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Proofreading Exercises To Improve Technical Writing In A Freshman Engineering Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD3 -- Professional Issues for First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1051.1 - 11.1051.10



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Paper Authors


John-David Yoder Ohio Northern University

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JOHN-DAVID YODER is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and currently holds the LeRoy H. Lytle Chair at ONU. His Doctorate is from the University of Notre Dame. Research interests include education, controls, robotics, and information processing. Prior to teaching, he ran a small consulting and R&D company and served as proposal engineering supervisor for GROB Systems, Inc.

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David Sawyers Ohio Northern University

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DAVID R. SAWYERS, JR. is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ohio Northern University, where he teaches courses in General Engineering and in the Thermal Sciences. He received a BSME degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the MS and PhD, both in Mechanical Engineering, from The University of Notre Dame.

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John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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JOHN K. ESTELL is Chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department at Ohio Northern University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process, user interface design, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. Dr. Estell is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

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Laurie Laird Ohio Northern University

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Laurie Laird is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Co-op Director at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. She received her Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1989. She has been employed at ONU and a member of ASEE since 1993. She is a member of SWE and has been involved in recruiting students to engineering through outreach programs such as Camp GEMS (Girls In Engineering, Math and Science).

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

Proofreading Exercises to Improve Technical Writing in a Freshman Engineering Course


The freshman curriculum for engineering students has recently been completely restructured at Ohio Northern University (ONU). All engineering majors now take a common three-course introduction to engineering sequence during their first year. An important component of this new sequence is the inclusion of more technical communication exercises in the everyday coursework. In the 2005-06 academic year, a technical writing book has been added as a required text, which is used extensively in the first course; it is further used as a reference in subsequent courses. However, in spite of several lectures and reading assignments on the basic rules of grammar and punctuation, it was found that students continued to submit work which contained obvious and significant errors.

In an effort to improve students’ ability to identify and correct their own errors, two exercises in proofreading were given to the students. First, each student was asked to create a report. Another student was then made responsible for proofreading the document. When this assignment was graded, both the author and the proofreader lost points for any errors which were found by the instructor. Additional assignments were given in which students were asked to find errors in written material and in graphs.

Student performance was assessed by the faculty teaching this course (four faculty taught a total of five sections) on the basis of the above assignments. In addition, students were given a self-assessment of how their writing and proofreading skills have been affected by this assignment. In-class quizzes were given to measure students’ ability to proofread by asking them to find errors in written work and in graphs. Finally, two similar questions on the final examination were used to measure students’ ability to proofread. This paper discusses the proofreading assignment, the results of the various forms of assessment, lessons learned, and plans for modification for next year’s classes.


As part of curriculum reform at ONU, a new sequence of three freshman courses was created in the Engineering College. These courses were designed to have significant technical communication content, and were first implemented in the 2004-05 academic year. Feedback from both students and faculty, obtained as part of our standard continuous improvement processes, indicated that this sequence needed significant improvement, particularly in the first course, which contained much of the focus on technical communication. In response to this feedback, the first course, especially its technical communications aspect, was redesigned during the summer of 2005. A new technical communication text was required for the course, and significant classroom time was devoted to technical communication content. Initial assignments, however, indicated

Yoder, J., & Sawyers, D., & Estell, J. K., & Laird, L. (2006, June), Proofreading Exercises To Improve Technical Writing In A Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--574

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