case western reserve university



English and Engineering 398: Professional Communication for Engineers

Below you will find an overview and policies for ENGL/ENGR 398


English and Engineering 398: Professional Communication for Engineers



Course Overview

English 398 and Engineering 398 are complementary and corequisite courses that together introduce students to the issues that shape the environment for communication among professional engineers and to the practices that define engineering as a profession. The one-credit Engineering course is administered through the Case School of Engineering, while the two-credit English course forms part of the University's disciplinary writing programs based in the English Department. Satisfactory completion of the corequisite ENGR/ENGL courses fulfills the University's General Education Requirement for a Departmental Seminar as well as specific CSE curricular requirements.




Course Descriptions


Engineering 398 introduces major practical, theoretical, and ethical issues that shape the environment for communication among professional engineers. Weekly lectures focus on important topics such as professionalism; invention, intellectual property, and technology transfer; entrepreneurship, design, and individual and collective creativity; and technological, economic, and cultural aspects of globalization. As an introduction to broad communication environments for both academic and professional engineering, Engineering 398 promotes knowledge of contemporary engineering issues; understanding of professional, ethical, academic, and workplace responsibilities; and practices of life-long learning.

By the end of Engineering 398, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and application of the principles of professionalism and codes of ethics among practicing engineers.
  2. Describe the legal environment for matters of intellectual property and the practices and policies of academic technology transfer.
  3. Identify the principal issues involved in engineering entrepreneurship and design.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the global, cultural, and contextual impact of engineering solutions.

English 398 introduces principles and strategies for effective communication in both academic and workplace engineering settings. Through analysis of case studies and of academic and professional genres, this course develops the oral and written communication skills that characterize successful engineers. Students will prepare professional documents that focus specifically on communicating academic and technical knowledge to diverse audiences. Because such documents are always situated within professional, social, and rhetorical contexts, this course also requires students to explain and justify their communicative choices in order to become adept in navigating the rhetorical environments they will encounter as professional engineers. As a SAGES Departmental Seminar, English 398 also prepares students for the writing they will do in Capstone projects.

By the end of English 398, students should be able to:

  1. Produce written texts in a variety of professional genres - texts that communicate effectively and adhere to professional ethical standards.
  2. Deliver clear and professional oral presentations on a range of engineering topics.
  3. Reflect on and justify the rhetorical choices involved in planning, writing, revising, and presenting academic and professional engineering documents.
  4. Summarize the research writing of an academic engineer for a non-technical audience.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to work as part of a research team, coordinating workflow and collaboratively presenting outcomes.
  6. Synthesize the academic research and professional best practices related to an engineering project in the student’s field.
  7. Produce and refine an array of personal professional documents.
  8. Demonstrate the capacity for life-long learning through sustained reflection, revision, and research.



Policy on Student Enrollment


ENGL 398 caps the enrolled number of students in each section at 20. We adhere to this enrollment cap for several reasons, some logistical and some pedagogical.

Our first consideration concerns commitments we make to ENGL 398 instructors. The course is staffed largely with graduate Teaching Assistants completing doctoral degrees and training in the teaching of Professional and Technical Communication. Our TA training program caps courses at 20 students. Each additional student means a significant additional measure of work for TAs and limits the time they can devote to their own professional and pedagogical development. It also compromises the experience of other students in English 398.

Second, the room in which we teach can only accommodate twenty students because it is equipped with only twenty seats and computer stations. Students are required to complete work in class using these stations. Admitting additional students creates logistical difficulties when students do not have access to the equipment that they need.

Finally, the course is geared to very specific ABET (Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology) requirements with narrowly prescribed data-gathering requirements. These requirements dictate that we cover a lot of material in a very short period of time. Among the requirements are two oral presentations and a peer-reviewed usability test, which are calibrated to a course capped at 20 students. Adding extra students results in lost instructional time and the inability to address effectively all pedagogical goals.

For these reasons, ENGL 398 is capped at 20 students. However, we offer approximately 17 sections each academic year and serve a total of 340 students. We also monitor enrollment trends and try to meet predicted needs each term.

Because ENGL 398 is a required course, we strongly urge students to fulfill the requirement before their senior years in order to avoid problems securing a spot when they are nearing graduation.

Questions, Comments & Concerns
  • Eve McPherson
  • Coordinator ENGR/ENGL 398 Program
  • English Department
  • 107 Guilford House
  • 216.368.8571
  • Email: