Professional Writing: Collaborative Problem Solving Schedule

Welcome to Collaborative Problem Solving, an undergraduate course on professional writing. This course serves sophomore and junior-level undergraduate business students. It fulfills the university's general-education requirement for an emphasis on collaboration, a high-impact practice. Course Syllabus, Spring 2022 The first half of the course engages students in a structured effort to explore and define a problem. Students write multiple iterations of a problem definition and develop visualizations of stakeholders and data. The second half of the course asks students to explore the solution space for the problem. After engaging in textual and empirical research to learn more about their problem space, students make evidence-based recommendations that are appropriate and feasible given the rhetorical context.
  • Joseph M. Moxley, Professor; email = mox at usf dot edu
  • Office Hours: Email me through Canvas to set up a meeting
ENC 3250 Section 4
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-1:45
CPR: 352
ENC 3250 Section 5
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2:00-3:15 pm
CPR 480

Dear Colleagues,

Professional Writing: Collaborative Problem Solving is my adaptation of a required standardized syllabus for ENC 3250, an undergraduate course on workplace writing. This adaption is also informed by a course Julie Staggers and I developed based on a business consulting case study.

Dear Students,

So that I may refer to you with the appropriate pronoun in Canvas, our course LMS (learning management system), would you please set your preferences for your personal pronoun at Canvas > Settings.

  • Note: If you have a first name change request for Canvas, please email from your official USF email account. You do not need to provide personal details for the request. Tell USF the first name you want to show in Canvas. This will also change your name in the directory, but it will not change your email address.

Below is the current schedule for this course. As time passes, please expect updates. Don’t forget to refresh your browser from time to time.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate: shoot me an email and we’ll find a time to meet.

Required Texts

Required Course Tools

  • Canvas (for grading and project management)

Navigation Tips

  1. When reviewing the schedule below, you’ll notice quite a few hyperlinks. Don’t assume you should select all of those hyperlinks. You only need to view the hyperlinks if you’re unfamiliar with the term or you want to get a Writing-Studies perspective of the topic.
  2. You can use the search feature to find a word on a page, such as week 8 rather than scrolling all the way down to find Week 8.

    Navigation GuideWriter’s Guide

Project 1: Problem Definition
(20% of final grade, 3 weeks)

1. Students prepare documents for multiple audiences with varying levels of technical knowledge, institutional power, and investment.

2. Students engage in textual and empirical methods to develop a problem definition for a problem space.

 3. Students write multiple iterations of a problem definition and develop visualizations of stakeholders and data.

Welcome to Project 1

“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

Albert Einstein
Problem? Possible injury. Solution? Buy a helmet!; “_DSC3700” by Ludovic_P is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Week 1, 1/9 to 1/16, The Problem Space

Your goal this week is to write about a problem space that matters to stakeholders. This problem space needs to be “a specific local problem happening at USF or in the community . . .The problem you choose should be relevant to your experience, related to your discipline, and happening now to people in your community or USF” [emphasis added] (GEA1).

As an act of rhetorical analysis, notice “to people in your community or USF.” This statement along with “or in the community” opens the door for you to investigate either a USF problem or something else, a problem in the broader world.

This is great news! This means there are no limits! You can draw on your anecdotal experience and personal passions.

Tuesday, 1/11

  • in-class First-Day Attendance. You need to be present in class to avoid being dropped per USF’s first-day attendance policy.

Wednesday, 1/12

  • Submit a one-page post to the course discussion board post via Canvas.

Assignment Guidelines: Discussion Board Post: What is Professional Writing?

Rhetorical Stance

The audience for this post is other students in your class. Your post should demonstrate you have read and thought about

  1. Julie Gerdes’ Workplace Writing studies
  2. Professional Writing Prose Style


Summarize what you learned from these articles about professional writing. What makes professional writing distinct from literature? scientific writing? engineering writing? fiction? When are your takeaways from these articles?

Thursday, 1/14

Sunday, 1/16

  • Submit Problem Definition Memo

1/17/22, Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration

Some problems are enduring. It’s time to dismantle systemic racism.

Assignment Guidelines: Problem Definition Memo, 1st Iteration

Step #1, Engage in Prewriting, Rhetorical Analysis & Rhetorical Reasoning

Review the GEA#1 Writing Prompt for the Final Recommendation Report. Analyze the prompt from the perspective of Purpose:

“Your report will address a specific local problem happening at USF or in the community. To identify the problem you will address, research the world around you. Read your local newspaper and USF newspaper, The Oracle. Bring your disciplinary knowledge to bear. Think about local problems in your field. Identify the decision-makers in the problem . . . The problem you choose should be relevant to your experience, related to your discipline, and happening now to people in your community or USF.”

GEA1 Writing Prompt
  1. Reflect on common organizational schema and rhetorical moves for of the recommendation feport as a genre of discourse.

Identify and describe a problem that effects particular stakeholders.

