Course: Basics of Technical English (9409) Semester: Autumn, 2021
ASSIGNMENT No. 1
Q.1 Technical writing is a process and is carried out in stages. A technical writer must follow these stages to produce an effective and efficient document. What are the basics of the technical writing process and what kind of activities can be carried out at each of these stages?
The technical writing process is not just sitting and writing documentation, it’s a more complicated process than you may think. Usually, it consists of 5 steps:
- First Draft and Revision
- Review and Publish
I’ll describe all these steps and add some tips on how to make every step effective.
The first step is preparation when a technical writer creates a plan. First of all, ask the following questions:
- Who am I writing for? What is the skill level, the average age of the audience?
- How many documents do I need to write?
- What’s the deadline?
The questions about your target audience in the most important because you write documentation for people. In order to learn more about them, you can gather a focus group, but first of all, prepare a list of questions about their age, education, occupation and what not (if necessary), this information will help you later. Or you can ask people with whom you’re working, maybe, they have already known their target audience.
The research stage is about gathering information about a product. So, here’s what you should do: interview people who are also working on this project, reading information about the product that you’re going to document.
Now it’s time to analyze the information that you’ve gathered — divide it into sections that will describe the key points of a product. Information organization is essential, it will help you create a structure of your future documentation. But remember that it’s not a straightjacket, it can be changed and rewritten. Moreover, your documentation can differ from its first draft but it’s ok.
A traditional structure is a narrative structure that includes intro, body, conclusion. However, a process-based structure is more common in technical documentation such as procedures and user guides. In order not to reorganize your documentation many times, work with your subject matter experts to understand what structure they expect to get a clear explanation about the product and whether it correlates with the company goals.
First Draft and Revision
After the organization step, you’re ready for a first draft. The draft will be a base for your future documentation, create it as it’s comfortable for you, for example, you may use long descriptions, not formatted lists and so on, but then you should revise the written content wisely — follow all the technical writing rules like placing important information first, using the clear sentence structure, active voice and so on. To learn more information on how to improve your technical writing, read the article called “Tips on Improving Technical Writing”.
Technical writing is the process of interpreting and translating dense and difficult information for easy comprehension of the potential users of such information.
Thus technical writing may be defined as writing technical information for the benefit of someone who does not have technical background know-how in that area.
A technical writer communicates information clearly and directly to the target audience. Technical writing never aims at impressing the audience rather it informs them by minimizing the “noise” factors. Technical writing minimizes the gap between technical experts and end-users.
Evolution of Technical Writing
There are different arguments about the genesis of technical writing. Some opines that Cro-Magnon people who drew cave pictures are the first technical writers! Some others think that the works of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, are the earliest forms of technical writing.
However, Geoffrey Chaucer, who is known as the father of English poetry, is considered to be the first technical communicator in English. His work “Treatise on the Astrolabe” detailed the purpose and operation of a navigation device.
Q.2 Write a formal report on any specific issue. Describe the person or group of people for whom the report is meant. Define the objectives/reasons for writing this report. Be clear about your objectives and plans.
Formal business reports have important functions in helping managers and executives make decisions. These documents can have a variety of purposes depending on your needs and industry. Learning how to write a formal business report can help you develop as a professional. In this article, we explain what a formal business report is, how to write one and provide an example.
A formal business is an official document that contains data, research, information and other necessary details to help decision-makers form plans and objectives to help the company. Depending on the topic, a formal business report could be several pages long and include extensive data and information. Here are a few of the most common types of formal business reports, designated by a purpose:
You can use this report to propose an idea to management. The body would include sections like risks, costs and benefits. An example of this type of report would be to propose buying a machine for your workplace. To convince the decision-maker to buy the machine, you would create this report to make a convincing argument.
This report can present the potential risks of a specific opportunity. This report is helpful for business owners to anticipate any issues involved in making an investment or purchase. You could also create a formal business report to analyze a proposed merger.
