ENGL 568 A: Topics In Composition Studies

Advanced Technical Communication

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
SAV 140
Picture of Josephine Walwema
Josephine Walwema

Syllabus Description:

Course Modules | Assignments | Discussions | Zoom

ENGL568: Advanced Technical Communication 


What is this Course About?

​ENGL568 Advanced Technical Communication ​examines the theory and practice of technical communication with attention to issues, methods, and genres that define technical communication.

Technical Communication can be broadly conceived, practiced, and theorized at the intersection of science and technology studies; writing and literacy studies; rhetoric and persuasion; and design and content management. Where some would describe technical communication as the development of instructional documents, others might describe it as the research of contexts for non-academic writing. Still others might describe it as the discipline for scholars whose interests focus on discourse as it occurs within science and/or technology and users.

This renders technical communication both a practice and a field of study. Thus, while it requires theoretical understanding of discourse, technology, and human interaction, it also requires doing and making (i.e., application) in areas such as ethics, user interface design, cross-cultural communication. Understanding and engaging with the “foundations” of this field will require you to seek an approach that privileges praxis – rather than limiting yourself to doer or scholar . Still, it is expected that you will approach technical communication through a scholarly lens and with a scholarly disposition. This means constantly seeking /engaging /witnessing new ways of knowing; and questioning the role of technical communication in perpetuating inequities. It means holding yourself to the ethical code of a scholar and researcher on an ongoing basis.

Given that backdrop, we will investigate the various origins and theories of technical communication to help you develop a sense of how your thinking and future scholarship fit into the field. As with all classes, this course provides one particular (if incomplete) narrative about technical communication.

What will I learn?

  • theory—demonstrate intellectual engagement in understanding major theories of the dimensions of technical communication 
  • inquiry— explore, experiment with, and invent a variety of writing genres in which original ideas combine with suitable and effective expression; research and report on basic approaches to teaching and practicing technical communication in workplace and classroom settings.
  • practice—apply concepts learned in the course to improve and diversify; connect your pedagogy with the theory that undergirds it; professional portfolios persuasive written, oral, and visual arguments, organize ideas and language effectively to address specific readers and meet specific purposes

How will I learn?

We will engage with technical communication as (a) theoretical locus/scholarly field, (b) pedagogical practice, and  (c) workplace practice. Students in the teaching track course will be expected to engage with technical communication as a pedagogical practice and theoretical venue while exploring how to prepare students to write in a variety of workplace milieux. You’ll achieve these goals by:

  1. Developing syllabi, calendars, and assignments for undergraduate courses in technical communication;
  2. Contributing to a pool of assignments for these courses to share with the group and to integrate into a teaching portfolio for use on the job market;
  3. Completing weekly reading responses and participating in discussion of technical communication praxis; and
  4. Visualizing how the field of technical communication relates to other disciplines and areas. 

Students on the professional track will similarly  be expected to engage with the epistemologies of technical communication while exploring how to use these theories to explore, explain, and analyze their respective profession and practice.


What Resources will I need?

Course Texts

Who is my Instructor?

This is the picture of professor J. Walwema  

Josephine Walwema, PhD
email: walwema@uw.edu
Office: PDL A-18
Office Hours: 


What are the Policies of this Course?

​​This class is conducted in-person. Students are expected to participate in class to fully benefit from course activities and meet the course’s learning objectives. Students should only register for this class if they are able to attend in-person. To protect their fellow students, faculty, and staff, students who feel ill or exhibit possible COVID symptoms should not come to class. When absent, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor in advance (or as close to the class period as possible in the case of an unexpected absence), and to request appropriate make-up work as per policies established in the syllabus. What make-up work is possible, or how assignments or course grading might be modified to accommodate missed work, is the prerogative of the instructor. For chronic absences, the instructor may negotiate an incomplete grade after the 8 th week, or recommend the student contact their academic adviser to consider a hardship withdrawal (known as a Registrar Drop).

I expect that each student will have read the assigned reading before class time, and thoughtfully prepared a series of points, questions, or challenges related to the course material in their process log entries. Read closely, take diligent notes, anticipate possible points of discussion—this is your responsibility as a graduate student.

Below are specific expectations

Class Expectations

As one might expect for a graduate course, attendance is required to assure your full participation.  All work is due when assigned. An absence does not allow you to miss a deadline.  You will be allowed to submit only one late response paper.  This must be turned in no more than one week after the due date. Consistent lateness can also count towards an absence. Intellectual absences are also a thing: If you go through an entire class period without participating in discussion at least once you will be marked as absent.


There will be occasion to collaborate on projects. Here is how to access collaborations 

Assignments: All assignments should reflect the following:

Research: articulate use various research methods and sources to produce quality documents, including:

  • analyzing historical and contemporary contexts
  • locating, evaluating, and using print and online information selectively for particular audiences and purposes
  • triangulating sources of evidence

Design: Make rhetorical design decisions about documents (and other compositions), 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
  • Resources include

Writing in Context: Analyze 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, with an emphasis on:

  • writing for a range of defined audiences and stakeholders
  • negotiating the ethical dimensions of rhetorical action

Community Norms

Working with others is a hallmark of  professional and technical writing. Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork and collaboration, such as:

  • responding constructively to peers’ work
  • soliciting and using peer feedback effectively
  • managing team goals and conflicts constructively

A commitment to writing as a process means you’ll be drafting, giving/receiving feedback, and revising based on your own assessment of how your writing should evolve. You should think of me as an asset in this regard: I am more than happy to meet with you one-on-one to work on your writing.

