Effective: Early Spring 8-Week 2018/2019

ENGL 204: Technical Writing

Back to Top

  Course Description

Study and practice of writing for professional and technical audiences and purposes.

Prerequisite: ENGL 112

Proctored Exams: None



  • Markel, Mike. (2015). Technical Communication (11th). New York: Bedford/St. Martin's.  
    • [ISBN-978-1-4576-7337-5]

MBS Information

Textbooks for the course may be ordered from MBS Direct. You can order

For additional information about the bookstore, visit http://www.mbsbooks.com.

  Course Overview

English 204 prepares you for writing tasks that you will encounter in your professional field or as leaders of organizations.  You will prepare documents using appropriate formats for specific audiences. This course will focus on writing documents typically found in the work place or other professional settings, beginning with memos, then moving on to larger writing projects. The course culminates in a written report of significant size and scope.  

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Objectives

  • To prepare students for writing effectively in various professions.
  • To foster professional competence.

  Measurable Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize and exhibit proper professional format of reports and other forms of communication.
  • Employ audience analysis and adaptation skills.
  • Demonstrate effective graphics and the necessary technology to incorporate graphics in texts.
  • Exercise proper use of technical jargon.
  • Exercise proper grammar skills.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 900-1000 90-100%
B 800-899 80-89%
C 700-799 70-79%
D 600-699 60-69%
F 0-599 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions (7) 210 21%
Peer Reviews 90 9%
Background Memo 50 5%
Preliminary Proposal 50 5%
Audience Analysis 100 10%
Annotated Bibliography 100 10%
Progress Report 50 5%
Professional Recommendation Report 350 35%
Total 1000 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 1: Introduction - Wednesday/Friday
Background Memo 50 Sunday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 2: Brainstorm Project Ideas for Proposals 30 Wednesday/Friday
Preliminary Project Proposal 50 Sunday

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3: Audience and Limitations 30 Wednesday/Friday
Audience Analysis 100 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 4: Researching Your Subject 30 Wednesday/Friday
Peer Review: Annotated Bibliography 30
Annotated Bibliography 100 Sunday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5: Effectively Communicating 30 Wednesday/Friday
Peer Review: Timeline/Schedule 30

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 6: Persuasive? 30 Wednesday/Friday
Progress Report 50 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7: Evaluation Plan 30 Wednesday/Friday
Peer Review: Formal Proposal 30

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Professional Recommendation Report 350 Wednesday
Discussion 8: What have you learned about technical writing? 30 Wednesday/Friday
Total Points: 1000

  Assignment Overview


Discussion posts should be well thought out and well written; they should deepen our understanding of the week’s topic(s). Some discussions will refer to assigned readings and ask you to draw from those; others will be mini-workshops regarding your ideas and writing as well as your peers’.  Once you have posted, you must also respond to at least two other students in the class. You are encouraged to respond to a different student for each topic, as much as possible. Everyone in the class should get some peer feedback every week if you are vigilant about responding to a variety of people. The bulk of the learning in the course will happen in this dialogue. These discussions will also help you with your written assignments.

Your initial post for each discussion is due on Wednesday, 11:59 pm Central Time (CT). You will need to respond to at least two of your classmates’ discussions by Friday, 11:59 pm CT.  

Peer Reviews

During this course, you will have an opportunity to share your drafts with your classmates.  Through these Peer Reviews, you will be able to ask questions regarding what you are unsure of and share drafts of portions of your report prior to submitting your final report.  Peer feedback should be fair and give constructive critiques on how your classmates can improve that portion of their report.

Peer Reviews will be conducted:

Week 4: Annotated Bibliography

Week 5: Timeline/Schedule Draft

Week 7: Professional Recommendation Report Draft

The portion that is being peer reviewed should be submitted to the appropriate discussion by Wednesday, 11:59 pm CT of the appropriate week.  You will then need to submit your feedback to two classmates’ posts by Friday, 11:59 pm CT.   Your grade on the peer review discussions will be based NOT on the quality of your draft, but on the quality of feedback you provide your peers.

Finally, you will submit your final version to the appropriate Dropbox folder by Sunday, 11:59 pm CT.  The only exceptions are during Week 5 (you will not submit your final version for the Timeline/Schedule) and Week 7 (you will have until Wednesday of Week 8 to submit your final report).

