SPRING 2013 — Information and Computer Science — UC Irvine
ICS 139W Course Reference
CRITICAL WRITING ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, OR
COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS FOR COMPUTER SCIENTISTS
Instructor: David G. Kay,
5056 Donald Bren Hall (
Teaching assistant: Steve Slota (
Steve will devote some of the scheduled discussion section time to individual
consultations; he will also be available at other times to be
arranged, and by appointment.
Quick links: Email archive Piazza Public Q&A References
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: Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:50 in ICS 180. The discussion sections are scheduled Wednesdays at 9:00 and at 10:00 in ICS 243; 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 from 11:30 to noon and Thursdays after class. 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 most quickly by posting them at Piazza.com; these postings are public to the whole class. For individual questions, send 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
We may also send course announcements by Email
to the official course mailing list, so you should check your Email at least daily.
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
http://www.oit.uci.edu/email/deliverypoint.html). Don't let this slide; if you miss official
announcements, your grade could suffer.
This course has a home page at
http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kay/courses/139w; EEE provides an archive of official course
Course materials: Every student in the course should have:
These additional materials are not required in the sense that we don't have any exams on their content nor do we use them directly for our assignments. Nonetheless, they are valuable for various reasons and we recommend that you acquire one or two that match your needs and interest. We haven't made them available in the UCI Bookstore; you can get the ones you want just as easily on line.
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.
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.
We're required to say that in unusual circumstances, these criteria could change, but we do not expect that to happen.
Special needs: Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation due to a disability should contact the UCI Disability Services Center at (949) 824-7494 as soon as possible to explore the possible range of accommodations. We encourage all students having difficulty, whether or not due to a disability, to consult privately with the instructor at any time.
In-class writing sample: 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.
The first in-class writing sample is scheduled for Thursday, April 4; if you don't pass the first sample, you will have another chance in section on Wednesday, April 10. 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 hour-plus class period, we will ask you to write roughly 300 words (for comparison, this paragraph contains about 150 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 on paper. These samples are short enough, and you have enough time, that we do expect everyone to write these samples by hand (unless you have an officially recognized disability, of course).
Computer access: For the rest of your work, 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 (or Apple's Keynote or an open-source equivalent) 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
In a class this size, 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 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 log on to eee.uci.edu, choose Surveys, and complete the ICS 139W Questionnaire (by the end of the first week for full credit).
— On the Web, go to
log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" for "Spring
2013," 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.
— Sign yourself up for ICS 139W at Piazza.com and read a little bit there about how the site works.
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 some server 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 academic honesty policy:
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]|
Introduction to the course
3 April (section)
Consultation on "Changing System"
topics and "Writing Instructions"
||• In-class writing sample I||"Changing System"
Email to Steve Slota
Oral presentation techniques
|10 April (section)||• Using other people's writing
• In-class writing sample II (if necessary)
|"Writing Instructions" (draft, 3 copies)*|
||• Oral synopsis of system changes||"Changing System" synopsis (oral)|
||• Group editing of letter influencing policy||"Influencing Policy"
"Writing Instructions" (final)
17 April (section)
||• Group editing of introductory tutorials
||"Changing System" intro (draft)*|
||• Oral tutorial introduction to system (videotaped)
||"Changing System" intro (oral)|
|4.||23 April||• Oral tutorial intro to system continued (video)||"Influencing Policy" (revised)|
||24 April (section)||Consultation hour
||"Changing System" intro (final)|
• Group editing of change proposals
||"Changing System" proposal (draft with slides)*|
Effective typography and presentation graphics
[guidelines; specimen]; Information visualization
1 May (section)
• Review of videotapes
|2 May||Résumés and cover letters||"Changing System" proposal (revised with slides)|
||"Influencing Policy" (final)|
8 May (section)
||Graphics Activity (optional)|
||Nature and structure of language
||Nature and structure of language (continued)
|15 May (section)||• Testing of PowerPoint files|
||• Oral proposal of change to decision-makers
||"Changing System" proposal (oral)|
||"Changing System" proposal (final)|
22 May (section)
||• Oral proposals (continued once)
• Oral proposals (continued twice)
|9.||28 May||• Oral proposals (continued thrice)|
|29 May (section)||Consultation hour|
|30 May||• Group editing of promotion pieces or résumés and cover letters||"Changing System" promo or résumé/cover letter (draft)*|
|10.||4 June||• Oral promotion of change to users||"Changing System" promo or résumé/cover
"Changing System" promo (oral)
|5 June (section)||Consultation hour|