Stefanie's Portfolio

Portfolio Cover Letter

After a year of intense writing and learning, here is my final portfolio for Writing for Engineers. Throughout this semester I feel like I have evolved into a better writer. The following is a collection of pieces, some of which were mandatory others that were optional that I have decided best show my growth as a writer. Included here is my revised midterm piece. Which after much work I am very proud to say is ready to be given to any member of the civil engineering department for reference in the programming that they do. Additionally I have included my blog post one and three, as well as parts of my RAB that I wrote about Elizabeth Wardle’s piece “Identity, Authority, and Learning to Write in New Workplaces.” I think all three of these pieces show off what I have learned in this class and things that I tried to implement in my revision piece. For example blog post one taught me the effectiveness of anecdotes. I remember during one of the peer reviews that somebody commented on this piece saying that it was interesting to have personal experience intertwined with the more formal writing. My second piece, which was blog post three, taught me about structure and keeping to the point. In this piece I had to get technical by describing what each writer’s opinions were and then what my view on the topics were. Looking over my piece I am impressed that I was able to keep everything clear and straight, through the use of smaller paragraphs and clear indication of who is being spoken about. For my final piece I chose parts of my RAB project. The reason I chose this piece as my third is because firstly Wardle played a huge role in both my midterm piece and my revision project. Secondly, it was the first time that I needed to understand a piece well enough to write about it, so that somebody that read my RAB would not have to read the actual paper. Overall I feel that I have grown into a whole different writer than how I started off in the beginning of the semester. My writing has become much more professional and coherent. Thanks for everybody’s helpful input and advice that has really helped me develop to the best of my abilities.

Midterm Revision Project

Revision Proposal


The imagined audience for this piece, much like the midterm piece itself, is geared towards the CE department. Where the midterm was slightly more for students and freshmen, I would like the revision to be more for the faculty members. I would like the revision to suggest what things the department could do in order to help the students acclimate. One important aspect I would like to investigate is mentorship, and the impacts of gender roles in the department.

Key Questions:

What effect does gender have on a person staying in the department?
How does mentorship influence both genders to stay in the department? Is having a female mentor for a female student a motivation to stick with the program? Either way I would like to see if mentorship has any effect on girls staying in the department. In my case I would think so, but I would like to see what others think about the subject. I know one senior who is a girl and could help me in this case to see if there was anyone in her career that helped her when she started out.

Why does the engineering ratio exist? Many girls start out hopeful in a career in these hard sciences, but are then dissuaded after seeing the “engineering ratio”. Since researching all hard sciences, would be too much in the short amount of time, I will only look at the Civil engineering students. I am not sure if it is possible. But I will try and get some sort of percentage as far as the number of girls that start out in the department and the number that graduate. I could go ask one of the faculty members that I think may be able to help me in this case.

Writerly Challenges and Concrete Goals:

My first goal for this piece is to make sure that I stay on track, and not go off on an unwanted tangent. Since I do have a specific project in mind I do now want to veer too much from it. Also included random information (ex Swales six reasons for a discourse community) I could lose the readers interest in my points. If I don’t achieve the goal, I have a chance of people not reading my entire piece, and if I do succeed then I have a bigger chance of them reading and understanding the whole thing. Having random bit of information can hinder the understanding of the overall piece. Furthermore, i would like to make sure that every point I make is leading me one step closer to proving my points.

My second goal is include as many anecdotes as possible. At least one to each section of what I am planning to discuss. Whether this be my own story, or one from a fellow student I think having a story will make the paper that much more personal; keeping in mind that the audience is the faculty members of the department, I believe it to be important to not only state ‘facts’ but also prove that these claims are backed up by real students’ claims.

My third goal for this project is to do my best to cite claims. In the parts discussing stereotypes, it is easy to make my ideas the official claim, or it can seem that way for the reader anyway. I want to make sure that everything that is written is written with some kind of creditable source. whether it be a quote from a student, or the results from the survey I made for the midterm piece, or even an internet source. Achieving this goal will give my paper a lot more credibility since it won't just be ideas, rather ideas that are backed up.

