Professional audience: reference document and cover document

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In our first unit, you carefully and critically considered a specific example of writing in your discipline and worked to analyze its features and functions, the special ways it communicated knowledge to its specific audience, the special ways it presented ideas and information, the ways it represented the discursive interests of an interdisciplinary audience.


Our second unit asks you to write an original document to which someone might refer for guidance or instruction. Ideally, this person would be a professional in the disciplines familiar to you from Unit 1, and especially your own discipline, because then you can further your understanding of communication in this discipline. (But while this is desired, it is not required; it in fact may be difficult for you, given your developing disciplinary expertise, to accurately write such a document.) Depending on your disciplinary interests, a variety of reference documents can be written, including technical specifications, instructional documents, maps, guides, user manuals, technical memoranda, laboratory protocols, charts, tables. There may be other possibilities you know better than I, and I welcome your suggestions.


Your document should ideally address a specific problem or gap in knowledge faced by its specific audience. It should work carefully, cogently, precisely, and appealingly to fill that gap or solve that problem. Upon reading your document, your audience should know, feel, understand, conceptualize, or be able to do something specific it could not before.


You’ll make your own choice of reference document you’d like to write. Find a gap in knowledge that needs a reference document and fill it. Examples: a conference poster reporting research results; a table of performance values; a set of specifications on how to install a device; a set of specifications for computer code; a research protocol; instructions for a grant application; a guide to operating a spectrophotometer; a map of voter patterns over time. You are encouraged (though not required) to pick a topic for your reference documentation that is related to your work in Unit 1, and indeed to continue your concentration in a topic through your writing for the term. You might choose to work on a reference document related to co-op. Students often report that orienting or instructional documents for new co-op students are often needed at a workplace, but scarce or poorly written. Revision of an existing reference document from co-op or other workplace is also a good opportunity as is, of course, the composition of something entirely new that fills a specific need. You might choose to work on a document that serves an organization on campus.


If an original and technically accurate document in your discipline—which may require research, and so can draw on library or other resources to which I’ll point you, if necessary— seems beyond your comfortable grasp at this time, you might consider writing a reference document for which you can draw on your own certain expertise and interests: a set of specifications for painting your room, a map of best jogging/training routes, a guide to gearing ratios for bicycles, a guide to building a treehouse, etc.


Be imaginative in composing your reference document. If you’d like to experiment with form in print—posters, brochures, or booklets of special size—or electronically—web pages, Wikipedia pages, apps, videos, screencasts—you are heartily encouraged to do so. The forms by which we receive our reference knowledge, even professionally, are expanding in number. Some accessible resources for composing web pages are available on our course Blackboard site and you are welcome to use these or others.


Your reference document must be preceded by a formal cover document of less than one page properly addressed to a real or fictional supervisor of organization leader of some sort.This is a chance to practice formal communication aimed at a specific person with specific purpose. You want to bring the problem your reference document seeks to resolve to the addressee’s attention and convince her or him to devote her or his organization’s resources (money, personnel, time, energy, and/or space) to the production, support, and/or distribution of your document. You should specify to him or her who will be the audience for your reference document, how you envision its use by these readers, how your document will be distributed (with a product, through a website, at a store register, etc.—whatever seems most effective for your audience and you), and what advantage or benefit your document offers to his or her organization. This cover letter may take the form that seems most appropriate: a letter, memorandum, email, or something else.



Whatever their specific form, reference documents

• Focus on a single topic or process which they attempt to precisely describe or narrate;

• Are committed to accurate and ethical representation;

• Aim for clarity and avoid ambiguity;

• Waste no words;

• Order knowledge and information effectively into discrete units;

• Separate these units using headings and subheadings;

• Employ illustrations, charts, figures, tables, graphs, photographs, or other visual aids and design elements.



Length: appropriate to audience and occasion Note: It is usually the case that reference documents in technical fields do not quote or cite sources. If you find that reference documents in your field do or do not quote or cite sources, please follow their convention. If, in either case, you find existing documents from your field useful to you as models, or as direct sources, please include a bibliography (in CSE style) at the back of your document to list these documents.


Document Format

A reference document may take a variety of physical or electronic forms, and you are encouraged to think imaginatively and effectively on the question of form. There is no required form nor required word length. There will be a variety of ways of documenting sources, including visual sources, and class material will consider citation practices appropriate to professional writing, rather than academic writing. Make it work.


Learning Goals and Assessment


• Focus coherently on a topic, process, or purpose;

• Commit to accuracy;

• Commit to ethical representation of the work of others;

• Be clear and unambiguous;

• Waste no words;

• Order knowledge effectively to serve the document’s purpose and audience;

• Use design elements, such as illustrations, diagrams, photographs, charts, graphs, effectively;

• Show critical understanding of and facility with the technical concerns of a discipline or field and specific audience.

• Reflect an understanding of the relation of the document’s topic to the your career path (if you pick a topic outside your discipline, for reasons of uncertain technical expertise in the discipline, then you should append to the end of your project a separate paragraph or so expressing your thinking on how your project helps your preparation for your discipline).


The reference document I choose to make is a guide on how to pitch a tent. Here is a summary i wrote:

Being a camping lover, the guide on how to pitch a tent would be a great help to many campers who come camping with their renowned camping facilities. For this reference document, my aim is to create a guide which can combine my experience on the art of pitching a tent in the right manner and the official instructions of pitching a tent, in order to let the new campers to learn how to pitch a tent in very few minutes upon reading this guide. Pitching a camping tent during the first day of camping could be a really tough exercise. Some not so frequent campers may also find it difficult and would need a reference for a reminder of the procedure and other factors to consider during the pitching of a tent. It is embarrassing to struggle with the tent when alone at home with nobody watching but it’s even more embarrassing struggling with it when out on any kind of holiday camping. This could ruin the holiday camp or have it start in a bad note. A new camper may watch how an experienced one is pitching his/her tent and learn from him by copying the steps but it’s not every day that this experienced person will be present to copy from. This guide will give a clear and precise step-by-step procedure on how to pitch a tent and will be of much help to campers who come with their facility to camp for holiday. This will minimize the struggle for campers.

The reference document will be making into a brochure so that campers can bring one brochure with them during their camping and it is convenient for them to read when they are pitching a tent. I will also include some pictures in the brochure to make the campers easily understand the steps. The cover document will be specifically addressed to the supervisor of the Northeastern camping club, so he can make copies of the brochure and share with his members in the club.

Please follow the summary and write a reference document on pitching a tent and include visual elements in the reference document.

Write a cover letter also.

I have attached a checklist of the assignment and a guide of professional reference design and a sample cover letter in attachments. Please read them carefully.


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