Course Syllabus

Course Information

Title: Introduction to Professional Writing
Number: ENG 204-805
Time & Location: T & TH 9:30–10:45 (online, passcode: 487708)
Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Tirrell
Office: MO 161
Virtual Office Hours: T & TH 1:00–3:00 and by appointment

Course Overview

Students in this course will engage core professional writing concepts such as audience analysis, document design, usability, and ethical composing practices. Students will produce material including public relations documents and technical instructions in both print and electronic formats. Individual and group projects are a feature of this course, as is directed service-learning with community partners.

This course affirms the Seahawk Respect Compact, which will guide class interactions. All class members are expected to treat each other with appropriate courtesy and decorum, and all coursework should be completed in a thorough, timely fashion. All students must read and abide by the policies articulated in this syllabus.

This is a fully online synchronous course. We have a regular meeting time, but all class sessions will take place online through Zoom rather than in person. All students must be able to meet and participate in the course to complete it successfully. Compared to standard sections, online synchronous courses require students to be more autonomous and more comfortable with online interaction. Because of their structure, these courses are often more rigorous and individuated than standard sections. Students should be aware that this course asks students to be thoroughly invested in their own success.

ENG 204 is the gateway course for the Professional Writing major track, which emphasizes conscientious intention, rhetorical composition, and explicit reflection. Professional Writing majors will complete a personal portfolio of work for the ENG 496 capstone course. This portfolio collects artifacts from throughout a student's academic career and asks the student to reflect on his or her educational experiences. To facilitate the production of this portfolio, Professional Writing majors should retain copies of their academic work and practice conscientious intention, rhetorical composition, and explicit reflection in their courses.


Catalogue Description:

ENG 204 - Reading and Writing Arguments
Credits: 3
An introductory survey of concepts in professional writing, including audience analysis, research methods, visual thinking, and composing processes. Includes a service-learning component. University Studies: Building Competencies/Writing Intensive, Building Competencies/Information Literacy, Explorations Beyond the Classroom


Course Learning Outcomes:

To complete this course successfully, students should demonstrate the ability to:

  • develop strategies for analyzing the components of organizational contexts, including audiences, purposes for writing, and organizational cultures (WI 1, IL 1, IL 2)
  • design documents, including memos, instructions, and reports, through an iterative process of drafting and revision that meet the needs of their audiences and accomplish their goals (WI 2, IL 3, IL 4)
  • construct arguments that appeal to several audiences at once and are based upon multiple sources of evidence (WI 1, IL 3)
  • conduct original, archival, textual, database, and/or internet research that can be used to support arguments (IL 1, IL 2)
  • read and compose multimedia texts critically and learn strategies for critiquing the medium itself (WI 1, IL 4)
  • work with others to improve their writing and produce texts and presentations (WI 2)
  • understand ethical considerations involved in organizational communication (WI 1, IL 3)
  • produce documents for an authentic third-party partner through an iterative design process and reflect critically on the experience (EBC 1, EBC 2, EBC 3)
  • use computer technologies necessary to communicate, research, design, and publish texts
  • conduct usability testing to support document/product design and revision
  • design effective graphics for use in documents and presentations


Required Materials:

  • The Essentials of Technical Communication, 4th ed., Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga. This book may be obtained from:
  • Online readings provided on the course website

Course Policies

Technology Expectations:

  • access to the course platforms (Canvas and Zoom)
  • audiovisual capabilities (such as a computer with a microphone and camera or a mobile device)
  • a UNCW email account checked regularly for course-related business
  • a means to backup coursework (such as a flash drive or cloud account) 

This is a fully online class, and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete coursework. Students should practice the core principle of digital data hygiene: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; students should be prepared for that eventuality.


Attendance and Punctuality:

Because this class contains a strong workshop and discussion component, live class participation is crucial. Students should be logged into the course Zoom space during class meetings, ready to communicate with peers and the instructor. Role will be taken during class meetings, and any student who is not logged into the course Zoom space and able to communicate will be counted absent. If circumstances will prevent a student from attending class, he or she should contact the instructor beforehand. There is no separate attendance component of the course grade, but any student who misses more than six class meetings (three weeks) without clearance from the instructor will fail the course automatically. Any work missed because of an absence cannot be made up, including major assignments.


Late Work:

If an emergency arises that will prevent a student from submitting coursework he or she should contact the instructor.  


Statement on COVID-19:

Because of the unique challenges posed by COVID-19, this course seeks to be flexible while retaining scholarly integrity. Students who are impacted by COVID-19 either directly through infection or indirectly through care giving responsibilities or changes in life circumstances are encouraged to contact the instructor. In order to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on UNCW, all university members must report illness. Students who experience COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact the Abrons Student Health Center at (910) 962-3280.


Statement on Academic Integrity:

All UNCW community members are expected to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the UNCW Student Academic Honor Code. Students are expected to produce original work in this course. Collaboration and incorporation of external material and ideas into original work is of course necessary and acceptable, but all students are ethically obliged to document external sources through appropriate citation practices. Students who are uncertain if some element of their work constitutes plagiarism or another honor code violation should speak with the instructor. The point of any class is to educate, not to punish; nevertheless, the consequences of honor code violations are appropriately dire. Please consult the UNCW Code of Student Life for more information.


Statement on Services for Students with Disabilities:

The university will make every effort to accommodate students with disabilities. Students requiring accommodations should contact the Disability Resource Center, as the instructor can take no action without its guidance. Students should do this as soon as possible, as accommodations cannot be made retroactively.


Statement Regarding Violence and Harassment:

UNCW practices a zero tolerance policy for any kind of violent or harassing behavior. Students experiencing an emergency of this type should contact the police at 911 or UNCW CARE at 962-2273. Resources for individuals concerned with a violent or harassing situation can be located at the UNCW Crisis Resources page. Students should be aware that all university employees, including instructors, are legally obligated to communicate any report of alleged sexual misconduct, on or off-campus, to the Dean of Students. Three university entities are confidential resources exempt from this obligation: CARE, the Counseling Center, and the Abrons Student Health Center.


Statement on Religious Observance:

In accordance with NC SL 2010-211, students are entitled to two excused absences for religious observances per academic year. Students must inform the instructor in writing the first week of class if they will miss any classes due to religious observance. Additionally, students should inform the Registrar the first week of class who will then coordinate with the corresponding course instructors. Any absence for religious purposes will be considered unexcused unless a student submits the request in writing the first week to the instructor or Registrar.

Course Grading

Grade Disbursement:

Each student will have private, secure access to his or her grades online through this Canvas site.


Grade Components:

Engagement Assignments = 14 points (individual)
Reading Responses = 36 points (individual)
Corporate Communication Project = 100 points (individual)
Instructions Project = 100 points (individual)
Service Learning Project = 100 points (group)

Total = 350 points


Final Course Grades:

This courses uses the plus/minus grading system on final grade reports. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 92%–100% = A
  • 90%–91% = A-
  • 88%–89% = B+
  • 82%–87% = B
  • 80%–81% = B-
  • 78%–79% = C+
  • 72%–77% = C
  • 70%–71% = C-
  • 68%–69% = D+
  • 62%–67% = D
  • 60%–61% = D-
  • 0%–59% = F