Instructions are among the most common types of documents in technical writing. Instructions are everywhere informing readers how to make, assemble or create something. You may have followed instructions on how to log onto a computer at work to download and use an App on your Smartphone or how to put together furniture. It is likely that you will create instructions often in your career if not as a formal document then at least in a variety of informal written and oral communications.
Keep in mind the differences among instructions, process descriptions, and procedures:
- Instructions inform readers how to assemble, make, create something or perform a specific task
- Process descriptions tell how something works (e.g., how a drug works to relieve systems of seasonal allergies). While instructions are about how to use something, descriptions are about how that thing works (e.g., how to take a prescription drug vs. how that drug works in the human body).
- Procedures are standardized ways of doing things in organizations.
For this assignment, you will focus on writing and designing effective instructions.
Choose a Technical or Scientific Topic. Begin by reviewing the assigned reading for unit 4. You will then choose your own topic for this assignment. In order to give you practice in technical writing, you must choose a technical or scientific topic. Recipes are not technical or scientific, and thus are not allowed. Ideally, a topic requires a series of steps for assembly or various specific tasks to complete. A topic relevant to nursing may be a good idea, but topics such as “checking blood pressure” “collecting a urine sample” are too common and are not allowed for this assignment.
Choose a topic involving ten (10) or more steps. The following are a few examples of projects from previous classes:
- Setting up a small network in your home office
- Building and hosting your own website
- Installing a solar heating system
- Assembling a skateboard
- How to change an electrical outlet
- How to sew an A-line skirt
Write to a specific audience. You must specify an audience for your instructions. In most instances, your audience should be novice–someone who has never performed the task before. Sample audiences for the instructions mentioned above include home computer owners, small business owners, and homeowners.
Acknowledge all sources. If you use any sources for your instructions, acknowledge your sources on an APA reference page and include this page with your instructions. If you use or adapt illustrations from another source, use APA captions and provide a reference for each illustration.
Regardless of your task, you must include all of the following contents (any omission of the following contents will result in grade deductions):
- Introduction. Here you will give your reader the following information:
- The audience in terms of its knowledge and need for the instructions
- What the instructions will allow readers to do
- What skill level the audience should have to perform the task successfully
- An overview of the steps needed to complete the task
- A sense of how long the task will take
- Where they should perform the task, i.e., in a well ventilated area, outside, on a flat surface, etc.
- List of Materials, Tools, or Ingredients
- Figures (Diagrams, Drawings, Photographs, Illustrations, or Tables)
- Include captions for each figure
- Label figures using APA guidelines
- Give attribution to all figures in references
- List of Steps, in chronological order, with the following characteristics:
- Ten (10) or more steps
- Use of the imperative mood, i.e., “Attach the red wire” rather than “The red wire is attached.” With the second, passive sentence, readers will not know whether the wire is already attached or if they need to attach the wire.
- Each step must have one specific action only, e.g., “Turn the knob one complete turn.” and not an elaboration or comment, e.g., “Turning the knob will result in a better fit.”
- Each step must have one or two sentences max
- Use of the second person (you)
- Include warnings or cautions before readers will encounter problems
- Parallel form (see page 97 in the course textbook)
And, if needed, your instructions should also contain:
- Glossary of terms
Document Design and Figures:
Give careful thought to figures and design elements that will make your instructions effective.
- Make sure all of your steps are numbered, 1-2-3, throughout
- Single space the text in paragraphs
- You must include two figures. You may create your own or adapt from other sources. Make sure you provide figure information for each one and document with APA standards
- Use as many of the four basic design principles, CRAP, as possible
- Design your document for consistency (grid patterns, margins, justification, negative space, indentation, typeface, font style and size)
- Design your document for navigation and emphasis (headings, color, shading, boldface, italic, and underlining, bulleted and numbered lists)
- You must use a two-column format