Asee peer logo

A Novel Approach to Teaching Technical Writing

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Creative and Cross-disciplinary Methods Part I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.83.1 - 25.83.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Chad A. B. Wilson University of Houston

visit author page

Chad A. B. Wilson wrote his dissertation on hybridity and allegory in 19th-century British literature before transitioning to the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering, where he directs a technical communications program. He runs the technical communications course and helps other professors develop and assess communications assignments.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A Novel Approach to Teaching Technical Writing This paper describes how ENGI 2304: Technical Communications for Engineers usesbest-selling novels to provide course content and to lead students from their liberal studies intotheir engineering studies. Students read the novels Pompeii by Robert Harris and Prey byMichael Crichton and complete projects based on or inspired by those novels. The paper firstexplains the standard research projects in technical writing classes and outlines severalobjections with these projects. Then, it outlines the rationale for using literature in a technicalwriting class. Previous studies have argued against the practice of mixing literature withtechnical writing, so this paper explains how this new purpose and procedure answers thoseprevious objections. Then it explains how these newer novel projects meet the course goals aswell as provide fun content for both the professor and the students. The novels also providecontent for technical writing projects. For Pompeii, groups studied, wrote about, and presentedon Roman aqueducts, engineers in Roman society, Roman architecture, volcanic predictions, andthe eruption of Vesuvius, while those for Prey studied emergent behavior, the feasibility ofnanotechnology, the ecological dangers of nanotechnology, and distributed programming. Thenthe paper describes exactly how literature is used in the class and provides the results of theproject using an anonymous student survey. Students enjoyed the projects, and they learnedabout the forms of engineering writing.

Wilson, C. A. B. (2012, June), A Novel Approach to Teaching Technical Writing Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20843

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015