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Writing is generally recognized as fundamental to the formation and communication of scientific and technical knowledge to peer groups and general audiences. Often, persuasive writing is an essential attribute emphasized by industries and businesses for a successful career in STEM fields. Nevertheless, the current scenario is that students in STEM fields, with their increased demand for more specialized skills in fewer credit hours combined with a lack of emphasis on writing from engineering faculty members, make addressing this need difficult. In addition, students in engineering fields often do not value writing skills and underestimate the amount of writing they will do in their careers. Hence, it is essential to understand and quantify the level of writing skills STEM students exhibit in their technical courses so that mitigation efforts can be designed using commonly available resources to enhance this important skillset among the students, including university writing centers.

A research question was posed to study this aspect of technical writing: How do STEM students at institutions conceive of writing and its role in classroom laboratories? This research was conducted at three different universities with students of varied demographics, including one which is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, via a sequential mixed-methods design. The demography variation among the institutions includes the level of college preparation among students and the mix of ethnicity to see if there are variations among certain groups. Although the sample size is small, the goal was to establish a methodology and a preliminary outcome set that could be used in further research with larger populations. Research data in the form of reports and surveys, were collected from groups of students from four distinct campuses to ascertain the technical writing capability of each group and provide a comparison to better understand the level of intervention required. The quantitative data was collected throughout the academic year through Likert scale surveys as well as rubric-based evaluation of reports.

The research design, methodology, and results of the research findings and the proposed mitigation efforts to improve student writing in STEM fields are presented in the paper.


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