Can't write anything. Henry Petroski: the WRITING Engineer



Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 10:20AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Heading toward the end

Nearly everything we do from here on out concerns the final project:

Steps toward your final project:

  1. Topic proposal, that addresses a thesis or problem statement that your document addresses.  Note also the real or highy plausible audience this document can address.
  2. Annotated bibiiography of seven sources
  3. Audience analysis sheet, to control the final project writing choices
  4. Argument/structure analysis
  5. Abstract

Think about working ahead on these. Today, we refine number one, which you will sent to me in an email BEFORE CLASS ENDS TODAY.

For Tueaday, you need an annoted bib of at least seven sources in HARD COPY. You will also need to bring a digital copy of the audience analysis sheet for Tues. We will discuss revise, and turn in at the end of Tuesday's class.

Today, we do this stuff: document design.

Today, we wrap up the review article. I will mark and grade, returning these documents to you on Thursday. You will have a grade for this assignment.  Now, we do have a revision opportunity -- a way to improve both the text and the grade (if needed), with a second phase -- re-design of this assignment.

You will need to complete the redesign in class, printing out this document at the end of the class session for a second grade.  We will spend about one hour doing this.  For prep, please review this sample:

Article Review

You will need to develop/find three or four visuals for this in-class assignment. Gather them in jpg format during today's session.

  • author photos if available (permission requrest required)
  • cover of journal that article appears in
  • visual from inside the article
  • copyright free/open access visual (to be discussed in class)

We will all use this masthead, courtesy of Megan B. (now a medical illustrator):



That-which: which takes a comma; that does not! See this  handout on choosing which and that.

You also need a cover letter/resume. We will look at cover letter/resume options

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 07:49AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Class pivots toward final project

Summer school goes so fast. You will need to propose to me in an email your final topic project and audience. Use the rhetorical triangle of 

  • audience
  • context 
  • purpose.

Let's review some conventions of standard written English (take notes from our work on the board).  I do want to mention a few new ones:

  1. punctuation with quote marks (nice summary  here at Grammar Monster)
  2. colon and semi colon use (start here with The Oatmeal's take)
  3. that/which distinction
  4. hyphens are little and used with words; dashes are longer and used between words (See this guide from DOOK)
    1. setting off appositives (dashes)
    2. some words where hyphens are helpful
      • fast-sailing ship and fast sailing ship

OK, now tasks for today and for Thursday.

Empty subjects DRAFT HANDOUT.

Turn in your review.  Write a note to me by hand about your opening and closing, your transitions approach, favorite paragraph (type and content), and something you are proud of applying from class in this assignment. Also, note any problems.

We will be turning this document into a design format, for a second grade.  You will be able to incorporate my comments on style and content and arrangement into this second document.  See how I am supporting your revision?  Here is a sample of what we are going for.

Document designed assignment. Here is the "look" we are gong for.  You will need three or four graphics. We will do some gathering today and talk about conventions of use, copyright, intellectul property, and other aspects of professional ethics concerning web-based images.

On Thursday -- IN CLASS -- we will rework this document into this format.

Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 06:30AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Writing and revising today: REVIEW article!

Due for a grade THAT IS FINAL.

Today, we talk about some conventions in science/tech writing that will help you polish the reivew for submission on Tuesday.  Big discussion, though, is on paragraphs, so we will weave back in this class journal to look at types of paragraphs you may wish to use.  

Now, let's think about transitions.  These two samples come from my friends:

  • JA, Wapo journalist
  • TL, NASA astronomer

 See this Google doc

We need to be thinking about your final document. So, some discussion today and you can think, think, think over the weekend.  


For Tueday, please bring in also a digital copy of your review article, in addition to the hard copy you will turn in for a grade.

Posted on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 07:39AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Lots to do!

We will review some conventions of formal written English communication:

  • numbers v. numerals
  • capitalization on proper nouns
  • use of italics for journals, books, newspapers

YOU SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS BY NOW.  I remain surprised that college students ignore these rules. Think of the ethos you build (or lose) within written documents.

We will also talk about some language conventions about style and word choice:

  • issues v. problems
  • utilize v. use.

Finaly, a lesson in clarity on dangling modifiers:

courtesy of a former student, H.S. 


Piano. from Paul Rayment on Vimeo.


Piano. from Paul Rayment on Vimeo.


For our one-house revision session, here is a checklist to revise your green roof memo. You must, however, also think about stasis theory and the cognitive wedge as a "shape" for your memo.  Briefly, from before, we ask a series of staged, heirarchal questions to help understand (as inventors) and communicate (writers) to others.

This is our question: What is a green roof? Using stasis theory questions to organize an extended definition.

What is a green roof (simple, preliminary working definition) SHORT PARAGRAH (thin edge of COGNITIVE WEDGE)

  1. How do we classify this? (in history -- sod roof ; as an environmental technology/architectural detail) (CLASSIFYING PARAGRAPH)
  2. How does a green roof work?  (Form and function detail; water management and energy efficiency)
  3. Is this good or bad? (Evaluation question; count types of benefits, note limitations)
  4. What ought we do (policy) (for context, recommend feasibility study or note the environmental policy mission of our company


Now, on to the review article, which you will write for a serious peer review session on Thursday.  Let's think about beginnings. You will need to pick one of these opening strategies.


Paragraph 1: introduce, hook, establish exigence

Paragraph 2: present credibility of authors and institution; announce article by focus on topic (not title) and journal (in ITALICS)

Paragraphs 3 and perhaps 4:  brief background definitions or descriptions or context

BODY PARAGRAPHS (your three or four point paragraphs)

Analysis or discusison paragraphs (1 or 2)


  • application
  • further research
  • suggested reading

Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 06:56AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment