The Civil Engineering Writing Project incorporates analysis of writing with interviews of practitioners, students, and faculty. We use an approach from applied linguistics called “corpus linguistics” to analyze how student writing differs from practitioner writing. In phase 1 of the project, we collected various kinds of written documents from students and practitoners - the “corpus.” We then conducted several types of analysis in order to compare the organization, grammar, and vocabulary used by practitioners and students. The interviews of students, practitioners, and faculty helped us get a better understanding of the writing and its contexts. In phase 2 of the project, we are designing new teaching materials that help students or new graduates prepare for writing in the workplace. The materials can be incorporated into existing courses or used for self-study. We then study the effectiveness of the materials by analyzing new student papers and comparing them to the earlier writing.
The project is based at Portland State University, where the Department of Applied Linguistics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering collaborate. Our team also includes collaborators in the Civil Engineering Department at Cal Poly Pomona, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Howard University, and the Department of Civil Engineering at Lawrence Technological University. In phase 1 Iowa State University collaborated.
The project has been supported by the National Science Foundation under grants No. DUE-083776 (May 2009 - Sept. 2011) and DUE-1323259 (Oct. 2013 - Sept. 2017). All opinions, findings, and recommendations expressed in materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
The project has been approved by the Portland State University Human Subject Research Review Committee (HSRRC Proposal # 08685) and institutional review boards at collaborating universities.