R23–1052 MECH/AERO/CIVL31030 Writing Your Individual Project

Library for Educators
7 min readMar 25, 2024


Links to: R23–1052 Multi-session request

Contents page for R23–1052 MACE multi-session request

IMPORTANT: Please take attendance with a paper register (get the students to sign in with name and student ID) at the start of the session and keep this for our records at the end. This is so that we can capture how many people came and potentially ask them for more feedback later 😊 You can tell students that this attendance is for Library research use and is not to do with their attendance on their degree programme.

Supporting materials:

  • Slides/materials: Slides with notes for trainers, Name the section activity handouts, activity answers for trainers, blank paper and pens for free-writing activity (or students can use their laptops/devices if they have brought them), Academic Phrasebank.
  • Practicalities: Please print out several copies of the Name the Section activity handouts (without the answers on) to bring to the session, but do not hand out until it is time for the activity. If possible, set up tables beforehand (in groups where possible), with pens and blank paper.
  • Group size: Up to 70+
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: Various
  • Discipline: Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering
  • Level: UG 3rd Year

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the session, students will:

  • Have reflected on their own writing process, which areas they struggle with, and how they can approach writing in a way that is positive and supports them to achieve a positive outcome from their work;
  • Understand the importance of creating narrative flow in their project by considering the purpose of each section, what they need to say in each one, and how to connect these together;
  • Have a strategy for editing their project after drafting — finding the ‘why’ (the purpose) of their research and making that case in academic writing (i.e. using the Academic Phrasebank).

Suggested online resources:

Session plan

Slides 1–2: Introduction and session outline

Slide 2: Outline the three main areas that the session will cover. Trainer can say that much of the content of this workshop is based on feedback from your lecturers who have marked previous students’ projects about the importance of narrative and flow between sections.

Slides 3–6: The Writing Process

Slide 3: Allow 4–5 mins for this activity. Present the questions and the task on the slide.

This discussion aims to get students to reflect on how they set themselves up to write. Do they consider this? Do they plan their writing and make time for it? This also brings in embodiment — thinking about how they themselves feel and occupy space, what mindset they’re in, etc.

Normalising that writing can be daunting — ‘fear of the blank page’ etc. and enabling trainers to understand where students are at/what barriers they face to writing. Also adding the perspective that writing can be enjoyable! We can aim to create the conditions to make writing a nice experience (this may not happen all the time, but what does it feel/look like when it does?)

Trainers circulate the room and listen to student discussions, asking questions and joining in if appropriate.

Slide 4: Show the quote from Shannon Hale and highlight that this is about writing not having to be perfect the first time around — it is iterative. If you want it to be perfect the first time, it’s understandable that starting to write can be daunting. Let it be messy! But crucially, make time to edit it later. This is when you make it clear, polished and make sure your narrative stands out.

Slide 5: With the idea of ‘letting writing be messy’ in mind, introduce the free-writing activity. Ask students to take a piece of paper from the table or write on a Word doc/in a notebook. Highlight the writing prompts on the board about their project. Ask them to close their eyes and think about the aims/focus of their project, and what conclusions they have found so far (1 minute). Then ask students to open their eyes and write for 2 minutes, without lifting the pen from the page and without stopping. This is an individual activity for students to focus less on making writing perfect and more on getting something on the page.

Slide 6: Ask students to think about the questions on the slide about the free-writing activity. Based on this reflection, students make a note to themselves of what they need to do next on their project.

Allow 2 minutes for students to talk to a neighbour about how writing without a plan felt. Circulate the room and listen to the kind of responses that students give. After 2 minutes, bring the room together and tell the room the kinds of responses that students gave to highlight others’ experiences of writing.

Slides 7–11: Structuring your project

Slide 7: Move the focus to thinking about how to structure a larger project. Ask students why it is worth preparing to write. Maybe the free-writing activity has given students some ideas/food for thought on this?

