WRIT 50E: Research Writing for Engineers

Spring Term, 2024
Girvetz 2112, 1:00-2:50pm

Enroll Code: 48421
Instructor: Dr. Kevin Rutherford
Office Hours: R noon-2pm, over Zoom:

Course Description and Outcomes​

Writing 50E is an intermediate writing course focused on introducing students in the College of Engineering to the kinds of research and writing they will be doing as a part of their professional lives, especially emphasizing collaborative work and career documents.

After completing Writing 50E, you should be able to:

  • Conduct significant independent research in your field
  • Integrate, cite, and document sources correctly
  • Offer and receive feedback in collaborative projects
  • Present the results of research in a poised and professional manner
  • Design documents effectively
  • Write a persuasive resume and cover letter

Book a Meeting with Me

Required Materials

All course readings will be .pdfs or links, available through this site.

You will need access to our shared Google Drive.

Assignments and Grading

We will be using contract grading in this course. Contract grading avoids the uses of grades and/or numbers on assignments. For more information on contract grading and a more granular breakdown of the requirements for grades in the course, see the contract grading page.

Essentially, in this class, your final course letter grade will be determined by your labor: completing assignments and participating in the course. This doesn’t mean that quality of work matters less, as we will regularly discuss the quality of your writing. Rather, we will focus on improving writing through hard work and collaborative efforts (instead of comparing the quality of your work to your classmates or an abstract notion of standards).

When it comes to evaluating writing, my goal is to create opportunities for receiving and providing feedback that will foster your growth as a thinker and writer. That is, we will try to create a class where you, your classmates, and I function as allies and collaborators, rather than adversaries working against each other for grades or approval by teachers. Taking grades out of the class, I hope, will allow you freedom to take risks and really work hard. Taking risks (even if they don’t pay off in our favor) can show us our weaknesses, misunderstandings, and provide opportunities to grow and change.

Furthermore, since I won’t be assigning a number or letter grade to anything and since my feedback will be less frequent than your peers’, this makes your colleagues’ and your own assessment and revision advice all the more valuable. This will help you listen carefully to colleagues’ differing judgments and build self-assessment strategies that function apart from a teacher’s approval. I want you to learn to assess the worth of those judgments for your work and make informed, careful decisions in your writing that you can explain to others. Such assessments will require time and critical thinking.

If you’re looking to game the system and do the least amount of work to get the highest possible course grade, this is not the class for you. If you genuinely want to improve yourself as a writer and reader, are willing to apply effort toward that improvement, and accept the idea that your labor in service of that goal has value, then this is the class for you.


Keeping Up To Speed: The course schedule and assignment prompts are available through our course website at Keep in mind, the course schedule is subject to change. You are responsible for regularly checking the schedule for updates. I do my level best to communicate all the logistics of the course (deadlines, updates, changes, procedures) through email and in class. Please, for your sake and mine: check your email and read emails from me completely.

Late Work: While I set deadlines as midnight on the due date, if you turn something in a few hours after midnight, it’s not a big deal. I won’t count things as late until I record completion the next day. Anything longer than that will count as late work. If you are aware beforehand that you will need more time, please get in touch with me! Though I have created deadlines, I am also aiming to be flexible. What I emphasize here is contact: please keep me updated as soon as you can. Do your best to let me know in advance if you anticipate needing extensions or other accommodations so that I can try to work with you.

Respect: Personal insults or attacks on an individual person’s race, class, gender, sexuality, or disability will not be tolerated. In other words, be courteous and respectful to those around you.

Academic Integrity: Two key features of academic integrity are honesty and truthful representation of self. My assumption is that work you submit is your own original work — that is, produced by you, and for this class. You should identify any of your work which is collaborative with others, or which is borrowed from others, or which is your own work from other contexts. In other words, you should credit others’ contributions to your work. You should not claim to have written any writing that is not your own. To do so is considered plagiarism, a serious violation of the principle of academic integrity. If you have doubts about whether you are using your own or others’ writing ethically, ask me. All students are required to carefully read and familiarize themselves with the following guidelines:

AI Writing (e.g., ChatGPT): If you decide to make use of ChatGPT, it should be treated as a tool to support your own writing process, rather than a replacement for it. ChatGPT can be useful for brainstorming, experimenting with sentence structures, and generating ideas, but it should not be relied on solely for producing writing assignments. Think of ChatGPT like a calculator in a math class: while it can help you with computations, you still need to understand the underlying concepts and be able to work through problems on your own. Similarly, while ChatGPT can assist with generating text, it’s important for you to be able to develop your own ideas and articulate them in your own words. Using ChatGPT can be a helpful way to jump-start your writing process, but it’s crucial that you take the time to draft, revise, and edit your work to ensure that it meets the course’s expectations and your own standards. Remember, the goal of this course is to help you develop your writing skills and become a more effective communicator, and relying too heavily on ChatGPT may hinder your growth.


  • CLAS (Campus Learning Assistance Services) offers additional writing support through the help of peer advisors. If you are interested in working on the improvement of a specific writing skill (passive voice, grammar, paragraph structure, topic sentences, etc.), please consider taking a look at Note that CLAS does not edit your work for you, but provides you with a new perspective on your writing and suggestions for areas of improvement. Writing and Language Services are available in person for drop-in during normal business hours on campus. On-line / Zoom appointments are also available up until the late evening at 10:00pm. The CLAS Writing Lab is located in SRB Room 3231 while Language Services can be found in SRB Room 3280. Please use the MyCLAS portal to create an appointment!
  • Disabled Students Program (DSP) provides a wide array of academic support services to eligible students with documented disabilities. These services include note takers, readers, sign language interpreters, facilitation of access, and adaptive computing equipment. If you have a disability and would like to discuss accommodations, please contact them directly and/or me as soon as possible.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) is committed to providing timely, culturally appropriate, and effective mental health services. All registered students are eligible for services at CAPS. You can find their site at Please take care of your whole self while you’re in college (and afterwards). We all need help to do that sometimes.
  • The Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity works with students, staff, and faculty to ensure that LGBTQ identities, experiences and concerns are represented and addressed at UCSB. The center aims to create a vibrant and engaging environment through social and educational programming, volunteer and leadership opportunities, a comfortable and welcoming social and study space, and professional and student staff members for support and advocacy. For more info, please see
  • First Generation Students: Over 40% of UCSB students will be the first in their family to graduate from a four-year college! The university has some great resources for first generation students here: (I was also a first-generation college student; I wish I’d had access to resources like these.)
  • Associated Students Food Bank: The Food Bank is a free service that offers food, toiletries, and other basic need items. They also have a Seed Bank program where you are given everything needed to start a garden. Please check out their website at for the full range of services. Registration is easy and the staff is ready to help you access some amazing resources.