Courses

For information on when the following courses are being offered, check the USC Schedule of Classes.

Writ 340: Advanced Communication for Engineers

Junior- and senior-level undergraduate students in all engineering disciplines are required to take WRIT 340: Advanced Writing Communication for Engineers as part of their curriculum. In this course, emphasis is placed on writing articles and reports, giving oral presentations, and learning to present data in drawings and graphs. In their final semester project, students undertake a consulting project for a local non-profit organization. Organizations ranging from homeless shelters to elementary schools, churches to youth centers, mental health facilities to environmental advocacy groups have participated in this project-based service learning program. Over the years students have helped reconfigure computer labs, found ways to make buildings accessible to the handicapped, designed playgrounds, and analyzed security and database needs, among many, many other tasks.
Sample syllabus

ENGR 501x: Technical Writing and Communication for Graduate Students in Engineering and Science

Technical Writing and Communication for Engineering and Science Graduate Students is designed to help graduate students learn the communication methods that will make their material most effective, and acquire the communication skills necessary to their professions. Lectures, workshops and guest speakers help graduate students master the forms of writing and speaking their academic programs and professional communities require, such as journal articles, dissertations, conference papers and presentations, proposals, reports, and professional conventions.

ENGR 502x: Writing Skills for Engineering Ph.D. Students

This course is designed to help graduate students in engineering and science with their course-specific writing tasks. Students will meet one-on-one with the instructor to complete at least one journal article, conference paper, proposal, etc., make progress on their dissertation, and/or any other agreed-upon projects. You’ll also learn the standard components of advanced writing tasks, including abstracts, literature reviews, CVs, proposals, critiques, and more.

ENGR 503x: Oral Communication Skills for Engineering Ph.D. Students

Oral communication skills are vital in the formal and informal tasks of engineering practice. This course is designed to help graduate students with their academic and professional oral presentation skills. Particular attention will be paid to preparation for qualifying exams and conference paper presentations. Use of visual aids will also be covered.

ENGR 504x: Fellowship Proposal Writing for Engineering Ph.D. Students

Preparation of essays and other materials for research fellowship applications. CR/NC.

ENGR 499 Social Media for Scientists and Engineers

This course is an introduction to the various ways in which social media, science, and engineering are intersecting in a compelling manner. New technologies and online communities are changing the ways that scientists and engineers are engaging one another (inreach) and general audiences (outreach). Through a series of case studies, students examine issue-based examples that address the complexities surrounding ethics, privacy, reputation management, ownership, and the law. Assignments, including weekly discussion board posts, focus on the development and understanding of appropriate social media use for personal and professional development. Distinguished guest lecturers provide additional insights from their experiences as practitioners of the topics presented.

ENGR 595a Professional Writing and Communication for Internships

This course focuses on writing and communication skills for master’s students pursuing a professional internship.

Grading Rubrics

CONTENT
Outstanding (A range):
  • The topic is valuable and relevant; the paper makes a significant contribution to the audience’s knowledge; the writer distinguishes between a thesis-driven paper and an information-driven paper; in a thesis-driven paper, the thesis is clear, original, and insightful; regarding the subject, the author shows sophistication and significant depth of understanding.
  • The analysis fully supports the paper’s purpose and conclusion; the reasoning is complex and compelling; the writer’s ideas are thought-provoking and fully developed; the writer’s ideas are explicitly and thoroughly connected to the writer’s thesis; the writer engages in a sophisticated exploration of the issues; the writer’s reasoning is clear and compelling.
  • The support for the overall argument (topic + analysis) is compelling; the writer uses extremely well-chosen materials; the writer understands the distinction between primary and secondary source material and employs a combination of sources fully appropriate for the writing task; the writer employs source material fully appropriate for the writer’s discipline; the writer employs source material fully appropriate for the writer’s audience; the evidence for the writer’s ideas is clear and compelling.
  • Visual content adds significant value to the paper; visual content significantly enhances meaning; visual content is used in a sophisticated and compelling way; visual content supports the paper’s purpose and moves forward the paper’s ideas; all visuals are clearly referred to within the text.
Strong (B range):
  • The topic is valuable and relevant; the paper makes a strong contribution to the audience’s knowledge; the writer distinguishes between a thesis-driven paper and an information-driven paper; in a thesis-driven paper, the thesis is clear; the author shows thorough understanding of the subject.
  • The analysis fully supports the paper’s purpose and conclusion; the reasoning is clear and articulate, occasionally compelling; the analysis is thoughtful and generally well-developed; the writer’s ideas are generally connected to the writer’s thesis; the writer exhibits some depth and complexity regarding the issues; the writer’s reasoning is generally convincing.
  • The support for the overall argument (topic + analysis) is effective; the writer uses well-chosen materials; the writer understands the distinction between primary and secondary source material and employs a combination of sources generally appropriate for the writing task; the writer employs source material tailored to the writer’s discipline; the writer employs source material generally appropriate for the writer’s audience; the evidence for the writer’s ideas is consistent and reliable.
  • Visual content is valuable and relevant; visual content is used consistently and reliably to provide meaning; visual content supports the paper’s purpose and ideas; all visuals are clearly referred to within the text.
Adequate (C range):
  • The topic is valuable and relevant; the paper makes some contribution to the audience’s knowledge; the writer distinguishes between a thesis-driven paper and an information-driven paper; in a thesis-driven paper, the thesis is clear; the writer exhibits competence regarding the subject.
  • The analysis adequately supports the paper’s purpose and conclusion; the writer’s ideas are generally connected to the writer’s thesis but may not be fully or consistently developed; the writer exhibits a competent understanding of the issues; the writer’s reasoning is clear and thoughtful.
  • The support for the overall argument (topic + analysis) is adequate; the writer’s source materials are credible but not comprehensive; the writer’s use of source materials is reasonable for the writer’s discipline, audience, and task, but may not be fully consistent or thorough; the evidence for the writer’s ideas is sufficient.
  • Visual content is valuable and relevant; visual content is used with some consistency; all visuals are referred to within the text.
Poor (D range):
  • The topic is not valuable and not relevant; the paper makes little to no contribution to the audience’s knowledge; the writer does not distinguish clearly between a thesis-driven paper and an information-driven paper; in a thesis-driven paper, the thesis may be unclear, derivative, or simplistic; the writer shows limited understanding of the subject.
  • The analysis does not support the paper’s purpose and conclusion; the writer’s ideas are not adequately connected to her or his thesis; the writer exhibits only a rudimentary understanding of the issues; the writer’s reasoning is flawed or unconvincing.
  • The support for the overall argument (topic + analysis) is ineffective; the source materials are inadequate for the writing task, the writer’s discipline, or the writer’s audience; the evidence for the writer’s ideas is insufficient or unconvincing.
  • Visual content is ineffective, irrelevant, or inconsistent; visuals not referred to within the text.
Inadequate (F range):
  • The topic is not valuable and not relevant; the topic may be impossible to discern; the paper makes little to no contribution to the audience’s knowledge; in a thesis-driven paper, the thesis is unclear or absent; the writer shows significantly limited understanding of the subject.
  • The analysis does not support the paper’s purpose or conclusion; the writer’s ideas are not comprehensible; the writer exhibits little to no understanding of the issues; the writer’s reasoning is significantly flawed, unconvincing, or incomplete.
  • The support for the overall argument (topic + analysis) is severely lacking; the writer uses inappropriate source materials or none at all; the source materials are not integrated into a coherent whole; the evidence for the writer’s ideas is insufficient or absent.
  • Visual content is ineffective, irrelevant, inconsistent, or absent; visuals not referred to within the text.
ORGANIZATION
Outstanding (A range):
  • The paper exhibits a strong and overt organizing principle; the writer has clearly designed the paper’s structure to further the paper’s purpose and meaning.
  • Paragraph structure, length, and sequence are flawlessly designed to further the paper’s purpose and meaning; paragraphs strongly contribute to making the writer’s ideas and information readily accessible to the reader.
  • Key ideas are consistently clear and accessible. The supporting text is consistently organized around those key ideas and located optimally to develop those key ideas.