Use this report when the organization wants to show accountability and create a compliance report. It is a report that allows an organization to prove that it is following regulations and that it is spending money properly. For example, an accountant could write a compliance report to show the company followed federal laws regarding spending.
When you need to analyze the outcomes of a proposed idea, you can use this report. The report could cover potential problems, associated costs and the benefits of the idea. With this report, you can determine if the proposal will be profitable, if the deadline is feasible and if there’s a chance it could exceed the budget.
Research studies report
This report helps you analyze a problem. The report would include recommendations to resolve the problems.
A periodic report
This report helps an organization improve its products, services, processes or policies. The report can include things like profit and loss information or it may examine efficiency. For instance, a retail store would have a monthly report on its sales.
A situational report
To discuss a specific topic, such as information from a conference, use a situational report.
A yardstick report
You can use this report to present several solutions as options to a particular situation.
You must have heard the term ‘report writing’ before.
According to the commonly known definition of report writing, a report is a formal document that elaborates on a topic using facts, charts, and graphs to support its arguments and findings.
Any report—whether it’s about a business event or one that describes the processes of various departments in a company—is meant for a particular type of audience.
But why do you think your manager wants you to create a report?
One simple answer is: an elaborate report prepared with evaluated facts helps solve complex problems. When managers come across certain business situations, they ask for comprehensive and well-thought-out reports that can help them design business plans.
ELEMENTS OF REPORT WRITING
Once you have an idea about what a report is, the next step is to understand how you can write one.
There are different types of reports, and each has a specific structure, usually known as ‘elements of the report’.
While we tell you what the elements of report writing are, if you want detailed guidance, you can go for Harappa Education’s Writing Proficiently course that talks about the popular PREP (Point of starting, Reason, Evidence, and Point of ending) model of report writing.
Every report starts with a title page and a table of contents, after which come the main sections–the executive summary, introduction, discussion, and conclusion.
Q.3 Suppose you are a supervisor in a leather factory. Must of the new material for preparing bags and leather jackets gets wasted due to several reasons. It is difficult for you to manage them with the help of existing staff and storage capacity. Write an internal proposal to cope with this problem so that the wastage of raw material may be minimized. While writing the proposal identify the problem, its background, significance of the problem, its solution and other components of the proposal.
Food waste is a growing problem around the world. It is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally, 40 percent of which comes from restaurants and other food businesses. Landfills are overflowing with food that could have been repurposed, donated or composted, alongside other non-food service items such as napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, drawing paper and other disposable products.
Australians throw out four million tonnes of food every year — Australian businesses are responsible for roughly one quarter of that waste. Given that 2.2 million Australians live in poverty with disproportionate access to nutritious food, this is an unacceptable reality. With food inequity and climate change on everyone’s mind, reducing food waste is more important now than ever.
How does food waste harm the environment
The astonishing amount of landfill waste produced each year poses enormous challenges for the health of our planet, with many countries facing what is being called a “landfill capacity crisis”. Even in a country like Australia, which has more room than most, landfills are not a sustainable solution for managing the country’s waste.
Mishandling food scraps also contributes to climate change, because when food is sent to landfills, it decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
It’s not just the methane from food waste that must be considered, but also the resources used (e.g. water) and greenhouse gases emitted at each stage of the food supply chain, from harvesting and processing to transporting and serving food. Decomposing food scraps in landfills can also contaminate ground and surface water.
Keeping food waste out of landfills has a variety of environmental benefits — if you’re a food business owner, operator or investor, it also makes good business sense.
The business case for reducing food waste in restaurants
According to a recent study — conducted by the coalition Champions and funded by The Walmart Foundation and The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands — investing in reducing food waste can help restaurants make more money — in some cases, a lot more money.
