Project: 1500-2000-Word Instructional or Training Manual, Phase One

Individual: 1500-2000-Word Instructional or Training Manual, 15%
Individually, you will write a 1500-2000-word instructional or training manual that demonstrates: 1. ability to explain a task/process in clear, concise language. selection and definition of appropriate terminology and concepts. 3. awareness of the intended user/audience. 4. knowledge of instructional manual format. All diagrams, illustrations, or photos must be created by the student and integrated into his or her manual. Any outside sources cited should be documented according to APA format.

Your project deliverable is due before class on Nov. 5 according to the syllabus.

Instructional or Training Manual

  • For our purposes, we will say instructional manuals are external facing, meaning they are meant for end users, customers, or clients.
  • Training manuals are internal facing documents, meaning they are meant for employees, contractors, and colleagues.
  • You choose your audience (internal or external).
  • Its word count should be 1500-2000 words.
  • Combine words with pictures, illustrations (drawings), and/or screenshots. Any images that you use must be created by you or taken by you.
  • Clearly define the purpose of your manual. What does it teach? What does it help a person do? What task or tasks does it help someone complete in a straightforward and easy manner?
  • Telling versus showing. Always aim for showing, but provide the telling as context, clarification, and additional information.
  • Use the body of your document for writing, steps, etc. Don’t be afraid to include text boxes and end notes.
  • Provide a cover sheet, table of contents, introduction/purpose, and glossary of important terms. It can be as few or as many pages as needed.
  • Be consistent with your explanations and learn from similar kinds of manuals about what terms you should be using to explain how to do something (e.g., tapping, pressing, clicking, holding, dragging, typing, etc.).

Let’s look at some examples (using Google, enter terms including “instructions,” “user manual or guide,” and “filetype:pdf” modifier to find others).

Find your own examples for ideas and inspiration. The reading for this section of the class has to do with your own research into what instruction manuals look like.

Think about what you know enough about that you can teach it to someone else and it is something that you want to include in your professional portfolio.

Of course, choose a task or process that you have realistic access to the hardware, software, etc. that you will need for creating your instruction manual.

As you write and revise your instructions, you will want to test them with the intended audience to ensure that they are correct and easy to understand. Obtaining user feedback ensures that your instructions work, but if they don’t, you can use feedback to revise your instructions accordingly.

For next week, identify what you want to write a set of instructions for this project, and find three example instructions online (these could be webpages or PDFs) or print that you plan to use as models. Create a short memo addressed to Prof. Ellis to record this information (your topic and APA Bibliographic entries for your models–look at Purdue OWL APA Reference List for books (no author) and electronic sources. Post it as a comment to this blog post before class next week.

Daily Writing: Addressing the Needs of Your Audience

After watching the video above, your first writing task today is to summarize the magazine article that you read for today’s class or some topic found in the article for three two different audiences: a child (~10 years old) and a peer (someone your age, in college). Write your summary in a memo format and include an APA bibliographic entry at its end. You should not use any quotes. All of the summaries should be in your own words.

TO: Professor Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: 10/15/2019
SUBJECT: Summarizing for Different Audiences

Write one sentence explaining what your memo is doing (see assignment above, but put in your own words).

Begin the next paragraph with: "Summary for a child:" and write a 2-3 sentence summary of the article or a topic in the article. Avoid jargon. Explain what words mean. Try to connect what you are writing about to ideas and concepts that a child might already understand.

Begin the next paragraph with: "Summary for a peer:" and write 2-3 sentence summary of the article or a topic in the article. Your language can be more advanced and employ jargon, but you might still need to define some terms or ideas. Connect what you are explaining to more advanced or relevant ideas that your audience might know.

APA Bibliographic Entry for your magazine article goes here. Open a new tab and search for "Purdue OWL APA" and then click "Reference List: Articles in Periodicals" if you need help with formatting.

Copy-and-paste your memo into a comment made to this blog post.

Opportunity: Note Taking Workshop, Oct. 10, 1:00pm, Namm 601A

This note taking workshop is highly recommended. Good note taking can make all the difference in your academic success. Details are below.

