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Writing And Undergraduate Engineers A Continuing Problem

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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

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1320.1 - 8.1320.8

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Paper Authors

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R Wane Schneiter

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

Session 0000

Writing and Undergraduate Engineers - A Continuing Problem

R. Wane Schneiter Virginia Military Institute


Essentially any published paper that addresses either the engineering curriculum or deficiencies in the skills of practicing engineers includes conclusions regarding the need to improve capabilities in written and oral communication.2,9,11,12,13,17 In the Report of the Committee on Evaluation of Engineering Education published in 1955, the Committee considered “insistence upon the development of a high level of performance in the oral, written, and graphical communication of ideas” an essential element of the engineering curriculum.1

Surveys conducted of civil engineering students and graduates at Virginia Military Institute (VMI)6,7,8 and Lamar University,12 as well as likely hundreds of other unpublished surveys conducted by engineering departments lead to conclusions that engineers need and want better communication skills to effectively perform in their careers.

Written and oral communication has been recognized as an important element of engineering education for nearly 50 years.1 Many suggestions have been offered on how to encourage engineering students to write using a variety of instructional tools, by developing specific technical writing courses, and by a proliferation of writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs and writing centers at colleges and universities in the United States.3,5,10,15,16 Furthermore, a study conducted at Virginia Tech revealed that engineering students have high standardized-test verbal scores and other attributes suggesting that they should be capable writers and oral communicators, but they are not.10

This history of apparent conflict between engineers' technical capabilities and their written and oral communication skills begs the question of why is there a problem and how can it be overcome. If undergraduate engineering education is to succeed in developing graduates with effective technical writing skills, the following four basic issues must be resolved: 1) Technical writing is not English composition. 2) Engineering faculty must consistently demonstrate that technical writing is a required engineering skill. 3) Technical writing can only be taught in context. 4) Technical writing requires a lot of practice.

Technical Writing is Not English Composition

Technical writing is not English composition. Kent M. Black, then Executive Vice President and Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Schneiter, R. W. (2003, June), Writing And Undergraduate Engineers A Continuing Problem Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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