RHET 351 English writing


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A printed document with handwriting on it.This project fills a few important gaps in this course:

  • You’ve informally researched effective strategies for job documents and flyers, but you haven’t systematically researched advice on how to make stronger documents, and you haven’t formally cited sources.
  • You’ve done plenty of writing in the linguistic mode, but you haven’t written lengthy text formatted into a multi-page, formal report.
  • You’ve practiced composing in some of the genres that will help you succeed on the final group project, but there are still other genres you haven’t practiced yet.

In short, this project builds on the past and prepares you for the future.


Your main job: write a report that explores how well a real organization followed best practices when it communicated in a particular genre (either web design, social media, emails/newsletters, or print marketing materials). That is, critique whether or not your chosen organization is doing a good job communicating or not, based on the research you find and cite. Embed images into your report to clarify your critiques.

Here’s a sample report written by a real student in the past. It was written in a semester when the exact rules for the assignment were a bit different, but it might help you to browse it quickly to see what kind of “report” we’re talking about before reading the rest of these instructions.

What organization

You may choose any business or organization—big or small, global or local, well-known or not.

I suggest choosing an organization you know well (perhaps somewhere you regularly shop or visit).

What genre to analyze

You may choose to focus on any of these genres for this report:

  • Web design (any aspect of the organization’s web presence that’s designed to be accessed through a mobile or desktop browser)
  • Social media (any single major social media account the organization uses regularly)
  • Print letters and/or emails (any communication they send through the mail—such as fundraising letters—or through email—such as e-newsletters, whether text-heavy or carefully designed)
  • Print advertising (such as brochures, posters, flyers, or anything else printed on physical paper or cardstock)

When you know what organization and genre you’ll focus on, you’ll share that with me in this discussion board.

What to research

Once you’ve chosen a genre category, I’ll ask you to find two sources from the last five years (since October 2018) that give advice on how to effectively compose in that genre. For instance, two sources on how to design websites well, or how organizations should use Twitter well, or how they should write letters well, etc.

At least one of your two articles must be from Rockford University’s online databases, which we’ll spend time practicing and playing with in class. (Hint: start at the RU library’s home page, and use the “search all resources” box.)

Purpose of your report

Once you know your organization, have decided on a genre category, and have found some resources on how to communicate well in that genre, you’re ready to make some claims about how well your chosen organization is doing.

Your report should revolve around this basic thesis: you should critique how well or poorly your organization is communicating in your genre category. Your critique should be based at least in part on your research.

Here are a couple sample thesis statements that could guide a report like this:

  • The Rock River Times seems to misunderstand the power of email newsletters. Instead of following best practices for the email genre—like using lots of links, images, and short paragraphs—they instead send lengthy, boring emails that are likely to turn away potential readers.
  • Wendy’s Twitter account breaks rules that some marketing experts suggest for social media: their feed is quirky, argumentative, and even rude. But that rule-breaking is the key to their success, proving that some advice for success in social media genres is outdated.
  • The flyers Starbucks posts in its stores follow the rules for print marketing, but always with at least one unexpected twist; that is, they manage to follow the expectations for the genre of a flyer without (usually) falling into boring design.

Each of those thesis statements makes a claim that can be proven with detailed evidence throughout the rest of the report. They’re written in a way that gives you a chance to say, “Let me take some time to prove it to you.”

Organization and minimum requirements of your report

You’ll prove the claims of your thesis by writing a formal report that follows many of the instructions at the page on ReportsLinks to an external site. in the open-access text Introduction to Technical and Professional Communication. Prove your thesis with at least two images from your organization’s communications.

Here are the specific requirements for which sections to include; you’re free to skip anything I don’t mention here:

  • Title page (using fonts that match the rest of the report)
  • Table of contents (using fonts that match the rest of the report)
  • Introduction
    • Follow the advice for Introductions on the Report instructions pageLinks to an external site., but also be sure to include a thesis statement that states how well or poorly your organization follows the genre conventions.
    • The introduction is also a good place to briefly explain why you chose this organization, to make any overarching statements about how well the organization does at the genre you’ll discuss, and a brief introduction to the specific evidence you’ll use to help you prove your thesis.
  • Methods: Describe how you gathered the information you’re writing about in this report. Specifically, comment on how you found the primary texts you analyze (the communication examples you’ll show in your figures) and the secondary texts you refer to (the research articles about best practices in your chosen genre).
  • Results:
    • This is where you’ll share examples of your organization’s communication patterns in your chosen genre. For instance, maybe you’ll share screenshots of Wendy’s Twitter account over time, or photos of coupons you got in the mail from DSW.
    • Your writing here should help your reader notice details. Draw our attention to interesting, unusual, or other noteworthy parts of your texts, but without commenting on them yet.
  • Discussion:
    • Now it’s time to share your researched opinions on the texts you shared in the Results section above. Interpret your images, and be sure to make specific claims about how well your organization communicates in that genre.
    • Be sure to quote your outside, secondary research here to help you interpret. A great model to use is this: “In Figure X, my organization is successfully/unsuccessfully following the advice given in this source: ____.”
    • Consider discussing the lessons other organizations could learn through the example of this organization, especially when they’re communicating in this particular genre.
  • References / Works Cited
    • Follow either MLA or APA style, depending on which style is most useful for other classes in your major.
    • Cite, at a minimum, the two secondary sources described above in the “what to research” section. If you refer to other secondary sources in your report, please include them on this list as well. For this assignment, you don’t need to cite the primary documents you’re analyzing (like the websites, social media posts, letters, or print documents you’re critiquing).

Designing the report

Use a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs to design your report to look professional and unified. Choose a heading font and body font and use them consistently throughout.

Use headings to clearly mark your main headings (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion) as well as any sub-headings beneath them. Please follow the advice at this page on “Formatting a Technical ReportLinks to an external site.” from the open-access textbook Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication.

Include at least two numbered figures, which can be photos you take, screenshots from websites, or images you found online. When you insert images to help you prove your thesis, give the images captions with numbers (e.g. “Figure 1: a screenshot from McDonald’s homepage”). Then use that figure in your body text to guide your reader’s attention (e.g. “Figure 1 clearly shows this problem”).

You must include page numbers, which your Table of Contents will refer to. It’s common for reports to use lower-case Roman Numerals (like i, ii, iii, iv) for all material before your Introduction, with Arabic Numerals (1, 2, 3, 4) starting at the Introduction; I think if you have time you should see if you can get that to work, but you don’t need to get that fancy.


As you draft, edit, and proofread your report, strive for a written style that is direct and clear. Avoid using big words that don’t serve a purpose or unnecessarily lengthen your sentences.

We’ll refer later to this page on “Precise and Concise LanguageLinks to an external site.” as a guide; you might want to read it early as you draft your language.

Because part of the purpose of this report is to strengthen your “writing muscles,” please compose every sentence yourself, without the initial help of friends or AI. You may use spell-checkers and grammar-checkers to suggest ways to edit and proofread your sentences, but please don’t use any tool that does the work for you. I chose to write on STARBUCKS Instagram page.

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