Purpose: The Description/Definition document describes a piece of equipment, and the likely potential problems in using the equipment. For our purposes, the phrase “a piece of equipment” can mean just about anything (more on that in just a moment … bear with me).
The subject matter of your Description/Definition document depends upon your own interests, work experience, and chosen profession. As a student learning to write professionally for the workplace, you will choose your own topic. That said, here’s an example of a situation that lends itself to the Description/Definition document.
What follows is an example of a subject. It’s not the required subject.
Let’s imagine that someone—we can call her Jennifer Smith—manages several morning newspaper delivery warehouses. By the way, the situation below is very much real life, as Jennifer (not her real name) is a former student of mine.
Jennifer’s job is to oversee the following:
1. Communication with the several truck drivers who deliver thousands of morning newspapers to each of the warehouses in Jennifer’s district. She would need to know about late delivery to the warehouse, traffic and weather problems, etc.
2. The supervision of the employees who open up the warehouse early each morning to greet the neighborhood delivery people, who arrive to gather the newspapers for their specific delivery routes.
3. The delivery, in the later morning, of newspapers to customers who did not receive their morning paper. These “late service” deliveries are carried out by the employees, introduced in section 2, who open up the warehouse and greet the neighborhood delivery people.
Here’s where a product comes in: software developed by the newspaper. This software keeps track of the following addresses:
? New daily customers who receive a morning paper every morning
? New weekend customers who receive papers only on the weekend
? Customers who have declined to renew their subscription and therefore request that delivery cease
? Customers who are on vacation and thereby request that delivery cease until they return on a specific date from vacation.
The software program is operated by Jennifer’s various assistants, who are actually in each of the individual newspaper warehouses (Jennifer is the next step up in the hierarchy, and therefore responsible for many warehouses). The software finds the delivery status and addresses of all customers; it also tracks down addresses for new customers.
Additionally, the software has security functions that prevent prying eyes from using the software to find out where people live, to find out the status of their subscription, to find when the customer is on vacation, etc., etc. Privacy is a huge issue with software and the Internet, of course, so such a privacy feature is increasingly common.
Now, our friend Jennifer Smith must write a Definition/Description document that defines the major functions of the software and describes the software’s functions and commands. The goal is, of course, to “empower” (hey, there’s a workplace managerial cliché!) each of her warehouse managers to use the software. In other words, the warehouse managers are her target audience.
Can Jennifer assume that all of her underlings really know how to operate a computer and log in to the Internet to access the correct company website? Of course not. Therefore, Jennifer must decide what background computer operation information to include in her document, even as she recognizes that her primary focus is upon the software itself.
Okay, so far so good.
What seems like a simple task is complicated by audience considerations, as the example above demonstrates. We can quickly see what some inherent problems might be in the use of this software, especially for people who aren’t familiar or comfortable using computers or task-specific software. Additionally, we can see that the necessary privacy feature can lead to all kinds of problems; for instance, these features are often turned on or off accidentally, thereby letting the wrong people in or keeping the right people out.
Now, with that example, let’s turn to your own topics and map out our upcoming tasks: 1. On (or before) Friday, September 9, 2016, send to me the following:
a. Your topic for the description/definition document … the product you’ll define & describe, in other words.
b. The potential problems that new users might have using the product. In other words: what problems might “newbies” be expected to have? After all, when we don’t know much about any task, we often make mistakes.
c. Audience considerations. Specifically, how much knowledge can you assume your audience has? Why? Furthermore, how much background knowledge do you anticipate providing in addition to the primary emphasis of the document? Recall that Jennifer’s primary task is to write about the newspaper software program, but she must provide background information to some members of her audience. This part of the assignment requires that we put ourselves in your audience’s shoes.
Required length of this assignment: 200 – 300 words, roughly speaking. Remember: you’re just giving me an overview, not the document itself.