  • Sentences are presented in optimal order.
  • Introductions, conclusions, point sentences, and transitions consistently provide continuity and facilitate a reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
Strong (B range):
  • The paper exhibits a strong and overt organizing principle; the paper’s structure generally furthers its purpose and meaning.
  • Paragraph structure, length, and sequence generally function to further the paper’s purpose and meaning; paragraphs contribute to making the writer’s ideas and information accessible to the reader.
  • Key ideas are clear and accessible. The supporting text is organized around those key ideas and the location of the supporting text furthers the development of those ideas.
  • Sentences are sequenced to further meaning.
  • Introductions, conclusions, point sentences, and transitions generally provide continuity and facilitate a reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
Adequate (C range):
  • The paper has a discernible organizing principle; the paper’s structure does not hinder the paper’s purpose and meaning.
  • Paragraph structure, length, and sequence are adequate to the writing task; paragraphs do not hinder the reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
  • Key ideas are generally clear and accessible. The supporting text is generally organized around those key ideas, with only occasional exceptions, and the location of the supporting text generally furthers and does not often hinder the development of those ideas.
  • Sentences are presented in adequate order.
  • Introductions, conclusions, point sentences, and transitions provide continuity and facilitate a reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information most of the time with only the occasional exception.
Poor (D range):
  • The paper does not have an adequate organizing principle; the paper’s structure detracts from the paper’s purpose and meaning; the paper’s structure makes it difficult for a reader to understand the writer’s ideas and information.
  • Paragraph structure, length, and sequence are flawed.
  • Key ideas are not generally clear and accessible. If they are there at all, they are not located so that readers can consistently find them. The supporting text is not organized around the key ideas and its location seems occasionally haphazard.
  • Sentence sequences do not entirely make sense.
  • Introductions, conclusions, point sentences, and transitions do not provide continuity and do not facilitate a reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
Inadequate (F range):
  • The paper does not have a discernible organizing principle; the paper’s structure significantly detracts from the paper’s purpose and meaning; the paper’s structure interferes with the reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
  • Paragraph structure, length, and sequence are significantly flawed.
  • Key ideas are absent, unclear, or inaccessible. Readers find it very difficult to find them. Any supporting text seems disconnected from key ideas and haphazardly located.
  • Sentence order seems haphazard.
  • Introductions, conclusions, point sentences, and transitions are absent or interfere with the reader’s access to the writer’s ideas and information.
ACCESSIBILITY
Outstanding (A range):
  • Syntax elevates the value and relevance of the topic and effectiveness of the subsequent analysis and support within its intended context.
  • Editing errors are virtually non-existent, thereby easing comprehension.
  • Layout is robust and provides heightened navigation of the text; balance, alignment, and grouping are dynamic and give a distinct sense of order on the page; visuals are strategically placed near the text they augment.
  • Formatting purposefully enhances the organizational elements; titles, headings and subheadings, bullets and lists, and typographical devices are dynamic; visuals are distinctly labeled and include figure number, figure name or title, source, and description.
Strong (B range):
  • Syntax reinforces the value and relevance of the topic and effectiveness of the subsequent analysis and support within its intended context.
  • Editing errors are infrequent and often inconsequential to comprehension.
  • Layout is potent and facilitates navigation of the text. Balance, alignment, and grouping are active and give a clear sense of order on the page. Visuals are deliberately placed near the text they augment.
  • Formatting enhances the organizational elements; titles, headings and subheadings, bullets and lists, and typographical devices are definite; visuals are clearly labeled and include figure number, figure name or title, source, and description.
Adequate (C range):
  • Syntax is appropriate for the topic and the subsequent analysis and support within its intended context.
  • Editing errors are present though they detract little from comprehension.
  • Layout is sound and navigation of the text is practicable. Balance, alignment, and grouping are apparent, though there is no distinct sense of order on the page. Visuals are placed near the text they augment.
  • Formatting aides the organizational elements; titles, headings and subheadings, bullets and lists, and typographical devices are apparent; visuals are labeled and include figure number, figure name or title, source, and description, though perhaps in a limited fashion.
Poor (D range):
  • Syntax is intended to be appropriate for both the topic and the subsequent analysis and support. Intended context may still be complete and discernable.
  • Editing errors are numerous and detract from comprehension.
  • Layout is intended to be sound, yet impedes navigation of the text. Balance, alignment, and grouping are inconsistent; there is limited order on the page. Visuals are inconsistently placed near the text they augment.
  • Formatting is intended to aid the organizational elements; titles, headings and subheadings, bullets and lists, and typographical devices are inconsistent; visuals are incompletely labeled with figure number, figure name or title, source, and description.
Inadequate (F range):
  • Syntax detracts from or is inappropriate to both the topic and the subsequent analysis and support. Intended context is ambiguous or incomplete.
  • Editing errors are numerous and persistent and interfere with comprehension.
