Assignment: Collaborative writing assignment (McCool)

Evaluation of instructions You will be assigned to a group of three students. As a group, you will write a short report about the effectiveness of a set of instructions. Your report will be sent to the company that published the instructions.

1) On the first day of group work in class, each group member will bring in a set of brief instructions (I suggest no more than 5-6 pages). The publication date should be no earlier than 1996. These instructions should describe a procedure; for example, how to: change a tire, program a VCR, get a parking permit, call an automated bank information line, play a game, etc. The instructions must include at least one illustration. It would be helpful if the group member has used the instructions and can comment on their practicality. The group should take a few minutes to agree on which set of instructions they will review.

2) As a group, critique the instructions. Based on our class discussion, decide how effective these instructions are. Consider such questions as: Who is the audience for these instructions and are their needs met? Is the information organized effectively? Do the illustrations aid in understanding or do they make the instructions less readable? Are any steps omitted? Has the instruction writer used imperative verbs, placed conditions before actions, given adequate emphasis to warnings, etc?

3) The group’s task will be to write a short report on your opinions. The audience for your report will be the organization that produced the instructions (ideally, the person who wrote the instructions). The report should contain your evaluation of the existing instructions (including positive attributes) and a set of recommendations for improvement. (See below for further details about format and organization of the report.)

4) Suggestions for use of the two class days: On the first day, after critiquing the instructions as a group, delegate writing tasks. Each group member should write his/her portion before the next class meeting. Use the second class day to peer review each others’ sections, eliminate any duplication, and draw the sections into a coherent whole. Your group may wish to schedule one or two meetings outside of class also.

5) On the due date, turn in the following to me: two copies of the report (stapled or paper clipped); a stamped manilla envelope addressed to the organization that produced the instructions (format for return address will be given in class); a copy of the instructions evaluated, to be used by me in grading and then sent along with the report; and two copies of a cover letter explaining the purpose of the report (see below for further details). I will grade one copy of the report and cover letter and send the other copies to the organization.

6) Each group member will send me an e-mail message on the due date stating his or her responsibilities within the group.

Format of Report:

  • Length: 2-4 single-spaced pages
  • Title: no title page; title should be at top of first page
  • Introduction: In one sentence each, state:
    Purpose of your investigation
    Your overall findings concerning the instructions
    Your recommendations for improvement
  • Body: Discuss your findings. Support your recommendations. Be sure to organize logically, using subheadings and short paragraphs.
  • Conclusion: Summarize and/or request action.

Cover Letter:

  • Introduce your group to the organizational audience.
  • Tell the audience why you are writing the report.
  • Convince the audience your recommendations merit examination.