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Writing Technical Manuals

Course Code: PRFU 1310
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Print Futures
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course develops an understanding of how technical manuals (such as computer end-user manuals and policy and procedure manuals) are planned, written, and produced. Beginning with an analysis of objectives and audience, students will trace the sequence of steps in preparing an effective and professionally produced technical manual, and examine standard writing and formatting conventions using industry-standard software programs.

Course Content

  1. 1. Introduction to Writing Technical Manuals
    Successful students will:
    • become familiar with the various types of technical materials produced by technical writers in the local marketplace
    • become familiar with the various companies employing technical writers, the types of products and services they provide, and the types of manuals they produce
    • understand the differences between user, reference, and training manuals
  2. Planning and Organizing Manuals
    Successful students will:
    • understand the purpose of a technical manual
    • analyze the range of manuals required to support a product, such as a software program
    • conduct user and task  analyses, defining objectives and identifying and understanding readers’ information needs
    • identify the different ways of organizing technical manuals and the specific uses and applications of each method
  3. Technical Writing Process
    Successful students will:
    • understand the role of the technical writer in the product development lifecycle
    • interview a subject-matter expert to obtain the information necessary to prepare a technical documentation
    • prepare and evaluate a manual plan, including an outline and a schedule
    • examine the means of ensuring the technical accuracy of manuals, including review and approval cycles
    • examine the need for manual testing and the relationship with product testing
    • write and evaluate a manual based on the prepared manual plan (including a table of contents, index, front matter, and three or more sample chapters)
  4. Manual Writing Style
    Successful students will:
    • become familiar with the mode of discourse typically employed in technical manuals (i.e., writing to do)
    • evaluate the different means of communicating technical information (e.g., flow charts, decisions, trees, illustrations) and understand the uses and applications of each
    • examine the characteristics of conversational writing and practise writing technical materials in a conversational style
    • understand the uses of examples in technical manuals
    • understand the role of editing in the preparation of technical manuals
  5. Writing On-line Documentation
    Successful students will:
    • be introduced to the different types and uses of on-line documentation (information that is meant to be read from the computer screen), such as help screens and hypertext systems
  6. Project Management
    Successful students will:
    • understand the elements of project management (quality, scope, cost, and schedule)
    • estimate the time required to prepare a defined manual
    • prepare a detailed schedule of activities to produce a technical manual
    • understand the options for manual production
  7. Basic Manual Production
    Successful students will use Microsoft Word to:
    • format revisable and reliable copy
    • structure documents into sections with dynamic headers and footers
    • create and use templates and styles for consistency in a series of manuals
  8. Introduction to FrameMaker
  9. Successful students will use Adobe FrameMaker to:
    • apply styles, create tables, insert graphics, and use variables
    • add navigation elements, including a table of contents, chapter and page numbering, and cross-references
    • create a FrameMaker “book” file and prepare a complete manual for publication

Methods of Instruction

This course will use a combination of teaching methods, including lecture, demonstration, group discussion, analysis of samples, and in-class and home exercises and projects. The emphasis will be on learning by analysis reinforced with hands-on practice wherever possible. Students will be required to prepare, write, and produce all, or portions of, a technical manual during the course. Students may be required to work collaboratively on selected assignments.

Means of Assessment

Students are expected to be self-motivated and to demonstrate professionalism, which includes active participation, good attendance, punctuality, effective collaboration, ability to meet deadlines, presentation skills, and accurate self-evaluation.

Evaluation will be based on this general format:

Short assignments (4 to 6) 30%
Interview (e.g., with subject-matter expert and product manager) 10%
Documentation plan 20%
Manual project 30%
Professionalism (as defined) 10%
  100%

Learning Outcomes

Students will learn the methodology for preparing technical manuals. They will understand, and know when and how to use, the special writing and formatting conventions of technical manuals. They will learn to use Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker to produce revisable technical manuals.

course prerequisites

Acceptance into program or permission of the coordinator

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.

assessments

If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.