earn a failing mark for the day.
If any kind of emergency prevents you from attending regularly or getting your course work done, please talk to me sooner rather than later. I can be flexible when students keep me informed about illnesses or problems. However, I will NOT be flexible when a student disappears for several days with no explanation and then wants to make arrangements to turn in late work. If an emergency arises you can leave a message on the answering machine in my office.
I will schedule individual and small group conferences numerous times during the semester since this course is a tutorial course. Please come to the conference prepared to discuss your current work. A missed conference counts as an absence. A word about conferences, they do not produce miracles or A's, but they are necessary, and they can be extremely helpful if you come prepared to lead the conference. Please begin the conversation by either reading or commenting on your draft. Be prepared to conclude the conference by summarizing suggestions and explaining what you will work on for the final draft. Also, I will ask that we sometimes conference on Thursdays, during the class hour.
Academic dishonesty and Plagiarism:
Plagiarism is stealing. Plagiarism is cheating yourself and someone else. The consequences are severe, including failure for the assignment, probably failure for the course, disciplinary referral to the Dean, and possible expulsion from ASU. Whenever you borrow a phrase, sentence, paragraph--or even an idea stated in your own words--from any outside source (the news, Writing Project, magazine, TV show, book) without giving credit to that source, you have plagiarized. For more information, see the Guide to Composition on the composition program's web site. If you have any questions about how to acknowledge someone else's words or ideas, see me. If you have trouble completing an assignment, please communicate with me. Do not panic: do not represent someone else's work as your own or submit work already produced for another course. Document all borrowed information and ideas according to the format requirements given in the style manual appropriate to your field or in the textbook. If you're not sure, please ask me.
All assignments, including drafts and oral reports, must be completed in order to pass the course. Your responsibility encompasses all assignments within the syllabus and those that will be added during the course. Absence is not an excuse for missing an additional assignment or one to be handed in. Any late or missed work can be turned in to me in person or submitted in the main English office. Points will automatically be deducted from late work.
All word-processed work must be retrievable on the computers in our classroom. The best way to insure that yours is retrievable is to do your work in MS Word. Other programs may be compatible, but there are no guarantees. If you get in a bind, save your work in Rich Text Format (RTF) or "text only" format. You'll lose formatting, but you'll keep your text. Also, when you’re using computers on campus be sure to save to the M drive in addition to your floppy disk. The M drive is your personal drive that you can access from anywhere on campus. It’s a way to have a backup. Last semester many students had problems with their floppy disks. I’d suggest that you save your work to two floppy disks. It only takes a minute to copy a second floppy. Coming to class without your disk is coming unprepared. The printers in the classrooms are for very limited use. Do not come to class expecting to print your paper in class.
Since this is a business writing course, work must be of professional quality. Assume you are submitting your letters, memos, and reports to your supervisor, a colleague, or a client. Writing done outside of class must be typed or, better, word_processed. Do not use justified right margins or type larger than 12 picas. Except for the final draft of letters, all assignments should be double_spaced in order to allow me to comment on your text. Use standard white paper with one_inch margins. Use spell check!
IN ORDER TO RECEIVE A GRADE, ALL DRAFTS AND NOTES MUST BE TURNED IN WITH THE COMPLETED ASSIGNMENT.
Make two copies of each assignment: one to turn in for evaluation and one to keep for your files to insure that you'll receive credit for all work in the highly unlikely event that you or I lose your original assignment. Again, be sure to preserve your work on an extra computer disk. Don’t trust your hard drive!
Excellent work is just that. It not only fulfills the assignment, but transcends the generic. It is clear, concise, professional, individual, and a pleasure to read. It demonstrates a clear awareness of audience and purpose. It is free of grammatical and surface (mechanical) errors.
Acceptable work is solid but may have flaws in content, organization, expression, and/or mechanics. It is readable and clear, but it lacks strength of purpose and development, and the writer may have missed opportunities to appeal to her/his readers through a "you_attitude."
Unacceptablework is vague, awkward, and maybe even sloppy. It demonstrates little attention to satisfying readers' needs; it may have mechanical errors that distract from the readers' attention. All in all, it would not "fly" in the business world; rather, it would detract from the author's credibility.
In class, we will discuss criteria for each specific assignment. In addition to the general concerns of clarity, expression, organization, development, and mechanics, I will look particularly for changes between drafts and final copy and other evidences of thought.
STUDENTS EARN GRADES; TEACHERS DON'T GIVE THEM
Grading: Excellent, Acceptable, Unacceptable
Unit 1: Interview report (10%) 30.........24..........18
Unit 2: Resume, application
& follow-up letters (15%) 45.........36..........24
Unit 3: Letters (2) and writing reflection based on Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones
Formal report (25%)
Class participation (list serve participation, online discussions, and
Response papers (20%) 30.........24..........18
A = 270 - 300
B = 240 - 269
C = 210 - 239
D = 180 - 209
E = below 180