next up previous contents
Next: 2. Intake Survey Up: CMPE 185 Workbook Previous: Contents   Contents


1. Syllabus

1.1 Required Texts

Strunk and White,
The Elements of Style [SJW79]. Strunk and White is the best short book on writing style. You should read it from cover to cover at the beginning and the end of this quarter, and re-read it every five years thereafter. The examples are subtly humorous, but you might not appreciate the humor on the first reading.

Huckin and Olsen,
Technical Writing and Professional Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English [HO91]. We used the first edition of this text (which was called English for Science and Technology: a Handbook for Nonnative Speakers) with good results for two years, and the new edition for several more. The new edition seems to be even better--it is well-organized, has good examples, both positive and negative, has a fairly good chapter on the use of visuals and a good chapter on oral presentations, and is available in paperback. Chapter 1 is a good explanation of why technical writing is a required course for computer engineers--reading it may help you understand the importance of the entire course.

Also, Chapters 29 through 38 are a handbook designed primarily for advanced non-native speakers of English, a necessity for this class. Parts of this handbook are useful for native speakers too; for instance Chapter 32 deals with modal verbs (would, could, should, and so forth), which many native speakers have difficulty using correctly in writing. The appendixes include a good short summary of English punctuation of use to everyone.

The text's major weakness for this class is that it is not aimed at computer engineers, but at engineers in general, and especially mechanical engineers, judging from the examples and illustrative material in the text.

We will assign some chapters to read from Huckin and Olsen, but you'll find that browsing through the unassigned chapters will yield useful information. The book is well-written and easy reading--unlike so many of the writing textbooks on the market.

Karplus and Scripture,
Workbook for CMPE 185 Technical Writing for Computer Engineers. This workbook, which will be available electronically, is where your assignments actually are, as well as some other material. We are providing them electronically, rather than as a pre-printed workbook, to save paper and money (the pre-printed ones cost more per page than laser-printing them would have!).

These assignments are designed to be appropriate for computer engineering, and have mostly been developed in 1988 and 1989, although some of them go back several years to other courses at other universities. We welcome motivated, specific, written comment on ways you think they might be improved. Don't just tell us there are too many and they're too hard! We know that, and there's not much we can do about it without seriously weakening the class.

1.2 Recommended texts to buy

Hornby, Harris, Stewart,
Oxford Student's Dictionary of American English [HRHS86]. Particularly recommended for non-native speakers, this may be the only dictionary that reports such important properties as whether a noun is an uncountable noun (like information or bread) or a countable noun (like bits or computers). This reference is somewhat dated--the newest edition of the dictionary appears to be titles Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary with editors A.S. Hornby and Sally Wehmeier.

Diana Hacker,
A Writer's Reference [Hac89]. A dull, boring, but very straightforward undergraduate reference grammar. Easy to use, clear examples, no mystification. Good for clearing up some of the fine points of punctuation and grammar both for native and non-native speakers.

1.3 Recommended books to browse in the library

Marie-Claire van Leunen,
A Handbook for Scholars [van78]. A well-written book that is a real pleasure to read, despite the unpromising title.

Edmund Tufte,
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information [Tuf83]. This is a superb book, but too expensive to require. The publisher has a strange pricing policy (no discount to bookstores), so this book is not often available in bookstores--you'll have to order it directly from the publisher if you want a copy. We will not spend as much time on the subject of graphical design as it deserves. We've been told that Computer Literacy in San Jose, and Stacey's in Palo Alto occasionally carry it. There is a companion volume Envisioning Information, which has much of the same material, but is aimed at a somewhat more general audience.

Wilson Follett,
Modern American Usage [Fol80]. This book explains words that are often mis-used. Unfortunately, it only covers words in general usage, not the jargon used by engineers and computer scientists.

Donald Knuth,
TeX, the Program [Knu86]. You are not expected to read much of this book, as it is a complete source listing for the TeX document compiler. It is included as an example of what good in-program documentation looks like.

Knuth, Larrabee, and Roberts,
Mathematical Writing [KLR88]. This report is based on a course [CS 209] of the same name given at Stanford University during Autumn quarter, 1987. We have deleted the mathematical writing exercise from the course, but those of you planning to go on to graduate school may want to learn something about mathematical writing anyway.

1.4 Homework Assignments

The homework assignments will be posted to the web in two formats: PDF and HTML. If the two disagree, then the PDF should be regarded as the more authoritative.

To read the files on-line, use Netscape (or one of the other World-Wide Web browsers), and open the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) This is the home page for Kevin Karplus, and contains pointers to several other documents, including the assignments for this course. If you have not used Netscape before, almost any of the CATS consultants in any of the computer labs can help you, because browsing the World-Wide Web has become a major form of recreation for the consultants.

The easiest to read on-line is the HTML, Although it is possible to print directly from many World-Wide Web browsers, I'll also provide PDF files generated directly from the LATEX originals. These will generally produce a better looking printed copy that will take up less paper. There will be hypertext links (pointers) from the WWW pages to the PDF files.

Please read each of the assignments carefully--don't rely on a vague memory of in-class discussion. Common problems that have come up with the assignments in the past are discussed in the assignment writeups, but still about half of the problems we see in turned in work are things that we specifically warn about.

1.5 Collaboration

Each paper you turn in must have the names of the authors prominently displayed at the beginning. Anyone caught using a term paper service or copying from books, journals, or fellow students will be punished as severely as the University allows. Flunking the course is an absolute minimum.

On some assignments (like the final project), we will encourage group authorship, and on others we will insist on single authors. If you are not sure which category an assignment falls into, please ask.

We encourage you to have someone else read your drafts, point out errors and unclear passages, and make suggestions, but not do re-writing for you. We will frequently use class time to exchange drafts of papers and discuss them in small groups.

We also encourage you to use the tutors who are assigned to the course. In the past, predictably, only the best students have made substantial use of the tutors. The tutors are students who have taken the course previously, and who know what we want you to learn, and how to help you do it.

This is a difficult course, but anyone who uses the resources we provide can pass it, as well as learn something worthwhile. A lot of you hate to write and think that you are not very good at it. We don't guarantee that you will learn to like to write, but we can guarantee that if you do what we ask, and work hard at it, that you will learn to write competently, and perhaps a good deal better.

The colleges also provide writing tutors, and we encourage you to seek their aid as well.

Anyone whose help you use (including the instructors, tutors, classmates, spouse, ...) should be acknowledged in the turned-in assignment. Formal reports should have an acknowledgment section, but other document styles usually need a separate cover memo to the instructors for acknowledgments--you should regard this cover memo as a standard part of anything you turn in, even if it is not specifically requested for an assignment. Of course, any books or journals you use as sources should be properly cited, and we intend to teach you how to do this, so that you do not plagiarize (copy without citing) unintentionally. If you omit citations, if you copy blocks of text from your sources without explicit indication of quotation, if you paraphrase more than a paragraph from a source, or if you use information from a source without citation, you may be guilty of plagiarism. The minimum penalty for plagiarism is failure in the course--I have failed people in the past, and will probably have to do so in the future--but let's not make in necessary this quarter.

Claiming someone else's work as your own is the biggest academic sin.

If you are not certain about how much help is permitted, how much is encouraged, and how much will be considered cheating, please talk with us. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that we allow more assistance than you thought--the key point is that all assistance must be acknowledged in writing.

1.6 Schedule (due dates)

The schedule posted on the web lists the assignments for this quarter with due dates. If the due dates are changed, we will inform you in class. Note that many assignments overlap; this is the normal case for people who write for a living, as engineers do (30-50% of the work day).

You are required to turn in your early drafts, as well as the final copy--the early drafts allow us to see how well you edit and how well you respond to suggestions from your peers.

1.7 Peer editing

We will be doing peer-editing on-line this quarter, using the Collage system created by Tara Madhyastha especially for CMPE 185. Go to the web pages for Collage ( and read the documentation at! There are some restrictions created by the use of this software:

By the way, the collage software checks that the main body of the text has not been altered by the markup--you can add notes, highlighting, and so forth, but do not edit the text itself (stay away from the Text Select tool).

next up previous contents
Next: 2. Intake Survey Up: CMPE 185 Workbook Previous: Contents   Contents

Kevin Karplus
Computer Engineering
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

HTML version created 2003-02-13