In its report, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants, a review of 114 restaurants in 12 different countries found that:
- each restaurant was able to keep their total investment below $20,000
- nearly every restaurant achieved a positive return, with the average saving of $7 (USD) for every $1 invested in reducing kitchen food waste
- within one year, the restaurants had reduced food waste from their kitchens by 26 percent on average, and over 75 percent had recouped their investment
- within two years, 89 percent of the restaurants had recouped their investment
“These figures confirm what we have seen at IKEA,” stated Champion Michael La Cour, Managing Director at IKEA Food Services AB. “Reducing food waste goes hand in hand with reducing costs. We view fighting food waste not only as an opportunity to create a better world, but also a great business opportunity.”
It doesn’t take a coalition of food scientists and corporate giants to understand that you’ll save money if you reduce food waste in your restaurant. Food supplies are one of the biggest costs, if not the biggest, for any restaurant. If your product is food, then food is as good as money; just as you would track your finances, it’s important to track your food usage and waste.
10 ways to reduce food waste in restaurants
- Measure food waste. Simply by tracking food usage and waste, many restaurants find opportunities to scale back production while still meeting customer demand. A “food waste inventory” can help you to identify how much and where food is wasted so you can implement changes (e.g. smaller portions, menu changes or substitutions) and monitor your progress.
- Predict food orders. Having a system in place to help you accurately predict food orders, either manually or with the help of digital technology (e.g. predictive ordering technology), means more accurate data, a better understanding of food order patterns and more control over your kitchen, which ultimately leads to less waste (and more money in your pocket).
- Engage staff. Food Handlers are valuable resources when it comes to reducing food waste. Some of the most innovative ideas for reducing food waste comes from kitchen and front-of-house staff, not from management. Investing in training and certifying your staff is one of the best things you can do for your business.
- Practise good stock control. Efficient ordering and stock rotation are of primary importance when it comes to minimising food spoilage and waste. Make sure that stored food is clearly labelled with ‘best before’ or ‘sell by’ dates and make sure everyone who handles food in your business is trained on proper First In, First Out inventory management techniques.
- Keep an eye on overproduction. Many restaurants use batch preparation to save time and money. Once you begin to measure food waste in your business, you may find that shifting away from batch preparation in favour of cook-to-order preparation will save you money in the long term. Note: Whichever method you choose, remember to follow the 2 Hour/4 Hour Rule and keep food out of the Temperature Danger Zone (5°C – 60°C).
- Have a plan for excess food. Predicting customer demand is more of an art than a science; as such, restaurant kitchens will often find themselves with extra ingredients. If you don’t have a plan to use those extra ingredients, they could end up in the bin. What a waste! Why not turn yesterday’s leftover chicken parmesan into a lunch special today? If it’s not past its “use by” date, you should use it.
- Compost. For the food scraps you can’t use, consider if composting is a viable option for your restaurant. Some food businesses use compost from the kitchen to enrich the soil in fruit and vegetable gardens or as a natural fertiliser for landscaping. Composting also reduces your environmental impact (and your waste removal bill) by keeping waste out of landfills.
- Recycle. Recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and other containers, are too often found in restaurant rubbish bins. By putting these materials in the correct recycling bins, your food business can help the environment and save money on waste collection. Make sure that recycling bins in your business are clearly labelled and used only for recycling to prevent rubbish and recycling from getting mixed in together.
- Switch to reusable non-food items. Disposable items such as paper, napkins, plastic cutlery and dishware can generate a tremendous amount of waste — and they’re expensive! Why waste money on industrial-sized bags of plastic forks and pay a fortune to haul them away every night if you can provide your guests with environmentally friendly, reusable items? We know that sometimes these simply can’t be avoided, but where you can avoid single-use items, we encourage you to do so. The planet (and your bottom line) will thank you.
- Donate. There are a number of charities across Australia that accept suitable food from restaurants and other food businesses, which they then distribute to the homeless and others in need. Consider labelling the food in your coolers and pantries with a ‘serve before’ and a ‘donate before’ date, to help staff easily determine what goes in the bin and what is suitable for donation
Q.4 Preparing a job resume is one of the most important tasks in a person’s career.
