Course syllabus

COMMS 200: Writing in the Workplace

SEMESTER 1, 2019



Stephen Turner

Social Science building, rm 538 (201E-538)


Office hour:

Tuesday 12-1, or by appointment



Susanna Collinson

office hour: Friday, 1-2pm Social Science building, rm 528 (201E-538)



Thursday 10-12, Old Government House, lecture theatre G36 (102-G36)


Class representative:

Bethany Skyrme


Facebook page  Link



See Student Services Online


Course description:

Addresses written communication in the workplace across a range of discourses, environments, strategies and audiences. Focusing on different kinds of writing used in contexts such as government, community organisations, consultancy, professions, NGOs and private business, students will analyse and produce key workplace text-types within a critical framework of workplace analysis and scholarship on labour and organisations.

By the end of this course students will have developed the ability to distinguish between the main types of workplace writing and to determine their mode, function and role in workplace operations; to produce effective, appropriate and strategic writing across key workplace text-types; to relate the type and function of texts to the contexts of different kinds of work environments; to relate workplace writing to the aims and goals of different kinds of organisations; and will be able to understand the relation of writing and workplace, including the ability to reflect on writing as part of the work. 


Learning aims:

By the end of this course students will have developed:

  • the ability to produce effective and appropriate writing in the form of key modes of workplace text modes;
  • the ability to distinguish between the main types of workplace writing and to determine their mode, function and role in workplace operations;
  • the ability to analyse a workplace problem or situation, and to construct a case study by way of critical review;
  • the ability to work collaboratively in teams to complete a group project;
  • familiarity with common presentation tools, and understanding of their use and effects;
  • the ability to present material, and to communicate in person, with authority;
  • an understanding of the relation of writing and workplace, including the ability to reflect on writing as part of the work operation that it facilitates.


How we proceed:

The course is focused on the development of practical writing skills and their application to workplace communication and design, considered in the context of different kinds of organisation. Each week will involve discussion and analysis of workplace texts, media and writing activity, including presentation on weekly topics by guest lecturers, and critical reflection on organisational communication.

The separate one-hour tutorials are focussed on developing writing skills.

Note: Students are expected to average 10 hours of work (3 hours in class and 7 hours of preparation and independent study) per week for each 15 point paper they are enrolled in.


Prescribed text:

Sky Marsen, Professional Writing, 3rd edition (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, Hampshire: New York, 2013)


Recommended texts:

John DiMarco, Communication, Writing and Design (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).

Kristina Halvorson, Melissa Rach, Sarah Cancilla, Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd ed., (Berkeley, CA.: New Riders, 2012).

Jenny Buxton, Susan Carter and Sean Sturm, Punc Rocks (Pearson: Auckland, 2012)



write@uni [academic writing]

OWL Purdue Online Writing [writing rules]

Texas A and M University Writing Centre [writing and presentation]


Weekly topics:

 *Further readings and materials will be announced prior to each week’s class, and posted on Canvas (under weekly ‘modules’).

Week 1 (March 7): Introduction to the course

See Matt Abrahams, ‘Think fast, talk smart’ (Ted talks)


Read Marsen, pp.1-23

Read DiMarco, pp.1-7.

See Helvetica, dir. Gary Hustwitt (2007)


Week 2 (March 14): Persuasive writing

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.24-50



Week 3 (March 21): Public relations   

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.135-162



Week 4 (March 28): Writing tools

With Evija Trofimova, CLeaR (Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education) UoA

Read Rachel Syme, ‘Gmail Smart Replies and the Ever-growing Pressure to E-mail like a Machine’, The New Yorker (November 28. 2018)

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.235-267


ASSIGNMENT DUE: Text-modes #1 (2 x 250) 20%

Hand in to Arts Student Centre, Friday, March 29, by 3.00                      


Week 5 (April 4): Content strategy and data analytics

With Jonathan Burgess (Faculty of Arts, Marketing, UoA

Read ‘Hail the Maintainers’, Aeon (7 April, 2016)



Week 6 (April 11):

