Your task is to write an engineering essay. Starting with a blank page can be quite daunting. So, what do you do? You type in the title of your project, your name and all the information that you need, in the order that it comes to your mind, right?
The first thing you need is a plan. Spending a few minutes planning your work will ensure that your engineering essay flows coherently. The following guide should provide you with some tips on how to plan, structure and write an engineering essay.
There are a number of reasons why you may be writing an engineering essay. It may be part of your assessment for a course, an application to a conference, for publication in a journal or just for your own amusement.
What are you trying to tell your reader? You should decide on the objective of your writing before you structure your essay. Keep your objective and your audience in mind throughout your writing.
A typical structure of an engineering essay follows:
- Abstract – The abstract is a short concise summary of your work and is the place where the reader will decide whether or not to continue reading your work. The abstract should include a brief summary of your objective, the methods that you used, the key results and the conclusion or implications of these results.
- Introduction – The introduction is the opportunity to enliven interest in the topic of your essay. It is the place to provide background information to your reader so they can understand the objective of your work. In the case of a journal article, this is the place to define the existing boundaries of knowledge through a review of the current literature. Refer to other peoples work and make sure you reference their work. Don’t plagiarise work or ideas; this is a serious offence.
- Materials and Methods – This section is where you describe the steps that you took to solving your objective. It doesn’t detail any of the results. It is helpful to give a brief description of your methods and a place to justify the path you took. Any analysis techniques or statistical methods used to interpret your results should be described here. In the case of experimental work, this is where you describe to the reader the equipment and methods used. Make sure you include enough detail so that the reader can reproduce the experiments in their own lab. In the case of a stress analysis problem, you would describe how you modelled the problem, what assumptions or simplifications you made, the boundary conditions and material property considerations.
- Results – A picture tells a thousand words… use this to your advantage. Use images and graphs to present your results. If you use images and graphs, make sure they are correctly labelled with scales and units. The reader may not be familiar with the way you have presented your information, so make sure you include detailed captions.
- Discussion – The discussion section should bring the reader back to the objective of the work and describe how the results that you have obtained relate to it. It is also a place where you can explain your findings or any anomalies that you have come across. You can also relate the results back to previous work or how it sits in the bigger picture. Plans of further work can also be included here.
- Conclusion – All essays require a conclusion. This is a summary of what you have already told the reader. In some cases this can even be a bullet point list.
- References/ Bibliography – Reference styles vary, for example when something is referred to or quoted this can be followed by the author’s last name in brackets, or sometimes a number. The full reference is then given in this section for example: Bloggs, Joe (2009), Engineering Essays are Fun, London, Publisher
Finally, read your work through before you submit it. Check that your spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct. Poor writing can loose you marks. Try and be concise in your writing by including all the detail that you want, without waffling.
- Make a plan before you start
- Define your objective and audience
- Reference your work
- Don’t plagiarise
- Check spelling, punctuation and grammar
- Read your engineering essay through before you submit
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