Documentation and Technical Writing for CIS

I.     Course Prefix/Number: CIS 205

       Course Name: Documentation and Technical Writing for CIS

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

This course explores the various types of written communications used in the data processing environment, with emphasis on the development of DP documentation such as user manuals, technical reports, standards manuals, and feasibility studies.  Also taught are the steps, techniques, and tools necessary to produce a variety of documents while using the basic skills necessary for clear, succinct writing. Recommended: Any programming language and EGL101 or demonstrated writing ability.  The student is expected to have, at minimum, a basic technical understanding of the tools and functions of business data processing plus good writing skills.

IV.   Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Participate in the preparation of the various kinds of documentation inherent in data processing projects;
    1. Documents created for use internally within the CIS organization, i.e., for systems development, operations and internal standards and procedures.
    2. Documents created for use outside of the CIS organization, i.e., user manuals, progress reports, system proposals.
  2. Know and be able to participate in each of the steps required in producing the documentation for the development of a hardware/software project, including the planning, data gathering, design, writing and editing, production and distribution.
  3. Be able to analyze audiences and determine the approach to be taken in writing to these audiences.
  4. Understand the various types of writing required in the data processing environment and know when and how to use each, including:
    1. Business letters and memos
    2. Status and progress reports
    3. Feasibility studies
    4. System studies and proposals
    5. Policy and standards manuals
    6. User manuals and procedures
    7. Technical documentation
    8. Sales brochures and marketing tools for hardware and software

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Identification and Characteristics of the types of documents used in the data processing environment.
    1. Business letters and memoranda
    2. Proposals
    3. Reports
    4. Technical documentation
      1. Internal department documentation
        1. Systems development - systems specifications
        2. Operations - run documentation
        3. Standards and procedure manuals
      2. External department documentation
        1. Technical instruction for systems users
        2. Studies and proposals
        3. Brochures and product literature
  2. Types of Media
    1. Printed documents
    2. Electronic documents (on-line documentation)
  3. Writing Style
    1. Grammar, punctuation, spelling
    2. Clarity, conciseness, focus, brevity, simplicity, tone
  4. Producing the Document
    1. Planning the document
      1. Requirements definition
      2. Schedule and resources
      3. Planning the review
      4. Determining writing style and standards
      5. Audience (user) analysis
  5. Gathering the Information
    1. Conducting technical interviews
    2. Organizing the data
  6. Writing the Document
    1. Outlining the document
    2. Preparing the first draft
    3. Writing detail sections
    4. Writing general sections
    5. Editing and rewriting
  7. Field Testing the Document
    1. Proofing
    2. Timing
    3. Selecting participants
    4. Preparing for
  8. Preparing Reference Aids
    1. Headings
    2. Table of contents
    3. Glossary
    4. Index
    5. Appendix
  9. Physical Preparations
    1. Page format and layout
    2. Text format standards - headings, type, spacing
    3. Graphics development - figures, illustrations, exhibits and artwork, diagrams, flowcharts, video screens
  10. Production
    1. Production methods
    2. Reproduction methods
    3. Production control
    4. Word processing
    5. Final proofing
    6. Assembling
  11. Wrapup
    1. Distribution
    2. Update provisions

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Lecture, group discussion, writing assignments and case studies.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Student will complete at least 5 writing assignments including examples of system documentation and user instructions; at least 2 exams will be required.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Evaluation of exams, writing assignments

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.