5 Writing Tips To Improve Your Civil and Industrial Engineering Research Papers

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Civil and industrial engineering is regarded as one of the most important engineering fields across the globe as it addresses some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, such as high building energy usage, poor water distribution and quality, and traffic congestion, among others. Publishing findings that solve these issues in peer-reviewed journals is an important part of your career as a scientist or engineer. To ensure that your civil and industrial engineering research is considered for publication, you must first and foremost communicate your findings clearly, avoiding grammatical, stylistic, or linguistic errors. Errors indicate carelessness, which is something civil engineers definitely do not want to be associated with.

If you are about to start writing an academic paper in civil and industrial engineering, here’s a list of common mistakes to avoid.

  1. Differentiate between easily confused words:
    We’ll focus on some common terms that are easily confused with in civil, industrial, and structural engineering research. This can be as simple as concrete and cement. Concrete is the actual building material used to make slabs and walls; it is made by blending cement with water, gravel, and sand. Composite and hybrid are another pair of terms that are often used interchangeably in civil and industrial engineering. In general, composites can be defined as multiphase materials, where one phase (called a filler) is dispersed in a second phase (called the matrix). In composite materials, the properties of the two phases are added up at the macroscale level by simple mixing techniques (e.g., ball milling, shear mixing, etc.). On the other hand, hybrid materials are a result of combining materials at a nanometer or molecular level; hybrid materials can exhibit entirely different properties not found in the individual components. Machine and machinery are also terms that are often used interchangeably in industrial engineering papers. Machinery refers to the machines collectively constituting a production apparatus, e.g., a plant, while a machine is a mechanical or electrical device that performs or assists in human tasks, physical or computational.

  2. Use specific terminology:
    Avoid words that can have multiple meanings depending on the context. For example, an industrial engineering paper describing an approach for producing additive manufacturing parts for low-cost applications claims that, “The cooling performance was improved.” In this particular case, this could imply, “The time to lower the die temperature by X degrees was reduced,” or “A reduction in the production cycle time was achieved,” or “The thermal flux overtime increased.” It is important to state exactly what you are referring to avoid any ambiguity in your research paper. With the advent of high-speed computation, matrices and matrix algebra have become key in the integration of structural engineering systems. Therefore, when reporting interdisciplinary engineering work, terminologies in these fields need to be adopted. For example, while simulating earthquakes, the precision matrix is widely adopted to calculate the displacement, velocity, acceleration, and drift of structures. Here, even though the adjective is “precise,” “precision” is the correct form and should not be replaced, keeping in mind the terminology used in the subject area.

  3. Avoid lengthy sentences to sound professional:
    Simple sentences are easy to read. They avoid confusion in your research paper and are also less likely to be misinterpreted. As an example, instead of saying, “As shown in the graph below, where all three diagrams have been put in one graph together, it could be recognized that the subject of the first and second test are most likely to be ductile,” you could write, “As shown in Figure 1, samples 1 and 2 exhibited ductile behavior.1” The latter is concise and avoids ambiguity. It is important to use precise terms such as “exhibited” and refer to figures and samples by numbers to convey your findings accurately in engineering research papers.

  4. Refer to appropriate building codes:
    Safety of buildings is an important concern in civil and structural engineering. When introducing new structures, engineering research should specify the minimum requirements to adequately safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of occupants based on building codes set by policymakers. For example, if your structural engineering paper is on buildings in a seismic-prone area, the seismic provisions should represent the best available guidance to limit seismic risk. Therefore, comparing results with either the model building codes maintained by the International Code Council (ICC) or of states that are prone to similar earthquakes add reliability to your results.2 One factor to consider is that the adoption of the model codes is uneven across and within a country, regardless of the seismic hazard level. States and local jurisdictions adopting these codes may have made amendments or exclusions relating to the seismic provisions. Therefore, your civil or structural engineering research papers should identify the final authorizing unit and ensure that the suggestions offered meet permissible guidelines.

  5. Avoid redundancy:
    In academic research writing, a golden rule you can remember is that “less is more!” Redundant words can destroy the simplicity and clarity of the meaning. Thus, in a civil and structural engineering research paper, the sentence “The morphology, size, and shape of the binders were investigated” can be replaced with “The morphology of the binders was investigated” as “morphology” implies the shape, size, and form of things.

Technical ideas in your civil and structural engineering research paper should be communicated accurately and clearly. You might want to remember Brookes3 remarks on writing effective technical papers: “Anyone engaged in scientific work who is incapable of making this kind of report is not a scientist but a technician, not an engineer but a mechanic.” So be sure to check your research paper for these avoidable errors, and consider exploring Editage’s English Editing Services, where senior editors in your engineering field will help you polish your engineering manuscript to give you the best chance of publication.

References:

  1. Conrad, S. Dispelling student myths about writing civil engineering. ASEE Annual conference & Exposition (2015).
  2. FEMA, The importance of building earthquake codes in earthquake-prone communities.
    https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/fema_earthquakes_the-importance-of-building-codes-in-earthquake-prone-communities-fact-sheet_20160719.pdf (2020).
  3. Brookes, B.C. The teaching of English to scientists and engineers. In Quirk, R & Smith, A. H. (Eds.), The Teaching of English. (Oxford University Press, 1964).

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