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Unformatted text preview: Guide to Writing Laboratory Reports Frederick V. Lawrence and Leslie J. Struble (adapted for use with ME 231) 1. Introduction This guide for students in ME 231 makes extensive use of material from a web site on writing for engineering and science students, http:// fbox.vt.edu:10021/eng/mech/writing . The site is edited by Michael Alley (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univer-sity), Leslie Crowley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Jeff Donnell (Georgia Institute of Tech-nology), and Christene Moore (Uni-ver-sity of Texas at Austin). We gratefully acknowl-edge permission to use material from that site in the section on format and style. Students are encouraged to explore the site for additional guidance on technical writing. Additional information on technical writing is found in The Craft of Scientific Writing by Alley (1996), and information on more general writing is found in The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (1979). If you do only one thing to improve your writing, buy one of these books and read it from cover to cover—your writing style will be enormously improved. This guide provides engineering students with some ideas about writing. Because some of you are likely to be intimidated by writing, we have kept the guide as simple as possible. Of course, the guide is neither complete nor foolproof; but we hope it will be helpful. 2. Why write at all? Technical writing permits the communication of information so engineers can learn from past experi-ence and so our profession can advance through the slow accretion of knowledge. Although the primary goal in technical writing is to present impersonal facts and provide an objective interpreta-tion of them, good technical writing can also impart the interest and excite-ment that motivated us to become engineers. Technical writing should be fun and technical papers should be interesting to read. 3. TAP your way to good writing! As with any design process, one begins by defining the problem and the possible solutions. The simple notion “ TAP your way to good writing! ” may eliminate many false starts in organizing a technical paper. TAP = Thesis + Audience + Proof First, you must have a Thesis , that is, a reason for writing. Every paper should have at least one strong “punch-line”. The entire paper should build up to this thesis. Having more than two major points in a paper may lead to an unfocused work; and it is probably advisable to make a second thesis the basis of a second paper. Next, you must have a clear idea of the Audience for whom you are writing. You should generally assume that you are writing for another person like yourself, who is familiar with the basic language of our profession and understands common techniques or can consult standard references. You should also assume that your reader is lazy and very much pressed for time. Thus, you should come to the point as quickly as possi-ble. However you must not be too brief, you must include sufficient facts and information that a competent person can reproduce your experiments and understand your assertions. your experiments and understand your assertions....
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This note was uploaded on 10/03/2011 for the course ME 350 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
- Spring '08