Research Methods in Technical and Professional Writing



Policy Statement


Dr. Michael Albers
Office Bate 2109
Office phone: 252-328-6374
Office hours: M-F 12-1 (online) or by appointment. We can chat via Blackboard chat or talk via Skype; email to set it up.
Schedule: I'm teaching two DE classes this semester, so if you want to talk to me in person, please make an appointment.
Email: albersm@ecu.edu

Policy Statement

You are required to read the policy statement and follow the schedule. There is no excuse for not knowing information contained within them.

The information on the course web page takes precedence over any printed copy you may have made. Material on the web site subject to change. I reserve the right to modify any and all units until they are the current unit. In other words, do not try to print out everything at the beginning of the term and only use that information.


All reading material is available on the course web site. No textbook to buy.

Computer access

You will need an email account. You can use any email account; you are not required to use your ECU account. However, all of the emails sent from Blackboard will go to your ECU account. I communicate class updates and announcements through email and with Blackboard. You should check your email at least once per day on weekdays while you are enrolled in this course. I recommend email as your first line of contact with me as I tend to respond quickly and it also provides us with a record of our conversation.

Outside of office hours, please allow 24 hours for a response on weekdays. (In almost all cases, I will respond much more quickly than this, but it may take up to 24 hours at busy times of the semester.)

Your computer must a recent release of a browser. The browser must accept cookies (if you don't know, it probably does).

You will need a copy of Adobe Reader. Download a copy here (if you can't open a PDF file) Since most computers come with a copy, you probably already have it installed. If you are using dial-up plan on a LONG download session; the file is several megs.

Course assignments assume you have Microsoft Word or equivalent. Microsoft Works will not be sufficient for most of the assignments. You can obtain a copy very cheaply from the bookstore. Go to www.ecu.edu/microsoft4students for instructions.

Class Philosophy

This course, as described by the Graduate Catalog, focuses on applied research (including library research), observation and investigation, experimentation, and survey. We will learn about the use of both primary and secondary research in technical and professional writing; this includes analysis of common methods as well as the direct application of student-developed methods. Thus, students are expected to develop the skills and habits of effective researchers and users of research over the course of this semester. More specifically, you will articulate a specific area of study that interests you, seek published literature relevant to your specialization area, and begin to work towards disciplinary knowledge-making. The course is designed to help you develop professional communication skills and to practice those skills in a variety of contexts. We will think about many rhetorical aspects of communication and will focus especially on thinking about the efficiency of particular methods for particular audiences.

In order to accomplish this work, you will be expected to do a substantial amount of reading, produce several different kinds of work, analyze the products you create, and be an active participant in our learning community.Further, you are expected to come to class having thoroughly prepared the reading for each day. Notice this does not say you must have read every word on every page. Rather, I hope you will read for content and themes, taking main ideas and significant occurrences from the texts we cover and critically examining them. You should always come to class with notes, questions, and ideas about the readings. Active reading and thorough preparation will be critical to your success in the course.

At the conclusion of this course, students will have:

Points for the Course

Class participation 30%
      Research proposal 10%
      Annotated bibliography 15%
      Literature review 25%
      Peer reviews 10%
      Intercom article 10%

A = 90-100%

B = 80-89%

C = 70-79%

F = < 70%

Discussion Policy

I expect you to contribute to the class on-line discussions. Class discussion is a substantial part of your final grade.

Your initial response to the questions should occur by the second day of the unit. If your life schedule only lets you do coursework on the weekends, work ahead of the schedule, not behind it. In other words, do the readings and post your answer for the upcoming work on Sunday. Don't wait until Saturday at the end of the unit to post your answers and respond. (In all seriousness, if you can only work on the course during the weekends, you'll have a hard time in this class.)

Discussion board expectations


Paper grading

Content, organization and design is appropriate for the communication goals. Free of grammar and punctuation errors. Properly uses visuals.
Although the content,organization and design is appropriate for the communication goals, it contains some flaws. The wording or sentence structure is ambiguous and impairs the communication. The document is written for the proper audience but has trouble addressing that audience. Less than perfect grammar and mechanics. Use of visuals contains some flaws.
The overall content, organization, and design impedes the communication and may be inappropriate for the document type. The audience is not clear. Visuals are inappropriately used. Many grammar and mechanics errors. Paragraph and sentence structure is poor.
Content, organization, and design are inappropriate for the document. No sense of audience. Little evidence of of revision. Serious grammar and mechanics errors. Poor or non-existent use of visuals. Paragraph and sentence structure is poor.
Fails to meet minimal criteria for the assignment.