  1. Is this a new problem or a derivative problem?
  2. What is the history of the problem? Causes? Effects?
  3. What is the size and scope of the problem? Is it a scalable problem?
  4. Who are the stakeholders?
  5. Who are the people in your community or the USF community who experience the problem? You, your family, friends and loved ones? How do these stakeholders experience the problem space in their day-to-day lives? How do different stakeholders experience the problem? Do stakeholders have competing interests or perspectives?

Step 2, Adopt a Rhetorical Stance

Audience. Choose one of the following audiences:

  1. Imagine you are a Research Assistant writing for Demetri Martin, Director of University Relations.
    • You have been asked to investigate problems troubling the university community and to obtain feedback from administrators, faculty, other students, alumni, and other stakeholders about ways the University could be responsive to a community’s particular needs.

      Work Product
      Your end goal is a Recommendation Report, which you’ll submit to Mr. Martin

      Note: Choosing this rhetoric stance involves an internal recommendation memo. Because this stance has you writing as an employee of the University, you should design your report in memo format.
  2. Imagine you are an entrepreneur writing for admission to PPI’s incubator program. Address your memo to Ms. Elizabeth Paul, Managing Partner, PPI Venture Capital, #1 Main Street, Tampa FL
    • You may assume the rhetorical stance of an entrepreneur who is applying for startup funding. You’re competing to win $125,000 in startup funds. In exchange, PPI takes 7% ownership and helps you grow your business. [Venture Design happens on occasion . . .]

      Note: Because this stance has you writing as an applicant, you would not use an internal memo format. Rather, choose the style of a formal recommendation report, which is attached in an email or uploaded to a website. The primary concern of this audience is making money so eventually this problem space will need a commercially viable solution.
  3. Pitch an alternative Rhetorical Stance
    • If you choose an alternative rhetorical stance, please provide an explanatory note when you upload your assignment to Canvas. Provide the background information I need in order to grade appropriately. You may adjust the genre and media of your reports, as rhetorically appropriate–at least according to your rhetorical reasoning.

Length & Formatting

You want to keep this memo short. Be under two pages. Use headings, lists, bullets and other rhetorical moves made by professional writers.

Length: 1 to 2 pages, memo format

Suggested Readings

Week 2, 1/17 to 1/23

During Week 2, you’re provided the opportunity to further investigate problem spaces “relevant to your experience, related to your discipline, and happening now to people in your community or USF” [emphasis added].

Assignments & Due Dates

Tuesday, 1/18

Before class, read,

Wednesday, 1/19

  • Submit Problem Definition Visualization

Assignment Guidelines: Problem Definition Visualization

Rhetorical Stance: The visualization is intended for your audience, either Ms. Elizabeth Paul or Mr. Demetri Martin. For this assignment, any form of visualization is acceptable.

Step 1. Draft a visualization of a problem space that interests you.

Rhetorical Stance

You are a writer, speaker, knowledge worker . . . and you’re engaged in the process of invention. You’re engaged in visual brainstorming to evoke the knowledge you have about the topic. You want to think and perhaps bring new ideas, new insights, new associations to the forefront of your consciousness.

You can

  1. draw a map of the problem space, noting causes, effects, and stakeholders
  2. illustrate, embed diagrams, or create tables and graphs. You can handdraw or use tools such as Figma.Com
  3. create a stakeholder map that attempts to illustrate the relationships among stakeholders in the problem space
  4. collect an image or a collage of images that will be useful to integrate into a recommendation report on the topic.

Step 2. Write a 100 word summary that explains your visualization.

Step 3. Upload the visualization and summary to Canvas. If possible, provide the link to the visualization online. Canvas tends to shrink uploaded images.

Sunday, 1/23

  • Die: Problem Definition Memo, 2nd Iteration

Assignment Guidelines: Problem Definition Memo, 2nd Iteration

  1. Submit revised Problem Definition to the gDoc Sandbox
    1. Note: This revised memo may address a new problem space or it may be a revision to a previous problem description. Ideally, you can settle on one problem space to explore during the first half of the course.
  2. Submit to Canvas the url for a gDoc version of your Problem Definition.

Week 3, 1/24 to 1/30, Video Pitch

When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of? If you can’t answer that, the idea is probably bad.

Paul Graham, How to Get Startup Ideas
How to Pitch Y Combinator. Advice from Sam Altman, Qasar Younis, Michael Seibel, and Dalton Caldwell

Tuesday, 1/25

Wednesday, 1/26

  • Due: video pitch

Assignment Guidelines: Video Pitch

Rhetorical Stance

This is a practice pitch. I ask that you share it with me. You are not required to share this pitch with your classmates. Please consider it to be practice, an exercise.


1 minute. Don’t worry about production quality; use your cell phone. Don’t rush through your words. Be sure to enunciate so listeners can follow. And try to look into the camera. It’s better to be informal and relaxed than to be glued to a script that you read. Now I know that’s super hard for those of us who are introverts. But try.

Evaluative Criteria

Be sure to speak clearly so your peers may follow along and know whether or not the problem space interests them. You will not be graded on production quality.

