BP7: Selzer's Method

Blog » BP7: Selzer's Method

Posted on 18 Apr 2013 02:47

In “The Composing Processes of an Engineer”, Jack Selzer presents a research project he did on a particular engineer named Kenneth E. Nelson. His purpose was to display how engineers go through the writing process.

1. Selzer’s methodology of study is comprised of several parts. First and foremost, he decided to investigate only one engineer’s writing process. Selzer then looked at all of Nelson’s temporary writing materials that contributed to his (Nelson’s) final products such as jottings, notes outlines plans, drafts, and revisions. Next, Selzer asked Nelson to respond on a tape recorder to a list of questions both before and after each writing session. Selzer also visited Nelson’s workplace to get a feel of Nelson’s physical environment. After those visits, Selzer would interview Nelson about the recordings and about his (Nelson’s) habits. Finally, Selzer tailed Nelson’s writing process through an entire engineering project.

2. Selzer, at the beginning of his essay, states that little work has been done on the composing process of engineers, even though we know generally what engineers wright at work. Through his methodology of study, he intends to focus on the how. Selzer mentions that it is impossible to come to a concrete conclusion just based on the writing process of one engineer. Nonetheless, Selzer uses some of his findings from Nelson’s work to suggest some ideas that should be incorporated into the technical writing teaching system. For example, Nelson spent most of his time (about 80%) inventing and arranging content. Therefore, if Nelson’s behaviors are similar to other engineers, teachers of technical writing should focus more on aiding their students’ plans, outlines, rough drafts, and revisions, than just correcting the student’s finished product. In the end, however, Selzer says that teachers will only how to better prepare their students for writing at the workplace when more research is done on the composing process of engineers and scientists.

3. Selzer’s methodology has its pros and cons, mainly because his process may only be helpful to some research projects. His methodology is centrally based on the communications with an individual. Some reports may only be based on documents and sources, not on interactions with people. Even so, I believe that his detailed study on Nelson was very enlightening. Selzer showed how a good research project should be done, yet because he only surveyed one person, his results cannot be fully trusted (as he himself mentions).

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