Transcript of "Technical Writing, October 24th, 2013"
1) Checking in with Dr. Anderson
2) Dr. Phill’s advice for making your research
3) Activity: making information user friendly
Since we last discussed readings, you’ve read chapter
7 and chapter 13 from the Anderson text. As I’ve said
before, Anderson does a great job with the book; I sort
of feel like he nailed it. But let’s review the key points
before we move into some more report-targeted
In Chapter 7, there are 7 guidelines for
research. See how that works? 7 in 7?
This one’s easy: know what you’re trying to
find out. It’s easy to get lost while
researching. Keep reminding yourself what
you want to know.
Guideline 2: Arrange your information in
Research is useless if the data ends up so
dense or so poorly formatted (or
overwhelming) that it cannot be used for the
purposes it is meant to be used for.
This is a biggie. We’re coming back here in a bit for an activity.
Guideline 3: Look for meaningful
relationships in the information.
It used to be just look for “relationships.”
But rhetorically, they need to be meaningful.
Say you have car accident data. There are
two Samoans, and both of them just had
fender benders. NOT really meaningful. But
if there are 45 people under the age of 18,
and all of them wrecked because they were
texting, THAT means something.
Guideline 4: interpret each relationship for
Why did the two Samoans not mean much?
Because it’s not a statistically relevant
Why do the 45 youths mean something? 45
participants with the same outcome
indicates high possibility for a one-to-one
You need to tell the reader that.
Guideline 5: Explain why each relationship is
important to your readers.
Do you like young people?
Do you like them… alive?
Do you think they have phones?
Then let’s look at this texting problem!
Guideline 6: Recommend actions based on
We won’t do this until our proposals.
To keep our example going, wouldn’t we
suggest finding a way to keep kids from
texting while driving?
Guideline 7: Think critically about your
In a report, you get facts, you give them to
us. If your analysis is bad, you end up
muddying the facts. So… don’t do that! Be
thoughtful, and think through what you’re
doing with the information you find. With
great fact comes great responsibility.
So that’s Anderson on reports.
Next up, in chapter 13, he talks to us about
Guideline 1: Look for places where graphics
can increase your communication’s
usefulness and persuasion.
This was my biggest comment on your
instructions. Sometimes you NEED a photo
or a screenshot. Look for those places.
Guideline 2: Select the graphic that will be
Know when to use what sort of chart or
graph. This is not the best use below.
Guideline 3: Make each graphic easy to
understand and use.
Remember the graphic is there to help. It
should… help. If it’s super-complex,
misleading, shoddy, or shifty it won’t do the
Guideline 4: Use color to support your
Remember the use of color can make it so
that people notice certain words or can
make I clear that numbers like 2, 3, and 4 all
Guideline 5: Use graphic software and
existing graphics effectively.
Basically: 1) don’t reinvent the wheel and 2)
no one likes a crappy Photoshop job. If you
design an image, do it right.
Guideline 6: Integrate your graphics with
You want the text to flow into and around
the graphic. A graphic sitting all by itself can
be very confusing.
Guideline 7: Get permission and cite the
sources in your graphics.
It’s still data. You treat it just like everything
else. Except screenshots from Ted, because
I’m not citing the last slide.
You want to be careful with your
representation of statistics. Real life example:
I saw a report from one of the programs
where I was a student that boasted a 100%
Native American graduation rate: Me. The
huge 100% bar on their graph was JUST ME.
So after some Anderson…
The really important, like super key points, from what we
read for the last few days are that you have data that you
will use in your report, but you can’t just go get it and stick it
in the report.
Sort of like how you wouldn’t get ground beef, cans of
tomatoes and beans, an onion, some peppers and various
spices and chuck them on the table (you’d make chili!), you
don’t just throw raw data at people. That’s why we call it raw
data. Cook it!
Dr. Phill’s Four Ways to Cook Your Data ‘till
You’re going to have a plethora of data. Of
datai? Of datasususus?
The goal is to only relate to the reader what
she needs. If you’re researching the safest
cars for families, the data sheet might
include the colors it comes in. Not
important. Cut the fat!
To continue the metaphor…
If you see raw chicken, Ragu sauce, a block of
cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, and a box of
spaghetti sitting on my counter…
You don’t expect I’m going to serve you
A secret: humans are pattern recognizing
machines. So use that when organizing your
Sequence things in ways that make
The Mercedes C is best in class, five star
safety rating. It has 20 airbags. It has
dynamic anti-lock brakes. It’s made of win.
(see how a case is being made with the data?)
Sometimes data is just overwhelming.
Information is everywhere, and thanks to
technology, we generate even more of it
each and every second. While I was talking
just now, more data flew into existence.
Sometimes you need to carve out just the
An example: if you’ve been following the
“debates” about the Affordable Care Act
(AKA Obamacare), there are claims– data
points, as individuals talk and write– that it
is KILLING small businesses.
But if you take an actual example, there’s a
man who was on FOX news last night. He
employs 4 people. He claims that Obamacare
“means I can’t hire more employees.”
The ACA states that at over 50 employees,
an employer must kick in insurance. So that
guy would have to expand by 47 employees
to be hurt.
Ergo, taken as a chopped out piece, this data
doesn’t say what it said. But we had to cut
around it to find that.
Imagine it in writing.
Reports show that Washington state had
seven percent unemployment, while
Montana had five (repeat with new number
All the data is on that map. But we can chew
on that. Write it in paragraph form and I’ll
break into hives.
Sadly, there’s no set recipe for “report.” That’s why
we’ve been looking at audiences and expectations and
There is, however, for our class activity!
On the course website there are links to two documents from
Apple: The data sheet for the original iPad and the data sheet
for the brand new iPad Air. Please pair up with someone, get
to a computer, and open those links.
Pretend for this activity Dr. Phill runs a writing center that
owns 10 original iPads for student use.
Your job is to explain to me in the report– and we just need a
data treatment for this activity, not the whole report– the
upgrades from the original model to the new model.
Think about what we talked about today as you treat the
When you finish treating the data
Email it to me.
For Tuesday, read Anderson, Chapter 14.
Remember your case study is due via email on Tuesday.
Have a good weekend! Stay warm!
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