written professional communication

Written Professional Communication

University of Pittsburgh | Summer 2014 | T/TH 12-3:15pm | trisha campbell


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Trisha Campbell
office: CL 429
hours: T/TH 9-11am
or happily by appointment


The Oxford English Dictionary defines our central word—professional—from its first use around the year 1276 to mean: “vows taken upon entering a religious order,” also from Latin professionem (nominative professio) or "public declaration," also from past participle stem of profiteri "to declare openly" (see profess), meaning "any solemn declaration" from mid-14c. In 15c, it came to mean "occupation one professes to be skilled in," which in turn came to mean "body of persons engaged in some occupation" in 1610; oh, and most interestingly, in 1888 professional was a euphemism for "prostitution," which is worth a bit of reflection.

In 1400, professional was closely related to profess and professing, which meant to declare openly and publically, but also to announce, affirm, or avow. These two words—professional and profess—have intertwined histories and intertwined present uses. When you are a professional, what are you professing to know or affirm and how are you professing? What does it mean to be a professing professional? To communicate professionally? What kinds of writing and styles of professing do professionals engage in? How can you profess most effectively? How do professionalism, rhetoric, and writing intersect?

These are just a few of the questions we will explore together in this class, and we will continue to interrogate and think critically about with it means to be a professional in the 21st century. Written Professional Communication (WPC) is both a practical and theoretical course, one where we will be creating and analyzing the kinds of textual and visual documents you will likely be asked to produce in your future professional lives.

The work in this course will in many ways be tailored to suit all of your individual, projected career paths—whether you plan to be a doctor or a scientist, to work in marketing or engineering, or to continue your education in graduate or professional school. Please start thinking now, at the beginning of the course, about the career path or field that you either know you will be entering or that holds the most interest for you right now. Your future goals will play a role in how you approach the writing projects for this course. Because this is a fast, six-week summer course, you need to be thinking right away—in the first week—about how you can tailor this course to your particular interests.

Professional writing comes in many shapes and genres, and so one of our overarching concerns in this class will be to think about the rhetorical choices we make when we write in particular genres, and what kinds of assumptions these available, recognizable forms make about readers and writers. Hidden in seemingly straightforward documents like resumes, cover letters, emails, memos, and more, are conventions bound up in assumptions that shape our worldviews. We will work to uncover these assumptions, to see what writing tells us about our professional communities and ourselves. We will also examine the ethical dimensions of professional writing and being a professional, to think about the consequences of inattention.

The ultimate goal of our time together will be that while you will have received practice writing in common, and often familiar, genres, you will also come away from this class able to analyze and think critically about any unfamiliar genre you encounter in your academic and professional lives. By the end you should be confident in your ability to profess and be professional.


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Course Goals

Written Professional Communication (WPC) is a writing-intensive course that allows students to become stronger writers as they explore forms of reading and writing that are typical of professional settings. A core course in Pitt’s Public and Professional Writing (PPW) Certificate Program, WPC has five main goals for students.

1) Understand what it means to be a professional. Students read closely and critically as they analyze the characteristics of and barriers to professional discourse. As students work to develop a professional identity, they study ethical responsibilities and learn how to conduct sound primary and secondary research. Most sections of WPC also explore collaborative writing and the role of the team in today’s workplace.
2) Consider a wide range of audiences and the consequences of writing to them This class helps students create reader-centered texts for a variety of audiences. Students will engage with issues such as multiple readers, specialized and non-specialized writing, bias, diversity, jargon, and information overload. Students work to develop their voice and tone in professional documents.
3) Communicate effectively through common workplace genres Students produce at least 25 pages over the course of the term, usually in the form of one large project and a series of smaller assignments. Frequently those assignments enable students to focus on their own career paths. Students learn to communicate in a variety of forms such as memos, letters, emails, career search materials, reports, proposals, instructions and procedures, press releases, Website writing, multimedia texts, and oral presentation materials.
4) Engage actively in the process of revision In addition to receiving feedback from their teacher, students have opportunities to receive feedback on drafts from their classmates in both small and large groups. Since much of the writing in WPC allows students to concentrate on their own academic and professional goals and interests, many of the substantially revised documents (often in the form of a professional portfolio) may also benefit students as they progress in their careers.
5) Write with awareness of textual conventions Like other courses in the PPW Certificate, WPC helps students improve their ability to compose according to accepted conventions of Standard Written English. Students practice writing with attention to grammar, style, clarity, conciseness, objectivity, organization, and effective sentence and paragraph structure.