In a one-minute video, introduce the problem space you are investigating. Explain to your classmates why you are so passionate about the problem. IOWs, what’s its significance? Who are the stakeholders? Who are the people who experience the problem? Do they experience the pain as a problem that must be solved or is it a pain that would be nice to be solved? Do you have any evidence to suggest the problem space is primed for innovation? Do you believe this problem space warrants additional research?


You are free to use any tool to record your pitch, but it needs to be viewable on the internet.

Note–after the assignment is completed and grade it, you may delete it.

For our purposes, a quick video on your cell phone is fine. Past students have told me they really like And you could use Teams or Zoom and just record yourself. You could take a video recording of yourself on your phone and then send that to Canvas.

Submission Requirements

  1. Upload to Canvas a link leading to the url leading to your 60-second video pitch.
  • Note: You may delete the file immediately after receiving your grade if you wish. Protect your digital footprint

Recommended Readings

Week 4, 1/31 to 2/6

Welcome to Week 4. Welcome to Project 2. This two-week module concerns information design, visual language, design, and citation of images.

Project 2: Information Design (20% of final grade)

“Students select a specific concept, issue, or topic that interests them and is related to their major. They then locate and collect numerical data about the subject (in the form of studies, reports, spreadsheets, or articles), and select data to visualize and provide an overall sense of the subject.”
NASA's model of the big bang & expansion of universe
NASA’s visualization of the big bang and expansion of universe

Tuesday, 2/1

Thursday, 2/3

  • TBA

Sunday, 1/30

  • Due: Data Visualization. Create an original table, figure or graph.

Assignment Guidelines: Data Visualization: Create an Original Table, Figure, Graph or Illustration

Rhetorical Stance


  1. Upload to Canvas the url that allows me to access your original table, figure, graph, or illustration.

    Cite the sources for the data you are plotting on the chart. At a minimum, synthesize data from two sources.
  2. Upload a succinct explanation of your data visualization. A paragraph or a sentence or two is fine. Brevity remains the coin of the realm.
    1. Why did you choose to visualize your data as a chart, table, or graph?
    2. Remember to attribute the sources of the data you are visualizing. Use APA or MLA.

Recommended Resources

Week 5, 2/7 to 2/13

Tuesday, 2/1


  • Reminder: Rhetorical Moves.
    • Discussion of the academic and professional writing conventions for Putting Sources in Conversation with one another

Wednesday, 2/2

  • Due: Memo on a visual design principle employed in an infographic published at Visual Capitalist.

Assignment Guidelines: Discussion Forum Post on Principles of Design

Rhetorical Stance

In the Discussion Forum at Canvas write a one-page memo to your peers that teaches them something about one of the design principles listed below.

In your post, use at least one screenshot from infographics published at the The Visual Capitalist. Be sure to cite the infographic/screenshots.

Your goal is to help your peers better understand principles of design. Can you find clever instances of design principles informing the composition of infographics at The Visual Capitalist.

Recommended Readings

Thursday, 2/3

  • in-class work on Infographics & Design Memos

Sunday, 2/6

Due: Infographic & Memo on Design Choices, 1st Iteration

Assignment Guidelines: Infographic & Memo on Design Choices, 1st Iteration

Develop an infographic that tells a story about data (with a heavy emphasis on numbers). This infographic may be on any topic you wish. Your infographic may be informative or editorial (aka persuasive):

  1. An information infographic focuses on concepts to simplify or teach complex ideas
  2. An editorial infographic focuses on persuasion and calls for readers to take action

Your infographic must

  • include one original (i.e. one you created yourself) data visualization such as a chart, table, or graph
  • use data visualization strategies to help readers understand a complicated concept and illustrate data in a way that helps the reader understand what the data means (i.e. helps reader see “the story” in the data.)
  • cite at least two sources in an unambiguous way. Cite all referenced data sets in the footer of the infographic or some other discreet place.
  • Caption images you use with their copyright information.

Rhetorical Stance

The potential audiences for this problem definition are

  • visually impaired people who use assistive technologies to read your infographic
  • your classmates
  • your instructor.

Your memo should be written in a professional writing style. Becaue your audience wants to learn more about your design choices, you should cite any claims made about design practices.

Your may assume your audience is familiar with design principles so you do not need to define the principles. Your audiences are curious about how design principles inform your composing and design practices.

Submission Instructions

  1. Provide a link to your infographic and memo at the Course Sandbox @ gDoc.
    1. If you are new to Google Drive, you should review Google Docs by GCF, LearnFree.Org
  2. Upload to Canvas the gDoc links for your infographic and design memo.When you submit a screenshot via Canvas it ends up being too small for me to read. Then you cannot read my response.

Thursday, 2/10

  • Due: Peer Review Memo

Assignment Guidelines: Peer Review of Design Memo & Infographic

  1. Go to the course sandbox at gDoc. Scroll through your peers’ infographics and design memos. Select two colleagues’ works to review.
    • Please do your best to select an infographic and design memo outline/draft that has not yet been reviewed by other students in the class.

Consider the following criteria when critically reading your peers’ design memos and infographics.

