Writing Initiative

A new writing program (CBE 318: Laboratory Short Report Process, Formal, and Rubric and CBE 418: Short Report Peer Review Rubric) was developed for the two junior-level and two senior-level chemical engineering laboratory courses. We have revised our technical writing approach starting in Fall 2017 with modification to course structure and the hiring of an embedded writing instructor, Cat Hubka, to help students reflect on and revise their writing before submitting it for grading. Our embedded writing instructor guided the design of a peer review and reflection activity for junior and senior-level chemical engineering laboratory courses. Incorporating these changes improved student writing by providing more writing time, providing more effective writing experiences, and facilitating knowledge transfer from lower-level composition courses.

Prof. Eva Chi, with the help of Cat Hubka and Vanessa Svihla, restructured the lab schedule to accommodate peer-review, instructor formative feedback, and revision of technical reports. Faculty meet with students one-on-one to review report drafts and to provide constructive feedback on technical content and scientific writing, develop rubrics for peer review and report assessment, and assess the impact of review and revision on student writing by reading students’ reflective memos and comparing scores of technical reports before and after revision.

Peer review

In the first course, peer review is very structured. By the final course, students act as conference reviewers


There is an opportunity to revise across the entire sequence

Rhetorical analysis We ask students to work with concepts like audience, context, purpose, and genre

Multiple modes of communication

Rather than write identical reports in each course, students learn to write and communicate in different ways for different contexts


Self-assessment, plans for revision, and self-evaluation all help students think more deeply about their work