Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This section of Introduction to Technical Communication deals with ethical issues associated with the design, use, and propagation of technology. At virtually all stages of development and use, any technology can carry with it ethical dilemmas for both creators and users. Of particular interest is how such dilemmas are resolved (or complicated) according to how effectively they are communicated to stakeholders.

Through exploring present-day and historical case studies that focus on issues related to such topics as the environment, research and development, safety, corporate responsibility and whistle blowing, students will analyze and practice various forms of scientific and technical communication.

Assignments will include letters and memos, critical reviews, oral presentations, and proposals. The course will also address strategies for conveying technical information to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to write clearly and concisely on technical matters and be more self-sufficient at all stages of the writing process, from drafting to revising to editing.


Using someone else’s language and/or ideas without proper attribution is academically dishonest. As members of this class and the larger scholarly community, you are expected to abide by the norms of academic honesty. While a good deal of collaboration is encouraged in and out of class, failing to acknowledge sources or willfully misrepresenting the work of others as your own will not be tolerated. Everything you submit must be your own work, written specifically for this class. Plagiarism can result in withdrawal from the course with a grade of F, suspension or expulsion from the Institute.

The booklet Academic Integrity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: A Handbook for Students explains these issues in detail, and you are responsible for understanding its contents. We will work on citing sources in class and discuss ways to acknowledge them properly. When in doubt, consult with me.

Major Assignments

Formal Paper 1: Definition Paper 3 pp. 10% Ses #7
Formal Paper 2: Critical Review 5 pp. 10% Ses #12
Formal Paper 3: Literature Review 5-7 pp. 10% Ses #19
Formal Paper 4: Proposal 8-10 pp. 20% Ses #25

10% Ses #24, #25


Your grade will be based on the following:

Punctuality, Attendance, and Participation 20%
Short Assignments 20%
Four Formal Papers 50%
Debate 10%

Punctuality, Attendance, and Participation

  • You are expected to come prepared, on time and to every class.
  • You are expected to take responsibility for any necessary lateness or absences by notifying me in advance and finding out what was covered in the class that you missed.
  • You are expected to contribute constructively to class discussions.
  • Arriving for class significantly late will count as an absence.
  • More than two unexcused absences will result in a lowering of your grade. Five unexcused absences will result in your being withdrawn from the course.

Short Assignments

  • Grades will be checks, with pluses and minuses.
  • No late assignments will be accepted unless arranged in advance.

Four Formal Papers

  • All formal papers will require revisions.
  • No late papers will be accepted unless arranged in advance.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples