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Why Writing Matters

Why Writing Matters in Electrical and Computer Engineering

"Communication is critical to engineering; without it, Mars landers miss Mars and bridges fall down!"

~Russ Clark, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department


Why Writing Matters in Electrical and Computer Engineering

In any field of engineering, no project is finished until you have communicated the results. Since that communication generally involves writing, successful engineers learn how to explain their work so that others can understand it.

Building a device or designing a process is not enough; every person on a project must be able to communicate with co-workers as well as other persons interested in the work.

Typical Writing Assignments

Writing assignments vary, depending on the course. Typical writing assignments depend on the level of the course and the course curriculum:

  • Lab reports are the most common writing assignments; these require students to clearly explain the processes and results of their laboratory work.
  • Research reports give students insight into current engineering issues, such as renewable energy.
  • Senior design reports, which accompany the senior design project, explain in detail the processes used in the design project and the outcome of the project.

Qualities of Good Writing

The challenge for engineers is that their writing must make it possible for the reader to understand what they did. The results of their work must be understandable to someone with only basic expertise in the field. Thus there must be sufficient detail for the writing to be clear, but no irrelevant detail that would distract or confuse the reader.

The writing is generally formal in tone, observing professional conventions. Examples of good professional writing are available from instructors.

Appropriate Types of Evidence & Support

Evidence and support depend on the type of document:

  • A lab report must include all the data gathered from the experiment or work.
  • A research report must be based on authoritative sources; engineering journals are the preferred source. The library databases provide easy access to many engineering journals.
  • Senior design reports must explicitly describe what the researcher did, what materials were used, how the completed project works.

References and Resources

The authoritative source for references and resources is the IEEE website,, which includes the IEEE Digital Library.

Faculty Perspectives 
on Writing:

Russ Clark

Writing in Electrical and Computer Engineering