Students who earn a C or above in WPC have substantially progressed toward fulfilling the above-listed goals.


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There is no required textbook for this class. Instead, we will be reading a combination of articles (both academic and popular) and book chapters to help us think about different aspects of professional writing. Readings will be posted online on Courseweb or distributed in class.

We will also spend a great deal of time discussing and analyzing examples of the texts you are producing. Some of the texts we discuss will be examples from outside of our class, but others will be the texts of your classmates. When we workshop your writing in class, it will be with an eye toward how the text in question takes up the demands of its genre, as well as the rhetoric of the piece, and we will discuss potential areas for revision along these lines. Just know in advance that we will be looking as a class at everyone’s writing at some point during the semester, and that I expect criticism to be careful (full of care) constructive—that is, to be critical, but respectful.

Web Accounts & Technology

In order to create your professional website/blog, you will need to sign up for a Wordpress account. We will also be using InDesign, Photoshop, and iMovie at various times throughout the semester. I will guide you through the process of learing this software and you will have access to this software via our computer lab.


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Public and Professional Writing Certificate

If you earn a B or better in this course, it can offer you credits toward Pitt’s Public and Professional Writing Certificate. If you’re curious about the PPW Certificate, come talk to me in office hours and/or peruse the PPW Program’s website, which can be found at http://www.pitt.edu/~ppw (as well as http://www.composition.pitt.edu/ppw/).

Writing Assignments

Because this is a writing-intensive course, you will be producing (at least) 25 pages of writing during this compressed summer term—please look ahead at our course schedule and plan to do a great deal of writing and revising. Every week, major writing assignments will be due and you must stay on top of the writing to do well in the course.

Summary of major projects

Job shadow project and revision: For this paper, you will arrange a meeting with a professional in your field (or desired field), interview him/her, research the company and position, and write an essay based on the experience. You will also be required to revise this assignment one time. The revision will mandate following up with your contact, additional research, and substantial changes to your first draft. (1500 words)

Building a professional blog/website: Throughout the semester, you will be designing and writing on a blogging website that you create. This is an ongoing project that will be evaluated by your peers and by me at the end of the term as the bulk of your final. You will post weekly about our class readings and topics related to your profession.

A biography & evaluation of your classmates’ online identity: You will be assigned another classmates’ online identity as a biographer. You will also have to critique their blog, and you will write an evaluative document to them offering suggestions about their online identity, including their blog site for our class.

Several drafts of a resume/vita and cover letter: The building blocks of your career, these documents will play an important role in the course.

A Linkedin profile: Some employers won’t even consider your application without a profile on this site. We’ll discuss its use and best practices.

Instruction Manual (video or visual): a set of in-depth instructions for how to do something and a critical reflection on your writing. You can be creative about this—think: how-to apply smoky eye-shadow, how to avoid conversation on an airplane, how to impress someone at a cocktail party, how to cry, how to love, how to go up some stairs. Remember, good instructions are very detailed, yet also easy to follow.

Formal Professional Presentation: Deliver a 20-minute formal presentation of a case study on professionalism using one academic or journal article and one piece of media (see me if you're having trouble locating articles). You can use a segment of a TV show, a part of a movie, comic book, news article—any media—for your presentation. You presentation should contain at least two parts. The first part should consider the rhetoric of the piece, summarize,engage, and show how it fits in with the themes of the class. The second part should launch our class into a thoughtful, creative, and stimulating discussion connecting to the readings of that week.

