Technical Descriptions Technical descriptions are usually a description of one of the following: • An object (aka a product) • A process Technical descriptions describe either what something is (exactly), or how something works.
Observational Strategies • Do background research • Use your senses • Take measurements • Describe motion and change • Describe the context • Collect visuals • Ask subject matter experts
Organizational Strategies • Spatial • What does it look like? • What parts and material is it made of? • Use to describe what something looks like • Functional • How does it work? • Use to describe a mechanism in action • Chronological • How is it put together? • How does it happen? • Use to describe an item best visualized in terms of its order of assembly
Which organizational strategy would seem to work best? • A 15-passenger van’s cruise control system • A digital camera • A bag of Cheetos • A piece of furniture from Ikea
Use concrete details and precise and informative language Subjective: adorably cute Objective: resembles a cartoon cow wearing a pink ruffled skirt Indefinite: a sleek-looking Web server Definite: the Hush Mini PC
How to organize an object description • Introduction • Include a formal definition of the object • Define the scope and purpose of the document • Description and Function of Parts • Organized spatially, functionally, or chronologically • Proceeds by part one, part two, part three . . . • Summary and Operating Description • Bring the parts back together in a brief recapping summary and explain how the object’s design reinforces its use
How to organize a process description • Introduction • Include a formal definition of the process • Define the scope and purpose of the document • Brief Description/Overview • Provide a concise overview of the process • Provide background information • Conclude by breaking the process up into its parts • Step-by-step description • Define the step • State its purpose • Define and describe substeps • Proceed from step one to step two to step three . . . • Summary • Include a complete cycle of the process and remind the reader of the process’s end result
Remember the difference between a process description and instructions: • A process description informs the reader, but doesn’t provide the reader with enough or the kind of information that would enable to reader to actually do the process. Someone reads a process description to learn. • Instructions tell the reader how to do something. Someone reads instructions to do.
Examples of Introductions Throughout the ages, mankind has found many uses for salt. Ancient tribes used it preserve meat; around the world it adds flavor to food; the Bible uses it as a symbol of zest for life. Salt became such an important part of people's diet that a way was needed to allow early nomads to carry salt with them on their perilous travels; such a device ideally also helped ancient gormandizers to distribute portions of the precious flavor enhancer onto their foods. Thus was born the salt shaker. This document provides the manufacturing specifications for the entire line of Happy Homemaker "Praying Cow" salt shakers (Divine Bovine Industries model #00045). A hand-painted ceramic collector's item, the "Praying Cow" salt shaker represents a plump, cartoon-like cow, her head bowed as if in prayer. A blue flower-print skirt is painted onto the body of the animal. The salt is dispensed through the cow's matching bonnet, via a circular array of six small holes. The bonnet twists off to allow the consumer to fill the dispenser cavity.
Examples of Introductions One of the greatest environmental threats to our nation's agriculture is the growing acid rain problem. Acid rain is one of the greatest environmental threats to our nation's agriculture. Acid rain is an environmentally harmful precipitation that forms after the combustion of fossil fuels releases nitrogen and sulfur oxides into the atmosphere. This document describes the process in general terms, in order to demonstrate the necessity for increased government regulation in sensitive areas. This paper cites recent studies by Smith and Jones (1997, 1998) to assist EPA officials with their efforts to determine which parts of the country should be designated "at risk" or "potentially at risk" over the next five years.
Object Description, Process Description or Instructions? • How a thunderstorm forms • An HP Deskjet 3845 • How an HP Deskjet 3845 works • How a bill becomes a law • How to write legislation • MSU’s campus • How to change a flat tire • Creating bassoon reed blanks
All Together Now • Think of an object or a process that could require a description and use the whiteboard space to type the name of your object or process. • We’ll work together to figure out how to organize a document that would describe that process or object.