Engineering Writing Test
News & Events


The General Studies Unit (GSU) is located within the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. It has been created with two major objectives:

  • The primary objective of the GSU is to blend the teaching of engineering and technology with skills needed for all engineering and computer science students in the Faculty to become professionals who are responsible, articulate and ethical. We focus on:
    • Communication (Language and Technical)
    • Critical Thinking and Innovation
    • Impact of Engineering and Technology on Society
    • Professionalism and Ethics in Engineering
    • Engineering, Policy and Risk
  • An additional objective of the GSU is to coordinate and manage those graduate and undergraduate courses in engineering and computer science that are common to multiple departments that are intra Faculty or inter Faculty.

Graduate Studies

At this stage, no separate degree programs are offered by GSU. However, highly motivated and research minded students can be supervised by GSU faculty members under the School of Graduate Studies’ special individualized programs (SIP). Emphasis is on interdisciplinary research at the graduate level. In addition, GSU faculty currently co-advise students in BCEE, ECE and CIISE.

Engineering Writing Test

All students in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science must satisfy the Faculty writing skills requirement. They have two options for fulfilling this requirement:

  1. Take the Engineering Writing Test (also known as EWT)
    - or -
  2. Take ENCS 272 (a three credit course) and pass with a C- or better.

The above writing skill requirement should be fulfilled within the first 30 credits of a student's program. Failure to do so will delay the completion of ENCS 282, which is a core requirement to all engineering students, and a necessary pre-requisite for 400 level courses.

For details on the EWT (including how to register, how frequently the test is offered, how to prepare, and what to do in the case of failure, please refer to the EWT website.


The GSU brings complementary skills and knowledge to engineering and information technology training. Critical thinking, rhetoric, technical writing, oral communication and presentation skills, professionalism, social responsibility and ethics are important building blocks for competent engineers and information technology specialists.

The GSU develops and teaches courses related to topics that will prepare engineering and information technology students for their professional practice. Courses are offered both at the undergraduate level and at the graduate level. Most of these courses (except ENCS 272 and 283) are required core courses at the undergraduate level. They are taken by four to six hundred students each year and they are offered in multiple sections in all three semesters.


  • ENCS 272 Compositions and Argumentation for Engineers (3 Credits)
  • ENCS 282 Technical Writing and Communication (3 Credits)
  • ENCS 283 Innovations and Critical Thinking in Science and Technology (3 Credits)
  • ENGR 201 Professional Practice and Responsibility (1.5 Credits)
  • ENGR 392 Impact of Technology on Society (3 Credits)
  • ENGR 393 Impact of Information Technology on Society (3 credits) - This course is intended for Computer Science Students

For course descriptions, see Section 71.60 of the Undergraduate Calendar.


  • ENCS 5721 Composition and Argumentation for Engineers (3 Credits)
  • ENCS 6041 Creativity, Innovation and Critical Thinking (3 Credits)
  • ENCS 6721 Technical Writing and Research Methods for Engineers (3 Credits)

For course descriptions, see the Graduate Calendar.


Research opportunities in GSU are available to highly motivated and academically sound students who have shown some ability to do research. Focus of research in GSU is interdisciplinary in nature and the field of research for individual faculty members is described below. Applications will be considered for doctoral studies under the SIP or Special Individualized Program of the School of Graduate Studies. Exceptional cases will be considered also for the research based Master’s program under SIP.

Interested students are encouraged first to send their detailed CV along with a short research proposal directly to one of the GSU professors depending on the area of the student’s proposed research.

Faculty research profiles

Deborah Dysart-Gale’s research brings together her interests in intercultural communication, end-of-life health communication and community development. She works primarily to improve health and social work communication in developing communities. Her recent interest is in applying health communication scholarship to ICT projects for social development.

Jessica Mudry is an interdisciplinary researcher and draws from the fields of rhetoric of science, food studies, science communication and the history of science and medicine. Her current project focuses on 19th century German and American nutrition research, and the roles of technologies in forming discourses of nutrition.

Robert Danisch’s research interests are in the field of rhetorical studies. His work investigates the history, theory, and practice of public argument, democratic deliberation, rhetorics of science, and risk communication. He is interested in the role that rhetorical practices play in forming public cultures, especially in relationship to the tradition of American pragmatism and the history of forms of democratic citizenship.

Ketra Schmitt is interested in science, technology and public policy issues that have important risk-benefit tradeoffs. She develops methods and builds systems models to characterize and analyze risks and benefits as well as the associated uncertainty. Examples of her research include characterizing the economic impacts associated with terrorism and natural disasters and combining information from disparate health studies for environmental contaminants.