Good note taking can help students perform better on assignments and tests. It can also lead to a deeper and more complete understanding of course material. In this workshop designed especially for students, we review and practice some theories on note taking as well as introduce a proven, successful method for note taking (the “Cornell method”).

Thursday, October 10, 1:00 PM, Namm 601A No RSVP necessary Questions: Rebecca Mazumdar or Samar ElHitti

Daily Writing: Communicating with the 1,000 Most Used English Words

We’re going to have a fun but challenging task for today’s beginning of class writing assignment. The idea is to write a short summary of the article that you read for today’s class using only the 1,000 most used words in the English language.

Consider our current project, the 750-Word Expanded Definition. We are relying on definitions and contextual examples of a technical term to better understand it. In a sense, you are doing the work of lexicographers. Lexicographers compile lists of words, study the meanings of words, create dictionaries, and study a variety of things relating to words, including the prevalence of particular words at particular points in time–i.e., which words are used more than others.

This idea of word use in a given point of time brings us to today’s task. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reports that there are about 470,000 defined English words. Science Magazine tells us that the average 20-year-old knows about 42,000 words.

Why restrict ourselves to using a fraction of words that we and others might know? This exercise helps us think about how to think differently about the words and the concepts that they represent. It is a metacognitive activity that helps us break down more complicated words into less complicated descriptions. Also, it might be beneficial to think about how to use a simplified vocabulary to communicate with someone who doesn’t yet have your level of expertise in the English language.

The idea is to use only the most used 1,000 words comes from the webcomic artist Randal Monroe, who has done this on with the Up Goer Five (or the Saturn V rocket):

To help us with the task, Monroe built a tool called Simple Writer. Type your summary in that box and it will highlight in red any word that isn’t in the 1,000 most used words (according to his calculations). Think about how to break down terms into simple words. Think description. It requires thought and experimentation.

For this writing assignment, I would like you to use Simple Writer to write three or four sentences summarizing the article that you brought to class today. When you have finished writing it, copy and paste it into a memo with a memo head addressed to me and a subject (Summary of Article about X Using Only the 1,000 Most Used English Words), and write an APA Bibliographic citation for your magazine article to follow your summary. The memo header and the bibliographic entry are not bound by the 1,000 most used English words.

When you’re done, copy-and-paste your full memo into a comment to this post. Your finished memo should look like this:

TO: Prof. Jason Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: 9/24/2019
SUBJECT:  Summary of Article about X Using Only the 1,000 Most Used English Words 

Use Simple Writer to help you write a brief summary of your article using only the 1,000 most used English words. Don't worry about including the author's name or title of the article. Write three or four sentences.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.  

If you need additional help with your APA bibliographic citation, check out their guidelines for articles appearing in periodicals here.

Project: 750-1000-Word Expanded Definition Phase 2

Remember that your 750-Word Expanded Definition document is due as a post on OpenLab before class on Tuesday, October 15.

In the last class, we talked about some places where you can find definitions for the technical term or phrase that you selected for this project. A good place to begin is the OED, but the Computer Tech resource guide on the library’s website might be a better place for technical terms–look under Encyclopedia on the left menu.

The next part of your project involves finding and discussing how the term is used in different contexts, such as articles, magazines, websites, discussion boards, and social media. The idea is to find example sentences in different sources–academic and general audience sources–that use the term that you have selected. Then, cite them and discuss how the term is used in that specific context. This might include its meaning, the audience reading the term in this context, and how the term in this context relates to other uses of the term in different contexts that you cite. Remember: context means how the term relates to other words around itself, how specific meaning are indicated or deduced, and any other relevant consideration surrounding the term (social, historical, political, etc. connections). Finding the term in context will be easy. The difficult part is picking good examples that give you interesting context to discuss.

Overall, your completed 750-Word Expanded Definition memo should follow this format:

Your Name's Expanded Definition of YOUR TERM

TO: Prof. Jason Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: Due Date
SUBJECT: Expanded Definition of YOUR TERM

Introduction   [Heading Level 2]  
What is the purpose of this document? What term are you defining? How are you discussing the way it is defined and the way it is used in context? Describe a road map for what follows (definitions and context). This content should be published as paragraphs, unlike the heading for this section, which is a level 2 heading.