Professional Recommendation Report

The Professional Recommendation Report is a 10-15-page report that makes a case for a business or organizational problem that needs to be addressed, and your solution to that issue.  

For example, your report could focus on an advertising campaign or fundraising for a nonprofit. The report could also focus on a way a business could expand its revenue. The possibilities are endless, but we will brainstorm collectively in discussions, and individually, on the shorter assignments, to make sure you are on track well before the final report is due.

The final report has room for creativity, innovation, and unique approaches. However, each report will have the same required sections.  There are several writing assignments for the course, each of varying length. Each assignment will help you build toward the Final Report.

See the Course Schedule and Content area for more details about each assignment, including the Final Report.

Week 2: Preliminary Proposal

Week 3: Audience Analysis

Week 4: Annotated Bibliography

Week 5: Timeline/Schedule

Week 6: Progress Report

Week 7: Peer Review of Final Report

Week 8: Final Professional Recommendation Report

The Final Professional Recommendation Report is due to the appropriate Dropbox folder by Wednesday of Week 8 by 11:59 pm CT.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 14 
Discussion 1: Introduction

What is considered appropriate personal information to share at a place of work? A brief overview of professional and educational highlights would work, as well as your career goals and interests. You can include some personal information, but consider carefully what you share and how you share it. You can also include any goals you have for the course, what you thought technical writing was prior to the start of class, and how you now define it after reading Chapter 1. Although no credit is awarded for this post, this is a chance to get to know your peers and to make a first impression. This post is also an opportunity to make sure you are not having any technical difficulties prior to the first graded discussion.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Background Memo

Using proper memo formatting and style (refer to the Markel reading for help – the Memos Checklist on 384 -- which will guide the grading for the assignment) –write a memo to me that addresses the following:

  1. the location of the computer or lab you will be using for this course
  2. the computer model (be more specific than naming the brand)
  3. the computer word processing program or programs you will be using
  4. the computer graphics, charts, and tables program or programs you will use
  5. your major/field of study and the format you would prefer to write in (MLA, APA, or Chicago Style)

Finally, in your conclusion, describe your alternatives should your primary computer, or programs become unavailable to you.  Also, if you have experience with and knowledge of other computer-related skills not mentioned in earlier sections of your report, list these skills in your conclusion.

Submit your Background Memo to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Chapter 16
  • Chapter 10
Discussion 2: Brainstorm Project Ideas for Proposals

In your post, describe at least two ideas that you are considering for your class project. What reason do you have for considering these options? What experiences gave rise to these ideas? Based on Chapter 16, what information will you need to gather to be prepared for your preliminary proposal? When you respond to other peers, address any concerns you might have for their proposals, point out excellent ideas, and offer ways to tweak proposals to make them work. Use the strategies addressed in Chapter 10 to make your post powerful. This practice will help you with all written assignments for the semester.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Preliminary Project Proposal

Your purpose is to propose a topic for your final project.  Later, you will write a more detailed proposal to an audience you define.   Your primary purpose at this point is to persuade me that you have a viable topic, one that will sustain a substantive, final report of 10-15 pages. Write a 1-2 page summary of your proposed project that describes the need for the project, your purpose, planned activities, and intended audience.  You will find additional information in the Content area regarding what should be included in this assignment.  You will need to review this content and respond to these expectations in your submitted proposal. 

Submit your Preliminary Project Proposal to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 5
Discussion 3: Audience and Limitations

Based on the readings for this week, discuss methods you will use to research your project’s audience. Also discuss the limitations of your research. What types of information might be difficult to acquire? Additionally, address what your project’s purpose is and what the best strategies are to convey your purpose. In your response to peers, offer suggestions for further means of research and point out excellent research strategies. Ask questions or make suggestions to help each other fine tune the project purposes.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Audience Analysis

In a memo addressed to me, analyze the audience of your final report.  Your memo should not exceed one single-spaced page; the profile sheet does not count in this constraint.  This memo informs me about the background of your primary audience and your relationship to the audience. This memo asks you to fully examine the background and expectations of your audience.