Genre Models:

My genre model for this revision is a speech. In a speech the speaker begins by explaining a problem, or something missing in the world. Because of this missing element, this person is here to fill the niche with his new invention. The impact of this new idea is discussed afterwards. I think having this genre will be interesting mostly because I am not going to be presenting it rather I need my writing to be clear enough so that someone could understand it all without someone presenting it to them. This piece as previously discussed would eventually be something that i could go present to the department, and thus it would have to be in an easy enough format so that i could present it to them. The complexity will still be there to a certain extent since there are several important points i would like to hit, but i think keeping in mind that my genre is a speech will help the piece go in the right direction.
this is a video of Steve Jobs introducing the first ever Iphone. I thought this was interesting because he explained how the iphone does things that other "smartphones" do not do. Though some things that Jobs did i do not want to integrate into the piece but i would like to use this as a stepping stool. From the presentation i see how important visuals are. so wherever I can i will try and put some visuals in.

New Revised Piece


Communities can be very different things. There are many different opinions on what makes a group of people a community. Two different authors that have different approaches seem to have interesting ideas on the matter that can be used to identify what makes the CE department at City College such a strong community. Firstly, John Swales believes in a very cut and dry list of things a community must have in order to properly be called a discourse community. While Elizabeth Wardle takes a much more social approach to a discourse community discussing the steps in which an outsider goes from a stranger to an insider. Both these authors offer an interesting perspective which when combined give the word community a much richer word. The following paper focuses on the effects that mentorship has on a student’s performance and time in the department. The second part looks at the “engineering ratio”: and what effect engineering stereotypes have on students. Research for this piece was based in part on a previous survey which establishes that the department of civil engineers at City College counts as a discourse community. And later an interview proves Wardle’s words true.

This study is important because hopefully after reading and reviewing the statistics, it would make it clear to a freshman or incoming student what steps need to be taken in order to optimize their role in the community. Once this department has successfully met the six criteria set forth by Swales proving this department to be a discourse community, it is the student jobs to implement Wardle’s social approach to joining this community. Yet, it is the department’s job to help these new students make the easiest transition from High School to their days in the department. This is the reason for pitching this idea to the different members of the civil engineering department.


Mentorship plays a key role in any relationship. It is proven that people who have strong influence of mentors in their lives achieve better grades and attendance in school. This is proven by the study done by Child Trends. Mentorship also prevents substance abuse and stimulates a strong, positive social attitude. These things are true for mentorship in general. Mentorship works because it is a peer that is giving you the advice and help that you need. You are more likely to ask a friends for advice than your parents or a teacher. Therefore mentorship is the key to having anyone be successful in anything. Therefore having a buddy program of sorts will help students in the civil engineering department unlock their true potential. The problem is the following, many student do not know about the ample opportunities that are available to them though the department. Such things include, research opportunities, scholarship, and clubs. The only way to really hear about these things is to hear it from someone else. But since freshmen do not take any civil engineering classes until their sophomore year, they are missing out on many different experience that can possibly contribute to them not dropping out. Students tend to drop because “the major is boring” but what do these freshmen that have only been taking math and sciences this year actually know about CE? Therefore being able to introduce student to the department whether it be through an introductory lunch of sorts, or a mentorship program I really believe that it will change the significant drop out rate in this department that is explained later on.

The Gender Question:

In today’s world it is very easy to quickly write off women in a profession like hard sciences or engineering. Just walk into any science or engineering classroom and you will see what this “engineering ratio” is all about. The best way to adequately explain this would be through my first experience with the ratio. Though I always knew about what was going on in these more rigorous programs, nothing could have prepared me for how I felt that first time. When I started in City College, I did not know anything about this community. All I knew was where the engineering building was, and one upperclassman. My first experience was at an alumni panel meeting about jobs within civil engineering. The meeting was called for mostly upperclassmen, but I was interested in hearing about what they had to say so I decided to attend. Though my experience was an overall positive experience, it was also a wakeup call in some respect. I entered a room with around thirty boys, and maybe five girls, one of them being on the panel of speakers. As I walked in many people were looking at me, and not knowing anyone else in the room I was extremely uncomfortable. Since I didn’t know anyone, you naturally try to flock to people that you have something in common with. And sometimes when you have nothing to go off of you look for a group of people of the same gender. Unfortunately, in this case there were so few women, and they were all sitting separated from each other. Though I did know about “the ratio” it surprised me to see it so shockingly in front of my face. From this day forward I realized that this is a serious problem. Women have a notion that engineering is only for men, when in fact the female brain has the same capacity as men’s and therefore there is no reason for a women to not pursue a career in these fields.

Following what I have already solidified about mentorship, and after speaking to a respectable group of female engineers I have come to a conclusion. I believe that have a strong role model in an upperclassmen will help motivate a student to stay in the department. I say this not only because this is the case for me, where I have about five upperclassmen that are female as my mentors, but also because of the people that I have spoken to about this. For example on person said “I feel more comfortable asking a girl about different programs that I am with the guys. Guys can be stuck up sometimes.’ It is an interesting dynamic to think that females are more interested in speaking with girls rather than guys on more sensitive topics such as scholarships, classes, and programs. Another girl mentioned that having so few girls in each class actually makes the bonds between the girls stronger. But every girl that I have spoken to blatantly said that having a female mentor appointed to them would have made their life so much easier at the beginning.

Some Concrete Research

I was interested to see what the retention number of female students in the department actually was. Therefore I emailed Annita Alting who is the director of Institutional Effectiveness. Who was extremely helpful in sending me a table with the necessary data. The table she sent me included the retention rate for men and women, freshmen and transfer students. The table is in the Appendix for reference. From the table we can see that women tend to start dropping after their second year, and by their fourth year the number of women tends to be less than half what it stated with; whereas men drop out by their first year by around 25%. Though the tables were pretty shocking, since there is not that big a difference in the amount that drop out between men and women. The big difference is the number of students that start. For example in the fall of 2012, nine women started and 43 men started school here. The table doesn’t account for the students that graduated in more than four years, which is a strong trend in this community therefore the number of graduated students on the chart is not entirely accurate and no data can be drawn from that.


Elementary school seems to be the place where these stereotypes are fostered. A group of second graders were asked to draw a picture of a scientist; this picture will most always be a picture of a white male in a white lab coat with a beaker, or test tube. When asked to draw a woman scientist they pictures came out of a strict and unhappy women. An interesting study proves that in the fourth grade 66 percent of girls liked science while 68 percent of males liked science. So the conclusions that can be drawn from both these aspects are that. Girls may develop a liking for science in elementary school; however the mental picture of an angry women scientist turns girls off from this kind of job. Therefore by eighth grade boys are twice as interested as girls in STEM careers. So in conclusion to this, I would like to point out that it isn’t only about what we do to help our students learn how to gain access to the multitude of opportunities available to them. It is also about helping the younger students see that having a career in engineering is not about an angry woman in a lab coat. It is our job to influence the future engineers, so that this stereotype can be overturned. And the best way to do that is by stimulating current and incoming students by giving them a mentor that can help them, and for these students to have a supportive group of people to support them and get them through. This is irrelevant of gender, but for females specifically since it seems that around 90% of women agree that this would actually help them.

Work cited

Cohort Start Retained after 1st yr Retained after 2nd yr Retained after 3rd yr Retained after 4th yr Graduated in 4 yrs
Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men
Fall 2006 8 23 8 19 5 17 4 10 0 6 1 1
Fall 2007 12 35 11 26 6 20 5 15 5 11 0 0
Fall 2008 14 34 13 23 7 19 4 15 4 9 0 0
Fall 2009 9 43 9 35 7 23 4 18
Fall 2010 10 55 9 43 7 35
Fall 2011 19 32 17 25
Fall 2012 9 43
Retention and Graduation of Civil Engineering Freshmen Cohorts, non-SEEK
Note: Students who are not retained in CE may have moved to another Engineering major, such as environmental or mechanical engineering. Attrition out of CE among students starting as freshmen in engineering is very high, both for men and women.
Cohort Start Retained after 1st yr Retained after 2nd yr Grad. in 2 yrs Retained after 3rd yr Grad. in 3 yrs
Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men
Fall 2006 8 24 5 15 3 12 0 0 1 9 2 0
Spring 07 5 13 4 7 5 4 0 0 3 4 1 2
Fall 2007 5 20 1 15 0 13 0 0 0 10 0 2
Spring 08 3 18 3 13 1 12 0 0 2 6 0 1
Fall 2008 6 16 3 7 2 8 0 0 1 5 0 0
Spring 09 4 18 1 10 2 7 0 0 1 6 0 0
Fall 2009 10 35 4 25 2 19 0 0 1 12 0 1
Spring 10 3 23 2 14 1 11 0 0 1 6 0 1
Fall 2010 4 39 3 21 2 13 0 0
Spring 11 7 27 2 12 0 7
Fall 2011 15 30 12 19
Spring 12 4 29 2 18
Fall 2012 3 14
Retention and graduation of Civil Engineering Transfer Cohorts, non-SEEK
Note: sometimes there are more students of the original cohort retained in a semester after a previous semester, this is because students sometimes step out for a semester or longer and then return.
The students not retained in CE may have moved on to other majors in CCNY or transferred out. Attrition is high for transfers to CE as well, both for women and men.

