Technical Communications

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Cross Jeffrey Scott 
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Fall Semester

Outline of lecture

This course uses a task-based learning approach to teach technical communication skills to science and engineering graduate students. The classroom time is divided into lecture, group discussion on various topics including the lecture topic, peer review on presentation materials, and students' oral presentations on their actual or proposed research topics. The tasks covered in the course consist of e-mail communication, writing a business letter, writing a research paper and abstract for a conference, and giving an oral technical presentation. There are 5 homework assignments to complete and each will be graded. In addition, an introduction to patents and patenting is also covered. This course focuses on teaching non-native speakers of English both written and oral technical communication skills including conversation strategies.

Purpose of lecture

To teach basic technical English communication skills (written and oral) needed for research activities at the graduate student level specifically for non-native English language speakers studying in science and engineering.

Plan of lecture

The classes will be divided into lecture, classroom discussion and students oral presentations. The
weekly topics are listed below.
1. Course introduction, hand-shake, sign-up & course questionnaire.
2. Writing letters of inquiry, e-mail requests, response, journal submittal etc.
3. Hearing skills drill and self-study approach to develop better hearing comprehension.
4. Writing a short research paper on your research theme for submittal to a journal or proposal for new students.
5. Preparing a resume, negotiation tactics (oral vs online), and cross-cultural issues
6-7. How to prepare and give a technical oral (poster) presentation.
8. How to ask technical questions at conferences and conference networking approaches (elevator speech).
9. Technical oral poster presentation in class, with lecture presentation styles, gesture, body language
10. What is a patent and how to write patent claims.
11. Technical oral presentation on your own research topic (during class) for students with research results or new graduate students may present a research proposal.
12-14. Student oral presentations in class for all students
15. Student oral presentations and course evaluation
*if time permits, basic debate skills will be discussed relating to answering presentation questions

Textbook and reference

Course materials covered in class will be uploaded to OCW-i after each lecture for further study.
Textbook (optional)
"Technical Writing and Professional Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English," 2nd Ed. Thomas N. Huckin, McGraw-Hill, 2001, ISBN 0071126422

Related and/or prerequisite courses

All lectures, classroom discussions and homework are in English. In order to facilitate classroom discussions, a minimum English language proficiency is required such as TOEIC score of 650 points. Students who do not meet this criteria will not be permitted to register for the class. For exceptions, please contact the instructor. Furthermore, the number of students permitted to take this class is limited to 20. If more than 20 students enroll in this class, class registration will be decided based upon English language ability with a preference given to students that attend all classes.


80% based upon class participation, attendance (required), and homework; 20% classroom oral presentation
In addition, to pass this class all the homework assignments must be completed and submitted.

Comments from lecturer

Familarity with using Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 for oral presentations will be beneficial. The instructor has an overseas business trip on Dec 18th and will be unable to teach on this date. This class will be rescheduled to Feb. 5 from 9:00 - 10:30. Students who have decided their research topics and have experimental results will find this class to be very useful in improving techincal communication skills, particularly relating to giving a multi-disciplary oral technical presentation such as at the school of engineering's annual graduate student workshop (MISW,

Contact Information

For inquiries, contact Jeffrey Cross by e-mail at cross.j.aaツシ

Office Hours

After class or by appointment


The instructor has a standard (Mid-western) American English accent.

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