What work wants 

With Sarah Moyne, Career Development and Employability Services (CDES), UoA  

Marsen, pp.267-282

See [how to write a cover letter] letter]                             


ASSIGNMENT DUE: Text-modes #2 (250 + 450 words) 20%

Hand in to Arts Student Centre, Friday, April 12, by 3.00                     



MID-SEMESTER BREAK Monday, April 15 — Saturday, April 27



Week 7 (May 2): Document design With Susanna Collinson

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.98-134


Week 8 (May 9): Creativity and critical thinking

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.202-21


Week 9 (May 16): Doing research 

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.76-98


ASSIGNMENT DUE: Content design (750 words) 30%

Hand in to Arts Student Centre, Monday, May 20, by 3.00


Week 10 (May 23): Teamwork and presentation

Tutorial: read Marsen, pp.218-234                     


Week 11 (May 30): Groupwork                


Week 12 (June 6):   Groupwork


Weeks 12 Group presentations in tutorials (= 10% of group report)


ASSIGNMENT DUE: group research project (3000 words altogether) 30% (includes self-evaluation and group presentation)

Hand in to Arts Student Centre, Friday, June 14, by 3.00



Text modes #1 250 words each (500 words total) 2 x 10% = 20%

Due: Friday, March 29, by 3.00 pm, hand in to Arts student centre


Text modes #2 250 + 450 words  (700 words total) 2 x 10% = 20%

Due: Friday, April 12, by 3.00 pm, hand in to Arts student centre


Content design (750 words) 30%                                         

Due: Monday, May 20, by 3.00 pm, hand in to Arts student centre


Group report (3000 words altogether) 30%

Due: Friday, June14 , by 3.00 pm, hand in to Arts student centre

= (1) research project 10% (2500 words)

   (2) self-evaluation 10% (250 words)

   (hand in separately to Arts student centre with cover sheet)

   (3) group presentation 10% (equivalent to 250 words, completed in weeks 12 of tutorials)


Detailed instruction and criteria for each assignment will be provided during the course.



All coursework should be submitted through Canvas-turnitin under the relevant  assignment. You cannot submit assignments to a GTA or lecturer. Failure to present your coursework appropriately will lose you marks. Assignments not submitted to Turnitin via Canvas by the deadline will not be given a mark and will not count towards your final grade.



All cases of plagiarism will be brought before a Disciplinary Committee. Plagiarism is committed when you fail to indicate clearly your use of other people’s ideas, facts, research, information, etc. Learning the conventions of citing source material is an important academic skill that enables you to use other people’s ideas to support your own argument, or use them as a base from which to pitch your own counter-argument.

By submitting your coursework electronically, you are effectively declaring that your work is not plagiarized. Plagiarism is failure to properly and clearly acknowledge those words or ideas within your own work that are not your own. Plagiarism is regarded as a serious form of cheating and will result in a deduction of marks and possibly even a mark of zero for the assignment.

The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting his or her learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the world-wide web.

Note: Turnitin is the plagiarism software. It will not only pick up all cases of plagiarism in your paper, but it will also pick up sentences and paragraphs that you may have used in your own previous work. Please avoid repeating your arguments in the same words.



Extensions must be personally negotiated with your instructor at least two days before the assignment is due. Extensions must be registered with the course convenor, preferably in person and confirmed by email.

Once you submit, you will need to place a note with your work, which specifies the date the extension was granted, the new submission date and who granted the extension.


Aegrotat and compassionate consideration:

Information regarding the granting of aegrotat pass or compassionate consideration of grades is contained in the University Calendar under ‘Examination Regulations’. Applications are not usually granted unless the student has completed all pieces of coursework and passed them with a C+ or higher. You must contact the Examinations Office (not the FTVMS Department) if you need to apply for an aegrotat pass.


Academic support services:

UoA provides a range of resources to support students towards achieving their academic potential. These resources are not restricted to assisting students who are encountering difficulties in their studies. To access information about the range of academic and learning support services at the University, please visit: and-services/csacademic-and-learning-support

Student Learning Centre web site:
ELE (English Language Enrichment) website:



Course summary:

Date Details