  1. Responsiveness to the Assignment
  2. Story, Purpose
  3. Design
  4. Visuals

Responsiveness to the Assignment:
Does the infographic meet all of the assignment guidelines?

1. Is it a data visualization infographic, an information infographic, or an editorial infographic?

2. Does the infographic have one original chart, table, or graph (i.e. one you created yourself)?

3. Does the infographic use a data visualization strategy from the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods to help the reader understand a complicated concept?

4. Does the infographic illustrate data in ways that help the audience understand what the data means (i.e. helps reader see “the story” in the data)?

5. Does the infographic cite at least three articles, books, blogs, or presentations on either design matters or infographics as a genre. Cite all referenced data sets.

1. Does the infographic tell an engaging, compelling story?

2. Does the infographic provide the necessary introduction, contextual information, and sources its audience needs in order to assess its credibility or act?

1. Does the author’s use of design elements support or detract from the story? Does the author make strategic use of the Elements of Visual Design?

2. Does the layout (e.g., timeline, flowchart, hierarchical decision tree, comparison) support the story? Would another layout be more effective?

3. Does the color scheme make sense for the rhetorical situation?

4. Does the infographic provide the organizational schema and logical reasoning you need in order to understand the story?

1. Do the visuals make sense given the rhetorical situation for the infographic?

2. Are the sizes of the images appropriate given the role of the images in conveying the story.
3. Are images attributed appropriately? Used ethically?
4. Are images culturally sensitive?
5. Do original graphs and tables accurately reflect data?


  • To earn an A on this assignment, you need to provide critical feedback. Reviews that are solely positive will receive a C grade.

Sunday, 2/13

Due: Infographic & Memo on Design Choices, 2nd Iteration

Assignment Guidelines: Infographic & Memo on Design Choices, 2nd Iteration

Review your instructor’s and peer’s feedback. Endeavor to be open to critique. Analyze whether reviewers shared concerns and prioritize those when revising. Engaged in editing and revision strategies as necessary. Structured Revision is especially encouraged.

Week 6, 2/14 to 2/20, Weaving Textual Evidence into Texts

Welcome to Week 6.

Welcome to Project 3.

This two-week module provides a review and summary of information literacy practices that inform the style of professional writers.

Project 3: Information Literacy (20% of final grade)

Students engage in textual research and qualitative research to investigate in a problem that is relevant to them, their community, or the USF community.
As travelers enter a new new space, perhaps a new country, they read the signs: they engage in literacy.

Tuesday, 2/15

During class we will engage in (1) analysis of how professional writers integrate evidence into their texts and (2) call for volunteers to to have their work reviewed.

Businesses, at least those that traditionally thrive, are evidence-based: they have a value proposition, a business thesis, and if they survive they have clients or will find clients that confirm their thesis.

For professional writing, evidence is also a big deal, an important attribute of a professional writing prose style. Communities of Practitioners across disciplines — from the sciences, social sciences, to the humanities and arts — care a great deal about evidence. In fact, academic researchers and investigators in the basic sciences spend much of their time focused on

This module concerns textual research methods. This module assumes you learned the conventions for information literacy and reasoning with evidence in previous coursework (e.g., Composition 1 and Composition 2.) As a refresher, please review Information Literacy Perspectives & Practices:

Recommended Readings
Review Reasoning with Evidence and its subpages, as necessary, depending on your literacy background. Come to class prepared to discuss working with sources.

Wednesday, 2/16

  • Due: Submit your Citation Exercise to Canvas. Note: this is an individual project.

Assignment Guidelines: Citation Exercise

Rhetorical Stance

This is a classroom exercise you are conducting with your instructor as audience.

  1. Review the following newspaper articles: Citation Practices in Journalism: The WSJ: Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show   Senators Seek Answers From Facebook After WSJ Report on Instagram’s Impact on Young Users Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt. Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead.
  2. Complete textual research on a problem space. This can be the same problem space you’ve investigated in the past. Or, it can be a new problem space, a new problem definition
  3. Feel free to deviate from the template below, but be sure to provide all of the required information for at least two sources on the same topic:
    1. Include Topic/Researcher
    2. Include a Summary: Write a brief (1-2 sentence) summary of the main idea of the article OR paraphrase the specific content/sentences you intend to draw on.
    3. Include a Paraphrase:: Paste a complete and properly formatted citation in the style you’ve decided to use. (You can use a citation generator like Zotero bib to generate citations if you wish.)
    4. Include a Citation: Use either APA or MLA to cite the sources you used. I recommended you check out the free Citation Tools to automate for this course and others.

Summary #1

Summary: The article by Seetharaman Deepa details the bombshell discovery that Facebook has knowingly been peddling instagram regardless of its massive impact on teenagers. The article goes on to detail the U.S. and U.K. government responses to the revelation.

Paraphrase: The use of Instagram has had a harmful effect on teenage girls to the scale of “one in every three” girls that use the platform experience negative body shaming. (Seetharaman).

