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Sarah Thomas ENGW 3302 5 December 2013 Reflective Essay

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Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions is a required course for Civil Engineering majors at Northeastern University. This course has various learning goals in order to better prepare students for the demands of writing in the workplace. These goals are achieved through four different assignments, all of which are different formats for different audiences. Throughout the course of this semester, I was able to explore a piece of writing from my chosen field of Traffic Engineering, compose a document for a professional audience, write an informative article for a public audience, and review literature on a current research topic for an academic audience. In Unit 1, I analyzed a traffic study that I helped compose called the Aquidneck Island Transportation Study. This traffic study was innovative in that it combines different modes of transportation and connects the transportation alternatives with land use planning, as I observed here: The importance of this study and its distinctions from previous studies are noted in Chapter 1 of the text as follows: This study is critically important to the future economic viability and quality of life on Aquidneck Island. It reaches across all modes of transportation (bus, rail, ferry, bike, pedestrian, auto, etc.) and seeks to make modal connections and improvements consistent with sound land use planning. I thought I wrote sufficiently about the importance of the study, however, Professor Akbari gave me some helpful feedback about how I did not make enough judgements on the effectiveness of the document: There is much more possible to penetrate in demystifying how this document work and how your own writing might engage itself profitably in this discourse. After a less than stellar performance on Unit 2, I was ready to prove myself during the new assignment, which was to write for a professional audience. I composed a website with guidance about designing bicycle facilities as it is done in the Netherlands, which is currently the

world leader in cycling rates and safety. I used my own photos and knowledge from my experience on the Dialogue of Civilizations trip there this past summer. I addressed the document to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation official as if I were an employee of the Federal Highway Administration. This was an effective way to transmit knowledge, as engineers at the federal level are commonly sending new research and developments from the transportation world to state officials for implementation at the state level, and was deemed as such by Professor Akbari: The cover letter asks a high state transportation official to include this document in the state design manual. Very good. With more confidence after my improvement in Unit 2, I was excited to work on Unit 3, which was writing for a public audience. I chose to write a feature article about Concrete Canoe, an engineering competition in which I have participated and been a student leader in for four years. I thoroughly enjoyed this unit, and found it entertaining to put the content of many of my conversations with family members, friends, and strangers over the past four years about Concrete Canoe into one document. Comments received during Revision Club (which can be seen in the Supporting Materials section of this writing portfolio) helped me to refine some of the more technical terms which could have been explained better. I used pictures, fonts, and colors to format the document like an actual magazine article. Professor Akbari solidified my belief that this was my strongest piece of the semester: This work to make technical knowledge meaningful to a wide audience--a key skill for the engineer--is excellent. I found Unit 4, the literature review for an academic, to be the most challenging. I chose to write about bicycle facilities in the United States and how more research needs to be done into improving the current design standards. Finding sources relating to this topic was easy, however, I found it difficult to relate them to each other without making it sound like all of the sources were making the same point. I was able to do this by making more general statements, such as There are many ways to be able to increase the amount of people cycling, and a major way to do this is to increase bicycle commuting, and then backing up these general statements with multiple sources all giving a different insight. One of the learning goals for this course is understanding the genres of writing in my academic discipline and career path. Closely related is another goal: to understand the impor-

tance of audience and context and to write using appropriate styles and formats for different audience. Traffic engineering is unique in that the projects take many different forms. As such, a traffic engineer has to have a large communications toolbox to pull from, because each project requires a different form of presentation to a different audience. To make the stakes even higher, the success of a project often depends on how well they are presented to various audiences. Another learning goal is displaying confidence and facility with the processes of revision. Documentation of my work in Revision Club can be found in the supporting materials portion of this writing portfolio. Revision is a key part of any form of written expression, as it is always better to reread something after writing it in order to find mistakes and to find more eloquent ways of getting a point across. Throughout this class, I found Revision Club to be invaluable both as a reviewer and as the recipient of comments, as formal quality control procedures are a common part of many workplaces. Revision Club was a good way to keep these types of procedures fresh in mind, and also demonstrated the application between the workplace and the classroom. I always invested a large amount of time in Revision Club, both when making comments to my partners, and when reviewing their comments to myself. When looking critically at the writing of others, it is dually beneficial, as you are able to help them improve their writing in addition to gaining the ability to look more critically at your own work. I would like to thank Professor Akbari and my Revision Club partners. Without them, I would not have been able to improve my writing and critical thinking skills through this class.