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A rewind: Self-Assessment of writing for engineering

The writing journey has just ended, but it has also just begun. This semester with professor Nicholas Otte has been great. Professor Otte provided clear instructions for every lesson. He guided us along the approach to writing, and he organized the entire course with four important assignments: Technical Description, Memo(group assignment), Lab Report and Engineering Proposal. Each assignment has taught me some new knowledge which I will be using in my future engineering career.

It is worth to mention how we started the course with an analysis of an article. This small task taught me two important factors of writing: Audience and Purpose. Audience will decide the language, tone and the genre, and purpose will decide the writing format. By knowing this, the first thing I do before I start to write is to identify the audience and the purpose. This is extremely useful for me to write an outline because all my ideas will not deviate from the subject if I have audience and purpose.

Technical Description: The technical description is the first major assignment. As mentioned above, we started the course by learning to analyze audience and purpose, so we started this assignment by using the audience and purpose to Brainstorm and Free Write. I learned how to come up with ideas with “who”, “what” and “how”. For my subject — vertical mouse. Who will be my audience? What is a vertical mouse? What is the difference between a vertical mouse and a traditional mouse? And how it is helping your hand wrist? After brainstorming, I was able to create an outline for my technical description. The examples provided in the textbook are useful too; They directly showed some common mistakes like don’t use pronouns “that”, “which” to describe your subject. Not only that, the textbook also introduced how to use pictures to strengthen your article. Unlike traditional essays, I was also allowed to use different colors to make contrast. Professor Otte introduced all the techniques above and how to use them, so I was able to write my first technical description. I could’ve done better by providing more details for my object. Comparing with others, my description is a little bit short. In this assignment, I firstly learned how to brainstorm and free write based on my audience and purpose. Then I learned how to use different techniques to make my technical description more professional.

Memo(group assignment): Writing a memo is our second assignment, and this assignment is also a group assignment, which means we need to collaborate with each other. Writing a memo itself is easy even if this is my first time, but writing a memo with a group is totally the opposite. The construction of a memo is quite straightforward in the textbook. It consist of four parts: Basic information(name, date, title), summary of the problem, discussion of the problem and the solution to the problem. As a topic supervisor, I made a schedule lists and provided the summary of the issue in the city we will be working on, so my team can follow the schedule to complete the work. The research leader is pretty engaged in this assignment. He provided many sources(about 8 or 9), but considering about the length of the memo, we only used two of them. Submission manager provided the contribution page. The first draft is a little bit weak because some parts can obviously be improved. Like we could’ve changed the audience to MTA instead of the professor since the issue is about the signal system in MTA, and one other problem is that we should’ve provided header for small discussions to make the memo more clear. The conclusion was also too short. We fixed all the problem appeared in the first draft, so our final draft is decent. As a group, we did an excellent job. We followed the schedule and had all the meetings we need. As a individual, I could’ve divided the work more evenly, so that one wouldn’t have too much work to do. In this assignment, I have seen the power of working as a team that everyone’s job can be easier. I have also realized my lack of teamwork experience and learned how to collaborate with others through this assignment. The most important thing is that I learned how to write memos.

Lab Report: Before the class started the lab report assignment, we had a discussion about how to conduct research. This discussion is not part of the assignment, but it definitely guided us where to begin our lab report. I talked about my own research method is that analyzing the subject/topic first, so that it will narrow the researching range. We were expected to learn how to start our research and how to conduct better research. Also, we were expected to learn the general format of lab reports, it consists of 6 parts: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussions and conclusion. I followed the above format rushed my first draft, so it contains many grammar mistakes and typos. In the second draft, I fixed the those mistakes, but it was still not perfect. The weakness of my lab report is that some of the sources I provided could not support my arguments directly, and also I should’ve provided more reliable sources. The textbook example taught me that I should not give any opinions in the result session, and they should be in the discussion session. This makes sense because results are facts, so making the discussion an independent session makes lab reports more clear. In this assignment, I learned how to conduct better research that we should analyze the subject first. Also I learned from my peers that usually news and some random websites are not reliable comparing with scholarly resources. This assignment also taught me the general format of lab reports and how to analyze data.

Engineering Proposal´╝ÜComparing with the last three assignments, this assignment requires more time. And this assignment must be assigned after the last three. The textbook says that an engineering proposal can be represented as memo(less than 5 pages) or reports. This assignments also expects us to provide a description of our subject, so we must learn the format of the other three first in order to learn how to write proposals. This assignment expects us to use the skills we learned in the last three assignments to write an engineering proposal. It is the combination of memo and technical description(in my case). Because this is a big assignment, so professor Otte assigned this assignment in an organized way. Firstly, he let us to discover a need in NYC(finding topic), and then he let us to provide more details of the topic. We were then asked to find a source of our topic, and the last day we had to provide an outline. Therefore, when we need to write our proposal, we already have so much content of it. In the first draft, I provided a great summary with many details. It can still be improved by formatting the proposal better. After revisiting my first draft, I found out there are some parts I will not understand if I am the reader. In this assignment, I learned that if we find a need in the community, we can write proposal to implement the need. By doing this assignment, I also improved my abilities of writing memo and technical descriptions.

Even though this semester is fully online, professor Otte provided a good way to teach us. He used forum to let students interact with each other. Every discussion is useful and meaningful, they brought me closer to the assignments, so I know what I need to do when I was assigned all these assignments. Without all these discussions, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all these works. The whole semester is very progressive, almost every week we need to write a journal to reflect the work we have done in that week. They helped me to remember what I learned in that week.

In conclusion, professor Otte has taught me so much in writing. I learn how to write technical descriptions, memos, lab reports and engineering proposals, and now I just learned how to write my first portfolio. Through the whole semester, I developed a habit that now I analyze my audience and purpose everytime I write something. I also learned how to collaborate with others better. I believe all the skills I learn from in this course will be used in my future career. Thanks to professor NICHOLAS OTTE for being responsible and providing an organized and interesting course!