LONG, Sum: Engineering writing (fwd)

Subject: LONG, Sum: Engineering writing (fwd)
From: Mary Howe <howe -at- KUHUB -dot- CC -dot- UKANS -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 10:40:29 -0500

The following appeared on the Linguist List and I thought It might
interest some of you.

I'm just forwarding this, so please, no flames if you find this too boring
and academic. That's the community the Linguist List is aimed at.

Mary Howe

Child Language Program Phone (913) 864-4789
University of Kansas email howe -at- kuhub -dot- cc -dot- ukans -dot- edu
1082 Dole Center
Lawrence, KS 66045

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 1995 17:10:36 -0500
From: The Linguist List <linguist -at- tam2000 -dot- tamu -dot- edu>
To: Multiple recipients of list LINGUIST <LINGUIST -at- tamvm1 -dot- tamu -dot- edu>
Subject: 6.1268, Sum: Engineering writing

Date: Sun, 17 Sep 1995 17:44:11 EDT
From: nartemev -at- ccs -dot- carleton -dot- ca (Natalia Artemeva)
Subject: Engineering Writing -- Summary

Dear Linguist,
Quite a while ago, I posted a querry on Teaching Engineering Writing in
Academia. I have received a number of very helpful responses. I am sorry it
took me such a long time to complete my research. However, now it is close to
its final stage. Here I present a short summary and a bibliography, along with
my thanks to everybody who helped me to complete this study.

Teaching Engineering Writing in Academia: Applications of Social
Constructionist Genre Theory.

The problem of teaching professional/technical writing skills to students in
academia has been extensively discussed for more than two decades (Andrews,
1975; Bazerman, 1988; Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995; Cooper & Holzman, 1989;
Dorman & Pruett, 1985; Ede & Lunsford, 1992; Garvey, 1979; Herrington, 1985;
Paradis, Dobrin, & Miller, 1989; Swales, 1990; Winsor, 1989, 1990a, 1990b,
1994, in press). Numerous manuals on technical and engineering writing (for
example, Mavrow, 1994; Markel, 1994; Michaelson, 1990; O'Connor & Woodford,
1976; Tichy, 1988) give advice to novice writers about how to construct
sentences and organize reports in the most effective ways. However, the
existing approach to technical communication courses often fails to provide
future engineers with the skills necessary for successful performance in
actual, unpredictable situations of professional communications which require
highly sophisticated linguistic and rhetorical competence (Mitchell, 1986).
In spite of the fact that engineers understand that the ability to
write is vital to their profession, many technical communication courses in
academia do not teach students to write realistic engineering texts addressed
to a workplace audience. Technical writing is still considered simply as a tool
to transmit an objective reality and not as a rhetorical endeavor. This view
continues to dominate the field of technical writing, though the understanding
of professional engineering writing courses as solely "skills" courses is no
longer adequate to the modern conception of knowledge and rhetoric (Miller,
Engineering writing instructors attempt to prepare students for the
writing tasks they will be likely to complete in their future professional
careers by simulating context, process, and the audience of professional
readers (Meyer, 1994). However, research findings (Sloat, 1994) suggest that
explicit efforts to simulate a professional engineering writing environment
within the university context are generally unsuccessful. Therefore, there is a
clear need for a new approach to the teaching of technical and, specifically,
engineering writing in academic contexts.
Modern social constructionist genre theory based on the work of Bakhtin
(1986) enables instructors and researchers to approach the problem of teaching
technical, specifically, engineering, writing in academia from a new
perspective. It shows that understanding the genres of written communication in
one's field is essential to professional success (Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995).
The ability to write appropriately within a certain discourse community
presumes the authors' sensitivity to the needs of the future audience
(Michaelson, 1990) and a deep understanding of the social context of the genre.
Engineering students need to be aware of the communicative constraints
in the discourse community they will be entering. They will also need to learn
that genres represent 'typified rhetorical responses to recurrent contexts'
(Miller, 1984; Par & Smart, 1994) and that the textual regularities which
characterize genre are secondary to "the action that is being performed through
the texts, in response to recurring socio-cultural contexts" (Freedman, Smart,
& Adam, 1993). However, as Berkenkotter and Huckin (1995) suggest, "genre
knowledge is...best conceptualized as a form of situated cognition embedded in
disciplinary activities" (p. 3). To be effective, teachers themselves must be
members of the relevant discourse community who share common knowledge with its
other members and understand complex rhetorical roles of discourse features
(Freedman, 1993).
It is vital to consider such notions as guided participation (GP)
(Rogoff, 1990) and legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) (Lave & Wenger,
1991) and their implications for a technical/engineering writing classroom.
Writing is profoundly dependent upon the contexts wherein it occurs in
terms of its purpose, its future readers, the writing conventions to be
followed, etc.. Hence, these features, as they occur within the workplace,
ideally need to be recreated in the university classroom in order for students
to participate fully in a workplace writing experience (Sloat, 1994).
By considering engineering students as novices entering a new
professional discourse community and implicitly acquiring new genres of
professional writing, instructors may find new effective ways of teaching genre