Citation: Seetharaman, Deepa. “Senators Seek Answers From Facebook After WSJ Report on Instagram’s Impact on Young Users; Lawmakers Say They May Seek Documents and Interview Other Witnesses.” The Wall Street Journal, 15 Sept. 2021.The article states “Teens surveyed by the company also blamed Instagram for increases in anxiety and depression”(Seetharaman). The article by Seetharaman Deepa details the bombshell discovery that Facebook has knowingly been peddling instagram regardless of its massive impact on

Summary #2

Summary: Katie Martell introduces the term “Faux-feminism” in the media and advertisement industry (Scott 2019). 

Martell gives examples of companies such as Audi, Budweiser, Procter and Gamble, and Pantene, as companies who have fallen under the category of “faux-feminism.”


Upload to Canvas

Thursday, 2/17

  • Mox in-class review of citation exercise

Sunday, 2/20

  • Due: Citation Exercise: Memo to Jody Sharma, CEO

Assignment Guidelines: Citation Exercise: Memo to Jody Sharma, CEO

Read the following short articles (20 minutes):

Take another 10 minutes to do your own search for collaboration tools used in your desired profession.

Rhetorical Stance

Imagine you’re applying for the role of Head of People for YBUL ( This is a relatively new startup that just received Series B funding. Jody Sharma, the Founder and CEO, has posted a note on LinkedIn that they will hire the applicant with the most robust vision for creating a productive, collaborative culture 2 YBUL. (BTW, the Plan @ YBUL is to double its workforce, moving from 15 employees to 50 employees over the next year.)

Prompt: If you are hired to be Head of People, what are your recommendations for the Founder to facilitate Teamwork, Communication, Leadership, and Problem Solving @ YBUL?

Address your memo to Jody Sharma, Founder & CEO, YBUL.

Note your audience is highly intelligent and conversant with the scholarly conversation regarding collaborative problem solving.

Diction matters a great deal to Jody. She’s concerned that all employees reflect a personal yet professional tone. Jody is a data-driven person: she wants empirical evidence grounded in logical reasoning, qualitative methods, and empirical experimentation. Jody is also conversant regarding collaboration and design tools.

You may use a memo genre, a poster genre, a brochure, an infographic. Media is open. Length: no more than one page of copy. Have fun. Be creative.

TeamworkTeam Cohesion, Team Empowerment, Team Learning, Self Management/Self Leadership, Adaptability/Open Mindedness
CommunicationActive Listening, Exchanging Information
LeadershipOrganizing Activities & Resources, Performance Monitoring, Reorganizing When Faced with Obstacles, Resolving Conflict, Transformational Leadership
Problem SolvingIdentifying Problems, Brainstorming, Planning, Interpreting & Analyzing, Evaluating & Implementing

Week 7, 2/21 to 2/27,

Tuesday, 2/22

Thursday, 2/24

  • Due: Problem Definition Memo, 3rd Iteration

Assignment Guidelines: Section of Problem Definition Memo that Uses Primarily Textual Evidence

Rhetorical Stance

Follow the previous instructions for the Problem Definition (see schedule above).

You may revise an earlier problem space definition or you may write about a new problem space.

Evaluation Criteria

Your purpose is to use textual research to provide a more detailed description of the problem space. You will be evaluated on how well you introduce sources. Do you employ information literacy perspectives and practices.

Your instructor will look for evidence that you understand

  • how to introduce sources
  • how to to quote, paraphrase, and summarize sources
  • how to use multiple sources to support a claim
  • how to contrast data and information from multiple sources
  • how to weaving multiple perspectives into an informed analysis of a problem.

Recommended Readings


Sunday, 2/27

  • Nothing is due.

Week 8, 2/28 to 3/6, Qualitative Research & Customer Discovery

This week you’ll engage in at least one empirical research method to further investigate the problem space:

The readings below will help you contextualize your research notes. The readings situate interviews, even informals ones, as Qualitative Research.

Tuesday, 3/1

  • Review of Sunday’s Exercise In-class discussion regarding qualitative research notes.

Thursday, 3/3

  • No Class. Use this time to conduct your qualitative interviews.

Sunday, 3/6

  • Due: Problem Definition Memo, 4th Iteration

Assignment Instructions: Section of Problem Definition Memo that Uses Primarily Qualitative Evidence


Use empirical research method to investigate a problem space.

Use interview, Case Study methods. Conduct two interviews with stakeholders to learn about a problem space from the perspective of a stakeholder

Engage in two interviews with stakeholders, preferably people you don’t know who experience the problem directly. For instance, is there a student organization or a community organization that you can meet with? Your goal is to get outside of your perspective, to engage in a form of customer discovery.

Note: the interview can be online or via phone. The interview doesn’t need to be long or formal. No one expects some huge insight from this interview. Also, please recall that the focus of this investigation is not to find solutions to a problem. Here we assume that if the problem were that simple it would already be solved. Your goal is a deeper understanding of the problem. So you want to listen to your stakeholders’ talk about their interactions with the problem. You want to listen to their ideas experience of the problem. How painful is the problem? Is it a must solve or a nice to solve? 

