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ECS 3390: Professional and Technical Communication

Sections 009 (MW 2:30-3:45pm), 010 (MW 4:00-5:15pm)
Fall 2010
Professor: MaryAnn Young Office: JO 5.308
Email: Office Hours: MW 1:15pm-2:15pm or by appt.
Phone: (972) 883-2230

Course Pre-requisites, Co-requisites, and/or Other Restrictions

ECS 3390 requires students to have junior standing and credit for RHET 1302. As an upper-level class,
students should have at least college-level writing skills and both written and oral proficiency in English.
However, students also need sufficient technical knowledge to contribute to project design and to write and
speak knowingly about technical content. For example, students who have only Computer Science I or
Introduction to Digital Systems will probably have a large learning curve that will make the class that much
more difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, the course curriculum is fast-paced and does not cover basic
subjects, such as language mechanics, Microsoft Office functions, or eLearning/ operations. The
course instead emphasizes developing a sense of professionalism and responsibility to produce high-quality
assignments both individually and in teams.

Course Description
Technical and professional communication skills are critical tools for success in the “real world” of engineering
and computer science professions. Therefore, Professional and Technical Communication will help you
develop skills and competency in both oral and written communication as they occur in engineering and
technology work environments. You will have opportunities to determine audiences’ information needs, assess
what information is correct, be reliable and responsive to those needs, and present that information in a form
that helps the audience process and use it. You will work with industry-specific projects, determine technical
communication needs, develop professional-quality documents, and make formal presentations on technical
topics to technical and non-technical audiences.

Engineering and programming are collaborative activities; therefore, this course uses a collaborative-learning
environment where you will work in teams to practice the fundamentals of collaborative decision making and
communication in professional contexts. Course activities also raise related professional issues, such as
meeting deadlines, carrying out instructions as specified, organizing your time so that you can work
productively on more than one activity at a time, and developing an increased commitment to doing accurate

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Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

Using team and individual technical writing and presentation assignments, this course meets the following SACS and
ABET Objectives:
 Students will be able to write effectively using appropriate
organization, mechanics, and style. d: An ability to function on multidisciplinary
 Students will be able to construct effective written arguments.
f: An understanding of professional and ethical
 Students will be able to gather, incorporate, and interpret source responsibility
material in their writing.
g: An ability to communicate effectively
 Students will be able to write in different ways for different
audiences. j: A knowledge of contemporary issues

 Students will be able to prepare a presentation using effective

speech skills, including organization, argument development,
visual aids, and delivery.

Students who successfully master these objectives will develop the ability to:
 Plan, outline and present an informative presentation with visual aids, to a technical and/or nontechnical audience
 Plan, outline and present a problem/solution recommendation presentation with visual aides to a technical and/or
nontechnical audience
 Function in a multidisciplinary team to research, plan, and present a multimedia presentation to a technical and/or
nontechnical audience
 Analyze, edit, revise, and proofread technical documents created by the author, peers, and/or other technical writers
individually and/or as a team
 Research, draft, and edit a major research paper
 Write concise memos, letters, emails for diverse purposes to different audiences and levels of management
 Team-author document specifications for a multi-component project

Required Textbooks and Materials

Leo Finkelstein, Jr., Pocket Book of Technical Writing, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2008. ISBN 978-0-07-319159-1.
Additional readings will be posted on eLearning

Read Me First: A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, Custom Edition for UT-Dallas, Sun Technical Publications,
ISBN-10: 0-558-32475-4; ISBN-13: 978-0-558-32475-9

Reading assignments must be completed before attending class to participate in class discussions and activities.

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Assignments & Academic Calendar
Topics, Reading Assignments, Due Dates, Exam Dates (see Course Calendar on the last pages for reading assignments, academic
calendar, and additional information)


Communication Competency 10 Daily
Low Impact Assignments (Includes homework & class work) 10 Daily
Resume/Application Letter 10 9/8
Recommendation Report 10 9/27 (9/20 Draft Due)
Recommendation Report Presentation 5 9/27
Research Report 10 10/11
Research Report Revision (for Team Report) 10 10/25
Team Feasibility Report 15 11/15
Team Presentation 10 11/29
Demonstration Presentation 10 Final Exam Period
*Drafts are due on eLearning for the sole purpose of review. Only final drafts will receive a grade. However,
points will be deducted if a draft is not received by the due date.