  • Layout is weak, perhaps indiscernible; balance, alignment, and grouping are unordered; navigation of the text is restricted. Visuals are haphazardly placed in the text, if present at all.
  • Formatting inhibits the organizational elements; titles, headings and subheadings, bullets and lists, and typographical devices are limited, if present; visuals are improperly labeled, if at all, or are not present.
CONTENT
Outstanding (A range):
  • The subject is valuable and relevant; the talk makes a significant contribution to the audience’s knowledge.
  • The purpose is clear and responds to audience’s expectations, goals, knowledge and purpose.
  • Ideas are developed; points are selective and supported.
  • Material is tailored to audience; specialized terms are defined and explained.
  • Introduction captures attention; transitions are smooth; conclusion is compelling and memorable.
  • Language is precise, vivid, and appropriate for the setting and context.
  • The talk is crafted as uniquely oral; it clearly distinguishes itself from a written document.
  • Visual aids augment the speech without overwhelming or distracting the speaker or the audience.
Competent (B range):
  • The talk addresses an important subject and the speaker shows an understanding of the subject.
  • The purpose of the talk is stated and fulfilled.
  • The main idea is evident but main points may not always be clear or fully supported.
  • Introduction and conclusion are serviceable; transitions may be awkward.
  • Language is appropriate but may not be particularly vivid or precise.
  • The talk may seem written and memorized; responsiveness to the audience could be improved.
  • Visual aids may be excessive or limited; they may not add significant value to the talk.
Lacking (C range):
  • Subject does not relate to audience’s needs or interests.
  • Ideas are not focused or developed; the purpose of the talk is unclear.
  • Main points are difficult to identify and supporting material is undeveloped or irrelevant.
  • Introduction is ineffective, conclusion is abrupt, and transitions are missing.
  • Language choices are ineffective or limited.
Unacceptable (D to F range):
  • The talk may be completely off topic or inappropriate for the audience.
  • The speaker does not fulfill the basic requirements of the assignment, such as meeting the deadline, ignoring the assigned time frame, or conforming to the expectations of the class.
STRUCTURE
Outstanding (A range):
  • Talk is organized specifically for listening, not necessarily reading; the structure aids understanding and memorability.
  • Speaker demonstrates an awareness of verbal structures that will facilitate audience’s learning.
  • Organization reflects, supports and reinforces content, message and purpose.
  • The goal and purpose of the talk are clearly articulated at the outset.
  • The speaker presents a general picture first.
  • Main and supporting points are organized in a unified, balanced, and cogent way.
  • The organization of the talk is made explicit and is reinforced throughout.
  • The talk progresses in a logical and convincing fashion; transitions aid in linking ideas.
  • The speaker demonstrates the facility and flexibility to respond to a variety of audiences, purposes, and situations.
Competent (B range):
  • Talk is well-organized and accessible to the audience.
  • Organization may be conventional but is made explicit enough for audience to follow.
  • The goal and purpose of the talk are clear but may not be reinforced or completely fulfilled.
  • All points are covered but perhaps not in the most effective order or with the emphasis necessary to create understanding.
  • The talk’s structure is functional and the speaker demonstrates above average skills at preparing and organizing information.
Lacking (C range):
  • The speech conforms to the basic assignment but contains no apparent structure.
  • Generally, the talk may make sense, but the distinct parts of the speech are not readily identifiable.
  • Organization does not contribute to audience’s understanding of the material; the lack of organization serves to confuse.
Unacceptable (D to F range):
  • The talk is clearly unprepared; it may consist only of jumbled information.
  • The speaker has not synthesized information into a meaningful structure.
DELIVERY
Outstanding (A range):
  • Delivery strengthens the impact of the talk and aids in audience reception; style fits learning pattern of audience.
  • Verbal expression is clear, comprehensible, and articulate.
  • Demeanor is professional and appropriate to the occasion, context, and culture of the talk; speaker meets expectations and norms of professional setting.
  • Language is fluent, accurate and precise; pronunciation is clear and audible.
  • Non-verbal expression is natural and non-distracting; gestures and sustained eye contact engage the audience and reinforce the message.
  • Visual aids are well-managed and reliance on notes is limited.
  • Speaker projects confidence, enthusiasm, and energy.
  • Speaker is responsive to audience, demonstrating an awareness of the physical and social environment and acknowledging mutual concerns and goals.
  • Speaker is well-prepared and polished, in control of the material and responsive to feedback.
Competent (B range):
  • Delivery is generally effective but does not significantly contribute to audience’s experience or understanding.
  • Verbal expression is proficient but some inconsistency in skills may be observed.
  • Speaker shows a command of language.
  • Non- verbal expression does not detract from the message.
  • Speaker may display some hesitancy or nervousness.
  • Speaker has clearly rehearsed the speech although some dependence on notes may prevent the speaker from wholly connecting with the audience.
Lacking (C range):
  • The delivery undermines or is noticeably inconsistent with the message.
  • Verbal expression is unsophisticated: speaker may mumble, use many filler terms, or use poor articulation and pronunciation.
  • Non-verbal expression is distracting and may indicate lack of preparation or extreme nervousness.
  • Over dependence on notes is observed; visual aids may overwhelm the speaker and distract the audience.
Unacceptable (D to F range):
  • Speaker is unresponsive to the audience; demeanor is unprofessional and inappropriate.
  • Language may be hostile or alienating.
  • Speaker resorts to reading a talk.
  • Poise and composure is lost and speaker is unable to complete the basic assignment.