In Class News

April 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Technical Writing Made Easier through University Collaboration

Dr. Qian Du, instructor of ET 6020 — Photo by Bailey Kretz

Dr. Qian Du, instructor of ET 6020 — Photo by Bailey Kretz

By Dawn Bikowski and Kelley Bodwell

Teamwork and collaboration—crucial in our global professional skillset. We collaborate in our personal lives, in our classes, and many times, in our communication and writing.

At Ohio University, working together can take many forms. One way is through ongoing partnerships across campus, such as the collaboration between the Linguistics Department through the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) in the College of Arts & Sciences, and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

The Technical Writing Seminar (ET 6020) is one outcome of this collaboration. ET 6020 was specifically designed by ELIP and Russ College faculty to support graduate students in developing their technical and professional writing skills.

The long collaboration between ELIP and the Russ College on the ET 6020 Technical Writing Seminar has been invaluable to our students. In addition to helping alleviate the students’ apprehension about beginning a large writing project such as a thesis or dissertation, the course also helps the students understand the importance and mechanics of giving appropriate credit to other authors and researchers used as references in the students’ scholarly writing,” says Dr. Shawn Ostermann, Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Studies and Planning in the Russ College.

The Need for Strong Writing Skills Becomes Apparent

As graduation deadlines approach, the need for strong writing skills becomes ever more apparent. Reports, theses and dissertations, and grant proposals all require solid technical writing skills.

“Writing is a good skill to have for the future,” says Nick Loree, an industrial and systems engineering graduate student who appreciates the writing support offered at Ohio University. “If I’m in the field, it’ll help me with technical work and staying up on development.”

Asish Kumar Gaddipati, a graduate student in computer science, acknowledged that he was initially concerned about writing academically and professionally. The Technical Writing Seminar not only helped him to develop his writing skills but also increased his confidence. During the course, students develop their skills in reading critically and synthesizing and organizing information according to guidelines in their field.

‘Gear Your Writing Toward Your Thesis’

“The nice thing is that the class allows you to gear your writing and papers toward your thesis,” adds Casey Davis, an industrial and systems engineering graduate student who appreciates the practicality.

Ostermann agrees, pointing out that the students “appreciate that so much of the writing assigned for the class is directly related to their particular research and interests and that the end result is often a good head start on their own theses and dissertations.”

ET 6020 students collaborating on assignment — Photo by Bailey Kretz

“Many students initially think that they don’t have to write much as engineers,” explains Dr. Qian Du, one ELIP instructor for the course. “But when they realize they do, they see that they’ll have to write very clearly, in a very straightforward way—and that’s the challenge that most of them experience.” Du has been teaching the course for two years and enjoys working with engineering students from a variety of fields.

Effective writing requires critical reading, another important topic in the class.

“If you know some reading techniques, you can take a paper, just read it for five minutes and you know what you’re looking for,” says Chinmaya Naguli, a graduate student in computer science. “You will just know, is this the paper for you or not? That’s the thing I instantly liked about this class.”

Students agree that writing academically gives them a greater appreciation for the amount of work writing entails and that it could even be a deciding factor when hiring future employees.

“If we’re hiring somebody where they did a program that doesn’t have a thesis versus somebody that has a thesis, if they’re the same, I’m going for the guy with the thesis,” Davis asserts.

Note: Thank you to the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and Colleen Carow, Senior Director of Communications and Identity Management in the Russ College, for reviewing and contributing to this article.

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