SUMMER QUARTER 2003 -- Information and Computer Science -- UC Irvine

ICS 139W Course Reference



Instructor: David G. Kay, 406B Computer Science (

Teaching assistant: Dhawal Shah ( Dhawal will devote some of the scheduled lab section time to individual consultations; he will also be available at other scheduled times to be arranged, and by appointment.

Course goals: Even if you intend to spend your entire professional life designing software or configuring networks, you will spend more of it writing prose--memos, proposals, documentation, electronic mail--than you will writing code. Yet in most of your courses, you exercise this vital skill only after you have run the last test case, in the half-hour before the deadline. Here we have the luxury of concentrating on your writing skills, with an emphasis on writing to meet the specific needs of different audiences; you will also make oral presentations and design presentation graphics.

This course satisfies UCI's upper division writing requirement, which gives students the opportunity to do writing in ways that are specific to their own academic disciplines, guided by faculty from that discipline rather than from English.

Prerequisite concepts: Satisfaction of the lower division writing requirement is a prerequisite for this course, so we will expect every student to be able to write cogent, grammatical English at the level expected in Writing 39C.

Meeting place and times: Lecture meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 3:50 in Computer Science 180. The discussion section meets Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 to 2:50 in CS 180; some section days will involve required activities, but others will be set aside for individual consultations on your work.

Office hours: I will be in or near my office during these scheduled hours, during which course-related matters will have first priority: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:15 to 12:55. Of course emergencies may come up, but I will try to give advance notice of any change. If I'm not immersed in something else, I'll be glad to answer short questions whenever I'm in my office, so feel free to drop by any time. I'll also be happy to make appointments for other times during the week. The quickest and most effective way to reach me is by electronic mail, as described below.

Questions and announcements: You can usually get a response to your course-related questions within a few hours (though a bit less frequently on the weekends) by sending electronic mail to the ID This goes to both of us, and whoever reads it first can respond. If you need to reach one of us individually, our individual addresses are listed above.

We may also send course announcements by Email to the official course mailing list, so you should check your Email regularly. Note that this mailing list goes to the Email address that the registrar has for you (your UCInet ID). If you prefer to read your Email on another account, you should set your UCInet account to forward your Email to your preferred account (from you can do this on the web). Don't let this slide; if you miss official announcements, your grade could suffer.

This course has a home page at (which you can reach more mnemonically from, the instructor's home page); holds an archive of official course Email; and a course Note Board for student-to-student discussions is available when you log on to . We don't use a news group for this course.

Course materials:The MIT Guide to Science and Engineering Communication, second edition, by James Paradis and Muriel Zimmerman. This brief guide describes the various forms of scientific and technical writing, including sections on oral presentations and document design.
Visual & Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making, by Edward R. Tufte. This reprint of Chapter 2 of Tufte's book, Visual Explanations, describes two situations where the way information was presented had life-or-death consequences.

An English dictionary. Ideally you should have a paperback dictionary as well as a large, unabridged dictionary in the place where you'll do most of your writing. The former has faster access time but the latter has greater capacity, so both are valuable. A paperback thesaurus is also useful, though you should remember that a thesaurus doesn't give the connotations or appropriate contexts for the synonyms it lists.

Writing from A to Z (currently in the third edition) by Ebest, Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu. This is the writing reference for lower division writing at UCI. Everyone needs a general writing reference, and you should get this one if you don't have it or an equivalent. Earlier editions are fine.

Course requirements and grading: To satisfy the upper division writing requirement, you must receive a grade of C or better in this course; you may also take this class on a pass/not-pass basis (which also requires work at the C level to pass). In addition to satisfactory participation and completion of the assignments, to pass 139W you must successfully complete an in-class writing sample (described in more detail in the following section) demonstrating your ability to write a short passage in clear, correct, grammatical, cogent academic English.

* Four main writing assignments, each with multiple parts: "Writing Instructions" (about 10% of the course grade), "Influencing Policy" (about 20%), "Changing the System Introductory Tutorial" (about 15%), "Changing the System Proposal" (about 25%).

* Two or three smaller exercises, each worth about 5%.

* Class attendance and participation, including three or four oral presentations, worth about 20% overall. The importance of participation in this course is clear from its weight. Much of the learning comes from activities we conduct in class; there is no other way to make them up, and your grade will suffer if you miss them. The course outline indicates certain activities with a bullet (*); it is particularly important that you attend class or lab on those dates.

In general we will assign scores on a 100-point scale, with 95 a clear A, 85 a clear B, and below 70 not of passing quality (i.e., below C). It is possible but not guaranteed that the cutoffs for course letter grades of A and B will be assigned more leniently; that is, an overall score of 89% might receive an A or A-.

There will be no exams.

In-class writing sample: The first in-class writing sample is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24; if you don't pass the first sample, you will have another chance on Thursday, June 26. The topic for each sample will be something designed to be easy to write about, so you can concentrate on your writing rather than the underlying ideas. In the 80-minute class period, we will ask you to write roughly 300 words (for comparison, this page contains nearly 600 words); this should give you plenty of time to revise and rewrite your passage. To pass, your writing must have essentially perfect mechanics, grammar, and usage, and it must be reasonably clear and well organized. You may bring a dictionary or any other reference works. Being able to produce clear and correct writing is a requirement for completing lower division writing, so we expect everyone in the class to be able to demonstrate this ability.

