As you may have noticed, we have a new addition to our writing staff at Engineer Blogs. Miss MSE joined us as a guest contributor.
What you might not have noticed is, with Miss MSE’s arrival and Paul Clarke’s departure, Engineer Blogs’ active writing staff is now 2/3 women.
I’m a bit surprised by that given the usual ratio of men to women in engineering. I have a few theories why, aside from the obvious one that the male writers keep leaving. However, one underlying issue that is likely related is that engineers just don’t seem to like to write.
This one puzzles me. Is it because engineering is a male-dominated field, and young boys are given the message early in life that they are bad writers? Does this make them not want to try? Or is it that they really ARE bad writers and realize the effort is futile?
I came across a wonderful essay entitled When Engineers Write. Reading through the list, I recognized coworkers and colleagues alike. There are also many a journal article I’ve read with one or more characteristics from the list.
And students. Oh yes…the students.
My contemplation of this subject began when I had students come to talk to me about lab reports for our class earlier this week. As part of the academic skills class I am teaching, I am covering how to keep a lab notebook and how to write a lab report. One student’s lab report consisted of sections of bulleted outlines. Another was terse: there was one sentence for each section with almost no detail. (And they very seldom staple anything.)
Of course, I immediately became frustrated, but this is exactly why I am teaching this skill. I learned after teaching my first circuits lab that most engineering students really have no clue how to write a proper lab report.
I see this lack of interest in writing lab reports to be a part of a larger trend that engineers just don’t like to write in general. I’ve had many students tell me over the years that they don’t need to know how to write as they aren’t English majors. They don’t like to write reports, but as they get out in the world, they also don’t like to write blogs. I know engineers read a lot, or places like EEWeb, EDN, and EEtimes (among many others) wouldn’t exist. I’m just not sure where they get their writers.
Looking at blogs specifically, science blogs have a huge variety of topics and writers, but you don’t see that with engineering despite the larger numbers. Even the IEEE Spectrum only has about six blogs.
I do realize that lack of engineering blogs may be due to some reason other than the fact that engineers don’t like to write. On the other hand, the medium is one that involves a significant amount of writing, and I can’t help but wonder if that is a contributing factor.
What do you think? Why aren’t there more engineering blogs? And why do you think a lot of engineers don’t like to write?