In addition to these major projects, for many of the readings in this course, you will be required to write a reading response and post it to your own professional class blog. Reading responses should be at least 300 words in length and will always be due by 8:00pm the night before the class in which we are discussing the reading. I will either provide questions for you to guide your responses or will ask that you read carefully and then use your response to pose questions or confusions as well as to demonstrate what you understand of the reading and how it helps you think about the writing we’re doing in class.



There are many ways to participate in class. The most obvious one is to contribute substantially to discussion every day, and I do expect that for most people in class, this will be the case. I expect you to speak at least once each class and to respectfully listen to me and your classmates during discussions. Your phones will be off. It might help you to think of this as a casual business meeting where you’re hoping to network with colleagues and impress your boss. I reserve the right to mark you absent if you don’t follow these guidelines. Participating in class also means speaking up in small group discussions and workshops, listening and taking notes attentively, and so on. If you are a quiet student and would like to talk to me about strategies for speaking up in class, please do so! I’m happy to help however I can.

Simply being present in class does not guarantee a strong participation grade (in fact, attending and occasionally contributing to discussion is equivalent to a C participation grade), but attentively contributing to our class in the ways I mentioned above, both in-person and online, does. Similarly, being inattentive or disruptive (doing other work or texting in class) or tardy will hurt your participation grade. If I see you doing other work or using your cell phone in class, I will make a note of this and your participation for that day will be marked down. I will not call you out on this in class—it is your responsibility to pay attention to the work we are doing together every Tuesday and Thursday.



This is a short course—we will only meet 12 times over the next six weeks. Because we do not have much time together and because your writing and responses to the reading are central to class discussion, attendance is mandatory. Please come to class on time, prepared to take part in conversation about the materials we are studying. You are allowed 1 absence during the term for whatever reason, though I strongly recommend that you do everything you can to avoid even one absence. If you do miss a class, you must arrange for any assignments due that day to be submitted on time. If you miss class twice, your final grade will be lowered by an entire letter grade (if you earn a B in the course, you will drop to a C). A third absence is grounds for failure. Additionally, chronic lateness may impact your final grade.

Late Work

Because of how quickly this course must progress, your work must be turned in on time in order to receive feedback from me. Any drafts of assignments turned in late will not receive my comments.

I reserve the right to respond humanely to extraordinary circumstances, but you must contact me as soon as possible if an emergency arises.


You will receive a grade on each of your major projects and a provisional grade at midterms. If you would like more frequent grade updates, you need to schedule a conference with me. Know that your grade is based primarily on your written work in conjunction with your in-class participation.

A = superior work, above and beyond all expectations

B = above average, clearly considerate and praiseworthy work

C = follows all guidelines and expectations

D = doesn’t follow guidelines, sloppy, inadequate

F = failure, plagiarism, see me

If you don’t hand in an assignment, you won’t pass—period. Late work must be handed in by the next class period. Late work will adversely affect your final grade. A late project or assignment will drop your final grade by a third (e.g. from a B to a B-). Subsequent late work will drop your final grade an entire letter (e.g. from a B to a C). If you have extenuating circumstances affecting your ability to meet a deadline, contact me BEFORE the due date. The reading responses will not be formally graded—if you complete them fully and thoughtfully and on time, you will receive full credit on them. If I notice your responses are in any way lacking, I will let you know what you should work on to maintain full credit. If you do not complete responses or they are late, you will not receive full credit. Your peers will critique these throughout the semester.

Technology Policy

Please keep cell phones turned off and put away during class. I do not allow computers in my classroom unless it is studio time or we are working specifically with a program or website. Be present; be engaged. This is a matter of basic courtesy. Please be respectful. If you need to make an important phone call or text, please leave the classroom. I will not hesitate to mark you absent if you are on your phone, facebook, online shopping, etc.


Academic Integrity

Most plagiarism is accidental—a lack of citation. It is important that you cite your sources. If I notice an instance of plagiarism, for the first offense, you will not receive any credit for that assignment. For any offense thereafter, you will be reported to the Dean. While we will talk briefly in class about plagiarism, citation and the ways in which plagiarism and ownership of written work are different in the academy versus in the workforce, you are responsible for looking up information about how to cite properly (or for asking me, consulting a writing handbook, or visiting the Writing Center when in doubt).

