Lesson 4

Lesson 4: Genre and Group work

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Class Discussion: Genres and Process

  1. Elect roles for the day
  2. Read back through your completed RAB entry together
  3. Define the rhetorical situation that produces this particular document (use the questions from p. 7)
  4. Think about your writing process in terms of the Technical Writing Process described on p. 6
  • do these steps really get at all the work you did on this document?
  • What order did you move through the steps? was it recursive, as they describe?
  • What went right or wrong in your group work process? What lessons did you learn about working collaboratively?

If you get the time, take a look at some of the other RAB entries on the google doc and take down some thoughts about what differences and similarities you see between yours and theirs

Time: 20 - 25 minutes

First Progression Project

For our first major project, you will work in your initial color groups to develop an original webpage, either on the wiki or on another platform of your choosing. The objective of your webpage should be to give clear how-to instructions explaining how to write in a specific genre relevant to scientists of engineers. You might choose a genre from the ones covered in our text book, or you might come up with your own.

Your webpages should be appropriately pitched for a high-school aged audience with no particular experience in Engineering. Consider that you're making these students a no-nonsense guide for survival in the professional world of engineering by giving them a thorough overview of not only how to write in a particular important genre, but also how that genre functions and what the rules are for producing it well. To that end, you should provide original examples to display various elements of your genre. By the time your reader is finished with your webpage, she should fully understand how to produce your given genre and have a clear understanding of what it means to write it well.

Some examples:

  • technical instructions
  • Memos
  • Analytical reports
  • Lab reports
  • Professional society newsletters
  • Engineering textbooks
  • Presentation posters (using the ones in the science building as part of your data set)
  • TED talks

Constraints and Specifications:
Original Examples:

  • You should use a range of examples to display the various elements of your genre
    • Examples should be drawn from the "real world"
    • If you are doing an academic genre, ask your professors for examples (lab reports, departmental memos, academic articles, grant proposals, statements of purpose)
    • If you are doing a professional genre, do research online to track down examples (analytical reports, newsletters, TED talks)
    • If all else fails, write your own examples (technical instructions, memos)


  • Aesthetics and visual design are important for this project
  • Incorporate visual elements, external links, and (as appropriate) multimedia
  • Remember who your audience is and consider ways to use the visual or formal elements to keep them interested

Assignment Progression:

  • 2/7 — Assignment revealed, initial brainstorming and planning for research
  • 2/12 — No class, compose a project proposal and distribute it to your group mates via your shared wiki work space
  • 2/14 — Group work session, Make final decisions about group project, compose progress report memo to Andrew
  • 2/19 — Share provisional draft with peers from other groups
  • 2/21 — Final day for group work on webpages
  • 2/26 — Give a brief presentation of your webpage for the class
  • 2/26 — Final draft due by 10pm

For next time


  • TWC Chapter 2 "Readers and Contexts of Use" [CA and PZ post RAB by 2/15]
  • TWC Chapter 7 "E-mail, E-Messages, and Memos" [SA and LY by 2/15]


  • Begin your research gathering for genre website project
  • Come prepared for work session next time

Optional additional homework

  • Attend Waterproofing New York conference on 9 Feb

Freebee opportunity:
If you attend at least two different panels or plenary talks, you may earn a freebie for your attendance at this conference. You will need to write a post for the blog describing your experience at the conference, paying special attention to how writing and communication skills were displayed.

Consider this an opportunity to test if what we're learning from the textbook is actually true in the "real world." A good tactic would be to bring concrete examples back with you from the conference, whether it's in the form of notes from presenters' talks, recordings, or physical artifacts (handouts, pamphlets, etc). Consider this a report from the field documenting what communication skills are needed in this "real world" setting where scientists, designers, and engineers employ writing and communication.

Challenges and opportunities

  • Try to ask a question of one presentation and comment in your blog post about what this was like.
  • Network! Talk to one or two of the presenters after their talk, and try to collect the e-mail addresses so you can contact them later to ask about their experience as writers. This cold be very useful for the midterm project
  • Watch for social dynamics: who's an expert and who's a novice? How can you tell?

Constraints and Specifications:

  • posts should be at least 400 words and should cover a range of specific topics (could use headings)
  • Posts should have an original title that points to the overall lessons about communication that emerged from your field work

This is an adaptable freebie, so if you can't make this particular conference, you may to attend a different public lecture, conference, or symposium and complete the same sort of assignment to earn credit. E-mail me to check if the event you're attending is appropriate for this assignment.

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