Govind Gopakumar’s major research interest is related to infrastructures of cities such as technological networks of information, water supply, sewers, roads, bridges, and energy. He is particularly interested in investigating the dynamics of the interaction of global and urban/regional factors on processes of change in urban infrastructures in developing countries. His doctoral degree is in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

News & Events


Lunch & Learn: Innovative Pathways in Global Engineering Education

Thursday, March 3,
11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
EV 2.260

As part of the Engineering Week Lunch and Learn series, the GSU will present a talk on Innovative Pathways in Global Engineering Education.

Engineering education that attempts to engage closely with different dimensions of a globalizing society with features such as complex risk-benefit trade-offs, water quality issues, and international responses to conflict. This session will provide students with a snapshot of some innovative and interdisciplinary research conducted by graduate and undergraduate students in the General Studies Unit.

Come grab some food for thought and food for your belly! Please register at



Jason Foster: Developing the non-fungible, socially aware, civic-minded engineer

Thursday, February 17
1 - 2 p.m.
EV 3.309

Abstract In many of their foundation courses our students solve well- and pre-defined problems. Unfortunately, problems such as these rarely occur in professional practice. Our graduates may also find themselves stereotyped, either as fungible commodities or as engineers disconnected from the social systems they both inhabit and design. To be successful, our future graduates must bring a unique, individual, and socially aware perspective to their identification, framing, and solution of complex problems.

Cities, especially those with a rich multicultural history, provide an ideal environment in which students can learn about, and practice, engineering design. Such cities are simultaneously easily accessible and almost infinitely complex, house a varied and continually evolving mix of stakeholders, and cannot be understood without integrating multiple disciplines and perspectives.
This talk will discuss how a city-based, student-driven design project has prompted first year students to explore their beliefs about the nature and practice of engineering design. The project has provided students the opportunity to share their visions with a broad audience including their professors, city representatives, and the media, all while challenging the students’ and their instructors’ understanding of what it means to be a citizen and a unique engineer.

Biosketch Jason Foster is the Senior Lecturer in Engineering Design Education in the Division of Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. His formal training was in Systems Design Engineering, and he has worked as a professional software developer and corporate software trainer. Jason returned to the academy to focus on understanding and improving undergraduate engineering design education. His teaching and research interests lie at the intersection of systems, design, and education. In the classroom, Jason focuses on helping his students (re)define their own beliefs about, and approaches to, the practice of engineering design. Key to Jason's pedagogical approach is making students responsible for finding and framing the engineering problems that they will then solve. He further requires that the problems they identify come from a focused, critical, and multi-perspective exploration of their surroundings.

Jason's work has been presented at conferences include the American Society for Engineering Education and Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, and he has enjoyed bridging the engineering design and liberal studies communities at those gatherings and at his home institution.

Dr. R. Danisch: Beyond the Professional Code: Engineering Ethics for the Twenty-First Century

Dr. Robert Danisch
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science
Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Society (GSU)

Monday, November 29, 2010

This talk explored the contours of engineering ethics, offering both a historical explanation of engineering ethics, and an argument for a new way to think about the link between ethics and engineering. It answered the historical question, "In what ways has a concern for ethics been incorporated into the development of the profession of engineering in the past?" as well as the prospective question, "What might the future of the relationship be-tween ethics and engineering look like? The historical account involves the development of professional guilds at the beginning of the twentieth century, the articulation of a code meant to insure working engineers were acting virtuously, and a century riddled with ex-amples of destruction, danger, and death aided and abetted by technological advance. The argument advanced assumes that ethics can be taught to engineers as a matter of de-liberation and communication, and that instruction in these practices improves the moral character of the student. The code of ethics, which was intended to guide engineers practice in earlier decades, is no longer enough to guide engineering practice in the twenty-first century.

Download the slides associated with this talk.

Dr. B Frank: Ideas to Implementation: Development of Engineering Education Programs

Dr. Brian Frank
Director of Program Development, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario

Friday February 4
10 - 11 a.m.
Room EV 001.162

Significant forces are impacting engineering education due to globalization, pressure within the engineering profession, and in higher education. Recommendations from engineering bodies, international groups, and the learning sciences are pushing engineering programs to offer a greater variety of learning experiences. This talk discussed these forces and approaches taken to implement these ideas within undergraduate engineering programs.

Brian Frank is an associate professor in electrical engineering, and the DuPont Canada Chair in Engineering Education Research and Development. He is coordinating the Engineering Graduate Attribute Development Project sponsored by the National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science. His educational interests are in complex problem solving, assessment, and educational technology.

Download the slides associated with this talk.



Concordia University