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Improving Your Technical Writing Skills

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Title: Improving Your Technical Writing Skills


1
Improving Your Technical Writing Skills
  • R. E. Abdel-Aal
  • COE Department

2

Some Facts, Quotations
  • Clear writing is an indication of clear thinking!
  • In todays workplace, writing is a threshold
    skill for hiring and promotion among
    professional employees
  • Report, US National Commission on Writing, Sept
    2004

  • How do fresh US engineers
  • spend their time at work1?

Other Work
Writing
36
32
1 Pneena Sageev and Carol J. Romanowski A Message
from Recent Engineering Graduates in the
Workplace Results of a Survey on Technical
Communication Skills, Journal of Engineering
Education, 1 October 2001, pp 685-693
10
22
Oral Presentations
Other Oral Discussions
3

Contents
  • Motivation (Why?)
  • What makes good technical writing?
  • What are the main writing skills required?
  • The writing task and process
  • Typical Structure for Paper/Report
  • Tips for good writing style
  • How to improve your writing?
  • Conclusions
  • References


4

Motivation
  • Writing clearly and effectively is essential
    to an engineer
  • Engineers need to communicate results of their
    work in writing to peers, bosses, and decision
    makers Reports, Proposals, Quotations, Request
    for Quotations, Research Papers, etc.
  • Lives are often affected not only by the accuracy
    of an engineers work, but also by clear and
    convincing presentation of his conclusions and
    recommendations
  • If you are a decision maker, how would you take
    spelling/grammar errors in an important
    engineering report?


5

What makes good technical writing?
  • Formal, Direct
  • Modular, Structured
  • Focused, Objective
  • Simple, Coherent
  • Uses correct theories
  • terminology
  • Concise No padding or redundancy
  • Consistent
  • Clarity and Flow
  • Relevant to the defense of a viewpoint
  • Shows insight critical thinking
  • Aware of audience
  • ? Original
  • Contributes to the body of knowledge


6

What are the main writing skills?
Develop Convincing, Persuasive Arguments
High-Level
Synthesize Findings

Effective Data Presentation
Organization
Style
Referencing
Low-Level
Punctuation
Grammar
Spelling
7

The writing task
  • Wish list
  • ? Productive- Minimum frustration!
  • ? Timely
  • ? Leads to a final product to be proud of
  • To achieve this, the task must be
  • ? Focused and Organized
  • ? Started early, as many revisions are needed
  • ? Adopt a Writing Process


8

The Writing Process
  • Define the topic - clear focus
  • Collect the data, perform the experiments, etc.
  • Organize the document The outline
  • Write first Draft - writing, writing and writing
    again ...
  • Revise Focusing on higher-order concerns
  • Proofread Focusing on lower-order concerns


9

Typical Structure for Report/Paper
  • Title Not too short, Not too long
  • Abstract ? 300 words
  • Write this at the end
  • Scope, Motivation, Achievements, Key results,
    Conclusions
  • Introduction
  • One paragraph for each of the following
  • Background / history
  • Motivation
  • Your contributions
  • Organization of the document


10

Typical Structure for Report/Paper, Contd.
  • Background, Theory, Literature Review
  • Describe background necessary to understand the
    rest of the document
  • Previous Related Work
  • Cite and briefly discuss other related work
  • Mention how it differs from your work
  • Mention their limitations, but be polite
  • Your Approach, Experimental Procedures
  • Describe your approach
  • Describe any experimental setup and metrics used
    to evaluate your solution against previous work


11

Typical Structure for Report/Paper, Contd.
  • Results and Discussion
  • Use graphs and tables to present your results
  • Refer the graphs / tables in the text
  • Describe and discuss your work and ideas, do not
    just state them
  • Conclusions/Recommendations
  • Main conclusions and recommendations derived
  • Suggestions for possible future work
  • Acknowledgements
  • References


12
Some tips for good writing style - Going beyond
spelling and grammar
  • Write clearly, explicitly, and concisely.
    Long sentences, delayers
    and distracters frustrate readers
  • Use formal language e.g. no contractions
    (couldn't, hasnt etc.)
  • Write to get yourself understood written words
    need to be chosen more carefully than spoken
    words
  • Cut the fat, even one word counts!
  • Avoid exaggerations and unnecessary qualifiers
    (very, basically, actually..)
  • Avoid clichés last but not least?
  • Avoid overusing prepositional phrases the, in,
    over, of, for, at..
  • Ensure clarity who did what to whom? Use
    active voice


13

How to improve your writing?
  • Realize the importance of good writing
  • Read a lot! and pay attention to others writing
    style
  • Read critically what you have written before
    submission
  • Get others to read what you have written
    Feedback, Quality Assurance
  • Practice good writing in all that you write
    emails, letters, etc.
  • Know your target audience What they know
    already, what they expect to know from your
    document
  • Know your objective document?, inform?,
    persuade?....
  • Utilize the plenty of information and help
    available on the Web
  • (Check the ABET page on the COE Website)


14
Conclusions
  • Writing skills are important for a successful
    career in engineering
  • Several criterion for good technical writing
    Simplicity and clarity
  • Writing skills span several levels from spelling
    to argumentation
  • Need to employ a writing process and allow
    adequate time
  • Typical structures for papers and reports
  • Guidelines for writing in style
  • Strategy for improvement
  • Get convinced and committed and start practicing
  • There is plenty of helpful resources around

15
References
  • The ABET Accreditation page on the COE Website
  • http//www.ccse.kfupm.edu.sa/coe/abet/abet_accredi
    tation.html
  • http//dsl.serc.iisc.ernet.in/haritsa/techwrite.p
    pt
  • http//academic.sun.ac.za/taalsentrum/PowerPoint/W
    ritingSkillsMPA.ppt
  • http//www.depts.ttu.edu/che/classes/che2306/Docum
    ents/sageev.pdf
  • http//www.northwestern.edu/searle/programs_and_re
    search/researchandevaluation/PDFs/28YalvacSmithTro
    yHir.pdf
  • http//ecow.engr.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/getbig/cee/949/b
    ank/journalclu/howtowriteagoodtechnicalpaper.pdf
  • http//www.sussex.ac.uk/engineering/documents/guid
    e_to_technical_report.pdf
  • http//www.ocf.berkeley.edu/anandk/math191/Techni
    cal20Writing.pdf
  • http//www.soton.ac.uk/sesg1009/lectures/reportwr
    itingchecklist.pdf
  • http//www.ivt.ntnu.no/imt/courses/tmr4240/assignm
    ents/2008/Assignment_3/technical20writing.pdf
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