ENGCMP 0600 Introduction to Technical Writing

“Technical writing is more than a skill, more than an activity to be practiced in support of science or engineering. The ability to write about technical activities is the key to the success of the individual in the marketplace…The act of writing will allow you to clarify and refine your ideas. As you write, you begin to think more carefully and more precisely. Seen in this light, writing becomes a way of learning about your work. The more you write in formal and informal ways, the more fully you will understand the complexities of your profession.” – Norbert Elliot and Herman A. Estrin, Technical Writing in the Corporate World

Course Description

This course will explore the ways that writing supports work in scientific and technical fields. Through a variety of assignments incorporating both written and visual formats, students in this course will learn effective strategies for responding to communication challenges, with special emphasis on audience analysis, document design, communication ethics, collaboration, professional style, and editing. You can expect to develop your ability to organize and craft information for manuals, journal articles, and reports and to learn about document design, production principles, interactive documentation, and desktop publishing. Technical writers are crucial for fields in engineering, software, and the sciences. Successful technical writers are good at translating science and technology for various audiences, including non-experts such as the end users of a product or customers who are willing to pay for technical solutions for a problem. Experts who work in technical and scientific fields can also benefit from familiarity and practice in technical writing. 

This course satisfies the Writing-intensive requirement.

Sample Student Projects

  • Two engineering students crafted a journal article discussing the rising levels of plastics in the ocean, the damage that has been done to coral reefs, and the degradation of calcium development in marine life.
  • A PPW major created a user manual for collaborative writing within Google Docs to aid group work editing and demonstrate options for students who were unavailable to meet in person with group members. 
  • A student studying Media and Professional Communications interviewed and accompanied a Pittsburgh musician to various performances, crafting a ghostwritten essay from the musician’s point of view about his daily life and the study of music. 

Recent Course Faculty

Emelyn Smith-Ferris: “There is no limit to the topics, styles, approaches, and uses for technical writing. I learn so much about the world from my students’ written work while focusing on the skill, the art, and the discipline of writing in class.”

Recent Student Testimonials

“I had fun in the class while also learning a lot. I also really liked how the class was broken up in to three different sections. They all differed, but all fall under the realm of technical writing. I thought the course gave a great peek into this specific type of writing and the different fields that use it.”

“The content was very useful. [The instructor] was always available and willing to clarify information and offer suggestions to help strengthen my writing.”