Self Evaluation

I wrote my original midterm on the civil engineering department and how it was a community. yet there were some parts that screamed of their own ideas. With Andrew’s help I was able to find these ideas and come up with a whole new paper. Slightly rooted in what I originally wrote but a piece that can really stand on its own. I decided with this revision that I wanted to start from scratch borrowing very few parts of the midterm, since I really felt this piece more of a continuation, or extrapolation of my last piece. I decided as I do with most of my papers that it would be best to outline the entire paper and start freewriting for each section. Doing this actually helped me come up with certain ideas such as including data from elementary school and how science are viewed when you are younger versus as you grow up. After writing my midterm piece I actually went to the CE department and spoke to them about some of the ideas that I had come up with. Those ideas were very warmly welcomed by the department and are currently being worked on for next semester. With all those things in mind I set out the write this paper. The idea of gender roles became very important to me after speaking to a friend of mine that is currently a high school senior who was looking into civil engineering. But was then unsure because there are so few girls “therefore it has to be difficult.” She ended up calling me, and we spoke about it for a long time and now I am proud to say that she will be here in the fall as a civil engineering student. From that phone call, I learned how much stereotypes can hurt a person, but I also learned the importance of being a mentor and how imperative that is. All these things helped me really be in the best framework when writing this paper. I wrote this paper based on how I spoke to the department head, when I had to talk to him about my ideas for next year. I think this piece was successful in establishing all the things I intended to do in the proposal. I found it important to put in anecdotes and statistics to make this piece lively as if I am actually going to go out in front of a group of people and present this. I also made sure that each piece of data and statistic was directly related and that I didn’t simply add things for cosmetics purposes rather everything was clearly laid out and I followed a specific path to reach my final goal. I think the quality of this draft is much more professional than some of the other things that I have written, simply because of the audience I had in mind when writing this. I am extremely proud of this piece and I feel that it has covered an interesting topic that many people would be interested in hearing and reading about. So in these respects I feel that I have achieved success as far as following the proposal and taking my midterm piece and building on it to form a new and exciting new piece.

Three Pieces

Piece One

(blog Post 1)
“ Please bind these reports.” These are words I heard frequently when working at a civil engineering firm. At first I thought nothing of it, then I realized that for an engineer, whoever is writing this is writing a lot more than what I thought an engineer normally would. That is when I set out on an office hunt to find the author of these reports. The responsible, was a fellow intern whose job was to compile many different files into one holistic report to be shown to the client. It was interesting to sit and look over the different things that went into these reports from drawings and plans, to pages of explanation on the status of the soil that is the basis of this construction site. This is just one way in which civil engineers use technical writing in their day to day lives. Not to mention that anytime somebody goes on a site they have to document their time, and what they found. All this writing must be extremely clear since at some point it will all be used to piece together the report.

