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Observations from an Engineering Writing Project

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Communication: From Pecha Kucha to Bullets

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1115.1 - 22.1115.8



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Paper Authors


Micah Hale University of Arkansas

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Dr. Hale is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas. His research interests include concrete materials and structural concrete design.

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Richard A. Coffman University of Arkansas

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Richard A. Coffman is an assistant professor of Civil Engineering (geotechnical emphasis) at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Rick received his bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wyoming in 2002, his masters degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003, and his doctoral degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2009. Rick is a licensed professional engineer and licensed professional land surveyor in the state of Missouri, and is a member of ASCE, the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers, and the United States Society on Dams. Rick’s research focuses on laboratory and field testing of soils and remote sensing applications within geotechnical engineering.

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Preventing Death by Communication: Observations from an Engineering Writing ProjectWritten and oral communication skills are highly sought after abilities in engineering graduates.However, outside of an English Composition or a Technical Communication course, these skillsare seldom directly addressed. Often the course subject matter, specifically in undergraduateengineering courses, dictate what is covered, and little additional time is available to discussthese topics. Even in graduate school, students may not begin writing until they have finishedtheir course work and have begun working on their thesis or dissertation.In Spring 2010, two graduate courses, Measurement of Soil Properties and Advanced ConcreteMaterials, were offered and in these courses, a writing component comprised a significantportion of their overall grade. In Measurement of Soil Properties, students conducted alaboratory experiment, analyzed data, and wrote a technical paper based on their experiments. Inthe other class, students wrote a state-of-the-art review paper based on one of the course topics.In both classes, students were required to write a journal article, serve as peer reviewers, submittheir article to a journal, and present their paper to their classmates.These two courses addressed much more than forming a complete sentence. Topics ranged fromfigure title placement to a thorough review of a journal’s style manual to reading and interpretingauthor guidelines. Students were also presented with examples of published articles fromleading journals.The goal of the class project was more than just writing a paper. As with any class, the goal wasfor the students to learn more about the course subject matter and improve their writing skills.This paper presents observations of the course project from the professors’ and the students’perspectives. Recommendations for future writing projects are also presented.

Hale, M., & Coffman, R. A. (2011, June), Observations from an Engineering Writing Project Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18808

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