For my final post of the semester I decided to reflect on one of the challenges that many engineering students have (including me): we don’t particularly like writing. This has been a struggle and I came to realize how big it is for me when I started this class. In my experience, this originates from focusing so much on technical analysis, charts, numbers, and viewing writing as a secondary part of our studies that we just have to do later. I often find myself writing in a very concise way, if journal papers could just be turned into bullet points, I won’t say no – well ok I might be exaggerating here.
So this is something that I have been working on to eventually overcome. I read a few articles that discuss the issue of disliking writing and sucking at it, especially among engineers. I want to share some of the steps that this article* mentions which I found helpful:
- Find a place to write articles. This class has been perfect for this as an opportunity to write.
- Think about your audience. This point was very helpful in writing manuscripts because it helps with expanding on certain parts of the text that I usually used to keep short because I assumed that the readers already know the basics which is not always right. This helped a lot with the writing flow.
- Start a journal.
- Outline the work before starting to write. Having structure is very helpful.
- Take breaks between writing an editing. This is my favorite because I used to try to edit as I write which was negatively impacting my productivity. Now I think of it as putting two different hats; a writer and an editor. Doing it on steps is much better than trying to get it right from the first time!
Please let me know if you have experienced this. Do you know any other ways to get better at writing?
2 thoughts on “Final Reflection”
Hi Sam, I am a 5th-year Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student and have exactly experienced the same problem even though I am not from the United States. Interestingly, I always thought that the US education system for engineering is different, and “solely focusing on technical stuff” has been a problem in my country (Iran) in specific. Your post totally changed my perspective toward this issue. I agree with the solutions you have come up with, and these are the ways I eventually could become at least a little bit better. I now briefly go through my experience on some of your points:
1- “Find a place to write articles”: Because of having weak writing skills and getting lost when I tried to do so, I naturally avoided writing texts and reports. Having to write papers for the general audience and taking several courses that required writing for non-specialists acted as “forces” that made me write until I overcame the mindset of “running from writing”.
2- “Think about your audience.”: Very important as eventually, the goal of any writing is to inform the audience of our own thoughts. So, it only makes sense that we should consider the audience to decide how to write. We cannot write in the same style for fifth-graders and our scientific colleagues.
3- “Outline the work before starting to write.”: This technique helps resolve the issue of where to start and prevents us from getting lost and going off the main points we aim to deliver.
4- “Take breaks between writing and editing.”: When we are in the middle of something, it is less likely to see the shortcomings. Also, perfectionism while writing the first draft highly slows us down. Therefore, it is always good to enhance our writing in multiple steps and take breaks between writing and several rounds of editing.
I’m glad that you found the solutions helpful. I totally agree to your comments on each point. I am still trying to improve and I found that points 3 & 4 were really game changers for me. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.
Good luck! Keep writing and improving!