Some days I imagine my life as a civil engineer devoid of writing; truth is writing and speech are two things that will forever be important in any career. When a building is at stake though, writing becomes just a bit more important as far as instructions go. From writing emails to reports, writing has become quite essential. Working at a civil engineering firm I saw just how much writing was important in the office. So much so that there were a couple of office staff that had English majors and would be asked to look over reports. A typical day of a civil engineer through the use of writing may include going over and replying to emails from clients, bosses, and fellow coworkers. Then a civil engineer must work on their current project which would entail going out to site and clearly documenting their findings. Or a person might need to use AutoCAD to draw out plans that come with instructions to be found in the report to accompany the picture. The reason writing is so important is that it is the bridge between the engineer and the client and, or other workers.
I work quite systematically as a writer, and I usually tend to follow some sort of outline or draft. Therefore when reading “Communication in the Technical Workplace” I was slightly excited to attempt to write these types of these reports since there structure makes it simple to understand what kind of information is needed. As stated in the book as well, it makes the research a lot simpler as well since you know what you need to fill the pages with. Though I have a long way to go with my writing I am excited to graduate from meaningless book reports to career specific writing projects. It is exciting to know that for the first time I am actually doing something that I am actually going to need and use every day in my life as a civil engineer.
On a slightly different note, the things we learn here are not only things that we will need for our career. But for the future in general, some practical examples might include lab reports, or even our senior projects; thesis statements and research findings. These are all things that will require technical writing skills that are essential to the work we do as engineers. Writing in general is crucial for civil engineers because of the importance of communicating between the different people working on a common project. It is imperative that there is the utmost sense of communication both in the technical and practical sense.

Piece Two

(Blog Post 3)
Swales approach to studying discourse community, was explaining what, in his mind, a discourse community involved and then he gives an example of such a community. The six things that Swales mentions that a discourse community must have is: a broadly agreed set of common public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among its members. Uses its particular mechanism to provide info and feedback, utilizes and hence possess one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. The community must acquire specific lexis, and lastly the community must have a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and expertise. Swales example is a discourse community called the Hong Kong Study Circle; this community is an umbrella organization that deals with stamps from Hong Kong. The reason Swales chose this community to study was because he wanted to emphasize that not all discourse communities must be strictly academic, rather they could be recreational as well. Swales did his research by actually being a member of this community.
Wardle approach to studying discourse communities is by investigating the three modes of belonging which are engagement, imagination, and alignment. Wardle believes that through these three steps a newcomer could fully integrate into a community. Wardle’s example is the story of Alan. Who finds himself amidst a discourse community that he does not agree with. Wardle uses to important words when describing Alan, the first is his identity, which describes Alan as a person, the second word is authority, which refers to the powerful role in the department that he seems to have thought he acquired. Because of these terms it seems Alan feels used by the department. He starts imagining that he is running the department and that without him nothing could get done. He did not have as much authority as he believed he had. Because of his authoritativeness Alan sent emails that were not taken seriously by his coworkers who didn’t even read the emails that were long and random. He did not fix any of this, when he could have simply improved his worker-to-worker relationships. Instead a year and a half after starting Alan left his job.

Although Swales and Wardle have different ideas about discourse community, they also share some similarities. One such similarity is that both authors believe in the six things established by Swales. Wardle just takes it one step further by describing that a person’s identity greatly influences their disposition towards a discourse community. A difference in their attempts at defining a discourse community is that Wardle puts a much heavier emphasis on individuality whereas Swales deals with how the community as a whole functions. This is especially evident through the examples they each use. Which Swales goes on to talk about an entire group of people and how they interact, and their lexis. Wardle focuses on the importance of Alan’s acts towards the community and how the impact his position in the community.

Swales’ model is good and accurate in my mind because it encompasses all different things that involve a community while not being restrictive as to who can be a part of the community. As opposed to swales, we read Gee’s approach towards discourse community, and I strongly disagreed with his view of being born into a community. I disagree because frankly, we join new communities’ everyday by going to a new school, starting new classes, joining a new team. Swales’ model of discourse community gives people the opportunity to be a part of a discourse community, (because of the 6 criteria Swales seeks) while still being able to participate in other, and new communities.

Wardle’s model interests me greatly, though it distresses me as well. I think that Wardle needs to further explain exactly what she means by old timers, partially because how much interaction will a new-comer have with an old timer, depending again on the meaning of the term. I think Wardle offers an easy three steps towards going from an insider to an outsider in a community. More importantly Wardle does not put a time stamp on these things. It could take somebody a couple of days to be comfortable in the community and be considered an insider, or it could take a couple of months, or it could never happen. Another seemingly bad thing about Wardle’s approach is that in her model it seems that if a person is not sociable in their new environment then they will never further themselves in the community, that may not be the case as much as what she makes it seem to be.

Piece Three

(pieces from my RAB- Elizabeth Wardle-"Identity Authority And Learning To Write In New Workplaces")
Elizabeth Wardle’s main point in her article “Identity, Authority, and Learning to write in New Workplaces” argues the importance of identity and authority and how these things affect us when writing in a workplace.