Rhetorical Stance: In this exercise, which will be graded incomplete/complete, your aim is to summarize the interview in sufficient detail that you will be able to return to these notes in three months and recall salient details:

  • Date
  • Pic (if they agree)
  • Who was interviewed? Stakeholder Role? Title?
  • How long was the interview?
  • What is the stakeholder’s relationship is to the problem in the problem space? 
  • How does the stakeholder experience the problem?
  • What insights did you gain about the problem as a result of the interview? 
  • What did you learn about interviewing as a result of the interview?

Recommended Readings


Week 9 3/7 to 3/13

Tuesday, 3/8

Thursday, 3/10

  • in-class team work

Friday, 3/11

  • Due: Problem Definition Memo, 4th Iteration

Assignment Instructions: Problem Definition Memo, 2nd Iteration

Write a problem definition. Your memo can be as long as four pages with visuals.

Rhetorical Stance

Your primary audience should be one of the following:

  1. University Relations. You have been asked to investigate the university community and to obtain feedback from administrators, faculty, other students, alumni, and other stakeholders about ways the University could be responsive to a community’s particular needs.Work Product. Your end goal is a Recommendation Report, which you’ll submit to Mr. Martin
  2. Imagine you are an entrepreneur writing for admission to PPI’s incubator program. Address your memo to Ms. Elizabeth Paul, Managing Partner, PPI Venture Capital, #1 Main Street, Tampa FLYou may assume the rhetorical stance of an entrepreneur who is applying for startup funding. You’re competing to win $125,000 in startup funds. In exchange, PPI takes 7% ownership and helps you grow your business. Venture Design happens on occasion . . .
  3. A 3rd audience, an alternative Rhetorical Situation, that you define and run by me so I can follow along when grading.

Your secondary audience for this memo is your peers. Ideally, your work, your description of the problem space, will be so compelling that your classmates will want to join you to engage in a deeper dive into the problem space.

Use memo format. Adopt a professional writing style. Use concrete, sensory language. Avoid vagueness. At a minimum, employ reader-based prose.

Visuals of stakeholders or the problem space are encouraged, including photos, illustrations, and infographics. 

Supply any evidence needed to prove that this is indeed a significant problem. Ideally you will quote, paraphrase, or summarize the interview Cite any sources you use in either MLA or APA.

  1. Submit a  Problem Definition to Canvas for grading.
    1. Length: 2 pages (not counting images)
  2. Submit a Problem Definition to the Course Sandbox under your name. Your problem definition memo should be at least one page for each group member. So, a team project with 3 members should have a problem definition that is at least three pages long.

Spring Break (3/14 to 3/18)

Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer Jaws Peahi Maui First Australian to Paddle in 4 January 2012 Xvolution Media" by Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Week 9, 3/21 to 3/27

Monday, 3/21

  • Due: Discussion Post on Top Six Problem Definition Memos

Assignment Guidelines: Top Six Problem Definition Memos

Rhetorical Stance:

Address your classmates as potential partners.


Let’s return to the Problem Definitions that you posted to the course gDoc at the end of the first module. Please ensure you go through the complete list of problem statements. Then, as you wish, look at the other students’ problem definitions.

Once you’ve read through your peers’ problem statements, pick your six favorites. 

Write a discussion forum post at Canvas that ranks the top 6 problem statements. Succinctly explain why you have ranked as you have. In addition to praising the top 6 problem statements be sure to provide some critique. Your response can be brief. It’s fine to use bullet points and so on. But don’t be so brief that there’s no critique exchanged. You want to be sincere and helpful. Try to organize your feedback, prioritizing comments so that you hit the top 3 things you believe they should do to improve their problem definition.

Tuesday, 3/22, Team Selection Day

1,084 Kick Off Meeting Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
  • Teams for the collaborative project will be set in class on 3/9. It is imperative you attend class. If circumstances prevent that, you need to make arrangements with other students in a class to formally join their teams.
  • By end of class, in alphabetical order, provide a link to your team’s workspace at the class gDoc sandbox.

Sunday, 3/27

  • Due: Team Charter
    The Deliverable Specialist should submit the first iteration of your Team Charter to Canvas for grading. Follow the genre conventions for team charters yet tweak as necessary given your rhetorical situation. Remember to list the names of all group members so I can set up the Team Assignments in Canvas.

Assignment Instructions: Team Charter

  1. At your first meeting discuss your expectations (and concerns) about managing this project.
  2. Discuss the Team Roles that are outlined at Team Charter. Identify the organizational structure and roles and responsibilities for each team member. To inform task definition, see sample roles at Team Charter. Be sure to ensure the Deliverable Specialist is a detailed-oriented, dated-oriented person. 
  3. Decide on a citation style suitable to your rhetorical context.
    1. Note: all team members must contribute textual and qualitative evidence. You’ll be assigned a Team Bibliography. Strongly Recommended; Use a collaboration tool for citation.
  4. Strongly Recommended: Agree to use Slack or Notion or Teams or another project management tool to facilitate collaboration. This would be a useful life skill imo. (See recommended Collaboration Tools). I think talking about technology and collaboration could be a winner.
  5. Coordinate a plan to submit a Team Charter by next Wednesday.
  6. Create a Team Workspace at gDoc and then share a link to your Team’s homepage at the course gdoc.Your homepage should provide the following information:
    1. Name of Team
    2. Listing of team members, title/role, and preferred gmail contact info.Your homepage should provide links to two subpages:
      1. Team Charter
      2. Recommendation Report or Startup Pitch.
        Here I suggest you toss in the current draft of the problem statement and add headings as necessary to begin the Recommendation Report or Startup Pitch.

