Tag Archives: technical writing

In a couple weeks, I plan to spend some time with my students on writing lab reports.  Both in science and engineering, students spend a pretty significant amount of time writing reports (or they should!). I decided this would be a part of my curriculum after remembering my experience teaching circuits labs the first time.  I was amazed at how many students had made it that far without having a good understanding of how to write a lab report.  I ended up spending a good chunk of lab time trying to teach this particular skill. The reason I think this is important is not only for academic success but for success in a job.  As an engineer, you have to write a lot of reports.  Your superiors have to explain why they’re paying you, so you need to be able to justify your existence. Education in this realm, however, has…

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I’ve been thinking about writing lately, particularly the skill involved and various writing styles and approaches to writing. It’s been talked about here on Engineer Blogs before. GEARS has talked about writing for labs and his particular preferences for the ritual of writing as well as writing proposals. And I’ve talked about technical writing before. But I’m thinking today about more basic writing skills. As in natural spelling and grammar spells (which you know of course means I’ve just doomed myself to those sorts of mistakes in this post). How important are those kinds of skills to an engineer? I’ve seen plenty of engineers who lack these basic skills. Their handwritten notes often misspell the same word in several different ways within just a few sentences of one another. Their word documents often include homonyms and disjointed sentence fragments as well as run-on paragraphs. Beyond these basics there also tends to be…

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How do you write your best reports? The hardest part for me is getting started. Back when I was a humanities student I had a post-it note system of organization. Rather than starting with a written outline, I’d go through the document and attach stickies wherever there was a point I wanted to analyze. Then I’d just go back through, cite it or paraphrase with a footnote, and write my analysis on the spot. Now it’s a bit harder for me to do this fly by night method. It helps to start with a template I think which can serve as a rough outline, but it doesn’t actually capture the main points you might want to hit. I generally have a really good idea of the overall objective and less of a good idea about how to get the reader through all the logical steps to get there. Often I…

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