Additionally, the work you turn in for this class must obviously be your own, not someone else’s, and it must be composed specifically for this course, this semester. If I find that you have turned in work from another course for this course without permission or have turned in another student’s work as your own, I will have no choice but to report the plagiarism to the Dean. If you’re ever in doubt about citation or using your own work, please come talk to me, first, before turning anything in.



If you are a student with a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and disability resources and services (140 William Pitt Union | 412-648-7890 | (tty) 412-383-7355) as early as possible in the term.


Other Services

The following free services are among those available to help students who are struggling academically or personally:


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Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Finals

All dates and assignments are tentative and subject to change with advance notice.


PART 1: Digital Selves, Rhetorical Selves



24 June | Tuesday

Syllabus & course overview | introductions & expectations | in-class reading & discussion, Bledstein’s “Culture of Professionalism” | how to set-up a professional Wordpress blog


26 June | Thursday

Discuss reading on professional writing expectations & on rhetoric | introduce digital assignments | discuss example sites


  • Have read “Writing: A Ticket to Work… or a Ticket Out?”
    Have read “A Rhetorical Toolbox”
    Have read “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and other Media” by Anne Wysocki

  • Post introductory blog reading response/set-up blog by 8:00pm Wednesday night

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1 July | Tuesday | substitute teacher

Discussion and workshopping of online identities


Google your assigned classmate & write 100-word biography; also write a 100-word critique and 100 words of advice based on what you find, not only online but also in their class blog. Discuss online professional presences. (Turn in hard copy in class!)
Read “Seeing the Text” by Stephen Bernhardt
Read: “Rhetoric, Humanism, and Design” by Richard Buchanan
Listen: Linkedin news
Read: "Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media"
Bring: TWO Linkedin profile examples. (print them out)

DUE by 4pm Monday (6/30): Drafts of Linkdin (to courseweb), Wordpress, and Twitter (optional), privacy controls of other social networking & Write: Reading Response 2 by 8:00pm Monday (6/30) night.

3 July | Thursday

No class



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PART 2: Professional Documents



8 July | Tuesday

Discuss reading about memos, emails, complaint and adjustment letters | look at examples of letters | in-class writing | workshop memos


  • DUE: Have read “Writing Correspondence” excerpt
  • Have read "The Craft of Memo Writing"
    Have read Scenes of Writing Ch. 2 excerpt
    DUE: Rough draft of memo; this memo is a memo to our class persuading us to go on a class field trip that you propose. The best memo wins and we will go on that field trip. It must be within a 2-3 mile radius and be either very cheap or free.

10 July | Thursday

Discuss reading | workshop complaint letters | Professionalism presentation(s) | Discuss email & professionalism | Discussion of TONE & Parallel Structure in professional writing | Discuss user-centered design | vote in-class on best memo.

DUE: Read “The Ethics of Expediency” by Steven Katz
DUE: Rough drafts of complaint letter/email to a public person due –  select a public person or organization. In proper letter or email format, draft a letter about an issue or concern you have. Please pick something you care about and can write about with interest. You will actually have to send these to get credit for the assignment.
Write: Reading Response 3 by 8:00pm on Wednesday night.

Have read articles on email/professionalism (on Courseweb)

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15 July | Tuesday

Discuss cover letters/resumes | discuss job shadow project | rhetoric.


Read “Ch. 6, Researching Your Subject”
Listen: NPR Story on cover letters, resumes and facebook
Listen: "Is it time to scrap the Resume and Cover letter?"
Read: “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding how Texts Persuade Readers” by Jack Selzer
Write: Reading Response 4 to blog by 8:00pm on Monday

  • DUE: Final Drafts of complaint letters and memos due via courseweb by classtime.

