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Technical Prose. Summer Technical Communication Workshop. Agenda. Introduction/Review. What is Research. What to Write. What is research?. What is research? Or, What should a good research article or presentation do? Answers: Answer a question Solve a problem

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technical prose

Technical Prose

Summer Technical Communication Workshop

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

agenda
Agenda

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

introduction review
Introduction/Review

What is Research. What to Write.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

what is research
What is research?

What is research? Or,

What should a good research article or presentation do?

Answers:

  • Answer a question
  • Solve a problem
  • Participate in a conversation
  • Convince an audience
  • Employ empirical evidence
  • Lead to future developments

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

elements of research
Elements of Research

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

purpose of research elements
Purpose of Research Elements

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

technical reports
Technical Reports
  • …Rely on previous research.
  • …Contribute to a disciplinary conversation.
  • …Fill a GAP or NEED in disciplinary knowledge.
  • …Revolve around a RESEARCH QUESTION and HYPOTHESIS.
  • …Generate new questions.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

contents of good introductions
Contents of Good Introductions

Move 1. Establish field

  • Assert centrality
  • State current knowledge

Move 2. Summarize previous research

  • Represent the conversation

Move 3. Prepare for present research

  • Indicate a gap

ie, Knowledge is lacking, incomplete, inconclusive, or wrong

Move 4. Introduce present research

  • How the current research fills the gap

Swales, J. (1990) Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 1
Activity 1
  • Identify the 4 moves in a sample introduction
  • Write an introduction for your own research project

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

planning what to write
Planning What to Write

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

present facts
Present Facts

Avoid distortion from:

  • incomplete facts
  • lack of context
  • oversimplification

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

example
Example
  • Adding soy protein to a person’s diet improves the quality of the diet.
  • But…
  • Many factors determine the quality of a diet. Depending on the rest of the diet, adding soy may result in excess protein or other problems.
  • So…
  • The inclusion of soy protein in a person’s diet may have economic, nutritional, and sensory benefits.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

draw inferences
Draw Inferences
  • When you draw inferences make sure they are logically valid

Avoid:

  • Making hasty generalizations
  • Relying on irrelevant or unfounded assumptions
  • Suggesting that characteristics of an individual component can be attributed to the whole

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

example1
Example
  • Peanut butter on wheat bread is a protein dish of high biological value (it is a “complete protein”), therefore, peanut butter alone or wheat bread alone has a high biological value (is a complete “protein”).
  • But…
  • The statement assumes both constituent parts contribute equally to the characteristics of the whole.
  • So…
  • Peanut butter combined with wheat bread is a protein of high biological value.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

causal relationships
Causal Relationships

Avoid implying causation when it is not appropriate

For example,

  • If the condition is not a sufficient cause
  • If the variables are not correlated

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

example2
Example
  • The patient’s heart attack was caused because his diet contained too much cholesterol.
  • But…
  • Heart disease is caused by a number of contributing factors. Cholesterol is one, but this patient may have risk factors like smoking, obesity, family history, or high blood pressure.
  • So…
  • High cholesterol may have contributed to the patient’s heart disease.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 2
Activity 2
  • Analyze statements based on empirical facts
  • Identify problems
  • Rewrite improved versions

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

drafting 1 how to write
Drafting 1: How to Write

Person, Agent, Act, Patient

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

never use i
“Never use I”
  • Misleading advice
  • Never rely on personal opinion (“I think…” ) is better.
  • Often leads to over-use of passive voice

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

voice
Voice

Active

Passive

“Standard”

More interesting

Easier to read

Identifies key actors, agents

“Alternative”

Difficult to read when used to much

Conceals key actors, agents

Emphasis can be varied

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

example3
Example
  • The fingerprint is overrated by Hollywood lore as a way to catch criminals
  • Or…
  • Hollywood lore overrates the fingerprint as a way to catch criminals

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

a strategy
A strategy
  • Consider:
    • Fingerprints are collected only between 25 and 30 percent of the time, even though they are usually the most prevalent form of physical evidence at the scene of a crime.
  • What is the ACT?
  • What is the AGENT?
  • What is the PATIENT?

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

result
Result
  • ACT: collecting
  • AGENT: unknown. Investigators?
  • PATIENT: fingerprints
    • Investigators collect fingerprints only between 25 and 30 percent of the time, even though they are usually the most prevalent form of physical evidence at the scene of a crime.
  • Note the consequence: the emphasis is now placed on “investigators”

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 3
Activity 3
  • Read a passage, taking note of person.
  • Analyze agent, act and patient.
  • Rewrite with emphasis on most important agents and using subject-verb-object word order.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

break
Break

Please be back in 5 minutes

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

drafting 2 how to write
Drafting 2: How to Write

Active Voice, Plain Language, and Density

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

plain language
Plain language
  • Avoid adding words that don’t add meaning
    • “very”, “There are…”, “It is…”
  • Avoid unusual or archaic words
    • “Whereas”, “herein”, “utilize”
  • “Never use 2 words when 1 will do”
    • dark red vs burgundy
  • Avoid pronouns
    • “they” vs “the client” or “the participant”

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 4
Activity 4
  • Read and revise a passage of text.
  • Focus on using plain language and carrying meaning with accurate nouns and verbs.
  • Avoid wordiness.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

drafting 3 how to write
Drafting 3: How to Write

Given-New Analysis

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

given new
Given-New
  • Always move from what is known to what is unknown.
  • Repeated given-new structure creates a chain.
  • Process:
    • Start with written piece.
    • Ask: in this sentence, paragraph, section, what does my audience already know?
    • Ask: what does my audience not already know?
    • Ask: Are there any cases when I’m introducing something new/unknown without having it directly linked to something they DO know?
example4
Example

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 5
Activity 5
  • Read a paragraph
  • Use given-new analysis to identify its structure
  • Recommend changes to improve the linearity of the paragraph.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

revising
Revising

Improving Writing

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

language is important
Language is important
  • Concrete details
  • Direct Language

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

concrete details
Concrete Details

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

direct language
Direct Language
  • Your conceptualization of our aggregate capability may enhance our marketing position.
  • Or…
  • Your ideas about our capability may improve our marketing

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

direct language1
Direct Language
  • The judge provided the required authorization for the search.
  • Or…
  • The judge authorized the search.

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

activity 6
Activity 6
  • Revise a passage.
  • Eliminate words without meaning
  • Use accurate, specific, simple nouns and verbs
  • Employ concrete details and direct language

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

proofreading strategies
Proofreading Strategies

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

proofreading is iterative
Proofreading is Iterative
  • Writing IS re-writing
  • Many levels of proofreading:
    • Mechanical conventions (punctuation, capitalization, spelling)
    • Grammatical conventions (grammar, usage)
    • Design conventions (typography, visual displays, headings)
    • Disciplinary conventions (abbreviations, citations)
    • Typographical conventions (symbols, numbers)

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

recommendations
Recommendations
  • Handbooks are irreplaceable
  • Good editors are irreplaceable
  • Look at one level at a time
  • Print report on paper
  • Read the paper aloud

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

writing workshop
Writing Workshop

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English

wrapping up
Wrapping Up

My contact:

jrawlins@iastate.edu

515-509-6336

Jacob Rawlins, ISU Dept. of English