ENGL 515, Advanced Professional Writing, Fall 2019

Bradley Dilger, Purdue University

Technical documentation
Heavilon 227, 10:30a to 11:45a, Tue & Thu

Our world is made up of complex sociotechnical systems: assemblages of diverse people (novices and experts, both alone and in groups), technologies (writing, mechanical systems, biotechnology, architecture), and practices (policies, cultures, and traditions). Formal and informal technical documentation guides the operation of all of these systems: manuals, how-to documents, needs analyses, user agreements, position descriptions, environmental scans, comments in code, specifications for APIs, etc.

Consider the seemingly simple act of buying a cup of black coffee from Starbucks at Purdue:

In this course, we will examine the technical documentation which supports the complex systems involved in nearly every aspect of our daily lives: the diverse writing which guides work, education, play, and the spaces in between. This will include arenas of technical communication associated with the production of technical documentation: user testing, content strategy, content management, and single-sourcing. This practical work will be supported by theoretical content from user experience design and rhetorical genre studies. Technical content will include team communication platforms (Basecamp, Trello), publishing systems with application programming interfaces (Paligo), version control (Github), and other aspects of documentation-oriented computing. We will also engage best practices for writing processes germane to producing technical documentation, moving from concept to completion and acknowledging post-production too.

Graduate students enrolled in the course will extend this work to engagement with scholarship about technical documentation, exploring the academic/practitioner boundary and investigating both pedagogy and publication.


A list of texts including books, peer-reviewed articles, and web-based resources will be finalized in summer 2019. Both practitioner- and academic-oriented texts will be featured. Candidates include:

Questions? Get in touch.

Copyright © 2005–2019 Bradley Dilger.