Skip to Main Content

Engineering: Writing in Engineering

Types of Writing in Engineering

Depending on your educational and career paths, you may encounter and be expected to write various types of materials as an engineer. Please click on the links below to find helpful tutorials on how to write different types of engineering literature.

CSU Writing Guides

About the Writing@CSU Guides

These guides are the result of a joint effort of the Writing@CSU project and the Colorado State University Writing Center. Development of these guides began in 1993, when the original Online Writing Center was developed for campus use at Colorado State University. Several guides were developed in Asymmetrix Multimedia Toolbook and then migrated to the Web in 1996. Over the years, additional guides were developed and revised, reflecting the efforts of many writers and writing teachers. We thank them for their generosity. You can learn who developed a particular guide by clicking on the "contributors" link in that guide.

The University of Nevada, Reno Libraries are grateful to CSU for allowing us to present their users with these helpful and informational guides.

Types of Writing in Engineering

Engineering Technical Reports: Technical reports include various types of "technical" information. For example, if you need to report why a design or piece of equipment failed, you'd write a forensic report. Or, you might have to write about a design you created. Then, you'd produce a design report or, you may need to combine these two. Many report types are classified as technical reports. You should always determine what information you need to convey and who your audience is before you start writing. To learn more about technical reports, read this guide.

Engineering Proposals: Consulting engineers aren't the only engineers who write proposals. For instance, in academia, engineers write proposals to receive funding for their research or even to initiate a project. Some engineers produce proposals to be read and approved by management while others send proposals to specific funding agencies or clients. To read more about proposals, read this guide.

Project Notebooks: Like a scientist's log, an engineering project notebook can be used to capture work in progress during a project. Scientists and engineers use project notebooks to record data as they collect it, to brainstorm explanations of data, to record details of experimental apparatus, and to make progress notes. The project notebook can be formal or informal, recorded on paper or on the computer. To learn more, read this guide.

Poster Sessions: A successful poster is not created overnight. Preparing a well-organized, visually-pleasing poster requires you to plan well in advance. First, consider your audience and what type of poster you’ll create. Next, gather your supplies and decide what information to include. From this point, create the text and graphics. Remember to consider how these work together and then format your poster accordingly. Read more about poster sessions in this guide.

Electrical Engineering Lab Reports: Writing a lab report is both a journey and a destination. During an experiment, you travel beyond the information in a textbook to a tactile environment. Here, you'll encounter unexpected characteristics about devices and concepts. Once the experiment is finished, you gain insight by analyzing your results. Performing experiments and writing lab reports provide hands-on experiences with engineering concepts and devices. Learn more about writing Electrical Engineering Lab Reports in this guide.

Civil Engineering Lab Reports: As a civil engineer, materials form the basis of what you do. Understanding material properties can help you make design decisions. Consider the road you drive on every day. Is it concrete or asphalt? At some point, an engineer had to ask, "How do those materials behave?" The answer to that question can be read in a book or developed through tactile knowledge in a lab. Testing materials and writing lab reports familiarize you with materials' properties. To learn more about civil engineering lab reports, read this guide.

Email: E-mail is used to communicate in many settings. Effective use of email requires a clear sense of the purpose for writing, as well as a clear statement of the message. To explore how to use email effectively, read this guide.

Resumés: Writing a resume is more than just listing a set of credentials or special talents in reverse chronological order. It is very much like planning to write a persuasive essay. These documents begin with a rhetorical context. Every resume has a target audience (the employer(s) who will use it to evaluate you as a job candidate) and a purpose (to convince an employer that you are worth interviewing for a specific job). Read this guide for a further discussion of these issues.