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Engineering Guide: Communication Skills

Writing for engineering

When writing in an academic context, particularly in technical disciplines such as engineering, it is important to consider how you present your information. Technical writing needs to be well organised; should have a distinct writing style; and needs to be clear, concise and precise.

It is also important to include relevant knowledge and research in the field (in the form of peer-reviewed literature, textbooks and other sources) and to be able to use this knowledge effectively and attribute it correctly.

Well-organised writing

When organising our writing, we focus on accepted conventions for structure.

The Report Structure tip sheet details the conventions utilised to structure both academic and industry reports. This structure helps to make our purpose as clear as possible - for example, including a “summary of structure” in an introduction.

Once the basic structure has been understood, the Academic Paragraphs tip sheet will help you make your points clear and effective with clear topic sentences.

Another important tool to organise your writing is the use of transition words, which help the reader understand how your points, ideas, or research are connected. In other words, they will help with the flow of your writing. You can find a helpful list of transition words and phrases here:

Writing style

The Writing Style tip sheet will help you develop a professional writing style.

Clear, concise, precise

The Writing Clearly and Concisely tip sheet provides you with tips to make your writing direct and easily understood.

Integrating research

The Integrating Research tip sheet walks you through multiple methods of including research in your writing.

Reporting verbs are helpful when integrating research into your writing. You can find a list of reporting verbs and examples here:

Referencing others’ work correctly is very important, and not doing so is considered plagiarism. Plagiarism is a breach of academic integrity. You can brush up on academic integrity here:

Referencing is important for more than just avoiding plagiarism. In academic and professional writing, referencing shows that you have researched the ideas you are writing about, have considered the important issues related to your topic, and have included a variety of sources to back up your argument. You are expected to use a standard referencing style in most academic work, although which style you use depends on the expectations of your lecturer, supervisor, or intended reader. Visit one of our referencing guides for more information on referencing.

Turnitin is a tool ECU utilises to promote academic integrity in student writing. You can also view your Turnitin report once you have submitted your assignment to double-check you have paraphrased correctly and not accidentally plagiarised.

A basic overview of what to look for in Turnitin reports can be found in the Interpreting Turnitin Reports resource.

Other elements of report writing


Data is often included in technical writing/reports in the form of tables and graphs, which need to be described effectively in your report to emphasise the data they present.

Make sure you follow your assessment guidelines for the formatting of tables and graphs. The expected engineering style may differ from the style found in generic APA style referencing guides.

When you include data from another source, you may need to include a copyright statement. As a student, your reasonable reuse of data for educational purposes is usually considered fair dealing under Australian copyright law. However, you should be aware of the copyright restrictions related to data and images created by other people; your rights and responsibilities will be different once you enter the workforce.

Bullet points

Another element which may be included when writing reports is bullet points. When used correctly, these can enhance summaries and improve reader understanding.

Editing and proofreading your work

Editing and proofreading are also essential steps in the academic writing process, to ensure that your completed document makes sense, fulfils the requirements, and most importantly conveys what you intended to write.

The Engineering Report Editing Checklist was created with reports in mind, but the principles will help guide you through editing other types of work as well.

Proofreading is about checking that your spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct. Although proofreading may seem less important than content, minor errors can make your work seem less professional and undermine your credibility, whilst major errors can affect the reader's understanding of your report.

The following information covers common errors seen in previous student papers.

Writing something other than a report

Most of the writing guides on this page apply to all forms of assessment in technical disciplines, but some assessments may require a different structure. Click on the type of assessment below for more information.

Reflective writing requires you to think about and record what you have learnt and why it is important to your learning. It helps you learn from mistakes, and to improve upon what you have done well in a given situation or learning experience. You will often be required to include reflective writing in your professional portfolio, and may need to use reflective writing skills when applying for an engineering job.