Teaching a Technical Writing and Research Course to Engineering Students: Recommendations for Curriculum Reform

Teaching a Technical Writing and Research Course to Engineering Students: Recommendations for Curriculum Reform

Anna-Maria Andreou (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth, Cyprus)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4063-3.ch002
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Training in communication skills is considered extremely important in the engineering profession. However, educational organisations and most specifically engineering programs and departments have often been criticised for failing to adequately prepare engineering students for the situations they will face in the workplace. This chapter describes a technical writing and research course that is offered as a required course to engineering students and analyses the advantages and limitations of the course pointing to changes in the course development that will enable students to perform successfully as communicators in the workplace.
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The importance of communication skills for the engineering profession has been acknowledged and affirmed in employer and alumni surveys that aim to identify the role that communication skills play in professional life. For example, results from a U.S. Industry-Government Roundtable for enhancing Engineering Education survey of 420 engineers and engineer managers revealed that survey participants considered communication one of the top 11 skills for success in the engineering workplace (Lang et al., 1999). These results were confirming the findings of two previous studies (Evans et al, 1993; Benefield et al., 1997), which rated communication skills second and among the top fifth key success factors respectively. Similarly, results of a 2001 survey showed that former engineering students from three different classes ranked technical communication and interpersonal skills highest of all the skills listed for importance in professional life (Τryggvason et al., 2001). Pinelli et al. (1995) surveyed the amount of time 2,355 aerospace engineers and scientists spent communicating technical information at work. Results showed that producing their own technical communication varied from 19.6 to 23.3 hours and responding to technical communication from others from 14.9 to 19.6 hours. Sageev and Romanowski (2001) also found in a survey targeting 1500 newly graduated engineers who attended the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the University at Buffalo between 1994 and 1996 that 208 respondents spent 64% of their overall work time on communication such as writing (32%), oral presentations (10%) and other oral discussions such as conveying ideas and concepts in meetings (22%). They also found that the amount of hours used on technical communication increased as they advanced professionally.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Soft Skills: Soft skills are non-technical skills and include communication, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, and work ethic.

CAC Program: A Communication Across the Curriculum Program aims to incorporate oral and written assignments and activities into courses across disciplines.

Discourse Analysis: A research method for analysing written and spoken language use in relation to its social context.

Technical Communication: A field that helps users to convey scientific, engineering, or other technical information.

ETEK: The Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (????) is the statutory Technical Advisor to the State and is the umbrella organisation for all Cypriot Engineers.

ECTS: The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System aims to make national education systems more comparable internationally.

Bologna Process: A series of agreements made between various European countries set out in June 1999 to ensure common standards, comparability, and reliability of higher education qualifications across Europe.

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