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Troubleshooting Procedures Technical Writing Lessons That Challenge

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Writing and Communication II

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1323.1 - 9.1323.10

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Paper Authors

author page

Thomas Moran

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2661

Troubleshooting Procedures – Technical Writing Lessons That Challenge

Tom Moran

College of Applied Science and Technology Rochester Institute of Technology


This paper proposes introducing instruction and assignments on the preparation of troubleshooting documentation into technical writing and communication courses. Exercises that ask students to create procedures to aid readers in problem solving and the troubleshooting of technological systems and equipment can provide students with challenging and relevant practice in creating audience centered and helpful documents. A hypothetical technical writing machine and other vehicles for teaching this content to students who may have different technical backgrounds are presented.


Technical writing and communication courses assist engineering and technology students in developing and enhancing communication skills they may have to call upon in their careers. Students typically are introduced to audience-centered writing and the elements of technical style and gain practice writing descriptions, reports, proposals and instructional material. Ideally, at the end of a typical course students should be able to strategize a communication need, research the needed technical content, analyze the needs of the audience, select a format, organize the information and construct a clear and effective communication that satisfies the original need. This may be demonstrated in assignments that lead to progress reports, test reports, feasibility studies, internal change proposals, installation or setup instructions, or repair and maintenance procedures.

Assignments that ask students to analyze complex systems and create procedures to assist in troubleshooting failures or problems that arise within them can be particularly challenging methods for demonstrating and honing the students’ technical communication skills. Troubleshooting in itself is an exercise in problem solving. Troubleshooting documents are tools that can guide and assist readers in their problem solving, helping them analyze and correct specific problems they have encountered with technology. Creating these documents requires that technical communication students analyze the problem, develop methodologies for solving it and then determine the best format for delivering this information to their potential readership. Assignments of this type can be particularly challenging as they call on both the analytic and the

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Moran, T. (2004, June), Troubleshooting Procedures Technical Writing Lessons That Challenge Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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