Unit 4 of your textbook teaches you how to prepare job resumes. Prepare a detailed job resume for yourself showing your entire professional strengths.
A resume is a document commonly used in the hiring process. It includes information about your background and qualifications and should communicate the most important, relevant information about you to employers in a clear, easy-to-read format. The goal is to quickly communicate why you are uniquely qualified for the position based on your skills and experiences.
To create a resume that will get noticed by employers, you can follow a few simple steps and best practices. The main goal to keep in mind is to make your resume relevant and readable. Let’s take a closer look at the best ways to write each of these resume sections. For more inspiration when writing or updating your resume, look at resume samples from your industry and job title.
How to create a professional resume
Follow these steps when drafting a resume for your next job application:
- Start by choosing the right resume format
A “format” is the style and order in which you display information on your resume. There are three commonly-used resume formats you can choose from depending on which is right for you: Chronological (or reverse-chronological), functional or a combination.
A chronological resume format places the professional history section first and is a good option if you have a rich professional work history with no gaps in employment.
The functional resume format emphasizes the skills section and is a good option if you are switching industries or have some gaps in your work history.
The combination resume format is a good option if you have some professional experience, where both skills and work history are equally important.
- Include your name and contact information
Your resume should begin with your name and contact information including your email address and phone number. You have a choice about whether or not to include your mailing address. Your name should be highly visible at the top of your resume with a bolded or larger font than the rest of the document, but no more than a 14 point size. You might also include a link to your online portfolio if you are applying to creative positions, for example.
- Add a resume summary or objective
After your contact information, you have the option to include either a resume summary or objective statement. An objective statement quickly explains your career goals and is a good choice for those with limited professional experience, such as recent college or high school graduates. A resume summary is a short statement that uses active language to describe your relevant work experience and skills.
- List your soft and hard skills
Take a moment to consider which skills make you a great fit for the job. Review the job description and highlight keywords that you have had proven success with in the past. Consider both hard (technical) and soft (interpersonal) skills, as well as transferable skills you can use when changing careers or industries. Create a skills section with the keywords that are relevant to the employer. List any required skills like certifications or licenses first.
- List your professional history with keywords
Write your professional history section in reverse-chronological order. Start with your most recent job and provide a short description including the company name, time period in which you were employed, your job title and a few key achievements during your time at the company. You might also include relevant learnings or growth opportunities you experienced while employed there.
When listing your professional history, you should keep a few best practices in mind:
Use numbers to measure your impact, when possible. Including specific numerical achievements can help employers understand your direct potential value to their company.
Example: “Developed new process for requesting supplies, reducing fulfillment time by 10%.”
Use keywords from the job description. Similar to your skills section, you should also include information from the job description in your job history bullets. For example, if the job description mentions the importance of meeting sales quotas, you could include information about how you’ve met or exceeded quotas in past roles.
Example: “Achieved goal of reaching 250% annual sales quota, winning sales MVP two quarters in a row.”
Be brief. Employers have mere seconds to review your resume, so you should keep your descriptions as concise and relevant as possible. Try removing filler words like “and,” and “the.” You should also only list key achievements instead of multiple lines describing your role.
Use action verbs. Make a stronger impact by using action verbs to describe your professional achievements. Some examples include “developed,” “saved,” “drove” and “managed.”
Follow the same process for other work experiences. If you do not have extensive professional history, you should also include internships and volunteer opportunities following the same format.
- Include an education section
An education section will be especially valuable if you have limited work experience (such as recent college or high school graduates) or if you are transferring to a new industry. You can include information such as:
Grade point average
Participation in clubs or organizations
Leadership positions held
Awards, achievements or certifications
When writing your education section, you should include the name of the institution, dates of attendance and your degree or area of study. If you are applying to mid or higher-level positions, you might remove all but the name of your school and dates of attendance to make room for more relevant professional experience on your resume.