Slide 8: Introduce the idea of identifying the purpose of your writing, also known as a ‘narrative’ — what are you trying to tell the reader? Why does what you are doing in your work matter? We will come back to this idea later, so this is important to check students’ understanding. Having a clear narrative is key to successful larger projects. MACE lecturers have given the following advice to students based on marking previous projects:

•Explain the rationale for the project (the motivation): why does your project matter?

•It will ‘upset’ the marker if the student has clearly padded out the word count without a clear idea of why they are writing.

  • Keep the focus on your main narrative — use a footnote if you read something else interesting but it’s not 100% relevant.

Slide 9: Ask Ss the question of how long the project should be if time.

This is a quote from a MACE lecturer, who said that this is what he tells students when they ask how long their project should be.

By this, he explains that he meant: it’s not about making it as long as possible. Waffle will annoy your reader and lose sight of your purpose. You want it to be attractive to read, which generally means short, BUT you also need to have enough evidence of reading, critical thinking, analysis etc. in there. Then editing comes into play — it’s really hard to write concisely the first time when you’re thinking through your ideas, as you may have found during the free-writing exercise. This is why you need time, and it’s iterative — free-write the first time, then go back and think — what am I really trying to tell the reader here?

Slide 10: Activity part 1: Check that students are seated in groups of 3–4 to read the extracts that describe different sections of a report, article, or dissertation. Students give each extract the title that they think describes what it is (e.g. Methods, Conclusion — options are at the top of the handout). Students must justify their choice with groupmates — how do they know it is this section? Any key words or features?

Allow around 6 minutes for students to name sections — monitor the groups as they may finish earlier or later than this. Allow 4 mins to take feedback to check answers and for students to give their justifications — check their understanding of what is typically included in each section of a report. Take student questions at this point.

Slide 11: Activity part 2: Allow 4–5 mins for students to work together to arrange the sections in the order that they think they should go in in the project (there is not only one way to do this!).

Again, students must justify their choice with groupmates — why does this order make sense to them? What will each of these sections discuss in your report?

This part is key to getting students to think about the ways that sections connect together, and how they work with each other to tell the story of their work.

Take answers from the room — 3–4 mins.

These extracts are all taken from the UoM Academic Phrasebank — it is worth showing students around the Phrasebank after the activity and finding out if any of them have come across it before (do not show to students until after the activity though, as the answers are on there!).

Slide 12: Share the tips on developing a strong structure with students. If time, ask if anyone has any other tips. What do they think about these suggestions?

Slide 13: Show an example of signposting in student writing taken from a previous project. Show the notes (animated on the slide), which highlight why this example of signposting is successful.

Slides 14–17: Editing and finalising your work

Slide 14: Emphasise that editing is key to checking that you have expressed a clear narrative running through your project. Take suggestions from students on what % of their writing time MACE academics told us they spend on editing their writing.

Slide 15: Show quotes from MACE lecturers on how they edit their writing (the answer to the question is that for one lecturer at least, about 50% of writing time is spent on editing!). Give students a moment to read the quotes and ask if any surprise them/if they have any questions. More on how MACE lecturers write based on email interviews will be posted on Blackboard, if students are curious!

Slide 16: Show an example of showing the ‘why’ in student writing. In this example, the student has done a good job of explaining what matters about the method they are explaining, rather than just describing the method without considering why certain parts of the process have to be followed. They have also demonstrated critical thinking by reflecting on the potential limitations and other considerations of using this method (in the last sentence).

Slide 17: Show tips for editing — emphasise that we have more resources on editing online that we will share at the end of the session. Some of these tips cross over into proofreading (i.e. the ones that could be done by someone who doesn’t know your field very well). This is also part of the process of refining your project before submission.

Slide 18: Signpost further Library resources and support for editing and proofreading, specifically.

Slide 19: Take any further questions from students.

Slide 20: Signpost further Library support in general.

Slide 21: Qualtrics feedback survey linked to this EP request — please encourage students to scan the QR code and complete this for us to take forward in future MACE sessions. This survey has been especially created with free-text questions for us to better understand MACE students’ needs.



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