21W.794 | January IAP 2019 | Graduate

Graduate Technical Writing Workshop

Syllabus and Calendar

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT that runs from the first week of January until the beginning of February.


The permission of the instructor(s).

Course Description

Writing as a graduate student in an engineering discipline requires you to integrate information from a number of different knowledge domains—knowledge about genres (e.g. proposals, reports, technical memos, theses, journal articles), about rhetorical situations, audience expectations, and persuasion, about professional writing processes, and about the discourse and content of your field. In this class, we will cover communication concepts, tools, and strategies that can help you understand how engineering texts work, and how you can make your texts work more effectively.


  • Literature review of recent research
  • Oral presentation of a genre analysis

For more detail, see the Assignments section.

Additional Course Requirements

In addition to the literature review and the oral presentation, you are also required to attend and participate in class activities and discussions, and to peer review your fellow students’ drafts. No more than two absences are allowed.


The instructors will distribute criteria for the peer review, the draft of the literature review, and the oral presentation. These assignments will be assessed as either meeting or not meeting the criteria, but will not receive letter grades. Completion of these assignments in accordance with the criteria is required to pass the class. The grade for the class will be determined by the quality of the revised literature review.

Policy on Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the foundation of all scholarship, because being able to trace how our ideas have developed in relation to other people’s theories, research, and evidence, as well as our own, is what ensures the soundness of our research. Thus university communities have a collective investment in ensuring that the practices of academic integrity are thoroughly learned and carefully practiced. In this subject, we’ll study many features of academic argument that will help you to understand how scholars make use of sources, and distinguish their own ideas from those of other scholars. You’ll learn to read sources carefully, to assess their validity and usefulness to your own thinking, and to manage information professionally. You will also learn the mechanics of source use: how to accurately quote, paraphrase, and cite sources according to one of the common systems of citation.

As members of this class and the larger scholarly community you are expected to abide by the norms of academic integrity. Everything you submit must be your own work, written specifically for this class. While a good deal of collaboration is encouraged in and out of class, all sources—of ideas as well as words and images, whether from a friend, a text, or the internet—must be acknowledged according to the conventions of academic citation. These requirements hold for oral presentations as well as for written documents. Willful disregard for these conventions—i.e., plagiarism—can result in withdrawal from the course with a grade of F, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Institute. For more information about policies and practices, please refer to Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students.

Writing and Communication Center

Both as a student in this class, and at any point during your time at MIT, you may want to take advantage of the Writing and Communication Center, which offers free one-on-one professional advice from lecturers who are published writers about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing and about all aspects of oral presentations.


Week One
1 Genre; rhetorical situations; abstracts; stasis theory  
2 Information management; academic integrity and the use of sources; paraphrasing  
Week Two
3 Synthesizing and structuring information; discourse analysis  
4 Genre analysis; rhetorical moves; metadiscourse Draft of literature review due at end of week; email copies to members of your peer group
Week Three
5 Peer review of literature review drafts; concision and coherence; presenting  
Week Four
6 Presentation of genre analysis  
7 Presentation of genre analysis Revision of literature review due
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments