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Assignment 5 Technical Writing

Fall 2014


Instructions and
usability survey
Submission mode
Evaluation memo

Written instructions to perform a task

Usability survey
Evaluation memo with revised instructions
400750 words for the instructions
100250 for the survey
about 250 words for the memo
Monday, November 17 (optional pre-submission by 11/10)

Bring copies to class on November 17 and submit

documents via Canvas by 5 p.m.
Monday, December 1

Assignment Overview
For this assignment, each of you will write concise, coherent instructions for a
process that can be performed by your classmates during class on November 17
and 19. An in-class usability test will measure the effectiveness of your instructions,
and the results will count toward your grade. You have some flexibility in choosing
your instructions topic, within the following constraints:
Your classmates must be able to fully complete your task in class, given your
instructions and the materials you provide (if needed).
No recipes. Nothing requiring gas- or electric-powered tools. No
origami. No tie tying.
Nothing too dependent on unoriginal graphicsif you need graphics, you
must create them yourself. Your own original digital photographs are perfectly
fine, as long as you use them well.
The instructions will consist of 400750 words, organized so that it is easy both to
skim and to read in detail. Like any good set of instructions, it will need a title and a
well-organized body section that almost always contains graphics. It may need
some introduction and/or require additional background materials (glossary, index,
appendices). Please refer to our readings for more specifics to consider.
As for task complexity, you will want to find a happy medium. If a task youre
considering takes only a couple minutes to complete and can be fully described in
fewer than 400 words, it might be too simplistic for this assignment. By contrast, an
exceptionally detailed process that takes more than 15 to 20 minutes to complete
and more than 750 words to describe may be too complex. It seems to work best if
you choose something that everyone doesnt already know how to do. Choose your

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task wisely. If you have any questions about the suitability of your task, run it by
Your classmates will have about 20 minutes to read and follow your instructions, so
be sure the task can be accomplished within that amount of time by someone who
is unfamiliar with the topic.
Usability Test
Usability testing improves efficiency through targeted contact with the intended
audience. In substance, it tests the document through setting goals, measuring
feedback and interpreting results. You must provide any materials necessary to
perform your instructions to test for usabilityplan for three concurrent tests, each
conducted solo. (Bear this in mind when selecting your task.)
In addition to your instructions, you will need to prepare a one-page test tool in the
form of a questionnaire or evaluation for users to give feedback.
On the due date, bring to class
three copies of the instructions,
three copies of the usability survey, and
three complete sets of all materials required to complete the task.
Note: You will not be demonstrating your task in class. Approach this assignment as
though you are writing a user manual for a product you helped develop: your
instructions must explain the process or task clearly without any additional
explanation from you.
Evaluation Memo
After you have tested your instructions for usability and surveyed your classmates
about the instructions, you will need to revise your instructions to incorporate their
suggestions and resolve any problems they noted with your instructions. Then you
will write a one-page, 250-word memo to me interpreting and analyzing your results
of the usability test. This memo will discuss the goals you set, the results of the
tests, and any changes you ultimately decided to make to the document. Also
submit your completed usability surveys with the evaluation memo and revised

Your assignment will be graded on these qualities:
Content (25%)the extent to which your instructions reflect an
understanding of context, purpose, and audience; clarity of purpose;
Approach, organization, and style (25%)clarity and appropriateness of
language; grammar, consistency, correctness, organization, structure.

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Usability Testing
Survey efficacy (25%)that is, how well it does what it is designed to do;
Style (5%)grammar, consistency, correctness, organization, clarity,
Evaluation Memo
Content (10%)how well you understand and explain the usability test
results, and the approach you took to address any problems that surfaced in
the usability testing;
Revised instructions (5%)how well your final version addresses the
concerns noted in the usability testing;
Style (5%)grammar, consistency, correctness, organization, clarity,
As indicated on the syllabus, this assignment will count as 10 percent of your total
course grade.

Additional Information and Tips for Success

Some Ideas to draw upon
crafts and hobbies
equipment usage or maintenance (cameras, PDAs, phones, mp3 players,
other small devices)
computer applications
Be specific, and keep in mind our time constraints: i.e., not How to crochet, but
How to make a foundation chain and a row of double-crochet stitches; not How to
use a digital camera, but How to capture fast-moving subjects clearly on a digital
Choices youll need to make
What can I describe in writing so clearly that my classmates and my
instructor will be able to achieve the desired results (generally on the first
try)? Can a person with little or no knowledge of the subject/process
understand these instructions?
Is the purpose of these instructions clear?
At quick glance, can the reader get an overview of the process?
Can a usability test be performed in class during our allotted time?
Can I provide all the necessary materials for three in-class usability tests?
Are step-by-step instructions sufficient, or do I need to include some sort of
Additional key points to keep in mind
Use common sense when selecting your topic. Dont choose anything
controversial, potentially dangerous, unreasonably messy, or overly

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complicated. Your classmates will be more readily engaged if you pick

something that is interesting and that might be useful to them.
Bear in mind Murphys Law! If anything can go wrong, it will, so pick
something that you can reliably and consistently instruct in writing. Thats not
to say easyrather, clear and unambiguous. Consider adding troubleshooting tips if theres a step that is difficult to describe. Example: If the
seams are showing, you have the fabric reversed. Go back to step 4 and
retrace the pattern piece onto the back of the fabric.
Looks still count. Your documents should look absolutely professional. Be
especially consistent with formatting and numbering: They will help guide
your reader through the steps.
Sometimes a graphic is worth a thousand words. But if you find yourself
having to explain the graphic with additional text, then it might not be as
helpful as you hope.
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Your work should be virtually flawless by
now. Careless errors will lower your grade for the assignment, particularly if
you repeat errors identified on previous assignments.