Communication Competency is a grade assigned to a student’s professional communication throughout the course.
The environment of ECS 3390 is like that of a work environment. Your communication with your peers as well
as your instructor is just as essential in your academic development as your communication with your co-workers
and manager in your career, and these members of your class should be treated accordingly. Communication
examples include but are not limited to: in-class discussion, in-class work, project-related emails sent to
classmates (copied to instructor), emails to the instructor, meeting the instructor during office hours. Note:
Grades are based on the balance of quality, efficiency, and level of communication and not the amount of amount
of times you email the instructor or visit during office hours. Please consider the weight of this grade carefully
before you send any emails regarding graded assignments.

Low Impact Assignments will be either accepted or rejected but not graded. Acceptance depends on the student
making a good faith effort to follow the assignment; only if the professor feels that a student is not making a good
faith effort will the assignment be rejected.
Due Dates are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion. Please double check due dates on your assignment
guidelines and check the instructor website each week or updates and/or changes.

Grading Policy
In general, your work is assessed according to the resourcefulness with which the work:
 fulfills the criteria set out in the assignment specifications,
 accomplishes its multiple purposes,
 responds to its audience's needs and orientations,
 uses the opportunities and adapts to the constraints of its professional and technical environment,
 employs rhetorical strategies that develop logical arguments, strong claims, and adequate supporting evidence,
 meets the usage conventions and uses the expressive range of the verbal and visual and technical language.

As stated previously, the environment of this course is quite similar to that of the workplace. You will be given tasks by
your manager to be completed either individually or in assigned groups. Your colleagues will become invaluable tools in
your communication development as will your manager. Thus, your assignment submissions should mirror the effort an
employee would put forth for a work-related assignment.
All work should also demonstrate the same professional and ethical standards expected of you in the workplace, including
proofreading and editing carefully all work you submit in this class. Professionalism also means that you use appropriate
source citation wherever and whenever necessary so that you avoid violations of copyright – even if those violations are
inadvertent. Remember: your work reflects upon you and/or your group as a member or members of technical professions.

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Final grades will be assigned according to the UTD Undergraduate Catalog scale:
B+ 87-89 C+ 77-79 D+ 67-69
A 93-100 B 83-86 C 73-76 D 63-66 F 0-59
A- 90-92 B- 80-82 C- 70-72 D- 60-62

Course & Instructor Policies

Make-up work
We do substantial in-class work for “low impact assignments.” If you miss an in-class assignment, you cannot make it up.

Because of scheduling constraints and the logistical problem of creating an audience, presentations cannot be rescheduled,
extended or made up. You must deliver your presentations on the day when you are scheduled to speak. If your
scheduled day presents a problem, let me know as soon as possible so we can try to address the situation. Do not come to
class on your scheduled day and ask me to reschedule your presentation – you cannot. If you do not present on your
scheduled day, you will receive a zero for that assignment.

Extra Credit
I do not curve individual items, nor do I offer “special consideration” to allow students a chance to raise their grade. If a
personal situation arises during the semester that may affect your classroom performance, please talk to me sooner rather
than later. If you wait until the end of the semester, I won’t be able to help you. We are more likely to be able to work
around the situation if you speak to me when it happens. I can’t help you if I don’t know you need help. I will, however,
announce extra credit opportunities for the entire class as they arise.

Late Work
Deadlines are an important part of technical communication work in the "real world;" thus, they are important in this
course. In the "real world," when work misses its deadline,
 product releases can be delayed,
 coworkers and customers can be inconvenienced,
 expenses can skyrocket,
 contracts can be broken,
 and clients can refuse payment.

