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Writing tips for students


This set of OWL resources aims to help engineering instructors and TAs create and assess a variety of short, low-overhead writing exercises for use in engineering courses. The primary focus here is on “writing to learn” assignments, which leverage writing to improve students’ conceptual understanding of technical concepts.

Writing exercises can be used in engineering courses to promote the deeper learning of technical material and build students’ writing skills. Writing in engineering courses gives students practice in articulating engineering concepts to different audiences and in engaging with technical communication genres. However, engineering instructors and TAs often struggle to incorporate writing into engineering classes due to a variety of challenges, including class size and the amount of time it takes to grade writing assignments. Additionally, the teaching of writing is an entire discipline of study with its own theories and practices that may not be accessible to engineering educators.

Contributors:Lindsey Macdonald
Last Edited: 2017-11-06 10:46:32

Prewriting Exercises

Asking questions: Ask your students to consider the following questions before they begin writing:

These questions will help your students consider how they should frame their answers and what sort of content/language they need to include.

Brainstorming: Before your students start responding to writing prompts, have them first jot down all the ideas that come to their mind. They can freewrite or make a list. 

Organizing thoughts: It might be helpful for students to first outline or map out all their main points. This can take many different forms, including a traditional outline or a diagram/idea map. A traditional outline will help students develop a specific structure while a diagram or idea map will help them to begin organizing their thoughts and thinking about how all their ideas fit together.

You can find an example of an idea map and strategies for developing effective outlines in the following OWL resources: 

Additionally, for more information on pre-writing, consult “Invention: Starting the Writing Process” and “Introduction to Prewriting: Invention”.

Quick revision and editing tips before turning in assignments

Content revision:

For more information on topic sentences and transitions, consult the OWL’s resources on paragraphs and transitional devices.

Sentence-level editing:

For more information on common sentence level errors, consult the OWL’s “Finding Common Errors” page.

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