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FACULTY/STAFF DIRECTORY

 
Writing in Engineering Technology

By Dr. Robert Adams

  • In Engineering Technology, writing helps in such areas as communication of ideas, promotion of those ideas to customers and managers, verbal communication with customers and managers, and overcoming language barriers between non-native speakers. Good, clear writing simplifies the process of converting complicated technical processes in the field into smaller understandable pieces.

  • The executive summary for Engineering Technology, at the center of communicating in this field, can mean the difference between a project’s approval or rejection. The summary must be clear, with good background information and theory. This summary must include the purpose of the project, information on the data collected, findings derived from the data, conclusions based on those findings, and any recommendations. Typically, all this has to occur within one page, and making this happen is not an easy task. However, project managers must be able to review submitted reports, including the executive summary, and have a good understanding of what the author is trying to say.

  • In the research field, communication occurs horizontally between departments involved in research, in addition to vertically between the different levels of management (for which the executive summary is an example). This horizontal communication occurs through e-mails, phone conversations, group discussions, and research updates. In any and all cases, everyone must be able to understand what’s happening.

  • In terms of aspects of writing in Engineering Technology, good content is of primary importance. Information should be thorough, and students should use theory and analysis to think critically and create questions of their own.

  • Organization is secondary, but it still is very important. Included with proper organization are titles, headings, and overall formatting that exhibit consistency, as well as data such as charts and graphs that is clear and logically structured. Due to the level of professionalism required by industry standards, I often guide my students to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Inc. (or IEEE). IEE is a publication covering many fields, and it often provides sample writing formats that are considered to be industry standards. IEEE is available to students online at http://www.ieee.org/portal/site.

  • Grammar is considered least, but proper grammar should not be ignored. Incorrect grammar indicates a lack of professionalism and care on the part of the researcher regarding his or her work. Incorrect grammar also can lead to readers misinterpreting data, resulting in erroneous conclusions.

  • In Engineering Technology, student papers should do the following:
    • Cover the key points mentioned in class discussions
    • Contain relevant discourse and concise data
    • Avoid the use of the first person
    • Have a clean appearance, with effective equations and graphs
      • Relate equations and graphs to the text on the page
      • Follow the format of a template when one is provided
  • Students who make As have properly addressed the issues of organization and grammar while developing thought-provoking content that is unique and distinguishes the writer as an individual researcher.

  • Students who make Bs, Cs, and Ds write papers that suffer from either a lack of content or from technical oversights. These insights might include forgetting units of measure on graphs or charts, not including technical information, or presenting results without the steps needed to produce them.

  • Quality writing is important enough in my classes that I often provide my students with laptop computers. These laptops allow students to write in and out of the classroom, produce figures and graphs for high quality reports, and edit those reports with ease. I regularly produce templates to guide my students, and I expect them to learn how to write in these formats naturally. (The link to my template is http://paws.wcu.edu/radams/ECET%20Lab%20Report%20Format.pdf).

  • Writing in Engineering Technology is similar to journalism in that reports must avoid technical jargon and properly consider a broad audience. I often tell my students that no matter what they write, a high school student should be able to pick up their reports, read them, and understand what’s going on. As with journalism, writing in Engineering Technology attempts to answer the questions of What, When, Where, Why, and How. The executive summary can be a little more creative. Its purpose is not only to provide concise information but also to “hook” the reader and encourage him or her to continue beyond the first few lines.

  • Careers in Engineering Technology that require writing are numerous, but the fields that rely on writing most are Test Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Reliability Engineering.
 

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