17 July | Thursday

  • Discuss reading | peer review & workshop resumes and cover letters | review npr stories.
    DUE: Drafts of Resume/Vita (depending on future goals), cover letter and job shadow report

  • Read: Best cover letter ever
  • Read: “Writing Resumes and Cover Letters in the Language of Employers”

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PART 3: How to's



22 July | Tuesday

Professionalism presentation(s) | Bring in examples of good/bad instructions & discuss | discuss Herndl/Fennell/Miller & Bhattacharjee articles


  • Read: "Understanding Failures in Organizational Discourse" (courseweb)
    Read: “The Mind of a Con Man"
    Write: Reading response 5 to blog by 8:00pm on Monday
    Bring: 1 example of good instructions and 1 example of bad instructions (please do not only rely on online instructions)--look around your house, consider any real instructions you may have followed recently (temporary tattoos? assembling ikea furniture? bike racks?)

24 July | Thursday

Professionalism presentation(s) | Peer review & workshop instruction manuals | discuss reading on analysis | perform analysis in-class


  • Read Scenes of Writing excerpt
    Have read Bawarshi excerpt
    Have read “Engineering Writing/Writing Engineering” by Dorothy Winsor
    Have read “ Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People” by Charles Bazerman
    Instruction Manuals (we will test them in class so please bring all necessary materials)


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29 July | Tuesday

Professionalism presentation(s)| Peer review and workshop of websites, resumes, job reports, etc.

In class: Memo to your classmate on their blog.


  • Final Drafts of instruction manuals due via courseweb by 5:00pm
    Some open time to work on websites/final drafts

31 July | Thursday

Professionalism presentation(s) | Wrap-up discussion using reading responses | crash-course on grant writing (sample letters in class)


  • Write: Reading Response 6: “Stick a spork in it” to blog by Wednesday at 8:00pm


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3 Aug | Sunday


  • Final drafts of Wordpress websites, final resume/vita, cover letters, and job shadow report due via finished website and courseweb by 5:00pm

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Course Projects in detail

Blog Posts | Digital Selves | Job Shadow | Professional Documents | Formal Presentation

Blogging Project Guidelines

Blog Guidelines


The point of the blog assignment is to have you practice maintaining a professional, personalized identity online. It is a public way to demonstrate knowledge in your field, not to mention to demonstrate your communication skills. (If you aren’t sure of your field yet, that’s okay—pick one you’re interested in or aspire to.)

In addition, many companies and organizations expect a basic level of proficiency in platforms like WordPress, Linkedin, Twitter, and the like, so this is a relatively low-pressure place to practice those skills as well.

Treat your blog as the public, professional document it is. I am not your primary audience for your writing (though I am a part of it). It is not limited to the purview of this class. You are writing for an educated, interested audience. Anyone doing a google search of your topic should be able to read your posts and understand the subject you’re discussing.

General Guidelines:

Your blog is to be an ongoing, semester-long project. It will be formally evaluated at midterms and graded as a major component of your final. As you develop your site, you will think about both content and design, and how the two serve each other.

By week 1, you must have your blog live, your first post up, and your focus determined. Send me the link to your blog so I can post it on our class website. We will look at examples of focused and unfocused blogs, which will help you narrow down your site’s scope. Your scope might be as simple as “An Engineer’s Take on the News” or “Busy Student’s Book Blog.” You should be able to summarize it in a phrase or sentence—that will help you keep focus.

A note: I do not expect you to have complicated design elements on your site. A clean and simple blog can be just as pleasing and functional as one loaded with sophisticated graphics and flash elements. What matters most to your grade is that the structure and layout of your site suit the content’s needs. If you make it super sleek and branded, all the better, but don’t feel too pressured if you’re a digital novice.

However, I do expect that you cultivate a do-it-yourself attitude with respect to the blog. I will give a basic overview of how to register and customize a site during the first weeks of class and we will briefly discuss visual design, but beyond that, you are expected to help each other, make use of online tutorials (easily findable through an internet search), and experiment on your own outside of class. This kind of self-motivated tinkering is an essential life and professional skill.