Computer access: Students in ICS 139W have access to the ICS open labs. These machines run Windows and the Microsoft Office suite of software, including Word and PowerPoint. For this course you may use any system to which you legitimately have access; we will require that you learn and use PowerPoint for part of one assignment.

Assignment requirements: The separate sheet titled "Writing Assignment Requirements" contains important advice that can affect your grade. Read it now and check it again every time you start a new assignment. There are also mechanical details for submitting assignments; each major assignment is submitted in two ways: on paper (including all the previously submitted, marked versions) and electronically via Especially in a condensed summer session, it's important that every assignment be precisely where it's supposed to be at the time it's supposed to be there.

What you must do right now to get started in ICS 139W:
-- If you do not have a UCInet ID (an account on the EA system for Email), get one. See
-- If you prefer to read your electronic mail on an account other than your UCInet account, redirect your mail at
-- Give a snapshot of yourself (with your name written on the back) to your TA. This will help us learn your names quickly. (This is not just for fun--it's a course requirement.) Also turn in your signed Questionnaire to your TA in discussion section.
-- On the Web, go to, log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" for "Summer 1 2003," click "Go" next to ICS 139W, and then click "List me for this course." You'll submit some of your work electronically; this step is necessary to set that up.
-- If you aren't yet officially enrolled in the course, check the course Email archive regularly (see above) so you can keep up with official announcements (which may include announcements about enrollment).

Good advice and helpful hints:

Check your electronic mail regularly; this is an official channel for course announcements.

Attendance in class is important (and essential on the days marked with a bullet (*) in the outline below). Class participation of various kinds is rewarded at 20% of the course grade.

Always keep your own copy of each assignment, both electronically and on paper; if an assignment should get lost in the shuffle (or if a file server in the lab should crash, which has happened in the past), we'll expect you to be able to supply a replacement easily.

If you find yourself having trouble or getting behind, speak with a TA or the instructor. But never take the shortcut of copying someone else's work and turning it in; the consequences can be far worse than just a low score on one assignment. The ICS department takes academic honesty very seriously; for a more complete discussion, see the ICS departmental web page covering academic honesty issues:

The best advice we can give you is to read all the materials with care and pay close attention to what they specify. Even if a natural language like English is not quite as precise as a formal language like Java, precise expression in English is precisely what this course is about and we have tried to reflect that in our course materials. The time it takes to read each assignment twice will be time well spent.

Approximate course outline:


Item(s) Due [see notes below]


24 June
Introduction to the course
* In-class writing sample I

25 June (section)
Consultation on "Changing System" topics and "Writing Instructions"
"Changing System" Email to Dhawal Shah

26 June
Oral presentation techniques
* Using other people's writing 
* In-class writing sample II (if necessary)

"Writing Instructions" (draft, 3 copies)*

27 June (section)
Consultation hour


1 July
* Oral synopsis of system changes 
* Group editing of letter influencing policy

"Changing System" synopsis (oral)
"Influencing Policy" (draft)*
"Writing Instructions" (final)

2 July (section)
* Group editing of introductory tutorials
"Changing System" intro (draft)*

3 July
Effective typography and presentation graphics [specimen]
"Influencing Policy" (revised)

4 July (section)
-- Holiday --


8 July
* Oral tutorial introduction to system (videotaped)
"Changing System" intro (final)
"Changing System" intro (oral)

9 July (section)
* Group editing of change proposals
"Changing System" proposal (draft with slides)*

10 July
Information visualization
Case studies on effective writing
Résumés and cover letters

"Changing System" proposal (revised with slides)

11 July (section)
* Review of videotapes


15 July
Nature and structure of language
"Influencing Policy" (final)

16 July (section)
* Review of videotapes (continued)
* Testing of PowerPoint files

Graphics Activity

17 July
* Oral proposal of change to decision-makers
"Changing System" proposal (oral)

18 July (section)
Consultation hour


22 July
* Oral proposals (continued)
"Changing System" proposal (final)

23 July (section)
* Group editing of promotion pieces  or résumés and cover letters
"Changing System" promo or résumé/cover letter (draft)*

24 July
* Oral promotion of change to users

"Changing System" promo (oral)

25 July (section)

"Changing System" promo or résumé/cover (final)

All assignments listed above must be submitted in two ways (on paper at the start of class and via Checkmate), as described on the previous page, with these exceptions:

* Of course the Email message listed above should not be submitted any other way.

* The assignments marked "oral" do not entail any other submission (though most of them have related parts that do have to be submitted in multiple ways; those parts are all listed separately).

* The assignments marked with an asterisk (*) should be submitted in class on paper only; they do not have to be submitted electronically.

David G. Kay, 406B Computer Science
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425 -- (949) 824-5072 -- Fax (949) 824-4056 -- Email

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 -- 7:11 PM