Wardle begins by outlining different theories of identity and how newcomers learn to write in new situations. the two groups that she researches are the compositionists and sociologists. the compositionists focus on the cultural- historic theory while the sociologists study apprenticeship.

In this piece Wardle introduces Wenger, a sociologist who introduces three modes of belonging that a newcomer in a community will try to make themselves feel as if they belong. These three modes of belonging are: engagement, imagination and alignment.
-engagement refers to a newcomers interactions with insiders of the community building interpersonal relationships with them. This engagement can either be positive, or negative in that the newcomer can feel lost and lose their sense of identity among others in the community.
-imagination is the next step after and engagement, and usually refers to the beginning of a newcomer to form their identity in this new environment.
-alignment is the third step, this includes these newcomers who begin to align their ideas with the old timer’s point of view. Alignment can lead to their loss of identity. But by getting more comfortable and pointing out observations, newcomers start to be accepted by the old timers.

according to Wenger, newcomers have to find ways to fully integrate into this new community, by doing things that other community members do- including their writing. furthermore Wenger says that joining a new community is not only about learning new skills but learning and expanding your identity.

Newcomers deal with conflicting demands coming from different communities. These newcomers create their identities by choosing which things they do or do not want to participate in. “The choice of non-participation can lead to marginalization within the workplace.” When a worker fails to write in a way which is appropriate or effective for the workplace, it could be because the worker doesn’t want to compromise part of his/her identity by completing a certain aspect of the writing.


I believe that Elizabeth Wardle’s three ways for newcomers to try and belong to a new community makes a lot of sense in some respects. Saying that there an interaction between the newcomer and old timers I believe can be interpreted two different ways. Firstly, an old timer as i believe it to be true would be someone in an executive position in an office for example. It is very possible that a newcomer does not have any interactions with someone of this sort and therefore the only people the newcomer meets are fellow newcomers. these other people may have more knowledge of the community but may not be insiders either. Therefore this process would cause a great deal of distress for the newcomer who does not know where their place is among all these people. On the other hand, i believe this all to be true, and to be a process for the newcomer. I think Wardle is saying that the only way for a newcomer to ever truly become an insider is by feeling lost and confused with their place in the community. and in this three step process the newcomer goes from confusion to well on their way to being an insider, and feeling more comfortable in their environment.

Unit 3-Group Research Report

Daniel Griepp
Zeyad Saleh
Stefanie Reichman
Christina Moawad


The Examination of Verbal and Problem Solving Skills Demonstrated by Prospective Engineers

Our team of four conducted a research project consisting of a prompt, a mathematical task, and lines to describe the computation of the mathematical task as described in the prompt. Information gathered from the surveys comprised of name, year, gender and major. We gave the worksheets out to willing third and fourth year engineering students in Steinman Building at the City University of New York. We did not begin the research with a direct hypothesis because we could not infer what types of correlations our data would draw. We were mainly interested in trends between explanations of males versus females, and among different majors of engineers. To evaluate the various explanations, we divided them into two categories, general or specific. We did not find any correlations among different engineering majors as to who explained “better” because roughly the same percentages were noticed in each category. We did find a more interesting result, however, in the gender analysis as we found that 80% of women simplified the problem before solving it, 85% of women used the Quotient or Product rule and 85% of female engineers left the problem in a non-simplified format, as opposed to 30% males. We hope to take our study in a different direction by limiting some of the variability we unintentionally allowed for.

Engineers are the inventors, problem solvers, and designers in our society. They are responsible for developing some of the most useful objects we use daily and as a result, we owe the convenience of daily life to them. Because many engineers gravitate towards concepts, ideas, formulas, and math, despite their genius, they are criticized for lacking verbal abilities and social skills. In our project, we hoped to discover how different types of prospective engineers would explain a simple calculus derivative problem in paragraph form and the differences in the way that they solved it. To further examine differences that different prospective engineers would display, we decided to compare the different methods used between male and female prospective engineers. Our prospective engineering student subjects were broken up into 3 groups of Mechanical and Civil, Chemical and Bio-Medical, and Electrical and Computer Engineers. We were interested to learn if different types of engineers would solve and explain the problems differently; we also hypothesized that we would notice a pattern of female engineers explaining how to solve the problems in more detail then the males.