Ultimately you will be graded on:

  • Your informed engagement with the ideas you feature on your site.
  • Your site’s “readability”—its ease in navigation, its logical layout, its consistent and pleasing design
  • Whether you posted and commented every week, and the quality of those posts

Remember that this is a writing course, therefore the content and its rhetorical presentation is most important.


Each week, you will be asked to post a reading response. These posts should be 300-500 words and should be careful, proofread posts dicussing in detail the class reading or responding to a prompt I post. However, you must always keep in mind that your blog is a professional blog for the public, and so make sure to provide context.

You will also be required to post an additional THREE blog posts about your profession or field of interest. These must contain links to other sites and articles, images (where appropriate), and your opinion. These are not essays. They are not formal reports to me or your classmates. They are your take on a particular subject that engages in the larger, public conversations already happening about that topic.

Your posts should be critical and engaging. If you want to reference something we discussed in class, keep in mind the public nature of your blog.

You will also build "pages" or links to all your professional work for our class.


In addition to your weekly posts, you will be commenting—both on your classmates’ blogs and on the comments on your own site. These comments are due Fridays by 9 PM. Comments should be substantive, and indicate that you’ve read and considered the writer’s post carefully. Ask questions. Further the discussion. Politely disagree with the writer. The goal with the comments is to engage in conversation . Only nitpick the person’s writing if it is unclear, typo-ridden, or in some way distracting to the writer’s message. Ditto the design, or unless otherwise instructed.

You are also required to respond to comments on your site. These response comments are due Mondays by 9 PM, and should likewise be considerate and inquisitive.

If you are engaged by a particular comment discussion, you may continue commenting beyond the initial deadline. In other words, if you and a classmate get into a rousing debate, it’s okay to continue it the following week and those comments will count for the new week’s commenting credit.

I will be reading and keeping track of your posts and comments each week, but I will only sporadically comment on them.

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Using LinkedIn

Let’s say you’ve made your basic profile: now what? The next step is to find connections and people/organizations/places to follow. This is the “social” aspect of the site. Others look at your profile, endorse your skills, recommend you for jobs, and so on. On your LinkedIn homepage, these different entities will update you, much like a Facebook newsfeed. Keep in mind that when you visit other profiles, they can often see that you’ve done so; this is why it’s a good idea to have your profile reasonably filled out and prepared for viewing before you explore the site.

Only connect to people you actually know, and who have a real relation to you career-wise. This isn’t like Twitter where you might follow people who look interesting. This is virtual networking. This is building a professional persona. I can’t stress enough that this site is public. What you post on here is easily searchable by potential employers, strangers, your friends, everybody. A google search of your name will yield this profile as a top result (usually). Therefore, the rules for crafting a good resume and proofreading it apply doubly here. If, for some reason you decide you don’t want to ever deal with LinkedIn again after this class delete your profile. You don’t want an out-of-date page lingering in your search results. This is a profile you should update semi-regularly: not every day by any means, but any time you have a professional development or something worth adding, you should change your profile. You should also periodically connect to new people.

Connecting: when you ask to connect to someone, it’s best to add a personalized message rather than the default connection request LinkedIn provides. This is just like cover letters – if you show you’ve taken the time to address the person/position directly, it seems like you care more.

Assignment for Tuesday 7/1

Please start your profile before class on Tuesday. We’ll be looking at different examples of LinkedIn posts and we’ll workshop some of your pages in class. Try to find an example of a “good” page to discuss. Be ready too to discuss the results of your google search. Your final LinkedIn profile will be due Friday before class. Please post a link to it, with your name, in the comments of this blog post. 

Please bring questions or concerns about LinkedIn and building your profile.

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Job Shadow

“How am I supposed to know about a culture I’m not already in?”

