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Sample commissioned assignments


Annual Report


Rhetorical situation analysis

The class has a lot of questions about the annual report project. With some of your classmates, investigate one of the following sets of questions, then share your conclusions with the rest of the class in a report (due March 2) and a 15-minute oral presentation (on March 2 or 4).

  • Audience I: Who will read the annual report? What will those readers want from the report? How are they associated with the commissioner's organization? How much do they already know about the organization? What are their attitudes towards the Authority?

  • Audience II: Same questions as Audience I, but work with a different set of readers. In other words, we’ll divide the audience inventory in half between Audience I and II. But first, the two groups will need to work together to complete the inventory. (Suggestion: Send one member of each group to interview the executive director (the commissioner) about possible audiences.)

  • Expectations: What do the organization's officials expect the annual report to do for the Authority? What image do they want the report to project? What do they like and dislike about some sample annual reports? (Suggestion: Start by talking with the executive director and the recycling coordinator.)

  • Resources: What are the sources from which the class will get its information for the annual report? What are the job descriptions of the key personnel in the Authority? Who should be contacted for answers to certain types of questions? What information, in general, is available from in-house databases, records, and so forth? (Suggestion: Start by talking with the administrative assistant. Meet with as many people as you can and examine the databases and records yourselves—try not to rely on hearsay.)

  • Models: What are the typical features of annual reports produced by government agencies? (Find examples in the library, by calling around, etc.) In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the typical and not-so-typical features? What do writing textbooks (for students) and handbooks (for workplace writers) say about annual reports? (Find books in the library, by asking your instructor, etc.) What are some common obstacles and recommended solutions? (Tip: Keep the annual report project in mind at all times.)


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Presentation of rhetorical situation analysis

The purpose of the presentation is bring the rest of the class up to date on your group’s research. Everyone in the class will need to be familiar with your findings when we reach the proposal-writing stage.

Your classmates will receive a copy of your research report for future reference, but your presentation will introduce them to your findings. Like the research report, then, the presentation should answer questions such as:

  • What was your group’s goal and why is it important?
  • What did you find out?
  • How does whatever you found out affect the writing of the annual report?
    Unlike the research report, however, the presentation gives you the opportunity to talk informally about your findings, be more creative, and involve the class. Take advantage of the oral medium, which allows more direct contact with your audience. Use handouts or transparencies, if you would like. If you have time, involve the class by asking questions to provoke discussion or response. Try to accomplish something extra through the presentation that you are not able to accomplish through a written report.

In four-person groups, the presentation should be made by two people. In five-person groups, the presentation should be made by three people. The presentation should take about 15 minutes. Each presenter should talk for approximately the same amount of time.

If you are a presenter, you should not have to spend an enormous amount of time preparing for the presentation. You should be able to work from your group’s research report. The presentation is simply an opportunity to introduce your findings to your classmates, practice speaking skills, and use some creativity.

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Presentation of report to commissioners

On Monday (April 27), the executive director and the recycling coordinator will attend our class meeting. They are coming to see a presentation of a draft of their annual report and to give feedback about that draft. You will be responsible for one portion of the presentation. The overall goals of the presentation are to orient the commissioners to the report and to elicit their feedback.
We’ll start off with a presentation from the representative of the design group. This presentation should:

  • inform the commissioners about the plans for the overall design of the report, including the number and size of the pages, the estimated cost of printing, the order of sections, the amount and types of visuals, and so forth.
  • address specifications the commissioners have stated before, such as the use of recycled paper and the inclusion of space for mailing information.
  • most importantly, explain the basic goals that guide the design of the report (one of these might be capturing readers’ attention, for example) and the basic steps taken to achieve those goals.
  • end with at least one substantive question for the commissioners to elicit their feedback about the design.

Then, we’ll have presentations from representatives of each of the section-writing groups. These presentations should:

  • explain the way you hope the section will affect the audience and the Authority (the goals of the section).
  • briefly summarize the content of the section.
  • mention visuals that will accompany the section.
  • end with at least one substantive question for the commissioners to elicit their feedback about the section.

Each presentation should take no more than five minutes to allow time for the commissioners (and your classmates) to give feedback. We will pause for feedback after each presentation (and I will watch the time to make sure we give equal time to each section).

Review the presentation skills handout I distributed at the end of the preliminary research portion of the course. (If you need another copy, let me know.) In particular, remember to focus on the purpose your presentation serves for the commissioners, emphasize the organization and main points of your presentation, and speak conversationally. Also, remember to practice your presentation.

As the presenter for your group, you are also responsible for the following:

  • Bring copies of your group’s draft (or, for the design presenter, a copy of the plan for the overall layout of the report if the drafts are not already in the layout) for the commissioners and the instructor.

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Letter of transmittal 1 for final project

March 30, 1998

[commissioner's name]
Executive Director
Centre County Solid Waste Authority
253 Transfer Road
Bellefonte PA 16823


[commissioner's name],
My students’ proposal for your annual report is enclosed.
The students have worked hard this semester to learn about CCSWA’s expectations for the report and the needs of the report’s potential readers. They have also studied examples of annual reports to identify useful features they could incorporate in yours. They have explored the resources available at the Authority for use during the research process. And, of course, I have taught them writing and collaboration strategies. I believe they are prepared to write a quality annual report for you.

Thank you are participating in the commissioned assignment program. I have taught technical writing for years, and I can tell you that the students who will write your annual report are more motivated, better able to think through complex problems, more knowledgeable about their subject matter, and more aware of the issues involved in writing than other students. Your participation enabled then to develop these qualities, and I am confident that you will be repaid with an annual report that you can use.

I look forward to meeting with you on Monday, April 6 at 8:30 am to receive your feedback about the proposal.


[instructor's name]


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Letter of transmittal 2 for final project

April 18, 1997

[commissioners' names]
Centre County Solid Waste Authority
243 Transfer Road
Bellefonte PA 16823

Dear [commissioners' names],

I’m happy to announce that the Leonhard Center Technical Writing Initiative’s first commissioned assignment has been completed, and by most accounts (that is mine and my students’) it was a success. I’ve enclosed the following items: (1) a memo written by the class to help familiarize you with their work and some of their ideas for using the documents they designed; (2) the final products, some of which include further reports to help you use the documents and/or plans; and (3) an evaluation/feedback sheet for each group’s work.

Hopefully your busy schedules will allow you to give the groups some feedback on their work. I will be in touch to see how you would like to proceed; I can certainly stop by sometime next week to pick up the evaluation sheets, or if you would prefer to discuss each group’s work, we can set up a meeting.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please call me at [phone number] or e-mail at[ instructor's email].

Thanks so much for putting your time and effort into this project. I think all parties—the students, I, and hopefully CCSWA—benefited from the collaborative effort.

[instructor's name]

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Last updated December 2, 2003