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Effective Strategies To Motivate Engineering Students To Develop Their Technical Writing Skills

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.218.1 - 4.218.11

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Paper Authors

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John E. Nydahl

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Colin K. Keeney

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Ann Peck

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3530

Effective Strategies to Motivate Engineering Students to Develop Their Technical Writing Skills

Ann Peck, John E. Nydahl, Colin K. Keeney Department of Mechanical Engineering/ Department of Mechanical Engineering/ Department of English University of Wyoming


Many engineering students have a real aversion to writing-intensive assignments. This paper discusses several curriculum changes incorporated in a mechanical engineering program to demonstrate just how vital communication skills are in an engineering environment and to improve those skills. The primary motivational technique is the use of student interviews with practicing engineers, allowing students to personally “discover” this real world phenomena by interacting with professionals in their field and gaining first-hand understanding of the importance of good technical writing skills. To help give a sophomore-level technical writing course immediate relevance, it is linked to a class/laboratory that was reformulated to include a large writing component. The laboratory includes team written prelabs, draft reports that are peer reviewed, and final reports that use both a memo and formal report formats. The time management plan and grading procedure that are used to effectively compact the technical material plus all the above writing components into a one-hour class/laboratory are discussed. An assessment of this interdisciplinary venue is also given.

I. Introduction

An ability to communicate effectively is expected of all college graduates. Nurturing this expertise in an engineering curriculum is especially difficult, in spite of the fact that entering engineering students at the University of Wyoming (UW) have above average English and Reading ACT scores and the College of Engineering’s average composite ACT score is the highest of any college1. A primary obstacle is the students’ perspective of the engineering profession only in terms of its technical and problem-solving aspects - the basic attributes of engineering that many wish to study. Engineering students therefore often have a real aversion to writing-intensive assignments and view them as just time-consuming nuisances, even when related to engineering subject matter. The typical engineering freshman/sophomore curriculum somewhat reinforces this notion by burying the only required writing course - the traditional freshman level composition course - in a maze of math, science and engineering courses. It is difficult to easily remedy this problem because all the engineering curricula are highly structured and rely on a full complement of basic technical courses being taught during the first two years.

Nydahl, J. E., & Keeney, C. K., & Peck, A. (1999, June), Effective Strategies To Motivate Engineering Students To Develop Their Technical Writing Skills Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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