That’s the question many new graduates have when applying for that first post-college job, or when listening to career counselors speak about “knowing your field.” If you aren’t yet in a career path, how will you know the right things to say, the people to know? This project is an opportunity for you to gain entry into your prospective field, or to learn about a career you are interested in. It’s also a chance to network. Your assignment is to interview a person who has a job you’d like someday and find out just what it is s/he does. This project is predicated on a face-to-face meeting with this person so you can learn not just procedural information, but also see what his/her office looks like, how the person acts in said work environment and how you react to the work place. If you can follow the person for a part or the entirety of their workday, that would be ideal. You will develop a list of questions to ask this person. See the class blog for tips on interviewing, in addition to the advice in your textbook. Keep in mind you may want to give your subject the list of questions ahead of time so s/he can prepare. (I am also happy to look at your questions beforehand and offer suggestions—just ask!) What you’ll find more and more is that everyone is busy, no matter what their job, so do as much as you can to help this person help you.

Arrange this meeting with plenty of notice so you can meet the due date.

What your paper MUST have:

The person’s name, place of work and position in the company—the basics

A detailed and critical description of the place itself

Some sort of explanation of the job

Your perspective on what you observed

At least two sources beyond your interview contact that contextualize the job, the company, the field, etc.

A separate sheet that lists the times you visited and the person’s contact information


Your paper should be 5 pages in length (approx. 1500 words), double-spaced, 12-pt. font, 1 inch margins. Use APA style for formatting and citing your sources.

The way you organize and present this paper is up to you. The only format I will not accept is a transcript of your interview; there’s not enough room to show critical thinking in that context. You should be reflective and critical about your experience, not simply saying that it was “great” or “unexpected,” but show that you’ve thought about what it means to enter a career culture and what you might need to do to join that group. If the job is somehow related to your major here at Pitt, what did you think about the workplace application of your education? Are you prepared to enter that world? What might you need to do or learn? How can you further prepare for that career? What you will be graded on: Did you explain the job—a typical day, main responsibilities, annoyances and great parts? Did you characterize the person you interviewed? Did you describe the place in such a way that is telling of the atmosphere and so that your readers can picture it? Did you explain the job in context of your studies or what you already know about the field? Did you reference at least two academic, governmental or other reputable sources (NOT Wikipedia) to help contextualize the job in the wider world? Have you spoken from your perspective? What did you expect? What surprised you? What did you leave excited (or upset) about? Did you address how this experience might affect future actions toward your career goals? Is the paper proofread, in APA style and error free? Did you avoid interview format and craft a standalone, interesting piece of writing for an audience beyond this class? Did you include a separate sheet detailing when you visited your subject and his/her contact information? Did you post an excerpt of your project to your blog, if relevant? This does NOT count as a regular blog post.


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Resume & Cover Letter

For this assignment, you will write a 1 page resume tailored to an actual job.

Please include the job posting text and any relevant information about the company/organization with your resume.

If I find ANY typos on your resume, you will fail the assignment, just like HR would (probably) toss your application.

Cover Letter

Please research the company you’ve written your resume (and will write your cover letter) for. Research the size of the company, how long they’ve been around, who’s in charge, who might be the hiring manager, what kinds of awards or industry accolades the company has received, any other locations, etc. Think about audience and purpose, as our readings suggest. The point here is to define and understand your audience for your job documents.

Do a short write up/profile of the company and bring it to class with the cover letter. You will hand this document in with your cover letter.

The resume and cover letter MUST be for the same job posting and must work together like a real application packet would. The cover letter should be in proper letter format, no more than one page, and tailored to both the job posting you selected AND to highlight or compensate for information on your resume.

Instruction Manual

Create a 5-7 page illustrated guide (or the video equivalent) instructing a nonexpert in how to do something you're very good at, which could be something very creative or unusual. Please be inventive and unique. Do not teach us how to cook something. Really push yourself to come up with something original. For instance, "a groom's manual," "how to love," "how to cry on command," "how to make a fire using only an orange," "how to become a hacker," "how to make friends with a squirrel," etc. etc.


    Successful topics will usually come from an internship in your major, from some hobby intensely pursued (e.g., rock climbing), or from a concentrated and unique experience (e.g., being a guide for "Outward Bound" or building houses for "Habitat for Humanity").

    You must choose a process that you know about FIRST-HAND. You cannot choose a process that you only know about from textbooks or lectures.

    You also have the option of choosing a topic about an established procedure that you know so well that you can imagine how it can be improved.


