GSENG201 - Technical Writing

This website is not intended to duplicate or replace the tapes, textbooks, or study guide.
It is a constantly changing supplement to the materials provided or required by the college.
In general, it represents my response to questions and suggestions from students.

Last updated May 17, 2000

Computer Viruses

I receive email with file attachements from a large number of students in all parts of the world. As a result, I am a perfect vector for computer viruses. If I get an undetected virus, I may spread it to other students. I use the McAfee VirusScan and VShield programs and update them frequently.  I have avoided quite a few viruses. On at least one occassion, however, a very new virus got through. As a result, I urge all students to obtain and run their own virus protection software. Whether you have your own or not, I also strongly suggest use of McAfee's free VirusScan Online. It  will clean your hard drive of even the most recent viruses.

TESC versus OSU

Because the Thomas Edison State College course is based on and utilizes material originally developed at Oklahoma State University, there is often some initial confusion. The OSU Course Guide is provided to give you an additional resource but you should NOT follow any directions given in Oklahoma material.

Follow only the directions found in the TESC Course Manual and submit only the assignments found on pages S-24 through S-35.

Mail Option

Beginning with the Winter 1, 1999 semester, a stamped self-addressed envelope is all that is required of students using the mail option.

Email Option

1. Most Email users have distinct user names, and many times, they bear little resemblance to real names. Please include both your real name and the assignment number on the Subject line of your Email.

Subject:  Betty Bartholomew #1

2. Use all or part of your last name as well as the assignment number when naming files, e.g. "bart1" rather than "number1" or "first."

General Guidelines  

The ability to identify and use appropriate formats is central to technical writing.

If at all possible, students using the Email option should submit their work in either a WORD or EXCEL file attached to their Email.

Following the Plan Sheet or other introductory material, write the actual assignment starting on a new page. The assignments should be prepared as if they were real rather than an assignment. If, for example, the assignment calls for you to communicate something to a co-worker, use an appropriate format such as a memo.


Pickett, Nell Ann and Ann A. Laster. Technical English: Writing, Reading and Speaking. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.

Brusaw, Charles T. and others. Handbook of Technical Writing. New York: St. Martins Press, 1993.


IMPORTANT: Be sure to put your address on the Examination Feedback Form. Forms without an address are returned to the college and it may be weeks before you get the results.

The examinations show me two things: 1) how well do you understand the concepts presented and 2) how well do you write in a controlled situation with no possibility of help.

There are multiple versions of both the Midterm and the Final Examination. Both tests, however, are likely to include the following:

words or concepts to be defined,
questions requiring short answers,
data or information to be presented in a specific written or visual format,
and possibly a question requiring a longer answer.

You should be prepared to perform or explain any task you completed in the assignments.

You should also be prepared to discuss major formats or concepts that you did not do as an assignment. For example, the course requires that you write one "informal report," but after reading chapter 8, you should be prepared to explain or define other specific types of reports such as a "periodic report" or a "progress report."


Most students are well aware of what plagiarism is, as well as the possible consequences. Every semester, however, one or more students are caught and then claim they didn't know that what they did was plagiarism. As a result, I want to be very explicit about it.

The College's Student Handbook states quite clearly:

Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely punished. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs or whole documents word-for-word--or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there--without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing.

At the very least you will receive a zero for the assignment. If it appears to be a deliberate act, I may fail you for the course. I will report the incident to the appropriate administrator and you may be subject to additional penalty.

Please be sure to use quotation marks when needed and always indicate the source of your information or data. Listing your source as a Work Cited does not entitle you to use the author's words without quotation marks. Be particularly careful when using information obtained from the Internet. If I (or any of your other mentors) become suspicious, we know all too well how to search the Internet for your source or sources.   If you have any doubt at all, err on the side of caution and repeat your source.

FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions

Notes on the Assignments

Writing Assignment 1

Write a letter of introduction to your instructor in which you tell something about yourself.

Students have little trouble choosing an appropriate format and including all the requested information. The key to success with this assignment is found in the "Note" on page S-27: "Do not think of this letter as an assignment; think of it as a real letter to a real person."

Writing Assignment 2

Respond to Applications 0.4 and 0.5 on pages 20-21 in Technical English.

Application 0.4 

Be sure to include all three required copies: the original paragraph, your revision of the text, and finally, on a separate page demonstrate how you would present and actually send the message "using effective page layout and document design."

Would your final document work effectively? If necessary, you may add anything that would make the document more effective .

Application 0.5A  

Remember to include the original sentences as well as your revisions. Do not simply combine the sentences into a single shorter sentence. Be sure you retain all the information presented, and be sure you do not alter the meaning.

