The last three assignments in the Incubator series of assignments that I have designed for my technical writing courses are directly related to one another. Students write a Short Proposal for the White Paper and the Research Poster projects that they will complete during the second half of the term. In today’s post, I will share this proposal with you.
Because I want them to focus their energy on the major report (the white paper), I ask for a short, memo-based proposal, rather than a longer document. The topic proposal assignment gives students very specific guidelines to follow so that the more in-depth coverage from the textbook does not lead them to do more than they need to. My underlying goal for the activity is two-fold: I want them to learn how to write a research proposal, but just as importantly, I want to spot-check their topics for the white paper and research poster before they get too far into the project.
As with previous assignments in this series, the proposal assignment below is an example that has some minor changes to remove specific information that is relevant only to the students in my classes. References to “Markel & Selber” in the assignment refer to chapters in the class textbook Technical Communication by Mike Markel and Stuart Selber.
This assignment has gone relatively well. The most frequent issue has been confusion about memo format. Students either didn't follow the instructions and used other formats, or they did not follow the format accurately. The most serious issue that has come up has been a failure to provide enough details and the development of the proposal. I wonder if the emphasis on a “short” proposal has misled some to think that general and underdeveloped ideas were adequate. When I use this activity again, I will work to address both of these issues.
My next post will share the instructions for the white paper, which is the next project students worked on. Be sure to come back to read more about that activity, and in the meantime, if you have any feedback to share, please leave a comment below.
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