Fall 2020 - CMPT 376W D200

Technical Writing and Group Dynamics (3)

Class Number: 6615

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We, Fr 1:30 PM – 2:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    CMPT 105W and (CMPT 275 or CMPT 276).



Covers professional writing in computing science, including format conventions and technical reports. Attention is paid to group dynamics, including team leadership, dispute resolution, cognitive bias, professional ethics and collaborative writing. Research methods are also discussed. The use of LaTeX and various version control tools are emphasized. Students with credit for CMPT 376 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


This course will introduce students to a range of writing processes and styles. It will emphasize writing to understand disorganized ideas more clearly, writing to persuade others, and writing to draw conclusions. The course will include both informal and formal writing approaches. Assignments will generally have an initial draft, then a finished draft. This is a W course.

Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third-party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student!


Learning Objectives

The learning objectives and learning outcomes of the course are:

  • informal writing to generate material
  • drafting and revising
  • types of technical documents (genres): explanations, recommendations, emails, and other document types
  • clarity of sentence structure
  • style and voice
  • arguing from performance data
  • rhetorical situation: Audience, message, author, and context
  • improve critical thinking through numerous examples of effective and ineffective writing
    • identify when writing employs rhetorical persuasion, hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, propaganda, etc.
  • distinguish between good and bad writing (i.e., "debugging")
    • convey effective writing is achieved primarily through editing and rewriting
    • articulate reasons that explain why and how a writing sample is ineffective
  • familiarity with writing guidelines, conventions, etiquette, and resolve contradictions & inconsistencies with "writing rules"
  • familiarity with the technical document creation process:
    • rough draft/prototype
    • iterative drafts
    • "final" draft
  • familiarity with the spectrum of technical document types (resumes, emails, documentation, proposals, etc.)
    • understand the importance of living documents within Computing Science (e.g., Knuth's "Art of Programming", online documentation, version control of documentation)
  • familiarity with linters and software tools for technical writing (i.e., extending IDEs for documentation purposes)
  • understanding the audience
    • avoiding bias and conflicts of (personal) interest, how to be objective, gaining the reader's trust
    • how to target and write for an audience (technical and non-technical audiences)
  • group & collaborative writing through peer reviews
  • ability to write quickly
  • edit real-world documentation (e.g., on GitHub, Stack Overflow, etc.)



To be discussed the first week of classes.

Students must attain an overall passing grade on the weighted average of exams in the course in order to obtain a clear pass (C- or better).



Online Lectures & Requirements

Technology Requirements To Complete CMPT-376W: D200

Minimum Requirements:
  • computer (tablet, phone, etc.)
  • internet access with 2 Mbps download speed to view lecture videos
  • microphone (could be optional if chat is used)

Suggested Requirements: 

  • computer (or tablet)
  • internet access with 50 Mbps download speed to view video lecture streams and 30 Mbps upload speed to stream video
  • webcam
  • microphone

Use Speedtest.net to evaluate your internet connection's download & upload speeds.


Asynchronous Instruction

Lecture Videos and Lecture Slides will be uploaded to Canvas for students to view at their leisure.


Synchronous Instruction

"Synchronous" refers to the synchronized delivery and reception of course content that requires the instructor and students to simultaneously be present at a specified location and specified time. 2+ people (e.g., instructor and students) communicating in real time (e.g., as in the traditional classroom lecture experience).

Online Sessions will be conducted on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (or Zoom, TBD) during the scheduled class time. These sessions will be recorded and made available to all students immediately after the session.

The Online Sessions are optional to attend, but the recordings of the online sessions are required viewing. The online sessions will discuss the content viewed and read by students to evaluate understanding and provide further examples, usually edge cases and corner cases.

Respectful Discussion

Please participate in this online course with respectful communication and collaboration. Interactions in the remote teaching environment are to be guided by SFU’s core values of civility and mutual respect. Disruptive or concerning behaviour can have a harmful impact on our entire learning community.


  • Writing With Power
  • Peter Elbow
  • Oxford University Press
  • 1998
  • 2nd Edition
  • electronic text is freely available through SFU's library

ISBN: 9786610470457


  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace
  • Joseph M. Williams
  • Longman
  • 2017
  • 12th Edition

ISBN: 9780134080413

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).