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Preface

Preface

We based this book on these two premises: solving problems is the primary activity of all professionals, and the process of solving problems is always, in some way, reflected through good communication. From the very beginning and throughout our discussions, we try to support these premises. Readers are constantly reminded of the process of solving problems in all kinds of communication: from the planning of the briefest memo to the proofing of the longest completion report. And we try to show that the process is organic and multidimensional: the demands of definition, research, analysis, resolution and synthesis, and implementation must be met at various stages or levels of investigation. The process is not simply flat and linear. Instead, it is recursive and thoroughly analytical, often flipping back on itself, requiring redefinition and reanalysis of the old in light of the new. It is a demanding process but, if fully engaged in, is also rewarding. And as we point out in Chapter 1, it is one that all professionals, if they are acting professionally, take part in.

This latter notion, that of acting professionally, has also informed our sense of purpose in writing this book. We think it is important that students who are educating and training themselves to join the professional working world know what is expected of them. They need to understand, if they don't already, that the responsibilities they have to their families, friends, and themselves expand not only in number but also in kind when they become members of the professional world. Problems that they will address, no matter how seemingly trivial at times, are part of a pantheon of problems that if left unaddressed or unsolved, will negatively affect the public and private lives of many people. It is not too grand to claim, on the other hand, that professionals who meet their responsibilities conscientiously, energetically, and ethically do much to improve the quality of life for everyone.

In presenting the various problems that professionals have to address, we have chosen situations (we have called them case studies) that are typical of the working world, and, in every case, we have either implicitly or explicitly pointed to the responsibilities the participants have to others and to themselves to address and solve those problems professionally. We would also like to note that the case studies we have chosen reflect different kinds of problems in differing venues that are handled by women and men of differing backgrounds and positions of responsibility. It is a diverse professional world through which we hope to reveal the inherent redundancy in the idea of good problem solving, since the result of bad problem solving is no solution at all.

One other important element we should mention has to do with the kinds of writing done in the professional world at large. Our notion, which we discuss specifically in Chapter 3, but which is implicit throughout the book, is that distinct rhetorical differences (dependent on purpose, audience, context, and ethics) exist among kinds of writing in the professions. And those differences, which help dictate content and format or presentation, are determined by the degree of professional objectivity that professionals feel they have to attain and demonstrate. On a continuum of objective to subjective, science writing is thought of as the most objective and most subject to conventions; that is, it is dictated largely by fairly rigid expectations, styles, and forms. Technical and professional writing falls in the middle, with varying expectations and ideas of the need for objectivity, styles, and forms. Administrative writing comes at the other end, the most fluid in many senses, displaying a good deal of variety of style, much less objectivity, but instead more subjectivity. We offer this continuum because it helps lay out the realities of solving problems and writing in the professional world. Not all situations are alike, and they shouldn't be seen as such; each situation often requires different approaches, different analyses, and different results. Knowing and understanding this reality make the use and appreciation of writing in the professions much more pertinent and effective.

So much for the philosophical basis of the book. We turn now to a brief review of how we have structured the contents. The first five chapters on professionalism and the nature of solving problems, the basics of technical and rhetorical problem solving, solving problems both through research and through collaboration and the uses of technology, we think of as more theoretical. They deal with the generic processes of solving various kinds of problems, a process which is essential to the purpose of the book, but we have nevertheless tied the discussions to real situations. Thus readers see in the cases of Susan James, Mary Anne Cox, and Patricia Wynjenek, among others, how problems arise, how they are defined, researched, analyzed, and ultimately resolved—and then written about. The ways these professionals go about their work and put theory into practice is clearly an important element of a book like this.

Chapters 6 through 10 discuss more specific kinds of problems that result in more specific kinds of communication or writing: proposals; progress and completion reports; trip, feasibility, and scientific reports; and policy statements, manuals, and procedures. Again, real working-world situations form the basis of the discussion and create practical examples, all the way from formal proposals to letters and memoranda. We believe we have covered, in more or less detail, practically every professional situation that would require some writing response (though we don't claim that every professional will have to write in every situation).

Chapters 11 through 13 discuss different kinds of communication situations, some not immediately associated with specific writing, though they all require very similar analyses to those required of writing. Chapter 11, which discusses the professional job search, presents strategies for applying for jobs: when and how to revise a résumé; the rhetorical needs for writing letters of application, both for first jobs right out of college and for subsequent jobs; and some tips on preparing for interviews. Chapter 12 offers suggestions on the physical design of documents and the use of graphics to meet rhetorical needs of writing. It is vitally important that the physical arrangement of words, paragraphs, headings, and all manner of graphics be produced in a way that promotes readability and comprehension, and this chapter attempts to acknowledge specifically that importance. Chapter 13, on oral presentations, discusses the process of preparing oral presentations and shows how it is similar to the writing process. An Appendix offering a review of selected problems in usage and style completes the substance of the book.

Just a word on our intended readership. We have in mind students of technical and professional writing who will have to approach or solve problems in their future professional lives and will have to write about them to enable decisions to be made. We also want to help students who would benefit from approaching or solving a research problem in a sustained way over the course of a term or semester. The discussions of proposals and of progress, trip, and completion reports are among several discussions of research and collaboration that would be particularly useful for completing the work of sustained projects. But by no means are we excluding students who will be addressing shorter, more discrete problems and projects. Our discussions are set up in such a way that different emphases can be fully accommodated, both for students and for teachers.

Solving problems in the professional world takes imagination, dedication, and energy. It is hard work, but its benefits are many. We hope we demonstrate this fact effectively in the following pages.

We want to thank our colleagues who graciously gave us helpful and encouraging suggestions for improvements to this edition: David Strong, Winona State University; Donald Brotherton, DeVry Institute of Technology; Melanie Woods, University of Central Florida; David F. Marshall, University of North Dakota.

George E. Kennedy
Pullman, Washington

Tracy T. Montgomery
Pocatello, Idaho

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