teaching with writing
Civil Engineering/Geology 4301: Soil Mechanics II
exercises will be performed in groups, and one assignment is required
for the group with each member of the group receiving the same grade. However, you may choose to present an individual assignment for
which you will receive an individual grade.
will be in the form of an engineering report, consisting of a one-page
letter and supporting material. Consider it a final document to be presented
to your client once testing is completed. The report will be graded on the following criteria:
- Engineering content (how well the problem is answered)
- Statement of objectives or purpose of the experiments
- Summary, conclusions, or recommendations, as appropriate
- Presentation and style
- Appendices—content and style
the report, the organization should be considered from the standpoint
of the reader; the reader is interested in the nature of the problem,
the method used to solve the problem, the results obtained in the experiment,
and the analysis of the data.
several specific requirements and guidelines that need to be adhered to.
page should include the class (CE\GEOE 4301), the experiment performed,
the lab section, and if written in a group, the names of the group members.
cover letter is a brief summary of the tests that were performed, the
results that were found, and any recommendations that you make.
of the cover letter should be as follows:
- List the client's name, address, etc. on the top left of
- If the client has a title, for example Andrew Drescher,
PhD, then always greet the client with "Dear Dr. or Professor Drescher." Avoid using informal greetings.
- The first paragraph is used to remind the client
of when he/she contacted you and what the contact was for.
- The second paragraph is used to briefly describe
the procedures used for the tests performed (e.g. consolidated-drained
triaxial compression test).
- The third paragraph is used to state the test results
that you found.
- The fourth paragraph is used to state any recommendations
that you may be required to make within the context of the project.
- The last paragraph is used for closing salutations
and thanking the client for sending his/her business your way.
- Close the letter with "Sincerely" and supply your name,
address, and phone number.
of contents should follow the cover letter. It should include report section titles, figures, and appendices
with their corresponding page numbers.
Type up the
procedure used to perform the test. Your
goal is to provide a resource by which someone who is generally familiar
with the test you ran could EXACTLY reproduce your test. You must cite material taken from your lab manual or any other
sources. You need not type portions of the procedure
that were performed exactly as listed in the lab manual or some other
published source. Instead, you
may simply state the resource that contains the procedure you followed. However, the lab manual does not completely
describe how you ran your test. Details
that are not covered by the lab manual and any deviations from the lab
manual must be described. This
is also an appropriate place for a description of the soil you tested.
of graphs, figures, and/or tables that present your findings in a concise
manner. Additionally, this section should have text
that describes what you are presenting in each of your graphs, figures,
should be either neatly drawn or computer generated. In general, if the x and y axes have the same units (e.g., Shear
stress in kPa versus Normal stress in kPa), then the scales of these axes
should be equal.
figures, and tables should be clearly presented such that they could be
removed from the report and still maintain their meaning. Thus, all graphs, figures, and tables should have a title, brief
soil description, type of test, date on which the test was performed,
and the names of the persons who performed the test.
are intended to show exactly what calculations you performed in order
to obtain your results. They include
numeric examples. If a calculation
is repeated many times in a spreadsheet, show a sample calculation for
only one of the data points. It
is important to include these in the body of your report (NOT in an appendix). These can be written up as a separate section
or they can be included with the results. Word processing programs such as Microsoft Word® have
equation writing subroutines that you can easily access.
recommendations that you have in this section. Often this is easier if you start out by writing, "What I'm trying
to say is...," or "I want you to understand that...," and then delete these
clauses after you have written the section.
that you reference need to be cited. This is not as much of a technical issue as it is a professional
ethics issue. This is very important. You
may use any sensible format for your references; just be consistent and
use the same format throughout your report.
If you have
extensive data or a long calculation that may be of interest to someone
reading the report, but is not necessarily crucial to the message you
are conveying in the report (multiple graphs), then an appendix is appropriate. For your reports, your data and spreadsheet calculations should
go in an appendix. Include only
the first page of long spreadsheets.
make your task easier:
- Write the body of the paper first. Don't try to write the cover letter first. When you see the data and results, it becomes a much simpler task
to make recommendations to the client.
- Keep the cover letter brief. Graphical and tabled results are not put into the cover letter but
it is necessary to tell the client where to find them. Single sentence and numerical results such
unconfined compressive strength of the soil is qu = 450 kPa" or "soil sample #1 is a poorly
graded, well rounded, coarse sand" should be included in the cover
- Recommendations are reiterated in the cover letter, always.
- Double check to make sure that your units are consistent
and accurate; the same units must be used in the tables, graphs, and cover letter.
- Avoid using first person narratives. It is not appropriate to write out a cover
letter using 'I' and 'we.' The
action that has taken place is what is important, not who did it.
piece of advice that I can give concerning your reports is to write it
as soon as possible after performing the tests. These should not be difficult to write and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.
each test to include in the results section for each write-up:
Unconfined Compression Test
- Unconfined Compressive Strength (qu)
- Stress - Strain Plot
- Young's Modulus (E)
- Undrained cohesion (Cu)
- Sketch of the failed specimen
- Mohr Coulomb Plot
- Angle of Internal Friction
- Unit Weight of Soil (g)
- Shear Stress vs. Shear Displacement Plot
- Normal Displacement vs. Shear Displacement Plot
- Mohr Coulomb Plot
- Angle of Internal Friction
- Initial Void Ratio (eo)
- Volumetric Strain vs. Axial Strain Plot
- Deviatoric Axial Stress vs. Axial Strain Plot
for Soils II Lab
- Unconfined Compression = 6
- Direct Shear = 6
- Triaxial Test = 6
- Total = 18
CE 375 - Rock Mechanics Lab
Engineering/Geology 4301: Soil Mechanics II, Chemical
Engineering, University of Minnesota. 12 Feb. 2003. <http://www.ce.umn.edu/classes/fall02/ce4301/