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Improving Communication Skills


Robert M. Bethea and Sarah A. Brown (Texas Tech University)


This module is designed to supplement junior and senior chemical engineering courses in which written or oral reports about experiments or other assignments are integral components. Examples of the proper format and style of student written work are included throughout. The module contains four files: Read Me First (instructions for access and use), Outline (the resource guide), and two Appendices.

The Outline emphasizes accuracy and clarity; the effective use of audience analysis; proper organization of material to focus on the conclusion or objective; and format, mechanics, consistency, voice, and tone for all types of communications. Business and technical correspondence, resumes, and various types of written reports including in-text citations and bibliographies are included. Because of the process safety implications for unit operations laboratory courses and undergraduate and graduate research projects, the crafting of safe, efficient, and effective operating procedures is presented as a separate section. The topic of visual aids to support oral presentations emphasizes clear, concise illustrations. The material on oral presentations is designed to focus on the bottom line or conclusions. The use of audience analysis is emphasized as are presentation styles, mechanics, and delivery. The style handbook begins with an intensive review of the parts of speech and their uses. This material is followed by the basic rules of English grammar and is illustrated by several pages of common mistakes. The elements of style and the use of smooth transitions are emphasized.

Five sets of student exercises composed of material taken from old unit operations laboratory reports are included as Appendix 1; these exercises focus on punctuation, grammar, style, and editing. Corrected versions of the student exercises are included as Appendix 2 which should not be distributed to students.

Student access: The files Outline.pdf and Appendix1.pdf are available to students logged into the site.

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