Writing Assignment 3

Complete Applications 11.3, 11.9 and 11.10 on pages 486-487 of Technical English.

The formatting instructions for this assignment state that "The visuals may be prepared using any appropriate computer software." Students submitting this assignment by mail simply print the visuals. Students in the Email sections may submit the visuals as a Word or Excel file.  If the visual is created with other software, use the "save as" option to save as an Excel file. If this is not possible, Assignment 3 must be printed and submitted by mail.

Application 11.3

Do not attempt to portray all the information in either of the tables as a single visual. Select a particular aspect that you believe a visual would illustrate more clearly. Note that the numbers in the table on page 469 are rounded and may not total exactly 100.

The table on page 486 can be confusing if it is not fully analyzed.  Simply added together, the numbers in the table appear to "total" much more than 100%. If all the numbers in the first column are added, for example, the total appears to be 122.4%. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the first number, 61.2%, is actually the total of the following numbers. "Improper driving" is a factor in 61.2% of all "Fatal Accidents"; therefore, 38.8% of "Fatal Acidents" are from other causes such as mechanical failure. The total of 61.2% is divided into specific types of improper driving such as "Speed too fast" which is a factor in 30.5% of all Fatal Accidents. The table is, in fact, not clear. How might data from the table be made clearer as a visual?

Application 11.10

McGowan's salary of $40,000 need not appear in the bar chart. It must, however, be used to calculate the three amounts (5% ,4% and 2%) that together represent the "total amount in dollars paid annually" into his account.

Writing Assignment 4

Complete Applications 1.2 and 1.3 on pages 44-45 of Technical English.

Application 1.2

Find and attach to your paper a set of instructions that a manufacturer included with a product.

Students using the mail may send the original documentation or a photocopy.

Students using the Email option may send a scan or retype the instructions with a description of the document design.

Application 1.3

Assume that you are a foreman or a supervisor with a new employee on the job. Explain in writing to the new employee how to carry out some simple operation.

This document should be prepared exactly as you would if you were doing it for real. The template may be placed on a separate page or in the Email message.

Writing Assignment 5

Application 1.10, 1.11 or 1.12

Together, the three assignments list forty-five processes. You may choose any one of them or you may choose a "similar topic of interest to you." Remember that your explanation is for either a lay audience or a specialized audience and and use vocabulary (and visuals) appropriate to the audience you identify. Review "Content" on page 68 to guide you in introducing and closing your process.

Writing Assignment 6

Application 2.1

Be sure to submit both formats: 1) the sentence order by indicating the order of the identifying letters as illustrated on page 99 and  2) the sentences as an actual   paragraph.

Application 2.4

The Course Manual states "Your length must be determined by the information you are presenting. This assignment is likely to be three to six pages in length, but it may be shorter."

The "three to six pages" includes the "Plan Sheet." The actual description is likely to be a single page or perhaps two.

Writing Assignment 7

Application 3.1

Be sure to distinguish each defined item from similar items. Yes, "A knife is a hand held tool for cutting," but what is it made of and how is it different from scissors, another "hand held tool for cutting"?

Application 3.2

Do not simply revise each definition. You must also "analyze" each and explain why revision is needed.

Application 4.9

Be sure to use the format of a Formal Outline. Focus on audience and purpose, particularly when you present the material in written form.

Writing Assignment 8

Application 5.4 or 5.5, not both. 

Writing Assignment 9

The "overview" paragraph is simply a brief overview of what you did. Explain how and why the summaries are different -- particularly the two in 6.5.

Writing Assignment 10

Application 7.16 and 7.17

Submit your resume and cover letter as if you were actually seeking a job.

Writing Assignment 11

Complete Application 8.9 or 8.12 or 8.13 on pages 363-364 of Technical English and write an informal report.

Use an appropriate informal report format.

Add a formal title page including A) the report title, B) your name, C) the course number and title, and D) the date of submission.

Include an overview paragraph and appropriate visuals.

Send your Plan Sheet but do not attach it as a part of the report.

Proofread; this assignment is 10% of your grade.

The report should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words.


To help you understand and appreciate how this grade will be determined and the importance of each part of the report, the following guide shows the points that may be earned for each.

Title Page 2
Overview Paragraph 9
Headings/subheadings 5
Content 10
Adapted to fit the reader 10
Use of quotations
(introduced and commented on)
Documentation 5
Ending 5
Style 9
Organization 5
Mechanics 10
Proofreading 10
Visuals 15




FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions

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And finally, do not hesitate to send Email if you have any questions. Include a portion of your assignment if you wish. I generally respond in less than 24 hours.

Dr. Lawrence Knapp

Full Professor at Essex County College

Consultant and Mentor at Thomas Edison State College