Week 11, 3/28 to 4/3

This week for out of class activities you want to focus to your teams qualitative research effort. You can conduct interviews, help design or distribute surveys, and hold focus groups) to inform your analysis of the problem space/ solution space.

Tuesday, 3/29

  • In-class work on Team Projects

Wednesday, 3/30

Thursday, 3/31

Sunday, 4/3

  • Due: Problem Definition Memo, 1st Collaborative Iteration

Assignment Guidelines: Problem Definition Memo, 1st Collaborative Iteration


This first major report by your team should be a substantive exploration of the problem space, especially from the perspective of textual evidence. Your goal is to pretty much finish the first half of your recommendation report. Each team member should contribute in a meaningful way to the team’s effort to ground the problem space in related scholarly conversations.


Between 5 and 10 pages including visuals, depending on the size of the team.

Rhetorical Stance

  • If you are working in the stance of a research assistant for Mr. Demetri Martin, then this proposal should be written directly to Mr. Martin. Seek permission to investigate a problem space.
  • If you are working in the stance of the entrepreneur, then your pitch should be to Ms. Elizabeth Paul. You want to update Ms. Paul on the exciting work your team is doing in a particular problem space.

Reminder: Adopt a professional writing style. Use concrete, sensory language. Avoid vagueness. At a minimum, employ reader-based prose. Supply any evidence needed to prove that this is indeed a significant problem or that the recommended results make sense. Cite any sources you use in either MLA or APA.

Required Sections

Title Page (aka Cover page)

  1. Name of Team: Recommendation Report on …. x
  2. Name of Team Members/Listing of Team Titles/Roles
    • Pls don’t put phone numbers on sheets; just list one of your emails
    • After each name, idetif6 Title, Roles & Responsibilities

3. Executive Summary (may also be called Abstract or Summary)

  • Consider this to be a sketch. You can then revise as you learn more about your topic and focus. Have about one or two sentences for each major section of the report.
    • Introduction to the problem
    • Potential solutions to the problem
    • Empirical Research Methods used to investigate the problem
    • Results
    • Recommendations

4. Report Body

Note: your specific rhetorical context will determine what headings you use in your Recommendation Report or Startup Documents. That said, the following sections are fairly typical for this genre, and they are required, as appropriate, for this assignment.

SectionAnswers the question
PurposeWhat is the purpose of this piece of communication?In a sentence or two, explain the purpose of this document, not the purpose of the purpose.
Introduction to the Problem SpaceWhat problem(s) does the report address?
Introduce the Problem Space
What is the problem?

Who are the people in your community or the university community who experience this problem? Are there multiple stakeholders in the community? How do different stakeholders experience the problem? Do stakeholders have competing interests or perspectives?

What are the causes of the problem? What kind of problem is this? Is it a local problem–i.e., a problem you, your family, friends and loved ones experience in their day-to-day lives?

What are the effects of the problem?

Why is this problem worth investigating? Succinctly describe the significance of the problem to particular stakeholders

Entrepreneurial Projects
Is there a potential financial incentive? Does the problem space present a business opportunity?

Is this problem sufficiently painful that stakeholders would pay money to have it ameliorated or resolved?

Can you see a way to build a better mousetrap?

Visualization Requirements
Include (1) a visualization of a problem space; (2) a visualization of stakeholder(s).

 References/Works CitedYou only need to attribute the works you actually cite in your Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA).
Team Bibliography
At a minimum, each group member should contribute one meaningful textual reference to the project. For this part of the assignment, I’m looking to see that each team member contributed a reference, including a summary, paraphrase, and quotation.

Not every source in the bibliography needs to appear in your problem definition/references. IOWs, your team may have bibliography notes that they decide not to use in the report.

Submission Requirements:

Submission Requirements: Upload the url to your gDoc to Canvas.

Week 12, 4/4 to 4/10

Your rhetorical context determines the genre/voice/tone/format/headings you should use. Writingcommunication — is, after all, rhetorical.

In some social science and nearly all scientific research discourse communities, research methods are separate sections trom results & recommendations.

For Project 4, you’re welcome to collapse these sections (Results & Recommendations). In the humanities, subject matter experts tend to assume that knowledge and knowledge claims are defined somewhat by anecdotal, historical, cultural, technological, and psychological processes. Interpretation is seen as invariably subjective.

