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Integrating Writing Into Technical Courses

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.707.1 - 7.707.14



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Paper Authors

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Susan Smith

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Anneliese Watt

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Caroline Carvill

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Julia Williams

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

Main Menu Session 1416

Integrating Writing into Technical Courses: Steps toward Incorporating Communication Into the Engineering Classroom

Caroline Carvill, Susan L. Smith, Anneliese Watt, Julia M. Williams Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Abstract: This paper presents a process for use by engineering faculty who wish to develop effective writing assignments for technical courses. The process is based on the design process, something with which engineering faculty are very familiar. In addition to the process, the authors offer background information regarding audience analysis, assignment development, and evaluation techniques; these aspects should help interested faculty avoid the common pitfalls associated with assigning and evaluating writing. Introduction Since the adoption of the ABET EC 2000 and the emphasis on outcomes-based education, the number of engineering faculty who assign writing in their technical courses has increased significantly. Recent issues of Technical Communication Quarterly, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, and Journal of Engineering Education document the efforts of engineering faculty working in teams with technical communication faculty to develop writing assignments.1-4 We found similar evidence when we informally surveyed engineering faculty who attended communication workshops we conducted at the American Society for Engineering Education during 1999 and 2000. Participants described a wide variety of communication tasks and discussed their experiences in making writing a component of an engineering course. From the surveys, we concluded generally that engineers introduce communication into their technical courses for three reasons:

1. Writing assignments not only help students improve their ability to communicate within the engineering discipline, but also serve to increase their understanding of engineering concepts. 2. Engineering faculty feel strongly that communication will be an important asset to students in their future work as engineers. 3. Meeting ABET requirements necessitates the incorporation of communication skills development in courses within the engineering major, not just in one specified course in technical communication. 5

This empirical evidence is also supported by recent research in composition studies. Not only do such experiences help engineering students see the value of communication for their future careers, but writing in the engineering classroom also introduces students to the modes of communication that are appropriate to the field of engineering. When the engineering professor assigns lab reports, project proposals, and design reports, students learn to communicate from a practitioner of engineering communication, that is, the engineering faculty member. 6

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Smith, S., & Watt, A., & Carvill, C., & Williams, J. (2002, June), Integrating Writing Into Technical Courses Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10296

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