by introducing their students into situations of professional activities (for
example, those that can be provided by co-op programs or internships) and not
into an artificially simulated environment.
An important aspect of engineering/scientific writing in modern society

is its collaborative nature (Barabas, 1990; Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995; Dorman

& Pruett, 1985; Ede & Lunsford, 1992; Latour & Woolgar, 1979; Winsor, 1994, in

press). In this context the concept of the zone of proximal development can be
extensively used in professional writing programs. Technical or engineering
writing courses taught by a professional instructor who is a member of the
discourse community the novices are entering can give the best results and
produce engineers who understand that "writing is a professional necessity"
(Dorman & Pruett, 1985, p. 658) and who are able to communicate in this
professional discourse community.
According to Tichy (1988) and Sloat (1994), the purpose of workplace
writing does not normally consist of demonstrating mastery of a particular
document format for a boss or other reader. The purpose of writing is to satisf

the participants' needs within the writing context and to perform a particular
social action. To do so a writer selects appropriate textual conventions which
themselves are only tools and not the goal of writing. In the engineering
writing classroom, however, format and style usually take priority over content

Nowadays, engineering programs are overloaded with required courses and

there is not enough space for writing courses. However, writing assignments
integrated into an engineering course -- as in a course that involves
collaborative students' work within an engineering firm (see Winsor, 1994, in
press) -- allow the learning to occur in a contextualized situation. Social
constructionist genre theory provides theoretical ground for the following
conclusion: "The writing done in an academic context must, as the writing done
in its professional counterpart, be motivated by a genuine need to write about
communal ideas in order to share information with other members" (Sloat, 1994,
p. 186).
Further research needs to be conducted in order to better understand
complex engineering workplace situations that create exigencies for the constan

changes in the professional discourse. The better our understanding of the
processes within the engineering professional world, the more successfully we
can apply the tools provided by social constructionist genre theory and modern
theories of situated learning to the teaching of engineering writing courses --

ideally, in internship and co-op programs.

