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Jacob Stein

ENGL 2116
Professor Arnold
December 9, 2015

Final Reflection Essay


The readings in the textbook and the deliverables for the class have given me a
lens through which to view the need for reader focused communication in all arenas of
academia and the business world. By this I mean that if we are going to make advances
in engineering, chemistry, business, or any specialized field, then we need to be able to
get the research or new information out and put to good use. But in order to do that we
need to put it into a more easily understood format for the people who lack the
framework to decipher the raw data. That is where technical communication comes in.
I was doing research for another class and came across a video from a TED talk
from 2012 titled Talk nerdy to me by Melissa Marshall and the substance of what she
was saying really stuck with me. She is advocating for the need for the public to seek
out conversations with the scientists and engineers around us so we can discover the
wonderland of their work. She also gives tips to those scientists and engineers so as
to breach the understanding gap by using technical communication. Now her
presentation and the way she frames her topic is a tad softer than is necessary but gets
the point across. She is a communication professor who came to this conclusion after
having to teach a communication course at Penn State to a class of engineering
students.
This had me looking at the work I did with the Seeking Employment module,
Writing Instructions module, and Research Proposal module in a different light. I will use
the lessons taught and learned in those modules to illustrate this point.
In the Seeking Employment module the focus to me seemed to less making the
information accessible as with the other two modules and more about making the skills
and experience that I had seem more applicable outside of my field or explaining what

having those skills will allow me to do for you. I had a resume already but it wasnt as
easily adaptable or nuanced as I had thought. The peer review showed me that I could
tweak the wording and that with research and the use of gap analysis I could approach
each job with a better designed resume and cover letter to fit that job. I hadnt ever
written a cover letter prior to this class so that was a learning experience and an
incredibly useful one. I feel far more confident that I can approach future jobs and
internships with the ability to shape my resume to fit the position.
In the Writing Instructions section I had to work as part of a team with student
that have a different academic background as well as had to create a set of instructions
to inform an uninformed audience. The experience of having to work with a group of
students from variety of majors that werent related was a good learning experience.
The group work in prior classes had been in my major classes with students of from
mostly my department. So the class work was a learning experience and something that
I feel leaves me slightly better prepared for but still an area of weakness that needs to
be improved on for projects outside academia. The instructions we created didnt have
to bridge an understanding gap beyond never having used Microsoft Word before. But
the examples we looked at in the textbook and in class helped me get a greater
understanding of how to take a process or product that takes some understanding or
skill to operate and make the instructions or guidelines accessible for all users. I feel
more confident as a result of the project that I can work as a member of a diverse team
as well as make my instructions or explanations more universally understandable.
The Research Proposal module was all about convincing a possibly uninformed
audience of a problem that exists in the workplace or elsewhere. But that audience
uninformed as it may be holds the control over some resource necessary to research a
solution or enact that solution to that problem. So the writer has to bridge that
understanding gap in order to explain the problem and by extension receive the help
needed to seek a solution. For my project I took a problem I had seen from my
workplace and went along with arguing for the ability to attempt to solve it. Now my
audience had the same understanding level of the problem as I did but the tools used
would be the same in any other case, the task might just be more complex. I used a

scheduling and profit margin problem that one of departments at my location has. Signs
I saw of the problem were that sales are down, customer complaints are up, and
associate moral seems to be low.
Now if I had been approaching this issue for my job and not a class project then I
would have had to shape the presentation to appeal to powers that be in the corporate
office as well as my direct supervisor. The corporate people wont have the same
understanding of the quirks and nuances of the customers in our area or the
temperament and behaviors of the employees as a person on the ground will. So I
would have had to adapt and customize my presentation for those readers so as to
inform them while also convincing them. This piece helped me prepare for when I am
approaching projects in graduate school and the workforce as I am going to be working
in Geography and specifically focusing on Urban Planning. A project like the Blue Line
Extension on campus would have had a research proposal similar but on a much
grander scale as the one I did in class. I feel Im leaving this class with a much better
understanding of approaching a project like this in the future.
Overall I feel Im leaving this class with a greater understanding of how technical
writing can bridge the gap between the knowledge of the writer and the lack of it that the
reader may possess. I hope that I have identified my weaknesses in merging my talents
with others skill set as well as adapting my experiences to fit an employers needs. I
can certainly improve on making my voice easier to understand not matter the subject
as that was a problem coming in. I feel I have improved in that as well as become more
proficient in clearing out useless information. Ms. Marshall created an equation in her
presentation that works well with my theme of bridging that understanding gap which is:

You are subtract your bullet points and your jargon, divide by relevance, meaning share
what's relevant to the audience, and multiply it by the passion that you have for this
incredible work that you're doing, and that is going to equal incredible interactions that
are full of understanding.

Works Cited
Talk Nerdy to Me. Perf. Melissa Marshall. TED.com. TEDGlobal2012, June 2012. Web.