If you have certifications or licenses that are relevant to the job description, you can include them in this section as well. To save space, you can leave off any credentials that are not directly related to the requirements of this job.
- Consider adding optional sections
If you have significant white space on your resume, consider adding an achievements or interests section. This can help supplement a shorter resume, especially for those with limited work and educational experience. Makes sure that the achievements and interests you list support your career goals and are relevant to potential employers.
- Format your resume
While the layout of your resume is important, you should also take time to pay attention to formatting details like font style, font size, margins and spacing. Formatting your resume can make it look clean, professional and improve readability. This is key when attempting to keep an employer’s attention. Here are a few key tips that can help make your resume look polished:
Make your font between 10 and 12 point size.
Select a font that is clean and easy to read like Arial or Helvetica; avoid stylized fonts.
Make sure your margins are 1 to 1.5 inches.
Make your name and section headers bold or slightly bigger in font size (no more than 14 points).
Use bullet points when listing several different pieces of information, like under your education and professional history sections.
- Proofread your resume
Carefully review your resume for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Reading your resume backward can help you identify errors by presenting the words in a new order. You should also ask trusted friends, colleagues, professors and family members if they can review your resume. Third-party opinions can help reveal new information you might have overlooked.
If your resume is more than one page, review for ways to consolidate or shorten each section by removing filler words or extraneous information. Two pages may be acceptable if you are applying for high-level positions or industries like healthcare or academia.
- Tailor your resume for each position
It’s important to revise your resume to tailor it to each position you apply for. For each job, adjust the keywords in the skills section so that it’s a great fit for what the employer needs. You should also change what you emphasize in the professional history and educational experiences sections depending on what’s listed in the job description.
Q.5 Create a list of five to eight questions about a topic you want to research for
each question, indicate the kind of a resource you need (book, recent article and website.
Good research must begin with a good research question. Yet coming up with good research questions is something that novice researchers often find difficult and stressful. One reason is that this is a creative process that can appear mysterious—even magical—with experienced researchers seeming to pull interesting research questions out of thin air. However, psychological research on creativity has shown that it is neither as mysterious nor as magical as it appears. It is largely the product of ordinary thinking strategies and persistence (Weisberg, 1993). This section covers some fairly simple strategies for finding general research ideas, turning those ideas into empirically testable research questions, and finally evaluating those questions in terms of how interesting they are and how feasible they would be to answer.
Research questions often begin as more general research ideas—usually focusing on some behaviour or psychological characteristic: talkativeness, learning, depression, bungee jumping, and so on. Before looking at how to turn such ideas into empirically testable research questions, it is worth looking at where such ideas come from in the first place. Three of the most common sources of inspiration are informal observations, practical problems, and previous research.
Informal observations include direct observations of our own and others’ behaviour as well as secondhand observations from nonscientific sources such as newspapers, books, blogs, and so on. For example, you might notice that you always seem to be in the slowest moving line at the grocery store. Could it be that most people think the same thing? Or you might read in a local newspaper about people donating money and food to a local family whose house has burned down and begin to wonder about who makes such donations and why. Some of the most famous research in psychology has been inspired by informal observations. Stanley Milgram’s famous research on obedience to authority, for example, was inspired in part by journalistic reports of the trials of accused Nazi war criminals—many of whom claimed that they were only obeying orders. This led him to wonder about the extent to which ordinary people will commit immoral acts simply because they are ordered to do so by an authority figure (Milgram, 1963).
Practical problems can also inspire research ideas, leading directly to applied research in such domains as law, health, education, and sports. Does taking lecture notes by hand improve students’ exam performance? How effective is psychotherapy for depression compared to drug therapy? To what extent do cell phones impair people’s driving ability? How can we teach children to read more efficiently? What is the best mental preparation for running a marathon?
