Project 2

Project 2: Ethics Email

I know. Last week, I told you Project 1 was going to be a portfolio, but we haven’t submitted it yet, because we’re still collecting items that could go in your portfolio, if you choose. In other words, you’ll write an email for Project 2, but then you will have the option to include that email in your portfolio (Project 1), when it’s time to turn in your portfolio.


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The Ethics Email will be worth more than the emails you have turned in so far in this class. Your second project will be worth 15% of your final grade. Included in that 15% is the peer review of the Ethics Email (25 points), your final submission of the Ethics Email (40 points), and a final project reflection (35 points). I am making this project worth more because there’s a lot you’ll be assessed on: your ability to organize the document effectively, choose between direct and indirect pattern, manage your tone, make ethical choices, provide effective feedback to your peers, make revisions, and reflect on your writing process.

7.1 Correspondence: Text Messages, Emails, Memos, and Letters

Unit 18: Emailing

You’ve already been introduced emails in the chapter on correspondence,  (Links to an external site.)and the chapter on emails (Links to an external site.), and you’ll be expected to know what these chapter say about appropriate formatting.

The scenario you’ll be responding to is included below.

Importantly, before noon on Saturday, March 20, you’ll submit a copy of your email for peer review. Before 4pm on Sunday, March 21, you will respond to two classmates’ posts suggest revisions.

You’ll revise the email based on the feedback you receive and submit both the revised email and the reflection on Tuesday, March 23.


Scenario (Draws from scenarios presented in Mike Markel’s Ethics in Technical Communication: A Critique and Synthesis, and Lori Allen and Dan Voss’s Ethics in Technical Communication: Shades of Gray)


Crescent Petroleum, an oil-refining corporation based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has issued a request for proposals for constructing an intranet that will link its headquarters with its three facilities in the United States and Europe. Rivera Informatics, a networking consulting company in Miami, is considering responding with a proposal. If hired, most of Rivera Informatics’ work will be performed at the Crescent Petroleum headquarters in Riyadh.

Crescent Petroleum was established 40 years ago by family members who are related by marriage to the Saudi royal family. At the company headquarters, the support staff and clerical staff include women, who are mostly related to the owners of the company. The professional, managerial, and executive staff is all male, which is traditional in Saudi corporations. Crescent is a large company, with revenues in the billions of dollars.

You are the technical writer for Rivera Informatics, a small Information Technology firm of 12 employees established two years ago by Denise Rivera, a 29-year-old computer scientist with a master’s degree in computer engineering. She is working on her MBA while getting her company off the ground. Her employees include both males and females at all levels. The chief financial officer and several of the professional staff are female.

Looking to gather the information you need for composing a proposal, you travel with Denise to New York to attend a briefing by Crescent. When you arrive, you find that all the representatives from Crescent are middle-aged Saudi men. Denise is also the only female among the representatives of the seven companies that attend the briefing. When Denise shook hands with Mr. Fayed, the Crescent team leader, he smiled and nodded as he did when greeting the other venders.

Still, during the break, Mr. Fayed and his team spent more time speaking with the men from the other six vendors, sometimes leaving you and Denise to stand awkwardly by yourselves. When alone, Denise confided that she got the impression that the Crescent representatives feel uncomfortable in her presence.

On your flight back to Miami, Denise discussed the possibility of gender discrimination but decided to bid on the project because she believes your company could write a persuasive proposal. Rivera Informatics had done several projects of this type successfully in the last year. Though Crescent would be, by far, the most lucrative contract yet.

You wrote the proposal and sent the first draft to Denise for her feedback. She sent the proposal back to you with the following comments and directed revisions:

  • “Everyone’s going to be proposing a six month estimate on this project. Let’s make ours five months to stand out. If we can’t get it done in five, we’ll just explain the delay then.”
  • “I like all the detail about our strategies to eliminate security breaches to the intranet. But you also literally state at the end of that section that ‘any system can be compromised’! Get rid of that.”
  • “The section with information about our company has information about me founding the company and being president. You also included the resumes of the project team, many of whom are women. I’m wondering if Crescent may not like the idea of women in positions of power over the project. Can you revise the boilerplate to remove information about me? Also, change the names on the resumes to only initials.
  • “I like the idea of using Mark Weinstein as principal investigator on the team, but I’m wondering if Crescent might be uncomfortable with Mark’s religious beliefs, since there’s a lot of conflict in that are of the world between people of Jewish and Muslim faith. Maybe you can change Mark’s name to include only initials too. Though maybe we’d be better off bringing in a different principal investigator on the project to be safe…what do you think?”


You consider each of the directed changes and decide you don’t feel comfortable making them. Either some or all these revisions strike you as unethical. Unfortunately, Rivera Informatics does not have a code of conduct to provide guidance.

You look at the pile of work on your desk, the mass of emails in your inbox, at the clock reading 4:30pm, and at the empty bottle of Dayquil by your mouse. You take a deep breath, shake your head, and resolve that careful consideration of the dilemma is required. Once you have clarified the unethical nature of the directed changes, you will compose an email to Denise making your argument against them.


Compose an email persuading Denise Rivera, president and founder of Rivera Informatics, that it is in her best interest, and that of her company, to omit some or all of her directed revisions because they would be unethical. Remember to use appropriate tone–she is your boss, not the other way around.  Also, it’s totally okay to offer alternative suggestions–to be helpful instead of merely critical.

Though you’ll write your email in a Word document, you should create a header that looks like an email with an appropriate subject line. You’ll also want to create a signature that reflects your position at the company.

Make sure to organize your responses in a way that is easy to follow–Denise gets lots of emails everyday and she’ll need to be able to understand your answer without rereading her email to you. You can revisit the chapter on email etiquette here
 (Links to an external site.)

Be especially careful of tone: you want Denise to understand what you will and will not change in the proposal you wrote without offending your boss.  Since she’s your audience, you also want to convince her to get her on board with your choices.


Here’s how you’ll be graded:

  • Is the email well written and free of grammatical and proofreading errors? (5 points)
  • Does the writer follow effective email formatting? For example, is there a specific subject line, a salutation and a signature? Does the email follow good principles for email writing set forth in the textbook? (10 points)
  • Does the writer make effective choices for appropriate tone in formal technical/business writing? For example, does the student use effective word choice, avoid overly negative language, and make appropriate decisions about organization of information (especially as it regards to managing tone)? (10 points)
  • Is the email well organized and easy to follow? Does the email use effective topic sentences? (10 points)
  • Does the writer suggest ethical choices for their boss, with reasons to support their recommendations? (5 points)

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