Additional information and guiding questions can be found in the Content area.  Submit your Audience Analysis to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Chapter 6
Discussion 4: Researching Your Subject

Complete Exercise 3 (pp. 144-145) based on your project and your research. Give peer feedback to each other regarding the writing and project ideas of your peers.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Peer Review: Annotated Bibliography

As part of this project, you will begin your research and examine what others have done on similar or related projects.  You will compile a twelve (or more) item working bibliography for your final project. At this stage of your work, you should have identified at least 4 of those sources. Include a mixture of books, journal articles, interviews, in order to show a depth of research.  Prepare your research in an annotated bibliography using the appropriate style guide for your major, with a brief description of the information in the source, why it will be of value for your project, and why it should be considered a valid source.  Consult the appendix in your textbook for details on what to include in your entries and how to format each citation.  Make sure to take your time on this project as you will use this list of resources in later assignments.

Submit a draft of your Annotated Bibliography to the appropriate discussion by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday, providing suggestions for other resources as well as feedback on the format and writing in the document.

Annotated Bibliography

Submit your final version of your Annotated Bibliography to the appropriate Dropbox folder by Sunday, 11:59 pm CT.

  • Chapter 9
  • Chapter 11
Discussion 5: Effectively Communicating

How do you effectively communicate in writing professionally or in school? What strategies do you need to keep in mind when writing in a professional context? You are welcome to draw directly from your own experience as well as Chapter 9. 

What format will you use for your final report? Design the look of the report using principles from Chapter 11. You will want to upload a PDF to ensure the page layout is what you intended. You are welcome to include graphics that are clearly labeled and properly sourced.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Peer Review: Timeline/Schedule

Create a rough draft of your projected timeline or schedule for your project.  This timeline should include when the project beings and projected end date as well as the incremental steps for achieving your goal.

Submit the draft of your timeline to the appropriate discussion by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Note:  There is no dropbox for this assignment.  Your final version should appear in the final report.

  • TC Chapter 8
Discussion 6: Persuasive?

In what way is your proposal persuasive? What is the argument you are trying to make (for example, a change to core business, hiring staff with varied skills, etc.)? What are some types of evidence that will help you make your case? Use this discussion as a sounding board to get some feedback for the formal proposal.

Complete your initial post by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

Progress Report

With this memo you are to inform your audience of the current status of your project. Evaluate your progress, giving a review of any problems or setbacks.  Make sure to also include your future plans for your project. 

Your Progress Report should include the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Summary
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

You will find additional information about the Progress Report in the Content area. 

Submit your Progress Report to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
  • Chapter 17
  • Sample Reports (located in the Content area) 
Discussion 7: Evaluation Plan
What plan will you put in place to evaluate the success of your proposed project? Provide your classmates a detailed description of how you would determine if the project was successful in its implementation or what problems may cause it to fail. Be sure to include a description of your evaluation plan in your final report.
Peer Review: Formal Proposal

You will need to persuade your defined audience to commit the resources you need to complete your final project. Your audience will determine the value of your project and the credibility of your plan. This audience will then decide whether to approve your proposed plan.  This audience is one you have defined, not me.

Your Formal Proposal should include: 

  1. Title page
  2. Summary/Abstract
  3. Introduction: Defining the need
  4. Proposed program
  5. Qualifications and experience of the team
  6. Task schedule/ Timeline
  7. Final bibliography

Submit your Formal Proposal draft to the appropriate discussion by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

  • Chapter 12
Professional Recommendation Report

This week you will submit your final report.   Your 10-15-page report will contain the following sections:

  1. Title page
  2. Abstract (informative)
  3. Table of contents
  4. List of illustrations (pictures/charts/tables; if applicable)
  5. Executive Summary (optional)
  6. Body of the report
  7. Evaluation Plan
  8. References (bibliography)
  9. Glossary (optional)
  10. Appendices (optional)
  11. Index (optional)

You will find additional information about the report in the Content area, with more detailed descriptions of each section. Submit your Professional Recommendation Report to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday.

Note:  The final page count includes everything except the Title page.

Discussion 8: What have you learned about technical writing?

Consider how you accomplished and wrote the final project. This is not about evaluating your final plan, but about considering your own writing and work habits. Specifically, which pieces, within earlier assignments or the final, presented challenges? Which pieces or sections did you feel were more successful? If you had to redo this process, what would you change in terms of your own writing and approach to accomplishing the project? What do you think are your technical writing strengths and what would you like to continue to work

Submit your initial by Wednesday; respond to at least two classmates by Friday.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Papers may be submitted up to three days late, but it will suffer a penalty of one letter grade (10%).  Papers will not be accepted more than 3 days past the due date. Late papers will be graded on a time-available basis, as priority is given to papers that are submitted on time. 

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Helpdesk, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.