Technical and Professional Communication Principles

Close-up shot of a paper on a desk, with multiple hands holding pens around the paper

Owing to the fundamental shift in focus in the fields of Technical and Professional Communication (TPC) toward anti-racist, transcultural, and ethical communication practices, this program teaches concepts and skills that can be applied across majors. Beyond that, TPC is relevant to students who want to improve their research, writing, and communicative competencies in practical and applied contexts.

Today, the field encompasses digital and mobile technologies; multimodal authoring tools; and other abbreviated forms of writing. These tools and technologies inform how professionals research, understand, and communicate technical concepts. Technical and professional genres can range from written reports and proposals; to explainer videos and YouTube tutorials; to usability research and design; to content management and anti-racist initiatives.

To learn more check out the courses in the TPC Program here.

The Principles

The Learning Principles for Technical and Professional Communication (TPC) at the University of Washington serve as a foundation upon which all TPC courses at UW should rest, irrespective of the course’s department of origin. These principles define the theoretical, historical, pedagogical, and practical goals of TPC as a field, and endeavor to distinguish TPC from other areas of study, such as Writing Studies and Engineering. The intended audience for this document includes teachers and students of TPC but also other stakeholders, such as administrators, industry representatives, policy-makers, and the public at large. The framework below, adapted from Ilyasova and Bridgeford (2014), emerges from values identified within TPC scholarship broadly but also by teachers and stakeholders specific to the UW community. Because they are integral to all forms and practices of TPC, equity, inclusion, and antiracism are suffused throughout each of the categories below.

Research and Information Integrity Practices and Processes
  • Identify and apply appropriate methods for investigating particular research questions
  • Identify,  collect, analyze, document, and report relevant research clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically; understand the standards for legitimate interpretations of research data within scientific and technical communities; recognize intellectual property rights
  • Understand the potential for misrepresenting information and misleading readers/users
  • Identify and repudiate intentional and unintentional misinformation and propaganda on technical communication platforms and modalities. 
  • Generate research reports accompanied by appropriate and ethical graphics for displaying research data and findings
  • Demonstrate  academic integrity and ethicality in citing/documenting sources 
  • Understand how to critically analyze data from research, and incorporate data into assigned writing clearly, concisely, and logically
  • Meet the needs of readers/users by writing effective arguments about a variety of professional, technical, and scientific texts, both print and digital/online
  • Respond effectively and ethically to different rhetorical situations
  • Organize and produce written documents and oral presentations in a variety of professional formats using language that is lucid, concise, precise, grammatically correct, and appropriate to the topic, audience, and occasion 
  • Compose documents in creative, expository, and professional genres in print and electronic forms that attend to rhetorical, artistic, and socio-historic environments 
  • Communicate across platforms and use different kinds of languages (alphabetic, visual, programming, datasets, etc.,) appropriately to translate visualized data and schematics
Knowledge Conventions and Genre Collaborative Learning
  • Identify the role that technical communication writing plays in the scientific and engineering design process
  • Learn common formats for different genres in the context of a discipline and learn to write in multiple genres
  • Understand how each genre shapes content, design, and usability
  • Identify how TPC may perpetuate social injustices and inequities and propose approaches to remediation and/or resolution
  • Manage social media  and technical knowledge of publishing platforms (CMS, Adobe Suite, MSTeams); documentation (IP); help manuals; FAQs; and instructions
  • Recognize, explain, and use the formal elements of specific genres of organizational communication such as white papers, recommendation and analytical reports, proposals, memorandums, web pages, wikis, blogs, business letters, and promotional documents
  • Work collaboratively and understand the way TC projects are products of negotiated interaction
  • Integrate ethical ideas and content from various stakeholders
  • Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes and document invention
  • Critically assess and address systemic or institutional racism
  • Critically assess and address inequities related to race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, and their effects on society
  • Develop professional work habits, including those necessary for effective collaboration and cooperation with other students, instructors, and other campus and community partners
Technology Professionalization
  • Enact a critical perspective of technology, its uses, users, and contexts 
  • Understand the ethics and role of technology as a powerful and disruptive cultural force and the human practices associated with technology in their fields  
  • Develop the ability to use, analyze, and learn communication technologies
  • Recognize that developments in communications technologies raise important ethical, political, social, cultural, and economic questions that educators, industries, politicians, and citizens must consider
  • Analyze technology as a physical tool, as a metaphorical text, and as a socially constructed system
  • Demonstrate competence with various software for writing, editing, and designing
  • Envision professionalization as a continual process of identity development as one adapts knowledge, experiences, and skills into a professional context
  • Develop professional and practical skills in TPC (e.g., skills in written and visual communication, editing, critical thinking, oral presentation; data literacy) 
  • Perform as communicators within increasingly complex professional social networks that are mediated by technology
  • Understand the global nature of TPC and the basic principles of intercultural communication such as use of respectful and inclusive language
  • Ethically respond to bias resulting from human difference 
  • Recognize and develop professional format features in print, html, and multimedia modes, as well as use appropriate nonverbal cues and visual aids
  • Develop capacity to network and form community in professional settings
  • Think rhetorically about meeting existing demand, and also creating demand in online and commercial settings