ICS 139W: Technical Writing and Communication Skills
Spring 2005
Course Reference

Instructor information

Office hours: I will be available in or around my office Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:45-5:15pm and Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30pm, during which all course-related issues will have the highest priority. I'm in my office at many other times during the week, and if I'm not working on something urgently, I'll be glad to sit down and talk with you.

Contacting me: I tend to be much easier to reach via email than by phone, so I would suggest using email to contact me under normal circumstances. When you write me an email, please take a few moments to make sure that the following information is placed somewhere in your message: your name, your student ID#, and which course you're enrolled in (as I'm teaching more than one).

Times and places

The lecture meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:00-2:50pm in PSCB 120.


Writing from A to Z is the writing reference that is used in our lower-division writing classes at UCI, so many of you will already have it. Those of you who don't should acquire either this book, an older version of this book, or some other writing reference that you prefer. There won't be required readings from this text, but everyone in the course needs to have a general writing reference text available. Writing from A to Z is a nice choice, since it's organized in alphabetical order by topic. Want to know how to use dashes and hyphens appropiately? Look under both dashes and hyphens. Not sure about when to use who's and when to use whose? Look under who's/whose. It's that simple.

Discussion sections

Discussions will meet once per week, beginning Tuesday, April 12. Much of the time, the discussion section will give you a chance to get individualized help on your writing. See the Schedule for more information about what will be done in each discussion.

The meeting times and places are:

Section Time/Place
Sec. 1 T 2:00-2:50pm
CS 243
Sec. 2 T 4:00-4:50pm
CS 253

Obtaining additional assistance

You can most easily get course questions answered by coming to your lecture or discussion and asking them. You can also ask questions by sending email to me and/or the TA. Thus, you can usually get a response to your course-related questions within a few hours (sometimes less frequently on weekends and holidays). If the questions require a complex or lengthy response, we may ask you to see one of us in person.

Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss his or her specific needs. Also, contact the Disability Services Center at (949) 824-7494 as soon as possible to better ensure that such accommodations, such as alternative test-taking environments or note-taking services, are implemented in a timely fashion.


Your course grade will be determined from the weighted combination of the following components:

As this is a course in communication skills, in addition to writing, oral presentations will play an important role throughout the quarter. Oral communication and presentation skills are as vital to your success as a computer scientist (or otherwise) as writing skills, whether you're going into a professional career or an academic one. I know this will be difficult for some of you, but it's important to face the challenge now, when the stakes are relatively low, rather than waiting until your job, your research, or your venture capital funding depend on it.

There are no exams in this course.

Course grades will be determined neither on a normal curve nor a straight scale. It is guaranteed that overall scores over 90% will receive an A- or better, scores over 80% will receive a B- or better, and scores over 70% will receive a C or better. However, the actual cutoffs may be lowered at the end of the quarter. In short, it is not my intention to fail half of the students, nor am I planning on giving only 2% of the students A's, but I prefer not to constrain myself with either a straight scale or a formalized curve. Extra credit will not be offered in any form.

This course moves forward at a brisk pace, often with more than one assignment in progress simultaneously. Therefore, late submission of work will not be accepted.

Dropping the course or changing grade option

You may drop the course or change your grade option through the end of Week 2 (Friday, April 15). I will sign all drop and change cards, so please do not approach your TA with these cards. Your TA is not authorized to sign them!

Academic dishonesty

As ICS 139W students, you are expected to know and follow the academic dishonesty policies of both the ICS Department and the University as a whole. Please take a few minutes to read the policies, which can be found at this link.

Plagiarism means presenting somebody else's work as if it's your own. You may use whatever outside sources are appropriate for an assignment, so long as you cite them. Any time you use two or more words in a row that you didn't think up and write yourself, you must put the words in quotation marks and indicate where they came from. (There could be situations where this two-word rule isn't appropriate. If you think you have one, check with us.) Even if you paraphrase (state in your own words) someone else's work or ideas, you should cite the source (e.g. "Dijkstra says that unrestricted branching is dangerous."). Plagiarism is academically dishonest, and we expect that nobody in the class will engage in it.

All of your writing is expected to be completed solely by you, except where otherwise specified. All submissions are compared to one another using an automated plagiarism detection system (turnitin.com), which compares your prose not only to others in this course, but others in previous quarters, and also millions of documents on the Internet. Since all of your work is expected to be completed solely by you, you will be held responsible even if you plagiarize, or allow someone to plagiarize from you, only a small portion of a paper.

Violators of academic dishonesty policies are subject to the penalties described in the ICS Department's policy. They are also subject to an immediate course grade of F, without the possibility of dropping the course to avoid the grade. Also, be aware that a single documented case of academic dishonesty may preclude you from switching into the ICS major, registering for the ICS minor, joining the ICS Honors Program, and graduating from ICS with honors.