Similarly, late or incomplete work is not acceptable in this course. Work that does not meet the assignment’s
constraints (such as being late, improperly named or submitted by email rather than eLearning) are unprofessional and
create administrative headaches. Technological problems and the vagaries of the eLearning submission clock are not
valid excuses for late work, so plan accordingly. Recurring problems with improper submissions will reflect negatively
on your grade. Late work will only be accepted at the instructor’s discretion and will be subject to significant point
deductions. However, no late low impact assignments will be accepted.

TIP: If you must submit any assignment late, it is in your best interest to submit the assignment as soon as possible with
an attached memo which best communicates why the assignment is late and a request for the assignment to be considered
for grading. This, however, does not guarantee acceptance but will increase your chances.

Class Attendance
Work assigned for this class carries no less priority than work you may have to complete for any other class or job.
Moreover, class participation is a vital part of your learning process because this class revolves around discussion and
activities. More than simply being physically present in class, participation includes your asking questions in class about
readings, answering questions, offering suggestions, and you professional, positive attitude and demeanor.

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You are required to attend class regularly, prepare the assigned readings, and actively contribute to the team project.
You may miss one class for whatever reason without penalty, but excessive absences or tardiness may negatively affect
your Communication Competency grade. (Notice that no adjectives modify “absences.” I make no distinction between
“excused” and “non-excused” absences.)

Failure to attend class regularly will lead to more than just a poor communication competency grade. You must attend
class in order to complete low-impact assignments. Material and information will be presented in the classroom that
cannot be replicated outside the classroom or made up at a later date. Based on past experience, it will be very difficult to
do well in this course if you fail to attend class regularly and participate actively.

Classroom Citizenship
In keeping with this course’s professional communication mandate, students are expected to use every opportunity in the
course to practice communicating in a civil and professional manner. Civility in all course communication and behavior is
explicitly part of our Communication Competency assignment.

Technology Requirements
You should develop the habit of checking both the instructor website announcements and your UTD email often for
assignments and announcements. Reliable and frequent internet connectivity is indispensable – not having internet access
will make your group projects more difficult and will not serve as a valid excuse for shortcomings. You also have the
responsibility to ensure that you have access to the course for the duration of the semester and must submit all
assignments through eLearning. Instructors are not responsible for tracking assignments submitted through the email and
will assign zeros to all assignments not submitted through eLearning.
Additionally, to protect your privacy rights, your instructor will only send email through your official UTD email address.
If you choose, you can redirect both of these addresses to external addresses. Visit the Department of Information
Resources’ User Account Management Tools to forward your UTD email to another account.
Failure to check UTD email, errors in forwarding email, and email bounced from over-quota mailboxes are not acceptable
excuses for missing course or project-related email.

Classroom and Equipment Use Policies

 Tampering with or destroying any of the computers, printers, Smart Board, white boards, networks or wiring in
the classroom is strictly prohibited. Violations will result in a disciplinary referral to the Dean of Students’ office.
 No cell phones, pagers, or other electronic messaging services may be used in the classrooms unless you have
cleared it with the instructor first and only on an emergency basis.
 The room may be used only for ECS 3390 related activities. You may not work on other class projects, check
your e-mail, print, work for other classes, burn CDs that are not part of the ECS 3390 assignments, install
software (games, music, executables, programming languages, or any other unapproved software). Violations
will result in a disciplinary referral to the Dean of Students’ office.
 Food and drink are not permitted in the classroom.

Academic Integrity

Due to the high plagiarism rate in this course, one class will be dedicated to the discussion of academic integrity and
applications in the workplace. At the end of this discussion and tutorial, every student will be required to sign an
Academic Integrity Contract. Failure to attend this discussion and sign the contract will result in point deductions of
up to one letter grade unless the discussion and signature is made up within one week of the missed class.

The faculty expects from its students a high level of responsibility and academic honesty. Because the value of an
academic degree depends upon the absolute integrity of the work done by the student for that degree, it is imperative that
a student demonstrate a high standard of individual honor in his or her scholastic work.