Have an open mind and willingness to contribute to our learning community!

Course Evaluations

In the last week of the term, you will have an opportunity to complete surveys about the quality of instruction you have experienced in ALL of your courses including this one. I hope you take the time to complete them because they are an important form of feedback. Course evaluations are a feature of your college experience and are read by supervisors at the department, the college, and the provost level. In the workplace, they are called performance reviews.

However, there are some realities about course evaluations that we need to acknowledge.

  • They are anonymous, which is good. However, because of this anonymity, students are tempted to write derisive, hurtful, or prejudiced comments
  • They perpetuate biases in race, gender, and ethnicity.
  • They do not measure teaching effectiveness.
  • They work when students offer helpful feedback.
     such as (when due dates were not clear, I pointed this out to the instructor, they made changes ) versus unhelpful (the instructor assigns a lot of work).

I endeavor to value your feedback, which informs the changes I incorporate into the course. However, my supervisors do not know about those interactions.

TLDR:  course evaluations represent both your right to have your voice heard and your responsibility to the university and your peers.

Thank you


The course's major assignments are detailed here. Revision as part of the writing process. You'll revise your drafts in response to peer review and instructor's comments before you turn in the final draft of major projects. Locate the revision process in the course module.


This course makes use of a grading contract approach to evaluation. As such, individual projects do not receive grades; students are encouraged to do their best work in order to make the most of the learning experiences provided in the course. I assume that all students will leave the course with an A, though some students may choose other outcomes for themselves given the time they have available to spend on class-related work.

Students who wish to earn an A should do the following work:

  • Complete all projects/assignments by the posted due date, which means checking the course schedule each week for any updates or changes and planning accordingly;
  • Produce Process logs that clearly engage course readings and make connections among texts;
  • Develop a compelling research proposal around course topics that both engages readings assigned in the course and demonstrates significant research beyond those assigned texts;
  • Participate thoughtfully and fully in discussions each week by offering relevant, original insights, asking questions of peers, and connecting weekly discussions to previous readings/conversations;
  • Communicate in a timely manner with the professor about any issues regarding missing class or work for either personal or professional obligations that may arise.

Students who wish to earn a B should do the following work:

  • Complete the vast majority of projects/assignments by the posted due date, which means checking the course schedule each week for any updates or changes and planning accordingly; one or two assignments may be completed late and still receive credit;
  • Produce reading reflections that clearly engage course readings and make connections to different contexts of writing instruction;
  • Develop an appropriate research proposal around course topics that engages readings from the course as well as a number of studies beyond the texts assigned in the course;
  • Participate online each week by offering relevant insights, asking questions of peers, and connecting weekly discussions to previous readings/conversations;
  • Communicate in a timely manner with the professor about any issues regarding missing class or work for either personal or professional obligations that may arise.

Students who wish to earn a C or less in the course should demonstrate less engagement than that noted above.

This contract is based on your putting in the work and committing to the process, but not on some abstract idea about what "perfect" writing and thinking might look like. Students should write, speak, and engage in discourses and modalities that help them as learners and that help them communicate with me as instructor and with each other. For students not meeting expectations, I will reach out and talk with you about how to get you back on track for success in the course.

Your successful completion of this course is the goal. There is nothing else under the hood.

Academic Integrity

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/

Here's what you can do to cover yourself against plagiarism or collusion:

  • At every stage of your writing, keep your drafts, notes, papers, and research materials. If a question of plagiarism arises, you'll have a paper trail ( paper trails protect you in a variety of academic, public, and work-related contexts)
  • Don't use editing services. Don't ask anyone, even family or friends, to edit your paper or help you write it. You need to do that work yourself.
  • If you need additional help with your writing, contact the University Writing Center, UW Writes, where trained professionals are there to help you without colluding in plagiarism.
  • Last but not least, ask me if you have any questions about honesty.

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form 

Academic Integrity

Notice to Students - Use of Plagiarism Detection Software

Notice: The University has a license agreement with SimCheck, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. I do not use this service in this class. However, when used, assignments  submitted electronically can be checked by SimCheck. The SimCheck Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced.

The IWP's Anti-Racist Pedagogy 

The Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) is committed to engaging with anti-racist pedagogies. These pedagogies may take various forms, such as curricular attention to voices, communities, and perspectives that have been historically marginalized inside and beyond academic disciplines; inclusive classroom practices; discussions of racism; and consideration of other forms of prejudice and exclusion. We believe that countering the cultures and practices of racism in an academic institution is fundamental to developing a vibrant intellectual community. The IWP is happy to talk with you about your questions as well as to support student-led initiatives around anti-racist work, and we invite you to contact IWP faculty member Rush Daniel at daniej9@uw.edu or IWP Program Director Carrie Matthews at crmatthe@uw.edu. If you’re interested in how teachers of English as a professional community have taken up anti-racist work, check out the   National Council of Teachers of English Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning .

Catalog Description: 
Covers various issues in composition studies including: the history of composition study, contemporary composition theory, basic writing, service-learning pedagogy, engaged scholarship, new media and digital studies, writing assessment, writing across the curriculum, and writing program administration.
Last updated: 
October 19, 2021 - 12:11pm