Adam, C. L. G. (1994). Exploring the exigencies of institutional reading
practices: A comparison of reader responses in two settings. Unpublished
master's thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa.
AINSI Z39.18-1987, American National Standard for Information Sciences -
Scientific and Technical reports - Organization, Preparation, and Production.
New York: American National Standard Institute.
Anderson, P. V. (1991). Technical writing: A reader-centered approach. Miami
University, Ohio.
Andrews, D. C. (1975). Teaching writing in the engineering classroom.
Engineering Education, 66 (2), 169-174.
Artemeva, N., & Fox, J. (March 16, 1995). Past, present, future: An overview of
engineering communication courses in academia and WTS interventions in first-
year engineering. This Week at Carleton, 16 (10), p. 5.
Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin.
(C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.; M. Holquist, Ed.). Austin: University
Of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). The problem of speech genres. In C. Emerson and M.
Holquist (Eds.), V. W. McGee (Trans.), Speech Genres and Other Late
Essays (pp. 60- 102). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Barabas, C. (1990). Technical Writing in a Corporate Culture : A study of the
nature of information. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Bazerman, C. (1988). Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the
experimental article in science. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Bazerman, C. (1994). Constructing experience. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern
Illinois UP.
Bazerman, C. (n. d.). Discursively structured activities and the socio-
cognitive order of technoscience. Unpublished manuscript.
Berkenkotter, C. (1981). Understanding a writer's awareness of audience.
College Composition and Communication, 32, 38-399.
Berkenkotter, C. and Huckin, T. N. (1995). Genre knowledge in disciplinary
communication: Cognition/Culture/ Power. Hillsdale, NJ. : Lawrence Erlbaum
Bitzer, L. F. (1968). The rhetorical situation. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1,
Britton, J. (1980). Shaping at the point of utterance. In A. Freedman & I.
Pringle (Eds.), Reinventing the Rhetorical Tradition (pp. 61-66).
Ottawa: L & S Books and Canadian Council of Teachers of English.
Bruffee, K. A. (1986). Social construction, language, and the authority of
knowledge: A bibliographical essay. College English, 48, 773-790.
Coe, R. M. (1994). Teaching genre as process. In A. Freedman & P. Medway
(Eds.), Learning and teaching genre (pp. 157-169). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook
Cooper, M. M. (1989). The ecology of writing. In M. M. Cooper & M. Holzman
(Eds.), Writing as Social Action (pp. 1-13). Portsmouth, NH:
Boynton/Cook Heinemann.
Cooper, M. M., & Holzman, M. (Eds.). (1989). Writing as Social Action.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Heinemann.
Debs, M. B. (1991). Recent research on collaborative writing in industry.
Technical Communication, 38 (4), 476-484.
Dixon, J. (1967). Growth through English. London: NATE.
Dombrowsky, P. M. (Ed.). (1994). Humanistic aspects of technical communication.
Amityville, NY: Baywood.
Dorman, W. W., & Pruett, J. M. (1985). Engineering better writers: Why and how
engineers can teach writing. Engineering Education, 75 (7), 656-658.
Ede, L., & Lunsford, A. (1992). Singular text/Plural authors: Perspectives on
collaborative writing. Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University
Emig, J. (1971). The composing process of twelfth graders. Illinois: NCTE.
Faigley, L. (1995). Nonacademic writing: The social perspective. In L. Odell &
D. Goswami (Eds.), Writing in Nonacademic settings (pp. 231-247). New York
:The Guilford Press.
Fincher, D. (1995, January). Why some scientists and engineers can't write. STC
Intercom, 42(1), pp. 1, 14.
Flower, L. (1994). The construction of negotiated meaning: A social cognitive
theory of writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Flower, L., & Hayes, J. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. College
Composition and Communication, 32, 365-387.
Freedman, A. (1993a). Show and tell? The role of explicit teaching in the
learning of new genres. Research in the Teaching of English, 27, 222-252.
Freedman, A. (1993b). Situating genre: A rejoinder. Research in the Teaching of
English, 27, 272-278.
Freedman, A. (n. d.). Manuscript in progress.
Freedman, A., Smart, G., & Adam, C. (1993). Wearing Suits to Class: Simulating
Genres and Simulations as Genre. Written Communication, 11(2), 193-227.
Freedman A., & Medway, P. (Eds.) (1994a). Genre and the new rhetoric. London:
Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Freedman, A., & Medway, P. (1994b). Learning and teaching genre. Portsmouth, NH
:Boynton/Cook Heinemann.
Freedman, A., & Adam, C. (n. d.). Write where you are. Unpublished manuscript.
Garvey, W. D. (1979). Communication: The Essence of Science. Facilitating
Information exchange among librarians, scientists, engineers and students.
Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Giltrow, J., & Valiquette, M. (1994). Genres as knowledge: Students writing in
Disciplines. In A. Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Learning and teaching genre
(pp. 47-62).Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Heinemann.
Gilbert, N. G., & Mulkay, M. (1984). Opening Pandora's Box: A Sociological
Analysis of Scientists' Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grider, D. A. (1993). Book reviews. Journal of Technical Writing and
Communication, 23 (2), 195-199.
Hanks, W. (1991). Foreword. In J. Lave & E. Wenger. Situated learning:
Legitimate peripheral participation (pp. 11-21). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Herrington, A. J. (1985a). Writing in academic settings: a study of the
contexts for writing in two college chemical engineering courses. Research
in the Teaching of English, 19 (4), 331-361.
Herrington, A. J. (1985b). Classrooms as forums for reasoning and writing.
College Composition and Communication, 36 (4), 404-413.
Hunt, R. A. (1994). Traffic in genres, in classroom and out. In A. Freedman &
P. Medway (Eds.). (1994a). Genre and the new rhetoric (pp. 211-230).
London: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
ISO Standards Handbook. (1982). International Organization for Standardization.
Geneva, Switzerland: ISO Central Secretariat.
Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981). The manufacture of knowledge. Oxford: Pergamon.
Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning
Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1979). Laboratory Life: The social construction of
scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Lauerman, D. A., Schroeder, M. W., Sroka, K., & Stephenson, E. R. (1985).
Workplace and classroom: Principles for designing writing courses. In L.
Odell & D. Goswami (Eds.), Writing in nonacademic settings (pp. 427-450). New
York: Guilford.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral
participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Law, J., & Williams, R. J. (1982). Putting facts together: A study of
scientific persuasion. Social studies of science 12, 535-538.
Markel, M. H. (1994). Writing in the technical fields: A step-by-step guide for
engineers. Piscataway, NJ.: IEEE Press.
Mavrow, C. (1994). Writing in engineering; a guide to communicating. Toronto:
McGraw- Hill Ryerson.
Medway, P. (1993). Shifting relations: Science, technology and technoscience.
Geelong, Australia: Deakin University.
Meyer, J. E. L. (1994). The contribution of genre theory to theme-based EAP:
Navigating foreign fiords. Unpublished master's research essay. Carleton
University, Ottawa, Ontario.
Michaelson, H. B. (1990). How to write and publish engineering papers and
reports. Phoenix: Orix Press.
Miller, C. R. (1979). A humanistic rationale for technical writing. College
English, 40, 610-617.
Miller, C. (1984). Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70,
Miller, C., & Selzer, J. (1985). Special topics of argument in engineering
reports. In L. Odell & D. Goswami (Eds.), Writing in nonacademic settings (pp.
309-341). New York: Guilford.
Mitchell, E. (1986). Teaching scientific and technical French at Napier
College in Scotland. Proceedings of the 5th Annual Eastern Michigan University
Conference for Business and the Professions.
Morgan, M. (1991). Patterns of composing: Connections between classroom and
workplace collaborations. Technical Communication, 38(4), 540-545.
Myers, G. (1990). Writing Biology: Texts in the social construction of
scientific knowledge. Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press.
Newman, F., & Holzman, L. (1993). Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary scientist. London
O'Connor, M., & Woodford, F. P. (1976). Writing scientific papers in English.
Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Odell, L., & Goswami, D. (Eds.). (1985). Writing in nonacademic settings. New
York: Guilford Press.
Paradis, J., Dobrin, D., & Miller, R. (1985). Writing at Exxon ITD: Notes on
the writing environment of an R&D organization. In L. Odell & D. Goswami
(Eds.), Writing in nonacademic settings (pp. 281-307). New York:
Guilford Press.
Par , A., & Smart, G. (1994). Observing genres in action: Towards a research
methodology. In A. Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric
(pp. 146-154). London: Taylor & Francis.
Parker, A., & Strong, C. (1994). 24.101 Handbook for technical communication