Definitions [Heading Level 2]
Quote several definitions of the term that you selected. Provide quotes and parenthetical citations for each definition, and include your sources in the References section at the end of the document. Each definition that you include deserves discussion in your words about what it means and how it relates to the other definitions that you include. Consider how they are alike, how are they different, who might use one versus another, etc. 

Context [Heading Level 2]
Quote several sentences from a variety of sources that use the term in context. A range of sources would provide the best source material for your discussion of how the term is used in these contexts. For example, a quote from an academic journal or two, a quote from a newspaper or magazine, a quote from a blog, and a quote from social media would give you a range of uses that might have different audiences. For each quote, you should devote at least as much space as the quote discussing what it means in that context and how it relates to the other quotes in context. Each quote should be in quotes, have a parenthetical citation, and a bibliographic entry in your references at the end of your document.

Working Definition [Heading Level 2]
Based on the definitions that you quoted and discussed, and the contextual uses of the term that you quoted and discussed, write a working definition of the term that's relevant to your career field or major, which you will need to identify (this is the specific context for your working definition).

References [Heading Level 2]
Order your APA-formatted bibliographic references by the author's last name, alphabetically. 

For APA citations, refer to the Purdue OWL’s APA guide and if you do any indirect quotes, use this guide on the Simon Fraser Library’s website.

To turn in your work, you will create a new post on our OpenLab site as you did for the 500-Word Summary project. The steps below should get you started.

Place a check next to 750-word expanded definition under categories.
Enter your post's title.
Begin your post with a heading block.
Enter your heading's text and select H2.
Start a new paragraph block and paste your introduction's text there.
Start a new heading block and enter it's title.
Type in your heading's title and press enter to begin a new paragraph block.

If you have questions about posting, please email me at jellis at sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until the last minute.

And, remember that this project is due before class on Tuesday, October 15.

Opportunity: Learning with

As I’ve mentioned to some of you in class before, the New York Public Library offers free access to, the online video-based learning platform, for members with a library card. Using your library card number and PIN (you might need to visit a branch library to set this up if you haven’t already done so), you can login to from this page: teaches you how to take notes, study for classes, perform research, become a professional photographer or videographer, how to use high end software that we have on lab computers, how to use Microsoft Office or Google Docs, how to program computers, etc. All of the videos are high quality and they encourage you to learn at your own pace. As I said with the free New York Times subscription, you really ought to take advantage of these learning and staying up to date opportunities while they are available to you.

Opportunity: City Tech Writer


Another excellent opportunity to get your writing recognized is City Tech Writer, an annual publication that highlights the writing of City Tech students. As I’ve said before, getting awards or publications is like “pics or it didn’t happen” for your resume–it gives strong evidence for your vital communication skills. The deadline for submission is Nov. 15. Details are below:

Please submit excellent student writing (from any discipline) to City Tech Writer, Vol. 15, by uploading a Word document or PDF at

The deadline for submissions is November 15, 2019.

STEM disciplines are especially encouraged to submit!

Please see the attached flyer for more information.

Opportunity: Constitution Day

The Constitution defines the system of government of the United States.  But why is this founding document arranged the way it is?  And can the Constitution help us meet the complex challenges facing us in the 21st century?  Come join faculty from the Legal Studies and Social Science departments as we discuss these important issues at our annual Celebration of the Constitution!

Date:  Thursday, September 26, 2019

Time: 1:00pm-2:15pm

Location:  Namm Hall Room 616

For more information, please contact:

Prof. Gail Williams at or

Prof. Marco Castillo at

Free Digital Subscription to The New York Times for City Tech Students

To be engaged citizens and informed professionals, we should all keep up with the news on the local, national, and global levels. To that end, City Tech offers a free digital subscription to the newspaper of record for the United States: The New York Times. Follow this link and register for your free one-year subscription with your City Tech email address.