Scholastic Dishonesty, any student who commits an act of scholastic dishonesty is subject to discipline. Scholastic
dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials
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that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to
give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts.

Plagiarism, especially from the web, from portions of papers for other classes, and from any other source is unacceptable
and will be dealt with under the university’s policy on plagiarism (see general catalog for details). This course will use
the resources of, which searches the web for possible plagiarism and is over 90% effective.

Other Important University Information can be found at

These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.

Academic Calendar
8/19 Classes Begin
8/26 Last Day to Add a Course
9/3 Census Day for Full-Term Session, Last Day to drop a class without a “W”
10/25 Last Day to Drop with Signature with WP/WF
12/6 Last Day of Classes
12/7-8 Reading Days (No Classes)
12/9-15 Final Exams

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Class Calendar
Class Calendar and Due Dates are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.
Assignments must be submitted by 8:00am on eLearning unless specified on assignment guidelines.
Date Class Agenda/Assigned Reading/Assignments Due
8/23 Topic: The Writing Process and Rhetorical Analysis
Finkelstein: Chapters 1 (Introduction),
Sun Style Guide: Chapter 2 (Constructing Text),
S: Chapter 7 (Writing for an International Audience)
8/25 Topic: Communicating to Get an Engineering Job
F: Chapter 18 (Business Communications),
F: Chapter 19 (Resumes, Cover Letters, & Interviews),
eLearning Reading (Resumes/Application Letters)
8/30 Topic: Four Levels of Revising and Editing
F: Chapter 13 (Grammar, Style, & Punctuation),
S: Chapter 1 (Mechanics of Writing), S: Chapter 3 (Writing Style),
S: Chapter 10 (Working with an Editor)
9/1 Topic: Ethics, Academic Integrity
F: 2 (Ethical Considerations), F: Chapter 14 (Documentation)
S: Chapter 8 (Legal Guidelines), & Online Handout (IEEE)
9/6 NO CLASS – Labor Day Holiday
9/8 Resume/Application Letter/Visual CV Due, Mock Interviews
Topic: Peer Review and Definitions/Descriptions
F: Chapters 3 (Technical Definition), 4 (Description of a Mechanism),
& 5 (Description of a Process)
9/13 Topic: Research & Recommendation Reports
F: Chapter 6 (Proposals), 8 (Feasibility & Recommendation Reports),
11 (Research Reports), Writing Workshop
9/15 Writing Workshop
9/20, 9/22 Draft Meetings – Bring Completed Rough Draft to Your Scheduled Meeting
9/27 Recommendation Report Due, Presentations
9/29 Topic: Team Project Group Formation and Project Plan
F: Chapter 20 (Team Writing), F: Chapter 7 (Progress Reports)
10/4 Topic: Incorporating Research and Implementing Visuals
F: Chapter 15 (Visuals) & S: Chapter 11 (Working with Illustrations)

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10/6 Writing Workshop
10/11 Research Reports Due, Team Editing Workshop
10/13 Topic: Writing in Different Ways for Different Audiences
Team Project Meetings
10/18 Team Project Meetings, Writing Workshop
10/20 Team Project Meetings, Writing Workshop
10/25 Research Report Revision (for Team Report) Due, Team Editing Workshop
10/27 Team Editing Workshop
11/1 Topic: Letter of Transmittal and Executive Summary,
F: Chapter 12 (Abstracts & Summaries)
11/3 Team Writing Workshop
11/8, 11/10 Team Editing Workshop* (in group designated locations)
11/15 Team Feasibility Report Due,
F: Chapter 17 (Presentations and Briefings)
11/17 Presentation Workshop
11/22 Presentation Workshop
11/24 NO CLASS – Happy Thanksgiving
11/29 Team Presentations
12/1 F: Chapter 10 (Instructions & Manuals)
12/6 Demonstration Presentation Workshop
Final Exam Demonstration Presentations Due
Period Section 009 (2:00pm-4:45pm on 12/13)
Section 010 (2:00pm-4:45pm on 12/10)

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