    Don't choose a topic that's too simple or obvious, like greeting customers in a restaurant if you're the host. Such simplistic topics can almost never earn more than a C grade, no matter how well they're done, because they don't hold much reader interest.


    The audience for a set of instructions is always a person who is not as expert as you are, or he or she wouldn't need to read the instructions anyway. So be sure to fill in all the gaps in the process, gaps that you might take for granted.


    For instance, you might write about one part of the process in which animal breeders use "genetic engineering" to produce "animal strains" that are more useful to humans (as with cows that give more milk, dogs that herd sheep, etc.) Now we are on the verge of being able to use the same techniques to select for, or against, certain human traits (for instance, in aborting fetuses that have a non-functioning immune system), and many people are concerned about using these techniques on humans, whereas they never voiced such concerns when the techniques were being applied to "lower" animals.

  • Rely on your own expertise. Make sure you have first-hand experience of the process.
  • Don't write on something for which there is already a manual unless you can make a compelling case for improving the existing manual in major ways.

Complaint letter, Emailing and Memo

The point of these assignments is to practice these formats in settings outside the classroom. You should write about something you’re passionate about, or at least have marginal interest in. Pick a particular issue, a specific bit of praise. Keep in mind our class discussions.

Your memo will be written to the class--the heads of our company--and you will be trying to persuade and inform them of an upcoming field trip that you want to take the company on. The best memo wins and we will go on the field trip. It must be within a 2-3 mile radius.

  • Complaint letter (500 words) | to a company/famous actor/editor/tv show/tv company etc. (check the label for “suggestions” or “complaints” information or google them and find contact info on their website)
  • Memo | Memos have a twofold purpose: they bring attention to problems and they solve problems. They accomplish their goals by informing the reader about new information like policy changes, price increases, or by persuading the reader to take an action, such as attend a meeting, or change a current production procedure. Regardless of the specific goal, memos are most effective when they connect the purpose of the writer with the interests and needs of the reader.
    • You will be writing an influential memo:
    • "In the policy world, everyone reads memos. Thus, a lot of people must be writing memos. Yet,
    • not every memo that is written is also read. After all, a memo may be tossed to a harried official as he or she dashes out of the office, stuffed into a briefcase, and only retrieved with a jumble of other coffee-stained papers in Seat 29B. Most policy makers find that their memo-reading time is scarce. They refuse to waste this precious asset on junk."--so make these memos good!
  • Email (in class and to me throughout the semester)| There are a few important points to remember when composing email, particularly when the email's recipient is a superior and/or someone who does not know you.
    • Be sure to include a meaningful subject line; this helps clarify what your message is about and may also help the recipient prioritize reading your email.
    • Just like a written letter, be sure to open your email with a greeting like Dear Dr. Jones, or Ms. Smith:
    • Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. THERE'S NOTHING WORSE THAN AN EMAIL SCREAMING A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS.
    • Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point; professionals and academics alike see their email accounts as business. Don't write unnecessarily long emails or otherwise waste the recipient's time
    • Be friendly and cordial, but don't try to joke around (jokes and witty remarks may be inappropriate and, more commonly, may not come off appropriately in email)

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Formal Presentation

Each class will begin with one of your 15-20 minute formal presentations. For these presentations, please choose an article, critiquing or analyzing professionalism or professional culture (the journal Current Sociology is a great place to start, but I'm also happy to make other recommendations. Consider gender issues, lgbt issues in the workplace, race relations, capitalism and professionalism, etc), and pair it with a TV clip, movie clip or other kind of media for purposes of illustration and elaboration. You will then prepare a presentation both summarizing the article for the class and previewing the clip as you see fit. After which, it is your job to launch the class into discussion about your issue. You will have 20 minutes total (do not go over) to present and then start discussion.You will be required to turn in a list of your references after the presentation.

Your goal is to illuminate an issue in professional culture, while also engaging your audience--making them care about this issue. All the while, you will also learn about the relationship between written and spoken text and how to speak comptently and eloquently to your colleagues.

Other requirements: