Why Writing Matters

Why Writing Matters in Mechanical Engineering

"Mechanical engineers utilize writing daily to communicate design ideas, create manufacturing instructions, report test results, verify project progress, create user manuals, and disseminate information."

~Brooks Byam, Department Chair

 

Why Writing Matters in Mechanical Engineering

When people think of mechanical engineering, they usually think about mathematics, science, technology, new products, and economic growth. Unfortunately, they do not realize the importance of writing in engineering. Mechanical engineers utilize writing daily to communicate design ideas, create manufacturing instructions, report test results, verify project progress, create user manuals, and disseminate information. The audiences that these documents communicate to are also wide. Engineers must be able to effectively communicate complex topics and ideas to other engineers, business personnel, marketing people, and the public. Writing provides an essential means of communication.

Typical Writing Assignments

In the Mechanical Engineering program at SVSU, students have a variety of writing assignments. Students must write five to seven laboratory reports for courses with a laboratory. Many of our courses have semester long design projects that require students to document their design calculations and decisions. These design projects range from a memo type format to a long white paper style document. In the senior design project, students must write a manual for their product and submit a design report that documents all calculations, design decisions, and test data.

Qualities of Good Writing

The same principles of good writing in literature courses apply to engineering writing. There are a few differences. All documents are written in the third person, (i.e., I, me, we or us are never used). While the topics in engineering are complicated, a good engineer can write an appropriate document for the audience they are addressing.

Appropriate Types of Evidence & Support

Evidence in engineering consists of testing data, mathematical solutions, and publications. Citation of publication from peer-reviewed journals or technical publications are the accepted sources of written evidence. These sources spend a considerable amount time and effort ensuring the information published meets the rigorous standards of scientific inquiry. Peer-reviewed journals send each submitted paper to a panel of experts for review. This review ensures that the conclusions drawn are driven by trends found in the data, and checks the validity of the experimental approach and calculations. Technical publications have a staff of professionals that provide this evaluation.

Citation Conventions

Citation formats very from journal to journal. However, journals either use a numbered endnote style of citation or a citation style footnote. Parenthetical citation is NEVER used. Citations of websites are never acceptable.

Special Comments

Due to the strong mathematical nature of many reports, engineers must be familiar with using the equation editors in their word processing package.

Resources

See Writing in Your Major @ www.gvsu.edu/wc 
See "Handouts - Writing in Your Major":
- Full Technical Report
- Short Reports

Faculty Perspectives 
on Writing:

Alan Freed

My Writing Story

Why Writing Matters

Example Papers

Philippe Callies & Gregory Korf
"Design of a Folding Floor Trimmer" (587kB)

Seth Schlatter
"Improvements of Mechanical Properties in Aluminum-Lithium Alloys" (7,296kB)