Communicating as an Engineer

Advice from Engineers

Engineers who've been in the field for years have learned that presenting information requires writers and speakers to consider specific issues. These issues can help you effectively present your ideas and research. In this section, we discuss the following:

The advice you'll read here comes from engineering instructors who have been reading student writing for years. As a result, these engineers have found that students need to understand how to effectively present information, how to format documents, and how to incorporate purpose and audience into writing. Following this advice can help you prepare organized, logical documents.

Present Information Logically

Many engineering professors note that much of the writing they read from students often doesn't have a "logical flow." By this, they mean that the writing doesn't present ideas in an order that makes sense. Consider, for example, that you are writing the procedures to a lab you conducted. Obviously, you should relate the steps you followed in the order you completed them. This way, your readers can visualize how you completed the tasks. You should also make sure that your entire document or presentation presents information logically. For instance, don't include conclusions or results in either the procedure section or the introduction.

Format Your Documents

Another common mistake many engineering instructors identify in student writing is that writers give little or no consideration to formatting. Whenever you produce a document, you should always consider how you've organized your thoughts and how you can make this known to the reader. For example, if you're writing a report, you should use headings and subheadings to alert your readers of the various sections your report presents. Then, bolding or somehow highlighting (with various font sizes, etc.) these headings can make them stand out to your readers. Also, consider how your document appears. In other words, you should use a consistent style (according to the style guidelines in your discipline). This includes margin sizes, line spacing, and even the title page you attach to the front of your document. The final draft your instructor collects should look good enough to send to a publication or a conference.

Know Your Purpose and Audience

Many student writers don't consider why they're writing and who will read what they write, according to several engineering instructors. These are important aspects to consider even before you begin researching a topic. For example, by determining who your audience is and what your purpose is, you can then gather specific information instead of including everything that you might find on a particular topic. This way, you don't have to worry about presenting information that may bore or confuse a particular audience.

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Introduction