Technical Writing, October 29, 2013

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  • 1. TODAY 1) A Report: What you must have, what you should have, and what you MIGHT have 2) Anderson: designing good documents 3) Activity: Outline (like a boss) 4) Remember to turn in your case study! 5) Homework
  • 2. Reports So we’ve talked a great deal about what you need to do to find data, to treat data, to cite data, etc. Today, I want to take a step in the lateral direction, and we’re going to talk about the actual FORM of your reports. It’s time for a game of “Must, Should, Might”
  • 3. YOUR REPORT MUST…
  • 4. …have a title. Seriously. Reports with no title are laaaame. The title should also tell the reader quite a bit about the report.
  • 5. …have an introduction. And we know what the introduction should do, from our readings. Quick, concise, but tell us what the report is about. Prep me!
  • 6. …have a reference list. Not citing your sources = plagiarism. Plagiarism=stealing. Stealing=you’re not professional. Don’t do it!
  • 7. …have content, with headings. Content matters, obviously. But the heading part is big. Headings organize our documents.
  • 8. …have a conclusion. Reports don’t just end. You need to indicate that the ending has come by summarizing and literally bringing the report to a close.
  • 9. YOUR REPORT SHOULD…
  • 10. …use signposting. In other words, tell us where we’re going, tell us where we’ve been. Don’t shock us. Lead the way!
  • 11. …include data visualization. It will be rare for any of you to have data that doesn’t feature, at least at one point, some sort of complex data. Remember the graphic ways to express that data.
  • 12. …be well designed. Easy to read. Easy to scan. That’s what your report should be.
  • 13. YOUR REPORT MIGHT…
  • 14. …need an appendix. If you have a large chunk of data that is too cumbersome to include, in raw form, to put into your report, you can always include it as an appendix that the reader can access after reading.
  • 15. …use a table of contents. If your report gets long, or your headings get too copious, a table of contents can make the report easier for readers to scan/navigate.
  • 16. …have a separate title page. Depending on where you’re presenting it, and to what audience, you might have a page JUST for the title and your name.
  • 17. …have a separate title page. Depending on where you’re presenting it, and to what audience, you might have a page JUST for the title and your name.
  • 18. …include a summary or abstract. Again, depending on the audience, you might need to preface your report with a short summary (often called an “abstract”).
  • 19. …feature multi-media external links. You might have audio, or video. And that’s okay.
  • 20. To those ends… … the chapter from Anderson I had you read for today talks about document design and page design. The big take-away, of course, is “The grid.” Grid based design dominates the world wide web, and most magazines and newspapers. Basically, the concept is that you place information into a grid– like a piece of graph paper– so that it is easier to access and read.
  • 21. For a report… You won’t want to go with a grid as crazy as most websites; while that works for screen reading, it would make your report cumbersome. But you might want to utilize a two column approach, or to include break-out boxes for your report. If you want to get inventive, you might present your report in a brochure format, or even as a webpage, and with that decision would come other grid options.
  • 22. So you want… … to think through how you want your reader to encounter your information. Particularly if you’re including images, tables, infographics, etc. the idea of designing your pages on the grid will make a big difference. Think about directions we read online vs. when you had to set them up on a single column page.
  • 23. The basic premise of the grid… … is that presenting textual data in simple pages is often NOT user friendly. It is actually, believe it or not, more difficult to read certain forms of prose in full page format. Why do you imagine so many journals, magazines and newspapers have smaller columns while novels and poetry use full-page design?
  • 24. Activity: a “design” outline Hopefully at this point you have some sense of how your report would look. I want you to spend some time here in class thinking about a “design” minded outline. What I mean is, obviously, you need to think about the content, but I want you to focus in THIS particular activity on how you want to present your report. How do you want this thing to look? How do you want it to be read?
  • 25. Remember… … that your case studies are due, via email, preferably as a PDF though .doc(x) is fine, too. No actual homework for next class. In honor of Halloween, we’re going to do something a little bit fun that I think will also help you to think more about what we’ve discussed today. See you bright and early on Thursday!