First, we composed a sheet which described a hypothetical situation of a first year calculus student having trouble solving calculus problems such as the one given on our sheet. The prompt asked the participant to solve the problem given, and then describe the solution with words to the first-year student. For control purposes, there were no variations of math problems or written prompts; there was only one math problem and one prompt given to all participants.

To gather our data, we went to the Steinman Engineering Building to find willing 3rd and 4th year prospective engineers that fit into any of our categories. Our members split up on different floors of the Steinman Building to find participants. All prospective engineers were approached randomly and asked what field of engineering and what year they were in. If they met our qualifications, they were asked if they were willing to participate in a five minute study. If they were willing, they would be given our sheet with our prompt and simple derivative. Each subject was given as much time as they needed to solve and explain the problem. All male engineers were approached by males and all female engineers were approached by females. Our goal was to find an equal amount of five engineers in each category totaling thirty engineers: fifteen male and fifteen female.

Once we acquired enough data, we examined the different methods used to solve each problem and the explanatory skills which the prospective engineers demonstrated. We compared the differences and similarities of their technique in the context of different fields of prospective engineers first and then in the context of different genders. All the problems were graded as either incorrect, not simplified, or correct. A problem labeled as “incorrect” was simplified but had a wrong final answer. A problem labeled as “not simplified” was set up as if the person was going to complete it but was not finished or simplified. A problem labeled as “correct” simplified completely and had the correct final answer. Once the problems were graded, all the explanations were categorized as either specific or general. A specific explanation included specific terms used in the problem such as “x.” A general explanation did not include specific terms in the explanation, was relatively short, or just listed the rules which were used to solve the problems. All data was graded and then classified as either general or specific using these methods. This enabled us to consolidate our results and find a correlation between a certain group, either gender or prospective engineer, and their style of writing and problem solving.

When comparing different engineers in their respective categories, we found that they all seemed to correctly complete, not simplify, and incorrectly do the problem at relatively equal ratios(correlation of XX). When comparing the methodology of different engineers, we found that they each seemed to use Quotient/Product Rule and simplify at similar ratios. When we compared the explanations given, we found that 67% of Mechanical and Civil engineers explanations were specific in their explanations while only 22% of Biomedical and Chemical engineers and 11% Computer and Electrical engineers gave such explanations.

When comparing different genders of prospective engineers, we found that male engineers correctly solved the problem 50% of the time while zero female engineers solved the problem correctly. When considering the methods which each males used, we found that 80% simplified the problem before deriving it. When considering the women, we found that 85% of women used the Quotient or Product rule. Additionally, 30% of males left the math problem in a non-simplified format while a 85% of female engineers left the problem in a non-simplified format. When comparing the explanations given with respect to gender, we found that 55% of males explained their work specifically while only 15% of females gave specific explanations.

Answers(Engineers vs. Engineers):

Mechanical/Civil (15) Biomedical/Chemical (9) ~Electrical/Computer (9)
Correct 5 3 2
Not Simplified 7 4 4
Incorrect 3 2 3

Methods(Engineers vs. Engineers):

Mechanical/Civil (15) Biomedical/Chemical (9) ~Electrical/Computer (9)
Quotient/Product Rule 7 4 4
Simplification 8 5 5

Explanations(Engineers vs. Engineers):

Mechanical/Civil (15) Biomedical/Chemical (9) ~Electrical/Computer (9)
General 5 7 8
Specific 10 2 1

Answers(Male vs. female):

Male Engineers (20) Female Engineers (13)
Correct 10 0
Not simplified 6 11
Incorrect 4 2

Methods(Male vs. female):

Male Engineers (20) Female Engineers (13)
Quotient/Product Rule 4 11
Simplification 16 2

Explanations(Male vs. female):

~Male Engineers (20) ~Female Engineers (13)
General 9 11
Specific 11 2


After going through all our results, it was clear that many correlations could be made using our data. The easiest way to discuss these results was by separating them into engineer vs. engineer and then look at the results from the gender differences.

Engineers vs. Engineers

Going into this project we did not really have a set hypothesis or knew exactly what we were looking for. We were hoping to come up with these as the experiment was being done. From the results we gathered, we can come up with some correlations.

