ENGL 419

Multimedia Writing ENGL 419

Professional Writing majors in the Writing and Publishing concentration may use ENGL 419 as a suitable course in the category that presently asks them to take ENGL 420, “Business Writing,” or ENGL 421, “Technical Writing.” Students in other majors who presently take ENGL 420 or 421 may, with approval of their academic advisor or area, use this course to satisfy a similar requirement.

Catalog Description

Multimedia writing for networked contexts. Emphasizes the principles and practices of multimedia design, implementation, and publishing. Typical genres include Web sites, interactive media, digital video, visual presentations, visual argument, and user documentation. (3 cr.)

General Course Description

This course helps students practice and understand the principles of multimedia design and implementation, with emphasis on writing in multimedia contexts. Students closely examine various multimedia products, doing oral and/or written analyses of a number of such pieces. Course readings focus on how different media communicate meaning, shape our reactions, and interact with one another. Students propose, plan, and develop a number of individual and/or group multimedia projects, including those for the Web, using a variety of technologies that support and enhance the presentation of content in multimedia forms.

Course Goals


• Engage the culture and problems associated with multimedia writing
• Develop project standards through negotiation with clients

Project Management

• Use, adapt, and evaluate various writing techniques and technologies for specific rhetorical purposes
• Learn to evaluate and apply effective principles of document design in print and digital media.
• Develop multiple and flexible online work strategies to make a professional portfolio
• Plan and articulate design decisions throughout the production process
• Develop strategies for planning, researching, and producing documents that effectively respond to specific professional situations, problems, or research issues


Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork, such as
• working online with colleagues
• determining roles and responsibilities
• managing team conflicts constructively
• responding constructively to peers’ work
• using peer feedback
• achieving team goals

Typical Course Projects

1. Web-Based Portfolio – Develop a professional, Web-based portfolio consisting of a Web resume and samples of professional projects or coursework (including work from this course). This project may involve conducting individual research into the professional world of your chosen area of study (including job ads and other employment-related documents), developing a complete hypertext resume, and designing a website and navigational system that best represents your work and appeals to prospective employers, professionals, other students in your major area of study, and general readers. Successful Web portfolios will be showcased at the Professional Writing Program’s Student Portfolio site and may also be presented at the Program’s annual Teaching and Technology Showcase.

2. Client-Based Multimedia Project – In this collaborative project, you will work with a real client to develop multimedia documents for Web-based, CD-ROM, or presentation and delivery (or all three, depending upon client needs). Once a client has been arranged, you will conduct client research and analysis of existing documents, propose a plan for integrating multimedia writing, design the media, and present the project to the client in a formal project portfolio. Your work will be showcased on your own Web-based portfolio as an example of your collaborative work.

3. Individual Creative or Professional Project – Working individually, students will develop existing or new content for a creative or professional multimedia project that can be showcased in each person’s Web-based portfolio. Examples include interactive hypertext fiction or poetry with multimedia components, essays or research projects incorporating substantial multimedia components, newsletters or other publications, multimedia presentations and demonstrations on a selected topic, a digital film, or photographic essay. Early in the semester, you will be asked to write a formal proposal and will begin your work on this project after receiving instructor feedback.


Portfolios are graded on the basis of professionalism, overall design, the integrity of its information, its use of multimedia components, and the quality of writing demonstrated. Client-based multimedia projects are graded on the basis of professionalism, overall design, quality of your team’s collaboration (using a peer evaluation form), use of multimedia components, and client feedback. Individual projects are graded on the basis of professionalism and/or creativity, overall design, quality of the content, use of multimedia components, and how effectively the project addresses the audience invoked.

Ethical Guidelines for Conducting an Interview with a Client

1. Request an interview in advance. Explain why you want the interview, how long it will take, and what you hope to accomplish. Be professional with this request and formal with all subsequent interaction so that the client knows you are conducting research and not just “chatting.”
2. Come prepared with a list of written questions. It’s usually a good idea to give clients some questions in advance so that they can be prepared.
3. If you wish to tape the interview, you must ask permission first.
4. Take notes during the interview, even if you use a tape recorder. Your notes will help refresh your memory when you don’t have time to review the entire tape; they can also help you identify the most important points of discussion. Because give-and-take is important, it’s often a good idea to have two people on the interviewing team present; one to take notes, one to conduct the interview.
5. Be flexible. Don’t try to make the person you are interviewing answer all your prepared questions if he or she doesn’t find some of them appropriate or interesting. If your interviewee shows more interest in a question than you had anticipated or wants to discuss a related issue, just accept this change in plans and return to your list of questions when appropriate.
6. Try a variety of questioning techniques. People are sometimes unable or unwilling to answer direct questions. So try rephrasing questions. Be more general or specific, depending upon what you think your client will respond to well.
7. If you transcribe the interview and use it for any other purpose, you should give the client the option to review a transcript and the option to revise where necessary. Under no circumstances should you publish (to the Web or elsewhere) an interview with the client without the client’s consent. (In journalist interviews, that permission is normally granted implicitly; good journalists, though, will often take the time to confirm quotations.)

Adapted from Lisa Ede’s Work in Progress, 4th Edition. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.