lab. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. University of
Manitoba, Winnipeg.
Perl, S. (1979). The composing process of unskilled college writers. Research
in the Teaching of English, 47, 257-281.
Pianko, S. (1979). A description of the composition process of college freshman
writers. Research in the Teaching of English, 13, 5 - 22.
Polanyi, M. (1977) [1958]. The heuristic act and the routine performance. In M.
Nystrand, (Ed.) Language as a way of knowing: A book of readings (pp.
19-22). Toronto: OISE.
Potvin, J. H., & Woods, R. L. (1982, May). An interdisciplinary approach for
teaching technical communication at the graduate level. Proceedings of
the 29th International Technical Communication Conference, pp. E-86 - E-89.
Remington, D. (February, 1995). On writing well. Profiles, pp. 1, 18-19.
Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social
context. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rorty, R. (1979). Philosophy and the mirror of nature. Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Saravanamuttoo, H. I. H. (1993). Notes for Course 86.495. Unpublished
manuscript. Carleton University, Ottawa
Schryer, C. F. (1994a). The lab vs. the clinic: Sites of competing genres. In
A.Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric (pp. 146-154).
London: Taylor & Francis.
Schryer, C. (1994b). Journeying through Paralysis to Praxis: Teaching
professional writing with Bourdieu and Williams. Technostyle, 11 (3/4),
Sloat, E. A. (1994). Case studies of technical report writing development among
student engineers. Unpublished doctoral thesis, McGill University,
Swales, J. (1990). Genre Analysis: English academic and research setting.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tichy, H. J. (1988). Effective writing for engineers, managers, scientists. New
York: John Wiley & Sons.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher
psychological processes. (M. Cole, V. J. Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman,
Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. (A. Kozulin, Transl. and Ed.).
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Watson, S., Jr. (1980). Polanyi and the context of composing. In A. Freedman &
I. Pringle (Eds.), Reinventing the rhetorical tradition (pp. 19-25).
Conway, Arkansas: L & S Books.
Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated
action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Williamson, M. M. (1988). A model for investigating the function of written
language in different disciplines. In D. A. Jolliffe (Ed.). Advances in
writing research, Volume Two: Writing in academic disciplines (pp.
89-132). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publ. Corp.
Winsor, D. A. (1989). An engineer's writing and the corporate construction of
knowledge. Written Communication 6 , 270-85.
Winsor, D. A. (1990a). Engineering Writing/ Writing Engineering. College
Composition and Communication 41 (1), 58-70.
Winsor, D. A. (1990b). How companies affect the writing of young engineers: Two
case studies. IEEE Transactions of Professional Communication 33 (3), 124-29
Winsor, D. A. (1994). Invention and writing in technical work. Written
Communication, 11 (2), 227-250.
Winsor, D. A. (in press). Writing like an engineer: A rhetorical education.
Hillsdale, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Yates, J., & Orlikovski, W. (1992). Genres of organizational communication: A
structurational approach to studying communication and media. Academy of
Management Review, 17, 299-326.
Youra, S. (1987). Rewriting the engineering curriculum: Professionalism and
professional communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication,
17 (4), 407- 416.

I'm deeply grateful to
Alice Horning
Department of Linguistics
Oakland University
Rochester, MI 48309-4401
Horning -at- argo -dot- acs -dot- oakland -dot- edu

Robert Baker
ROBAKER -at- delphi -dot- com

Kate Remlinger karemlin -at- mtu -dot- edu

Department of Humanities
Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931

Andreas Schramm | University of Minnesota | (612) 624-5041
Linguistics | 320 16th Ave S.E. | schr0005 -at- gold -dot- tc -dot- umn -dot- edu
| Minneapolis, MN 55455

and others who helped me with my research.

Natasha Artemeva
Dep. of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario
nartemev -at- ccs -dot- carleton -dot- ca
LINGUIST List: Vol-6-1268.

Previous by Author: Portfolio questions (was Resumes and Credentials)
Next by Author: Re: Re[2]: E-mail: How do
Previous by Thread: Re: Portfolio questions (was Resumes and Credentials)
Next by Thread: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 18 Sep 1995 to 19 Sep 1995

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads