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Learning To Write: Experiences With Technical Writing Pedagogy Within A Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Global Issues in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.818.1 - 8.818.10



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Paper Authors

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Richard Figliola

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Beth Daniell

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Art Young

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David Moline

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

Session 1141

Learning To Write: Experiences with Technical Writing Pedagogy Within a Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Beth Daniell1, Richard Figliola2, David Moline2, and Art Young1 1 Department of English 2 Department of Mechanical Engineering Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29631


This case study draws from a recent experience in which we critically reviewed our efforts of teaching technical writing within our undergraduate laboratories. We address the questions: “What do we want to accomplish?” and “So how might we do this effectively and efficiently?” As part of Clemson University's Writing-Across-The-Curriculum Program, English department consultants worked with Mechanical Engineering faculty and graduate assistants on technical writing pedagogy. We report on audience, genre, and conventions as important issues in lab reports and have recommended specific strategies across the program for improvements.


Pedagogical questions continue about the content, feedback and methodology of the technical laboratory writing experience in engineering programs. In fact, there is no known prescription for success, and different programs try different approaches. Some programs delegate primary technical writing instruction to campus English departments, while others maintain such instruction within the engineering department, and hybrids in-between exist. But the approaches seem as much driven by financial necessity and numbers efficiency as they are by pedagogical effectiveness. While better-heeled departments can employ technically trained writing specialists to tutor students individually, the overwhelming majority of engineers are trained at quality institutions whose available resources require other methods. So how can we do this effectively and efficiently?

At the heart of the matter is the question, “What do we want to accomplish?” We find ourselves trying to accomplish two instructional tasks that are often competing and we suspect that we are not alone. The first task deals with communicating effectively. This task focuses on articulating through format, structure, grammar and syntax. Writing specialists are best trained in teaching this practice. The other task deals with communicating technically. This task focuses on technical substance, technical analysis and interpretation, and the overall use of engineering principles and concepts to explain and to conclude an answer to a posed question. Technical

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Figliola, R., & Daniell, B., & Young, A., & Moline, D. (2003, June), Learning To Write: Experiences With Technical Writing Pedagogy Within A Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11457

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