Teaching writing to engineering and science students presents many challenges to the instructor. The resources at this web site are intended to help instructors overcome some of those challenges. For those instructors who have backgrounds in writing but not in engineering and science, one challenge is to convince the students that what is being taught is relevant to the writing that they will do as professional engineers and scientists. To show that relevance, these resources include writing exercises that have been culled from the documents of professional engineers and scientists. Likewise, for those instructors who have backgrounds in engineering and science but not in writing, one challenge is to find an organized way to discuss writing. To help those instructors organize such discussions, these resources include sets of presentation visuals that break down the subject of writing into logical perspectives.
The need to teach writing to engineering and science students is clear. Also clear is that engineering and science students should in their curricula receive instruction from instructors whose backgrounds are in writing. What is not so clear is whether engineering and science students should also receive writing instruction from instructors whose backgrounds are in engineering and science.
One reason for engineering and science instructors to incorporate writing into their courses is that by doing so, these faculty show the students that writing is an integral part of engineering and science. Another reason for engineering and science faculty to incorporate writing assignments into their courses is that they are in a strong position to decide which engineering and science topics that students should write about. When engineering and science faculty assign writing as part of a design or laboratory course, the students often must wrestle with communicating topics that they do not understand well. Such struggles benefit the students. Yet a third reason for engineering and science faculty to incorporate writing into their courses is that they are in a good position to evaluate certain aspects of the writing. While writing instructors have more experience commenting on rhetoric, style, and mechanics, engineering and science faculty have more experience evaluating other aspects. One such aspect is the precision of the language. Because engineering and science faculty understand the engineering and scientific principles in the document, they can assess whether the students have communicated them accurately. Another aspect is the emphasis of details. Because engineering and science faculty understand the design or laboratory problems, they can assess whether the students have highlighted the most important results. A third aspect that engineering and science instructors are in a better position to assess is the depth that the students should achieve when the primary audience is technical.
In learning about writing, the engineering or science student benefits from having both types of instructors: instructors whose backgrounds are in writing and instructors whose backgrounds are in engineering and science. The teaching resources at this web site attempt to bridge these two types of instruction so that the students do not receive advice that they perceive as conflicting. For those instructors with backgrounds in writing, these resources provide technical examples that the instructors can incorporate into their teaching of writing principles. For those instructors with backgrounds in engineering and science, these resources provide a framework for designing, discussing, and evaluating writing assignments.
Last updated 4/00
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