Probably the most common inspiration for new research ideas, however, is previous research. Recall that science is a kind of large-scale collaboration in which many different researchers read and evaluate each other’s work and conduct new studies to build on it. Of course, experienced researchers are familiar with previous research in their area of expertise and probably have a long list of ideas. This suggests that novice researchers can find inspiration by consulting with a more experienced researcher (e.g., students can consult a faculty member). But they can also find inspiration by picking up a copy of almost any professional journal and reading the titles and abstracts. In one typical issue of Psychological Science, for example, you can find articles on the perception of shapes, anti-Semitism, police lineups, the meaning of death, second-language learning, people who seek negative emotional experiences, and many other topics. If you can narrow your interests down to a particular topic (e.g., memory) or domain (e.g., health care), you can also look through more specific journals, such as Memory & Cognition or Health Psychology.
Generating Empirically Testable Research Questions
Once you have a research idea, you need to use it to generate one or more empirically testable research questions, that is, questions expressed in terms of a single variable or relationship between variables. One way to do this is to look closely at the discussion section in a recent research article on the topic. This is the last major section of the article, in which the researchers summarize their results, interpret them in the context of past research, and suggest directions for future research. These suggestions often take the form of specific research questions, which you can then try to answer with additional research. This can be a good strategy because it is likely that the suggested questions have already been identified as interesting and important by experienced researchers.
But you may also want to generate your own research questions. How can you do this? First, if you have a particular behaviour or psychological characteristic in mind, you can simply conceptualize it as a variable and ask how frequent or intense it is. How many words on average do people speak per day? How accurate are our memories of traumatic events? What percentage of people have sought professional help for depression? If the question has never been studied scientifically—which is something that you will learn in your literature review—then it might be interesting and worth pursuing.
If scientific research has already answered the question of how frequent or intense the behaviour or characteristic is, then you should consider turning it into a question about a statistical relationship between that behaviour or characteristic and some other variable. One way to do this is to ask yourself the following series of more general questions and write down all the answers you can think of.
- What are some possible causes of the behaviour or characteristic?
- What are some possible effects of the behaviour or characteristic?
- What types of people might exhibit more or less of the behaviour or characteristic?
- What types of situations might elicit more or less of the behaviour or characteristic?
In general, each answer you write down can be conceptualized as a second variable, suggesting a question about a statistical relationship. If you were interested in talkativeness, for example, it might occur to you that a possible cause of this psychological characteristic is family size. Is there a statistical relationship between family size and talkativeness? Or it might occur to you that people seem to be more talkative in same-sex groups than mixed-sex groups. Is there a difference in the average level of talkativeness of people in same-sex groups and people in mixed-sex groups? This approach should allow you to generate many different empirically testable questions about almost any behaviour or psychological characteristic.
If through this process you generate a question that has never been studied scientifically—which again is something that you will learn in your literature review—then it might be interesting and worth pursuing. But what if you find that it has been studied scientifically? Although novice researchers often want to give up and move on to a new question at this point, this is not necessarily a good strategy. For one thing, the fact that the question has been studied scientifically and the research published suggests that it is of interest to the scientific community. For another, the question can almost certainly be refined so that its answer will still contribute something new to the research literature. Again, asking yourself a series of more general questions about the statistical relationship is a good strategy.
- Are there other ways to operationally define the variables?
- Are there types of people for whom the statistical relationship might be stronger or weaker?
- Are there situations in which the statistical relationship might be stronger or weaker—including situations with practical importance?
For example, research has shown that women and men speak about the same number of words per day—but this was when talkativeness was measured in terms of the number of words spoken per day among university students in the United States and Mexico. We can still ask whether other ways of measuring talkativeness—perhaps the number of different people spoken to each day—produce the same result. Or we can ask whether studying elderly people or people from other cultures produces the same result. Again, this approach should help you generate many different research questions about almost any statistical relationship.