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Preface: Introduction to modules for engineering lab instructors

The most updated lab writing instructional modules are available:

Engineering students may struggle with writing reports in engineering lab courses. These modules are meant to be very concise, simple, and easy-to-use aids for helping engineering students improve their engineering laboratory report writing skills.

Enclosed are one-page modules, each to help students develop one particular aspect of writing a lab report. The modules are scaffolded – that is, they are structured such that those with little experience writing technical documents may choose to start at a fundamental level and those with more experience may start at an intermediate or advanced level.

The modules are independent, not sequential, so you may use fundamental modules in one topic, and advanced modules in other topics.

The modules include:

  1. links to details on the subject to help students achieve specific outcomes.
  2. links to rubrics to help students identify what they should focus on and to help instructors with grading and assessing.

Purpose of Writing

Engineers write for two reasons: to help them learn and to communicate. The modules assume students are also writing for two reasons: to practice and improve this important communication skill and for the sake of meaning-making (the writing process helps you gain technical knowledge on the subject).

Scaffold Level Module Title
Fundamental writing topics
Intermediate writing topics
Advanced writing topics


  • Lab Report

    A document that discusses and interprets data resulting from laboratory work. They typically range from one page to several hundred pages depending upon the amount of work being discussed and the depth of details needed. Regardless of length, lab reports contain an Introduction, Body (which includes Methods, Results, and Discussion), and Conclusion. They may contain other elements as well. The acronym IMRDC (I’M RaD C) may be used.

  • Rhetoric

    The art of persuasive writing. “Persuasion” does not imply “exaggeration” or “bias”.

  • Persuasive writing

    Writing to convince an audience that your opinion is correct. For engineering lab reports, your opinion must not be based upon a “feeling”, “hunch” or “guess” – it must be based upon your professional interpretation of the data you are reporting. It must be unbiased. You are not trying to persuade someone to buy a commercial product, or to vote for a certain candidate, you are trying to convince them that you have appropriately collected and interpreted the data and therefore, your conclusions are correct.

  • Genre

    A type of writing style with a specific purpose. Engineering lab reports are one type of
    writing genre with specific conventions that may differ from other writing genre (such as an English literature composition).

  • Meaning-making

    A phrase used to indicate that the writing process itself can help you learn about what you are writing.

  • Data

    Plural of datum. Refers to measured quantities or qualitative characteristics obtained through laboratory work.

  • Univariate data

    Data pertaining to one variable. Example: the weight of truck.

  • Bivariate data

    Data pertaining to two, typically related, variables. Example: temperature in the room and time of day (temperature and time are the two variables).

  • Concise

    To communicate important information with as short of a description as possible. It is not simply a matter of reducing word-count – important information must be communicated.