Meeting the MIT Communication Requirement in DMSE

The MIT Communication Requirement must be completed by all undergraduates. Like the swim test, this requirement has teeth; failure to meet the Institute-mandated deadlines will delay your graduation. Students and advisors should consult the Communication Requirement website and should contact the DMSE UG Academic Office, Phone: 617-258-5816, with any questions.

Technical Writing in DMSE—Some Advice

Read, reread, and re-reread your documents, editing for errors, clarity, and brevity.

It's a good idea to have your paper edited professionally, for instance by the MIT Writing Center.

Eliminate thoughtless writing errors, especially technical ones; e.g. principal/principle, strength/stiffness.

Obtain a grammar guide (e.g. The Mayfield Handbook; W. Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style; Diana Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual, Bedford Books, 1993; Janet Dodd, ed., The ACS Style Guide, American Chemical Society, 1986) and browse through it occasionally. There are also a number of guides to technical writing, and several of these are available online.

Clarity is more important than following rules blindly; e.g. split infinitives, passive construction.

However, be conservative on "modern" language; e.g. that/which, data/datum, less/fewer, hopefully.

Read as many similar documents as you can to develop a sense of appropriateness.

Try to place your work in the general context of materials processing - structure - property - performance relations.

Felice Frankel has created an online class that teaches how to make better science and engineering images: Making Science and Engineering Pictures.

Writing DMSE Internship (3.931) Reports

This document refers primarily to the second of the two papers written for Internship option of Course III, the one submitted for letter grade as part of Subject 3.931. The first paper, for 3.930, is graded pass/fail and is read a little less critically than the second paper. But for the most part, the concepts below apply to both papers.

The 3.931 report you will write at the end of the second summer is taken by the Department to be comparable to an S.B. thesis in Materials Science and Engineering. You'll want to keep this in mind as you develop your project, since the report must satisfy several academic requirements that are not necessarily part of your company's mindset.

The company may not care why the materials you're investigating perform as they do, and in some cases they may not even care exactly what the materials are. But of course your MIT readers will care, so you may occasionally find it necessary to go beyond your company's list of objectives. For instance, your company may refer to materials only by trade names. But you should attempt to find out just what these materials really are: their composition, how they've been processed, their microstructure, etc.

Your report should be written at a fairly high technical level, since you will (usually) have completed all of the department's core subjects by this time. You should seek to use the academic technical background you've accumulated, and place your project work in the context of materials processing-structure-properties-performance relationships. If you need help with any of this, don't hesitate to contact a faculty member at MIT for assistance. In some cases, it might be a good idea for a faculty member to visit the company to help you and your supervisors finetune the project to meet both the industrial and academic goals.

Give some real thought to the expository style of your report. This is a professional document, not a "how I spent my summer vacation" letter. As you do the literature study which is a part of most projects, note the writing style in order to develop a sense of appropriate phrasing. Generally avoid colloquialisms and personal comments. Given the importance of this document, you may want to work with the MIT Writing Center as you prepare the report for submission.

The company may also want a final report, but this may or may not meet our academic goals. For instance, the company report might include proprietary information which cannot be released outside the company. But your academic report must make sense on its own, so in some cases the company and academic reports might be quite different.

It will not always be possible to write a suitable thesis-quality document before leaving the company, and in many cases the faculty will require that the document be revised several times (just as theses are). Be sure you're able to do this; you'll probably want to bring computer files (text, graphics, spreadsheets, etc.) back with you to permit rewriting and even reanalysis of your data.

Writing and Communication Center at MIT

Whether you're a native English speaker or new to the language, the WCC offers free one-on-one profesional advice for anyone in the MIT community seeking help with academic or professional writing as well as all aspects of oral presentations. To access the WCC's many useful pages, go to

Blacksmithing started as a freshman seminar in 1984.