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The writing experience of Swedish industrial doctoral students: implications for writing tasks in the university

By Philip Shaw


The paper asks what the role of writing in the university might be in preparing students for writing in the engineering workplace. It reviews literature suggesting that although they use similar formats and mediating tools such as diagrams and equations university tasks are often essentially different from workplace ones. The roles and aims of writer and reader are very different, and the university cannot reproduce the conditions of workplace writing. It examines this conflict by looking at a new group, who are moving back into academe from the workplace rather than in the other direction: industridoktorander. Interviews with ten of them revealed conflicting evaluations of conference types, and differences in many aspects of report writing, such as focus on results or method, reporting of failures, medium for communication of findings, degree of linguistic explicitness and precision, existence and function of gatekeepers. These differences and potential conflicts were not experienced as irritating or difficult. The conclusion is that writing in the academy cannot reproduce conditions in the workplace and that along with careful development of appropriate research and learner genres, engineering educators should try to develop an awareness of the communities of practice that these genres are embedded in, so that future engineers are aware that genre requirements are not mere conventions, but arise from text function and purpose. Discussion questions for the presentation • What skills might be transferable from learner and academic research genres to professional writing? • What necessary skills cannot be acquired by writing learner or academic-research genres? • What sort of writing tasks in what language are useful for learning at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral levels? • What sort of tasks are useful for professional-writing training at these levels and is there any room for tasks with that aim at any of these levels? • How far is it the role of the university to acquaint engineering students with professional genres and writing conditions? How far is it possible to do this

Year: 2015
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