Investigation of Written Communication in Process Engineering

Rounsefell, Beth (2001). Investigation of Written Communication in Process Engineering Honours Thesis, School of Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Rounsefell, Beth
Thesis Title Investigation of Written Communication in Process Engineering
School, Centre or Institute School of Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2001
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Caroline Crosthwaite
Total pages 38
Language eng
Subjects 0904 Chemical Engineering
Formatted abstract
This report is part of a research project run jointly by the Department of Chemical Engineering and the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of  Queensland, to compare the writing requirements and practices of professional process engineers  with those of engineering students.

This project will use a pilot study of groups of professional process engineers, undergraduate and  postgraduate engineering students and also engineering professional institutions to ascertain the  place and importance of written communication in the process industries. Further to this, it is  hoped to determine whether undergraduate process engineering degrees adequately prepare students  for the writing demands of the workplace and if not, suggest ways to adapt the current curriculum  to address this gap.

As the project is to be run over two semesters, this report covers the first stage of the  research: a literature study including an investigation of qualitative research methods to be used,  presentation and discussion of the results from an exploratory questionnaire distributed to a  sample of professional process engineers and the plan for second semester research based on the  recommendations arising from first semester’s work.

Despite the lack of extensive research of this nature having been conducted, the prevailing view in  Australia (Tapper 2000, McGregor et. al 2000 and Bright et. al 2000) is that tertiary graduates  (particularly engineers) are widely lacking in the communication skills crucial to their future  careers.

Qualitative research is a valuable tool used for investigating natural phenomena, such as  behaviours, attributes, beliefs and attitudes. A questionnaire, designed around the focus question  ‘How do process engineers regard the writing requirements of their job and do they think graduates  are prepared for workplace writing tasks’, was used to gather data from a sample of process  engineers.

Survey results show that process engineers spend between 10% and 90% of their working day writing,  and generate a wide range of documents that vary in their writing style and intended audience (both  technical and non technical). Despite this pervasiveness of written communication in the  professional engineering area, the majority of engineers describe the writing skills of fellow  engineers as either mediocre or satisfactory.

Most of the process engineers surveyed believe that engineering graduates are not prepared for the  writing demands of the workplace, but are divided in opinions on how to address this issue.  Therefore future research into these issues is warranted.

Overall, the objectives of the initial stage of the research project were met as the pilot study  validated the project’s research methodology through the successful gathering of primary data on  the perceptions of professional engineers. Analysis of the data shows the emergence of a number of  themes that will be further investigated in continuing research next semester.

Continuing research, based on the initial outcomes, is formulated as a project plan for second semester.
Keyword Process Engineering

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (non-RHD) - UQ staff and students only
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Thu, 08 Jan 2015, 14:38:42 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service