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Work in Progress: Thematic Analysis of Engineering Students’ Technical Writing

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

The 'Strengths' of Mechanics

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Reihaneh Jamshidi University of Hartford

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Reihaneh Jamshidi is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Hartford. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University in 2018. Her teaching focuses on materials science and mechanical design. Reihaneh’s primary research interests are design, manufacturing, characterization, and mechanics of soft materials and structures.

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This study describes the process of thematic analysis within the context of teaching and learning technical writing in a materials testing laboratory course. This process involves searching students’ lab reports for their writing mistakes and sorting the relevant extracts into categories and identifying themes. Characterization and theme identification are made by analyzing previous semesters’ reports for a total of 140 lab reports and pre-defining the themes for future applications. Observations may be made at each semester that do not fit into any of the pre-defined categories. For this reason, the themes will grow over the course of semesters. The objective is to develop a method of providing feedback to students in a concise and contextualized manner. It is anticipated that by categorizing students’ mistakes into themes and providing feedback on each of the themes students find higher motivation for improvement, compared to the situation where they are given individual comments on each and every one of their mistakes in an unsorted and unclassified way. The process of classifying student errors and finding themes, and writing up feedbacks built upon those themes are explained here by giving specific examples. The gaining from this approach can be effortlessly implemented in other engineering courses where students submit technical reports and receive the instructor’s feedback on the quality of their writing, not just the work’s technical content.

Jamshidi, R. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Thematic Analysis of Engineering Students’ Technical Writing Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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