The Situation: English Department’s Professional Writing Committee is in charge of ENG 331, 332, 333, which prepare students for the writing they will do after graduation. To keep these courses relevant and up to date, the Committee needs current information about the workplaces where students will go and the communication they will do after they graduate. You are being commissioned to help the committee gather information about communication in the workplace: what kinds of communication people actually do on the job, how they do it, and how important it is to their job performance. The Committee sponsored a similar survey in 1996, and the work you do will help update this report.
The Assignment: Find a person who has a job of the kind that you might like to have in about five years. It will be helpful, but is not essential, if this person is an NCSU graduate. Arrange to spend 30 minutes to an hour with your informant discussing the writing and oral communication he or she does at work. You may conduct the interview over the phone, but it is more interesting if you can do it in the workplace.
Accompanying this assignment you will find a one-page questionnaire developed by the Professional Writing Committee, as well as a list of 5 open-ended discussion questions. Use these as the basis for your interview. Fill in the questionnaire completely and use the questions to get your informant talking about his or her communication tasks. You can always send a copy of the questionnaire to your informant ahead of time so that you will have more time to spend discussing the open-ended questions. Try also to gather useful samples, such as performance evaluation forms and brief reports that your informant has written (often such documents may be considered confidential or proprietary, but it never hurts to ask).
The Report: Write a two-to-three page report of your findings and your interpretation of what you learned. Your report should identify the problem that drives your investigation, the methods you used to conduct the investigation, the factual results, and the conclusions that you draw from them. Your discussion should cover important points from the questionnaire but should focus on what you learned in the open-ended discussion. Your conclusions should show how your results contribute to the Committee’s knowledge of communication in the workplace. Your results will help the committee determine appropriate content for ENG 331, 332, and 333, but your job is not to make recommendations about course content. Your instructor may ask you to interpret your findings by comparing them with the findings of the earlier survey. You may wish to indicate what you think is the most interesting or unexpected finding or what the committee will find most interesting or unexpected.
Your readers will be Dr. Carolyn R. Miller (Chair of the Professional Writing Committee), members of the Professional Writing Committee, and the instructor of your course. Address the report to Dr. Miller, and indicate that copies are being sent to the committee and to your instructor.
Formatting Details: Use a standard memo heading, single-space, and divide the report into sections that reflect the major parts of the report (problem/purpose statement, methods, results, conclusions), using descriptive subheadings. Identify all sources of information used in the report, and include the completed questionnaire and any sample documents as attachments. Please submit two copies of this material, one that will be returned to you, and one that the committee may keep.
Follow-Up: Send a brief thank-you letter (or e-mail) to the person you interviewed, noting briefly what you found particularly interesting or valuable. You may indicate that if your informant is interested, he or she should contact Dr. Miller directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to obtain results of the multi-class investigation; however, please note that results will not be available sooner than August 2001.