(479d) The Technical Memo | AIChE

(479d) The Technical Memo


Young, V. L. - Presenter, Ohio University
Prudich, M. E., Ohio University
Ridgway, D., Ohio University
Goetz, D. J., Ohio University
Our Material and Energy Balances II course has been structured to meet part of the composition requirement for general education at our university. Our BS CHE program has identified 5 key characteristics of effective written technical communication that should serve graduates well in industry and in graduate or professional school.

  1. Follows format conventions for figures, graphs, tables, and values.
  2. Organized to convey key information first, followed by supporting detail.
  3. Uses terminology exactingly and writes in a concise, direct style.
  4. Goes beyond a display of data / information to provide analysis.
  5. Cites and uses literature to provide supporting data or to support analysis.

For six years, we have used the “technical memo” in Material and Energy Balances II as a vehicle to develop these technical communication skills in our students, involving four faculty members in the writing instruction over 12 offerings of the course. Our emphasis in the course is on organization to convey key information first, then follow up with supporting detail. From the students’ work on these assignments, we have gained insight into their perceptions of what counts as “key information” and into some of their misconceptions about engineering concepts as they attempt to provide supporting detail. We have learned to better define what we mean by good writing, and about the need to focus our attention on specific aspects of writing to see the students develop them successfully. We continue to debate best approaches.

In this presentation, we will share assignments, rubrics, aggregated assessment and evaluation, and selected (and anonymous) student work. We will also describe how this course fits into our overall development of technical communication skill within the curriculum, and some of the debates among instructors as we have found ourselves divided by our common purpose.