English 106--Content Engineering

Dr. Eric Sonstroem
Sonstroem Office: WPC 137 Phone: 946-2619
Sonstroem Office Hours: M, W 12:30 - 2:00, and by Appointment.


Spring 2019
MWF 9:30-10:45
WPC 218

Here are this year's student websites! Please click through and enjoy some amazing content!

And if you want even more, here are some sample websites from past runs of this class.

A new list of optional class readings can be found here.


Content Engineering is a professional writing class that has been designed from the ground up with the awareness that electronic content is dynamic, searchable, measurable, researched, optimized, published, marketed, and monetized in ways that are radically different from static "writing."

Catalog Course Description: Content Engineering is a professional writing class this is designed from the ground up with awareness that electronic content is dynamic, searchable, measurable, researched, optimized, published, marketed, and monetized in ways that are radically different from static "writing." Students create websites on a topic of professional interest that they've researched for market viability. Students create content for their sites, place ads on the sites, and use the sites as Content Engineering laboratories. We experiment with different techniques to drive live traffic to the sites, and we learn tools of web analytics and search engine optimization. Students will also learn the underlying fundamentals of goal-oriented user-centric writing. Prerequisite: Junior Standing.

Student Learning Objectives

Students will learn how to:

Students will also:

To this end, students will create a blog on a topic of professional interest to them, a topic they have research for market viability.  Students will create a lot of content for these blogs, then use them as Content Engineering laboratories, experimenting with different techniques to drive real live traffic to their sites, and convert this traffic in different ways.

Be aware that this course is a lot of work, both in terms of the amount of writing you will do, and in terms of the new concepts, techniques, and tools that you will be exposed to.  The payoff, however, is that this set of skills is extremely practical, and very much in demand in the modern workplace.

There is no textbook for this class.  All your readings will be found within the Resources section of our Canvas page, or on the web.

Student work in this course might be retained for research purposes and to assess how course learning outcomes are being met.

The Details

You will be responsible for showing up.  Attendance is required, and the attendance policy is very much like what you will find in the workplace.  You may miss three "personal days" for any reason (and I don't need to know the reason).  After that, your final grade will drop 1/3 of a letter grade for each additional day missed.  If you have a valid, documented reason for needing to miss more classes (eg, a valid medical reason) talk to me about that early in the course so that we can work out an alternate assignment for those days. Just like in the business world, chronic or extreme lateness will also not be tolerated, and may count as absences as well.  The same applies to failure to participate in classroom discussion or activities.  Cell phones (or other texting devices) are absolutely not permitted in class and must be off.  Also, you may not use your computer in class, unless we are doing a classroom activity that specifically requires them.

You will be responsible for carefully reading all assigned readings.  There will be periodic, unannounced reading quizzes throughout the semester.  You might be responsible for printing out some of these readings and bringing them to class.

You will be responsible for actively participating in classroom discussions and activites.  Active classroom participation will help you engage with the material, as well as learn and retain the skills of this class.  Active engagement with co-workers and with your supervisor is crucial to success in the business world.  Therefore, active engagement with me and with your peers in class is a part of your grade.

You will be responsible for turning in assignments when they are due.  As in the business world, deadlines matter, and nobody wants to hear your excuses.  Late papers will be marked down 1/3 of a letter grade for each calendar day they are late.  I will consider giving short extensions on assignments if you contact me ahead of the due date and you have a good reason for wanting the extension.  All assigned work must be completed to pass the course.

Written work will almost always be submitted to me electronically.  Documents must conform to document specifications in the assignments.  Any hard-copy assignments should be printed on white paper, in a standard 12-point font, with one inch margins. All assignments should contain my name, your name, the course number, the date, and a title.

You should have access to a computer and printer.  You will notice that there is a web page for the class, at http://www.sonstroem.com/106/.  You will be required to access this webpage throughout the semester, for readings, assignments and other material.  Many readings will be found on our Canvas site.  Computer access is therefore vital to the class.

A large part of the work for this class will consist of the publication and promotion of a blog or other website.  You need to be aware of this going into the class, and comfortable with the notion that you will be publishing your work on the web.


Please refer to your Student Handbook (Tiger Lore) for a complete statement of the University Honor Code, an essential element in the academic integrity of our campus community.  If I believe you to be in violation of the University Honor Code I will refer the matter to the Office of Student Life.  Penalties for violating the Honor Code can include suspension from the University.  In other words, if you plagiarize in this class, I will probably catch you, and you will probably end up in serious trouble.

Plagiarism is the attempt to pass off someone else's text or ideas as your own. If you copy or paraphrase from any outside source, even another student, and fail to formally acknowledge this in your text, you are guilty of plagiarism. If someone else writes a paper for you, or even part of a paper for you, you are guilty of plagiarism. If you are found guilty of plagiarism, you will receive an F for the assignment, an F for the course, and a letter will be sent to your dean. A student who is found violating the academic honesty policy (i.e.: cheating or knowingly plagiarizing) in a course will be prevented from dropping the course even if the deadline to drop has not expired.  There are no exceptions.

Students with Disabilities:

If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations, please contact the Director of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) for information on how to obtain an Accommodations Request Letter.

3-Step Accommodation Process

1. Student meets with the SSD Director and provides documentation and completes registration forms.

2. Student requests accommodation(s) each semester by completing the Request for Accommodations Form.

3. Student arranges to meet with his/her professors to discuss the accommodation(s) and to sign the Accommodation Request Letter

To ensure timeliness of services, it is preferable that you obtain the accommodation letter(s) from the Office of SSD as early as possible in each term. After the instructor receives the accommodation letter, please schedule a meeting with the instructor during office hours or some other mutually convenient time to arrange the accommodation(s). The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is located in the McCaffrey Center, Rm. 137. Phone: 209-946-3221. Email: ssd@pacific.edu. Online: www.pacific.edu/disabilities


Classroom Participation and In-Class Exercises 


Reading Quizzes 


Case 1, 2, and 3 


Oral Report 1 


Paper 1 


Resume and Cover Letter 


Blog (Proposal, Blog, Presentation, Report) 


Total   ----- 


A = Exceptional quality, distinguished among other college-level work. Rare!

B = Quite good and meets expectations.

C = Meets the minimal expectations.

D = Falls below college-level work and expectations.

F = Fails to meet expectations.

Grade Scale: A 100 to 93 ; A- 92.9 to 90 ; B+ 89.9 to 87 ; B 86.9 to 83 ; B- 82.9 to 80 ; C+ 79.9 to 77 ; C 76.9 to 73 ; C- 72.9 to 70 ; D+ 69.9 to 67 ; D 66.9 to 63 ; D- 62.9 to 60 ; F 59.9 to 0. 

Copies of student work may be retained for purposes including to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met.

Tentative Schedule of Classes

As you can see, this schedule is still a work in progress.  There are 2 reasons for this:

1) This is an upper-level English class at Pacific.  That means that you, the student, are encouraged more than ever to help shape the direction and form of the class.  Student suggestions for additional topics, readings, assignments and/or changes to the course are strongly encouraged.

2) This is a class in a subject area that is changing rapidly.  I will make changes to the schedule, as new technologies and tools develop and emerge, and to help focus the class themes over the course of the semester. I guarantee that I will swap out readings (especially in the second half of the class) as new sources become available.

All readings are available through the Canvas site or online.


Week: 1 Begins: January 14 -- Introduction to Content Engineering / Basic Professional Writing Concepts


In-Class:  Welcome.  Introduction to the class.



Reading: "Introduction to Workplace Communication" on Canvas
In-Class:  Discussion of the Range of Methods of Workplace Communication


Reading: "Effective Document Design" and "Ten Ways to Make Your Documents Shout 'Read Me!'"on Canvas
In-Class:  Document Design Discussion/Workshop


Week: 2 Begins: January 21 -- Blog Topic Research.  Thinking in Keywords.  Researching search trends, using Alexa.


No Class

MLK Holiday



Reading:  Tips for Beginner Bloggers, Google's Guidelines for Bloggers, and read around on Blogger Buzz, Google's official blog about blogging. (all on the web; just click the links)
Tool:  Use Google Trends to see what the trends are on people searching for your topic, where they are from, what categories they are interested in, how this has changed over time, etc.  Search for (and study) other blogs and websites about your proposed topic.  How can this help you choose your topic, focus your topic, target a specific audience?
In-Class:  One-on-one meetings RE Blog Topics


In-Class:  Blog Topic Proposal Draft Workshop
Due:  Blog Topic Proposal Rough Draft


Week: 3 Begins: January 28  -- Understanding Web Traffic / Best Practices for Web Content / Lab -- Getting your blog online!



Tools:  Alexa, Follow, Quantcast, SimilarWeb.  To see what other websites are in your niche, what their audience consists of, etc.
Due:  Blog Topic Proposal Final Draft


Reading: Google's Guides For Producing Relevant Content: Google-Friendly SitesWebmaster GuidelinesWhy Is Content Critical to Ad Targeting? (all on the web; just click the links)
Reading: Other Prespectives on Producing Relevant Content: Optimizing for SEO, Ideal Post Length, and How to Write Search Engine Friendly Blog Articles

In-Class:  Setting up you blog.  Creating your first blog post.  (IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP, PLEASE BRING IT TO CLASS)



Reading: "Workplace Correspondence" on Canvas
In-Class:  Memo Exercise.  More hands-on work on your blog.  (IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP, PLEASE BRING IT TO CLASS)


Week: 4 Begins: February 4  -- Business Writing: Writing Reports / Doing research in a business context



Reading: "Examining a Sample Report" on Canvas
In-Class:   Discussion, Recommendation Reports



Reading: "Principles of Research" on Canvas
In-Class:  Case 1 Draft Workshop.
Due:  Case 1 Rough Draft



Reading: Rice University's Designing Effective Oral Presentations on Canvas
In-Class:  Strategies for Oral Communication
Due:  Case 1 Final Draft


Week: 5 Begins: February 11  -- Oral Presentations based off of interviews with working professionals in your chosen careers.


In-Class:  Oral Report 1
Due:  Oral Report 1


In-Class:  Review of Oral Report 1


Reading: Charles O'Neill, "The Language of Advertising" and David Ogilvy, "How to Write Potent Ad Copy," both on Canvas
In-Class:  Review of Oral Report 1


Week: 6 Begins: February 18  -- Advertising.  Social Media Marketing.  Install and begin using Google Analytics.



No Class. President's Day.


Reading: Setting up your Google Analytics Account, Connecting your Blogger Account to Google Analytics, and A Beginner's Guide to the Google Search Console
Workshop Topics Include: Installing and using Google Analytics and Google Search Console, Designing and managing links, Thinking about Funnels and Goals


Reading:  The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics and Understanding Google Analytics
In-Class:  More work with Google Analytics


Week: 7 Begins: February 25  -- Social Media Marketing Tools, Campaigns, Strategies


Reading:  Young, “Getting Social, Belew, “Fishing in Social Ponds”, and Belew, “Speaking a New Language”, all on Canvas

Bring your laptop to class today if you have one


Reading:  Social Media Algorithms and Facebook's Edgerank: Articles 1, 2, and 3.
In-Class:  Strategies for Social Media Marketing - Intro to Social Media Analytics.


Reading: Brierley “The Principles of Persuasion”, Brierley “The Content of Persuasion”, both on Canvas
In-Class:  Analysis of ads.
In-Class:  Paid Advertising on Social Media (Google Adwords & Facebook Advertising) - CPC vs CPM - Strategies for Effective Social Media Engagement - A/B Testing with Promoted Campaigns
Due:  Case 2 Final Draft


Week: 8 Begins: March 4  -- Paper due


Reading: Browse through “Content Marketing ROI” on Canvas, and these links: What is Content Marketing?, How to Explain Content Marketing, and 25 Content Marketing Examples.
In-Class:  Facebook Edgerank and Social Media Algorithms - A/B Testing with Social Media Campaigns


In-Class:  Draft workshop for Paper 1


In-Class:  Students Review their Social Media Analytics and Reports - Develop Social Media Campaigns Based on Data, Insights, and Analytics
Due:  Paper 1


Spring Break


Week: 9 Begins: March 18  --  Job Hunting mini-unit.


Reading: Resume and Cover Letter Reading on Canvas
In-Class:  Resume Workshop    Note: You are required to bring something with you to this workshop.  Read the assignment.


In-Class:  Resume and Cover Letter Peer Workshop
Due:  Resume and Cover Letter Draft


In-Class:  Using LinkedIn, etc.
In-Class:  Installing Google Adsense  (IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP, PLEASE BRING IT TO CLASS)  "How To"

Due:  Resume and Cover Letter Assignment Final Draft


Week: 10 Begins: March 25  --  SEO / Driving Web Traffic / Split Tests.  Adsense installed on websites by this week.


Reading: Google's How Search Works.   "Understanding Search Engine Marketing" and "Essential Search Engine Optimization", both on Canvas


Reading: Rewriting the Beginner's Guide to SEO, and 10 Important SEO Trends for 2019, and "How to Get Your Startup",  on Canvas
Optional Reading:  "Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide" and "Understanding Search Engine Optimization", both on Canvas
In-Class:  Driving Web Traffic.  (IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP, PLEASE BRING IT TO CLASS) (In class link)


Reading: "How to Build a Strong A/B Testing Plan" on Canvas
Optional but Recommended:  Learn how to do a Chi Squared test.  Try this, or this, or this.
In-Class:  Show and Tell


Week: 11 Begins: April 1  --  New Economies of Digital Content.



Reading: from Jenkins, Ford, and Greene, Spreadable Media on Canvas



Reading: from Shirky, Cognitive Surplus, and from Shirkey Here Comes Everybody, both on Canvas


Reading: Wong, "Five Reasons the Future will be Ruled by B.S.", Graeber, "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs", and "What It's Like to Write for Content Farms"


Week: 12 Begins: April 8  --  New Consequences of Digital Content.



No required reading for this day. Use your class prep time to work on Case 3. If you really want something to read, here is a new list of optional readings for the class.

In-Class:  Bringing the threads together: The future of content, culture, and privacy.



Reading: Kirn, "If You're Not Paranoid, You're Crazy."



Viewing: Cory Doctorow, "The Coming War on General Purpose Computing" (NOTE: This is a video of a talk. If you would rather read the transcript of the talk, or have the transcript to read when you watch the video, the transcript is here)
In-Class:  Powerpoint Workshop
Due:  Case 3 Final Draft


Week: 13 Begins: April 15  --  Student Presentations



Work on Final Project Reports.



Work on Final Project Reports.



In-Class:  PPT Presentations of Final Project Reports:  Alison, Alicia


Week: 14 Begins: April 22  --  Student Presentations



In-Class:  PPT Presentations of Final Project Reports: Mariana, Camille, Danielle



In-Class:  PPT Presentations of Final Project Reports:  Olivia, Linda, Priscilla



In-Class:  PPT Presentations of Final Project Reports:  Emad, Jonathan, Carrin


Week: 15 Begins: April 29  --  Student Presentations


In-Class:  PPT Presentations of Final Project Reports: Matthew, Ericka, Jen



Final Reports Due

Final Project Reports are due via email Friday, May 3rd, at Midnight. No Final Exam.

This website and associated content is copyright 2019, Eric Sonstroem.