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Improving Technical Writing Through Published Standards: The University Of Texas At Tyler Electrical Engineering Laboratory Style Guide

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

ECE Laboratory Development & Innovations

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.708.1 - 9.708.11



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Paper Authors

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Luke Niiler

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David Beams

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

Session 3432

Improving Technical Writing through Published Standards: The University of Texas at Tyler Electrical Engineering Laboratory Style Guide

David M. Beams Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Texas at Tyler

Lucas P. Niiler Department of English and Writing Center Director, University of Texas at Tyler


The writing of technical reports is an integral part of the duties of practicing engineers. The accreditation criteria of EC2000 recognize this by placing emphasis on "soft skills" in engineering education, including written communication skills. Written reports in laboratory classes in electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler have been required since the inception of the engineering program in 1997, but the low quality of written reports produced early in the history of the program made it apparent that engineering students lacked the ability to construct coherent reports. The response to this problem was the development of a published Laboratory Report Style Guide to which written laboratory reports are now required to conform. This paper traces the development of the Style Guide, describes its use in the curriculum, and documents the improvements in student writing realized through its use.

Why a Style Guide was Necessary

The School of Engineering of the University of Texas at Tyler (UT-T) opened in summer, 1997 and began teaching full course offerings in electrical and mechanical engineering that fall. The UT-T was an upper-division school at that time; all students entered the university as transfer students, typically at the beginning of the junior year. (The university began enrolling freshmen and sophomores in fall, 1998, but transfer students still form a significant proportion of the engineering student body). All of the students in the first cohort thus had had at least two years of college coursework prior to matriculation at UT-T; two of them had previously earned BS degrees in physics at another Texas state university. All had taken a minimum of two semesters of English grammar and composition and completed at least one semester of general chemistry, two semesters of physics, and an introductory circuit-analysis course before enrolling in the BSEE program at UT-T. All had had laboratory experience in their coursework.

It might be assumed that students having such credentials would be able to write coherent reports of their laboratory work. The first laboratory reports submitted in the fall of 1997 immediately dispelled this assumption; their overall quality could best be described as abysmal. There were numerous mechanical problems (spelling, punctuation, grammar, and page formatting), but

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Niiler, L., & Beams, D. (2004, June), Improving Technical Writing Through Published Standards: The University Of Texas At Tyler Electrical Engineering Laboratory Style Guide Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13767

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