June 16, 2002
June 16, 2002
June 19, 2002
7.38.1 - 7.38.7
Main Menu Session 2555
A Course Initiating an Engineering ThesisÑ Pat LaCourse, Barrett Rock Alfred University/University of New Hampshire
Introduction Every college and university has prerequisites for entrance into its engineering graduate programs. Academic background is examined via transcript, GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores, and for non-native applicants, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores. Personal statements, references and interviews attempt to address personality traits and skills: motivation, perseverance, enthusiasm, organization, independent thinking, problem solving, time management, etc. Upon review of the criteria, the committee decides whether the student is a candidate for success.
The screening process is not fail-safe, however. Those who enter a program without the requisites or falter in the program need help in order to reach degree completion. When there is trouble meeting course work or qualifying examination standards, tutors may be provided. If financial barriers are high, grants may be sought. If research results are too discouraging, communication and support from an advisor can improve perspective (advisor supervision was thought to be a significant factor in student retention in the '70s and '80s 2). Other reasons for students leaving a program (time requirements too intense, failing to submit the thesis, personal problems, etc.) may be ameliorated by the course proposed here. In 1998 a Graduate Student Services Survey was conducted to gather information for increasing satisfaction and retention. 3 More than a third of the respondents were interested in more information on resources and writing theses.
Lack of preparation increases stress when tackling any task and is a major failure factor. There has been much discussion about the technical writing abilities of engineers. Spretnak 4 postulates that people are drawn to engineering because they believe there will be less writing, but the engineer’s writing skills are vital. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers 5 and employers express concern with evidence of low communication skills. Surveys indicate proficiency in communication may be a deciding factor in an engineer’s successful career, 4 ABET insists each graduate should demonstrate “both mastery of the subject matter and a high level of communication skills”, 6 yet surveys over an eight year span showed little change in writing requirements in engineering curriculums. 7, 8 Most curriculums require undergraduate Freshman Composition while recommending another course in communications and/or technical writing. This may not be adequate for a task with the magnitude and complexity of a thesis. Since technical content demands much of the curriculum, programs search for ways to integrate writing and speaking skills. Two such programs, Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and
· Ñ In the United States the term dissertation generally refers to the paper written to obtain a doctorate, and th esis most often describes the Masters document. In Britain it is just the opposite. 1 In other countries they may use thesis to describe either. ‘Thesis’ will be used here to refer to a Ph.D. or M.S. work.
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education
LaCourse, P., & Rock, B. (2002, June), A Course Initiating An Engineering Thesis Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. https://peer.asee.org/10237
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