Archive for the ‘Handbooks’ Category

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“So, where’s the index?”

posted: 3.12.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Bedford/St. Martin’s editor extraordinaire Carolyn Lengel and I have been interviewing student writers as we’re working on a new edition of The Everyday Writer. We haven’t met these students; all we knew is that they had used Everyday Writer in one of their writing classes. As we talked, the students told us when and why they used the book, what they thought it had been helpful for, what about it they liked—or would like to see improved. But we were also interested in HOW they used the book. So we asked them to walk us through one time when they wanted to find information in their handbook—step by step. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Handbooks, Teaching Advice
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Are indexes obsolete?

posted: 1.29.15 by Andrea Lunsford

A posting on the Free Library Blog recently caught my eye, particularly the following paragraph:

Most students also don’t know that many books are indexed. Thus they are unaware that the nature of the assignment might not require that they read the whole work, but rather that they use the index to find the relevant sections which address their own topic. As long as they understand that context matters and learn to read efficiently within a work, they need not be defeated by hundreds of pages of text. Without these skills, it’s a safe bet they haven’t been introduced to bibliographies, chasing notes, or any myriad of other useful appendixes at the back of the book. (See What students (and often their teachers and their principals) don’t know about research and an enriching liberal education.)

Students don’t know books are indexed? [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Handbooks, Working with Sources
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Words . . . and Images

posted: 3.31.11 by Andrea Lunsford

About a dozen years ago, I began to pay serious attention to what Mitchell Stephens described as The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word. As a rhetorician, I have always been interested in theories and practices of persuasion, but I had studied persuasion in terms of words and their power. As we moved more and more into a visual culture, however, I began to think a lot more about how images move us to action and, along the way, about not only the visual but the aural imaginary. I found I had a lot to learn.

This interest in images led me to begin teaching at least one graphic narrative in every course, beginning, not surprisingly, with Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus. I’ve taught that text now many times and think it’s fair to say that I see something new in it with every teaching: it is, in my opinion, a work of genius. (It is also a work, students have told me, that changed them from history-class haters in high school to history majors in college.)  I also taught Lynda Barry (100 Demons is one of my all-time favorites) as well as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Gilbert Hernandez’s Chance in Hell, Gene Yang’s Anerican Born Chinese, Marguerite Abouet’s Aya, and especially Joe Sacco’s many works of comics journalism.  Slowly but surely I worked up my courage to teach a whole course in graphic narratives.

What working with my students has taught me (as well as my reading of folks like Scott McCloud) is that while I tend to read words first and look at pictures later, my students usually do the opposite. Some even tell me that they take in both words and images in a kind of all-at-once gestalt that then gives way to looking at each more closely. So I’ve had to recognize the degree to which my reading practices are tied almost entirely to the conventions of traditional print. I’ve had to learn a new way to read, one that is far less linear and calls for far more re-reading than I am accustomed to doing with traditional print texts. And it’s taught me to “read between the lines” in entirely new ways as I study the frames and the gutters and the interaction between them. Reading—even online—feels more visceral and tactile to me than ever. [read more]

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Categories: Handbooks
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Your Inner Tech Writer

posted: 2.22.11 by Steve Bernhardt

In the mid-eighties, I took a position at New Mexico State University, where their English department had a strong technical writing program. I had a chance to teach a course on developing computer documentation—reference manuals, user guides, and tutorials. We learned to write “how to” documentation: how to set up or configure a new computer or printer, how to use a database program to keep track of health records, or how to create computer animations. I felt slightly underprepared, but over time, I grew to like the course and eventually developed a second course on online documentation, including help systems. During the time I taught these courses, most computer documentation moved online, so that manuals and help systems (the panels that pop up on your screen when you ask for help) tended to become online hypertexts, rather than printed manuals.

I learned a lot by teaching these courses, learning that has been quite useful as we’ve developed Writer’s Help at Bedford. Writer’s Help is part reference handbook, part help system. It requires students to work online, viewing linked information on screen. Creating Writer’s Help required that we think about usability, screen design, navigation, search, and information presentation. The challenge was to take a really well-designed handbook (Writer’s Reference) and reimagine it as an online help system.

Those who write user documentation think in very particular ways about audiences. Tech writers have long emphasized observing users, understanding their situations, involving them in development, and doing careful user testing to see what works and what ought to be revised. As a result, we know certain things about technical audiences: they would rather learn from a person than from a manual, they skip over long passages, they would prefer to look at a drawing than a paragraph, they tend to enter a text in many places other than page one, and they are often frustrated with documentation. We also know a scary fact: only experts are good at using technical manuals. Only they have the language, the ability to define problems, and the ability to work between the manual and the system itself to solve problems. [read more]

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Categories: Handbooks, Teaching with Technology
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Highlights: “Mistakes are a Fact of Life”

posted: 10.13.10 by Nedra Reynolds

It’s already October, and work continues on the seventh edition of the Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing. Jay Dolmage and I have learned so much from reading the books and articles suggested by the consultants!

With more articles and books coming out each month, you might be wondering what will give you the most insight into the current state of the field, or to choose for your limited reading time. The Bedford Bibliography serves exactly this function. It offers a concise summary of each article or book—without judgment or evaluation.

However, having written so many summaries lately, I wanted a chance to state my opinion, to read an article and say “hey, I just really like this one!”  So, if you’re interested in the everyday work of teaching writing, I’d recommend Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford’s, “Mistakes are a Fact of Life: A National Comparative Study” (CCC June 2008) [PDF]. [read more]

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Categories: Genre, Handbooks, Teaching with Technology
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What’s Missing?

posted: 12.31.07 by Barclay Barrios

At midterm, ask students to review the work they’ve produced so far and also the handbook being used in class. What errors have they made and what problems have they experienced in their writing that the handbook hasn’t addressed? In small groups, have them share these lists and then as a collaborative project ask students to write material to address these concerns. Share the results with the whole class in order to extend the handbook.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Handbooks
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To Keep or Not to Keep

posted: 4.9.07 by Barclay Barrios

At the end of the semester, ask students to generate lists of why they should keep and why they should sell their handbooks. In small groups, have them share these lists and then move into a class discussion about the usefulness of the handbook beyond this class.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Handbooks, Student Success
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Handbook Letters

posted: 2.5.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on writing letters, then have them write a letter to the author of the handbook. After a brief introductory paragraph, the students should write about what they find useful in the handbook and what they wish the handbook had or how it could be improved. Review what the handbook has to say about tone and discuss how these letters should sound. Consider giving the finished product to your local textbook rep.

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Categories: Document Design, Handbooks
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Alternate Table of Contents

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Provide students with the following categories or a set of terms you’ve designed yourself: Getting an A, Before I Start My Draft, At the Ready When Researching, Things Not to Screw Up. For the next class, have each student use these categories to create a new table of contents for the handbook: which sections of the handbook would go in each category?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Finding Sources, Handbooks
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Revision Memos

posted: 11.20.06 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the section of the handbook on memos. After handing back drafts with your comments, have students come to the next class with a memo to you that summarizes your comments on their drafts and proposes a plan of revision. Not only will students get practice with practical forms of writing, but you’ll also be able to make sure that they understand what you’re asking them to do in your comments.

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Categories: Document Design, Handbooks, Revising
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