Course Banner: English 569: Project Management & Document Development

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Arts and Letters
English 569: Project Management & Document Development
3 hours
John Rothfork               
BAA 324 (Babbitt Academic Annex)
Graduate status   After registering, access the course. Use you dana account user name & password. If you register for the course, it is your obligation to access the class at the beginning of the schedule. Do not wait for me to send you an email.


       Text cover: Peopleware by Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister   text cover: Joann T. Hackos, Managing your Documentation Projects hackos info development

    Hackos, Joann T.  Managing Your Documentation Projects.  John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0471590991. List $55, Amazon $35 (used: $1). This was "the industry standard for tech. documentation." It is 20 years old & it has been supplemented by Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, & PeopleAmazon Used. Hackos' newer book doesn't exactly replace her older book, which I continue to use for reasons explained in the course. However, the course also offers explication & commentary on each chapter of Hackos new book, although there are no assignments that rely on having or using the new book.

    Demarco, Tom & Timothy Lister. Peopleware: Productive Projects & Teams, 3nd ed. Amazon $30; Kindle: $18; used $23. Dorset House; ISBN: 0321934113. This is something of a cult book. Consequently, you may be able to find it in a used bookstore. This is now available in a 3rd edition. Either a 2nd or 3rd edition will do. The second edition is available online & is an acceptable option.

    Hackos, Joann T. Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, & People, 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 13:978-0471777113 Amazon . This is recommended,
    not required. The course offers commentary on each chapter of this book, but there are no assignments that require you to have it.

    You need one of the two Hackos books & the DeMarco book, which is available free online.  If the link is broken, Google "Peopleware pdf" to look for another source.

Course Description:

Document Manager. This course is designed to give you a sense of what is involved in the job description of a technical document manager. Because a document manager is likely to be your boss as a professional or technical writer, it also suggests industry expectations and experiences for such positions.

What is the job really like? Some time ago, the STC (Society for Technical Communication) journal, Technical Communication, published an article on what technical writers thought of their M.A. programs after working in industry for 10 years. The universal complaint was that they were taught nothing about the actual working conditions they found in industry. One writer said: "I was prepared to be a good technical writer. I was not prepared to deal with the environment of corporate America." Another suggested that "'The reality of dealing with SMEs [subject matter experts] should be in the curriculum for any professional writing program." A third writer said, "Not once in my career have I reported to someone who at some point was a writer, or knew anything about it." This course not only seeks to acquaint you with corporate working conditions for professional & technical writers, it also seeks to provide you with the skills needed to successfully compete in that environment.

Hackos' earlier book focuses on discrete or individual document or project production. Her second book focuses on "information development" as an ongoing process that develops an archive of material that can be used to produce documents or projects. Information development assumes that a company supports this activity or department, which is, as you can imagine, a significant investment. It seems desirable to first understand processes involved in producing discrete documents before aspiring to work as an information developer. For this reason, I have decided to stay with the earlier text for the class while also providing support for Hackos' second book.

Project Management. Let's clarify the name of the course. This is not a course in project management in the business sense. You may know that there is:

Project management in the business sense is a professional specialization often associated with scheduling events or steps in commercial construction or engineering projects. Our course focuses on the management of publication projects. Most writing courses offered by the English dept. of a university focus on a single writer who produces a document exclusively controlled by the author. In this course we recognize the situation in business & industry where the focus is on team produced documents (with content usually controlled by an SME) that are responsive to product design & development, including usability testing. This means they are developed from a concern for audience needs & NOT produced to be self-expressive or narrative.

There are 3 levels to our topic of document management production:

Narrative Development. English majors are not the only ones who discover what they mean or how they want to organize a document or project through the process of developing & writing the project. By the end of development, product managers are often ready to go back & do the project again, "the right way," by reorganizing, rewriting, etc. Project management was developed to curb this expensive tendency to do the project twice. English majors are familiar with the process of narrative development. We often literally do not know what we think about an issue until we write an essay about it. Technical writing in general, & document project management technique in particular, forbid professional writers from using narrative development. Documents are developed from thinking about audience needs in a process that relies on organization through explicit, logical development using a decimal outline & or informative headings. This course is about how to use planning techniques, instead of narrative methods, to write technical documents.

The Publication Process. "As publications project manager, your job is to take charge of the publications projects & to guide them [through the development process] so that customer needs are met & schedules & budgets are maintained" (Hackos, 81).  The publications process often follows a 5-step program:

  1. Information planning to initially define customeraudience needs & the type of documents required.
  2. Content specification that elaborates the first step after researching the project. This content is often contributed by an SME (subject matter expert).
  3. Implementation; this is the stage in which documents are written, edited, verified, & audience tested.
  4. Production: printing, binding, distribution, Website release.
  5. Evaluation & revision (esp. for Websites).

Course Structure:

The heart of our course is located at the course lessons page. 

BBLearn: If this is your first online course, it will take you some time to navigate the system & to learn to use the tools it offers, such as attachments to email, reading & posting discussion, & composing & posting html documents. 

Each unit is designed for 10 days of study.  Use the calendar tool to check dates. 

What to do in the course:


Each unit has several components.  The table illustrates a sample lesson providing directions for completing unit 03:

NAU logo: outline of mountains  
English 569

Question markWhat to do for unit 03 Question mark    

  • Read Hackos (Managing Your Documentation Projects), chs. 6-7; pp. 44-99; 571-6.
  • Read the Webpages on Hackos for unit 03 accessible from the Course Lessons page.
  • Read DeMarco, pp. 42-61.
  • Read the Webpage on DeMarco accessible from the Course Lesson page.
  • Do quiz 03 (10 points).
  • Contribute to the discussion for unit 03 (20 points). In association with appendix A, explain the major steps in writing the Information Plan. Post this answer under the topic heading plan.           

    • What is the purpose of writing the Information Plan? What should it accomplish?
    • Who are the audiences for the Information Plan?
    • How do you spend your time--or your writers' time--to create the Information Plan? What do they have to do?
  • What is task analysis & how do you define or write it (10 points)? Post this shorter answer under the topic heading task.

Total: 40 points for unit 03.

Grades: Notice that lessons do not offer the same number of points. (The numbers may not be accurate,
but the table does illustrate relative importances. For example, it is obvious that the discussion posts are
the major activity.) 

Quiz points: 121
Unit points from discussion posts: 320
Major paper & critiques: 120
Total: 561 points

90% (505 points): A
80% (449 points): B
65% (365 points): C

Submission Deadlines: A day or two late is acceptable with no explanation required. Watch the calendar. I will not accept material from lessons two units prior to the one we are studying. If the calendar says we are working on unit 5, I will accept late work from units 4 and 3, but not earlier. The grade for work submitted a week late is reduced by 10%; two weeks late by 20%.


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