Turning in and formatting assignments

You will be emailing me all assignments as an email attachment. Some of the design assignments require you to send me a PDF; this lets you check that what I see is what you designed.

Homework should be created in Word and sent as an email attachment. Do not be send homework within an email body or as a PDF unless specifically requested.

The page layout for each assignment will vary, depending upon the specifics of the assignment. In general, work will NOT be double spaced, but will be single spaced with a line between paragraphs and no indent on the paragraph (like this page).

In the email provide your name and title of project or course in the subject line. Do not paste work into an email. Do not use the Blackboard drop box.

The filename for all assignment must START with your last name. (Example albers-typography.doc). It's very hard to sort out assignments when I have 20 files named typography.doc. Please use your last name and not initials. Do not start the file names with 7701 or ENGL 7701. Incorrect files may be returned to be properly named and late penalties apply until you correctly submit it.

Since a complete schedule is provided on the course web page, you are responsible to know when all work is due.

Make backup copies of all your work while it is in progress and before you submit them for grades. Save a backup copy of all work for the entire semester. Sometimes I'll request another copy if the version you sent got corrupted. The excuse that work was lost or late because of a lost or bad disk will not be accepted. I recommend using a flash drive as a backup or use PirateDrive as your backup. Be paranoid and assume you will experience a computer failure during the course. Likewise, an excuse that you did the assignment at work and then someone deleted it because you share computers is also not acceptable.

Late Papers

All due dates are marked on the schedule. Work listed as due on Friday/Saturday should be in my email InBox when I log in Sunday morning.

All homework assignments for a unit are due at the end of day on the last day of the unit on the schedule and are considered late if turned in after that time. Of course, you can turn material in early.

One full letter grade (10 points) will be deducted for every day, including weekends, an assignment is late. Papers over five days late (including weekends) are not accepted and receive a zero.


Class behavior

It is important that we have a classroom atmosphere that optimizes teaching and learning and we all share the responsibility for creating a civil and non-disruptive forum. Students are expected to conduct themselves at all times in a manner that does not disrupt teaching or learning. Behavior that disrupts the learning process may lead to disciplinary action and/or removal from class as specified in university policies, including the Student Code of Conduct, which is available here: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentlife/policyhub/conduct_code.cfm . Here are some guidelines for classroom behavior:

Special Circumstances

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. One element of this legislation requires that all qualified students with documented disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. East Carolina University seeks to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I am happy to provide accommodation for any student with a documented disability. However, I cannot provide accommodations without approval from the Department for Disability Support Services, and I may not be able to provide retroactive accommodations depending on the situation. As such, any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact the Department for Disability Support Services, Brewster A-114, 252-328-6799. For more information, go to http://www.ecu.edu/cs%2Dstudentlife/dss/

Academic integrity

Academic integrity as described in the ECU Student Handbook is a fundamental value of higher education and East Carolina University; therefore, I will not tolerate acts of cheating, plagiarism, falsification or attempts to cheat, plagiarize, or falsify. If I become aware of academic integrity violations, I will follow the procedures outlines in the University’s academic integrity policy. Penalties for violating the Academic Integrity policy include grade penalties up to and including an F for the course. If you have any questions about my policy or what might constitute a violation in the class, please contact me. Review the Academic Integrity policies and procedures online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/osrr/students/conduct_process.cfm

In the context of this course, engaging in the following practices are signs that you exhibit academic integrity and professionalism:


It is imperative that you contact me if an emergency occurs which will keep you from meeting the class schedule. I am unwilling to repeat material or give individual help to students who missed due dates because of an unexcused absence. (I am more than willing to work with you for excused absences.)

In the event of a weather or other emergency, information about the status of classes at ECU is available the ECU emergency information hotline (252-328-0062) and on the ECU emergency alert website (http://www.ecu.edu/alert). Because this is an online class, I don't expect to have to adjust the schedule for weather unless we have an extended power outage.

Modification of the syllabus

I reserve the right to modify the syllabus at any time. You are responsible for staying current with the syllabus.

Changes to the schedule will be posted on the website.  You are responsible for the content of that file, which is linked from the course schedule on Blackboard. Don't print everything at the beginning of class.


Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
Send me an email.