Overall we found similar results in the amount of problems that were graded as correct, incorrect, or not simplified in all three categories of engineers. We found that most people that used the product or quotient rule tended to have answers that were not simplified. This is mainly because this method required a lot of work and terms and it became rather difficult and time consuming to simplify the whole expression. Consequently, students who simplified first and then took the derivative didn’t have the opportunity to be stumped by a long answer that was hard to simplify. In the biomedical and chemical engineer group, 56% percent of the students simplified. 56% of the electrical and computer engineers simplified, and of the mechanical and civil engineer students 53% simplified. Though civil and mechanical engineers ranked lowest as far as simplifying they ranked highest in specific explanations at 67%. The other two categories gave specific explanations 22% of the time for biomedical and chemical engineers and 11% of the time for computer and electrical engineers.

We saw that in the engineering vs. engineering category, there were not any correlations that can be made. All that can be said is that mechanical and civil engineers had more specific explanations. It is not a surprise that civil (and mechanical) engineers did the best with explanations since they are known to do more writing in general than an electrical engineer. While the statistics for the percent simplified was close between groups, there is a much bigger gap in the percentage of explanations between these engineering groups. Therefore something has to be said for the curriculum of civil and mechanical engineering students since it seems that they are the best at explaining things as specifically as possible. What is meant by specific, is that the student’s answer can be used to specifically guide a person through that specific problem. Rather than a nonspecific answer that can really be applied to any differentiation problem. Some key words or terms that we were looking for in the specific answers was “x”’s and equations of sorts.

Male vs. Female

In this second part of our results, we split up our data based on gender alone. The results we found were quite surprising, and also the opposite of what we were expecting. We originally thought that female engineers would be able to give the most specific explanations. However, our data proved otherwise.

We started by separating the females and males into the number who simplified the problem. This was done using the same measure that we did for engineer vs. engineer. Of this, we found that 80% of males simplified the problem while only 15% of females simplified the problem. As previously stated people who used the quotient or product rule tended to have a much harder problem to later simplify. It seemed that by a vast majority, most women used these rules. Therefore, though some females may have gotten it right, it was not simplified all the way and therefore we don’t know whether or not they would have a correct answer. Men on the other hand tended to right away look for the easiest way of doing it, while the females wanted to stick to the rules.

We saw that more men than women simplified the problem before taking the derivative. We also saw that more men had the correct answer, with 0% of women giving the right answer. Therefore, simplifying a problem will more likely get you to the right answer than by using the quotient/product rule. We also saw that most men who used simplification also gave specific explanations. Of the male subjects, 55% of them gave specific explanations. However, most women who used product/quotient rule, gave a general explanation. Therefore, simplifying the problem can make it easier to write down exactly what you did to answer the problem and will lead to specific explanations. On the other hand, the messy quotient/product rule made it rather difficult to go back to and follow and therefore, forced the engineer to give a general explanation.


We do recognize that the correlations we were able to draw may vary if our experiment was conducted in a different manor. Through the analysis and breakdown of our results we were able to target these areas to improve for future directions we may choose. One of the main problems we faced in the accumulation of our data was the definite lack of female engineers. Although this issue was foreseen, finding female engineers that fit our criteria was a greater problem then we accounted for. This being the issue, we ended up not having equal number of males and females, but rather relied on percentage. A more accurate experiment would have standardized this aspect, allowing for precise results.

Another problem we faced was the multitude of external variables that affected our research. If we had done a more intensive screening process of our subjects, we would have better understood our results. Through this process we could have correlated a specific survey to a specific person, and with more background we could have been able to provided probable explanations for trends. This was important because not each engineer had the same level of intellect, and without a better screening process, we cannot be sure results were not due to this. Also, the situation the engineer was in at the moment of the quiz varied. Some students were in a hurry, some had class, and some were relaxed at lunch. The state the individual was in could have also affected their performance on completing the task to the best of their abilities.

To improve the experiment we could take many different routes to ensure more accurate results. One plausible measure would be to use a larger variety of prospective engineers from not just City College, but also other universities. We could also involve actual engineers in the respective fields to see if there are any changes in our results as opposed to prospective engineers. Lastly, we could administer the mathematical task and prompt to all of the test subjects at one time, standardizing the state- of-mind the engineer is at the time of completion.

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