Writing attitudes and career trajectories of domestic and international students in the United States

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13 Scopus citations


Graduate engineering students are rarely taught to write in formal disciplinary coursework, but it is an essential skill required for success in industry and academic careers. This study builds on existing work exploring doctoral writing practices, processes, and attitudes, expanding it into the disciplinary context of engineering. Engineering traditionally offers few opportunities for students to practice or develop academic writing in coursework, despite the fact that most academic milestones for graduate students are based on writing. Grounded in Academic Literacies Theory, this paper seeks to determine how engineering graduate students' writing attitudes affect their career trajectories. This study surveyed N=621 engineering graduate students at ten research-intensive universities in the United States using several previously established scales. These data were analyzed using Pearson correlations and Welch's t-test methods to answer the research questions. Results indicate that while most students consider writing to be a knowledge-transforming activity, they overwhelmingly struggle with procrastination, perfectionism, and low-writing self-efficacy. Further, strong writing attitudes are linked statistically with the likelihood to pursue a broader set of future careers after graduate school, indicating that writing may be an invisible mediator for broadening participation in all sectors of engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-240
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number1 A
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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