Tuesday, 4/5

Wednesday, 4/6

Thursday, 4/7

Sunday, 4/10

  • Due: Draft of Methods, Results, Recommendations

Assignment Guideline: Draft of Methods, Results, Recommendations

Title Page (aka Cover page)

  1. Name of Team: Recommendation Report on …. x
  2. Name of Team Members/Listing of Team Titles/Roles
    • Pls don’t put phone numbers on sheets; just list one of your emails
    • After each name, list Title, Roles & Responsibilities
  3. Table of Context (one page; build your TOC by tagging all H1s in the document. Suggestion: Include sections that are not written yet

Executive Summary (may also be called Abstract or Summary)

  • Consider this to be a sketch. You can then revise as you learn more about your topic and focus.

    Have about one or two sentences for each major section of the report.
    • Introduction to the problem
    • Potential solutions to the problem
    • Empirical research methods used to investigate the problem
    • Results
    • Recommendations
    • Implementation Schedule
    • Call to action

Note: DO NOT INCLUDE THE REPORT BODY (last week’s content)

Research Methods
What textual research or empirical research was done? How? Why?Report on the research methods you have employed or plan to employ.

Provide survey, if used. 
Results (optional)What did you find out from your research?
A results section is commonplace in the sciences and some social science texts.

The writing space reserved for reporting discoveries. This space is reserved for investigators who are employing empirical methods. If you did not use empirical methods, you do not need this section.
Scope or Limitations of the Study 
What are the shortcomings of this study?

Address study limitations. For instance, if you interviewed a few people you could remind readers that those two interviews are not necessarily representative of others’ perspectives.

Did anything go wrong?

References/Works Cited
Cite your research study in (1) the text of your Recommendation Report. Use MLA or APA.
Appendix:Team Bibliography
Note: Present this part as an Appendix
At a minimum, each group member should have notes demonstrating they engaged in some form of empirical research related to the team project.

Week 13, 4/11 to 4/17

Tuesday, 4/12

Wednesday, 4/13

Sunday, 4/17

  • Due: Recommendation Report, Substantive Draft

Assignment Guideline: Recommendation Report, Substantive Draft

Required Sections

  1. Title Page (aka Cover page): Recommendation Report on …. x
  2. Name of Team Members/Listing of Team Titles/Roles
  3. Table of Context
  4. Executive Summary (may also be called Abstract or Summary)
  5. Recommendations
  6. Implementation Plans
RecommendationsWhat recommendations can you offer?Underscore benefits of recommendation and ask reader to act

Tells the reader what steps, measures, actions they should take in light of the conclusions you have reached thanks to your textual research and empirical research.

Explain how the recommendations might be implemented. BudgetPersonnel and assigned duties of each memberExplores how implementing the proposed recommendations benefits the audience.

Visualization Requirements
Include (1) a visualization of the recommendations
Implementation SchedulePresent an implementation schedule (Use a Gantt chart)
Call to ActionIn a sentence or two, what do you want the reader to think, feel, do?

Week 14, 4/18 to 4/24

Tuesday, 4/19

Thursday, 4/21

  • Due: Peer Review Memos

Assignment Guidelines: Peer Review Memos

  1. Review
    1. Assignment Template for Peer Review
    2. Guide to Structured Revision
    3. Professional  Writing Prose Style
  2. Go the course gDoc to view the Team Projects
    1. Reserve two Team Projects by putting your name to the right of the Team Projects you wish to review. Then link out to from your name to the gDoc where you wrote the review for that Team Project.If you see there is no space to the right (there should be no more than 4 reviews for each project), choose another Team Project. The goal here is spread reviews across topics so that everyone can learn from one another. sign up sheet
  3. Complete two peer reviews of two Team Projects
    1. use the Assignment Template for Peer Review
  4. Review Guidelines
    1. Conduct the peer reviews on an individual basis. Each class member is responsible for completing this exercise. This is not a team project. 
    2. Each review should be no more than two pages. 
    3. Use the evaluative criteria and steps outlined at Guide to Structured Revision. You are encouraged to use screenshots of the document you reviewed.
    4. Make a copy of the Assignment Template for Peer Review. Use this template (the headings, anyway) to structure your Peer Review Memos.
  5. Submission Guidelines
    1. Required Media: gDoc
    2. Once you have completed your review at gDocs, create a link to it and hyperlink your name on the gDoc course sandbox. This is how the Teams will find reviews of their Reports
    3. Upload a copy of your two reviews to Canvas.
      1. Please share the urls for your reviews. Please share an edit view of the gDoc so I can respond.

[Test Free Week: 4/23 to 4/29]

Week 15, 4/25 to 4/29

Tuesday, 4/26

Due: All Project 4 Deliverables

  1. submit Project 4, Deliverable #1:
    • Label your Recommendation Report  #GEA1
  2. submit Project 4, Deliverable #2: 
    1. Label your Self and Peer Evaluation Report #GEA2
  3. submit Project 4, Deliverable #3: Presentation
    1. Label your presentation #Presentation
  4. submit Project 4, Deliverable #4: Team Charter
    1. Label the final iteration of your Team Charter #TeamCharter

Thursday, 4/28

  • last day of class
  • in-class presentations by teams, as necessary.

Week 16

There is no final examination in this class. No additional work is due.

I wish you the best of luck with your writing and career goals.