# How should I do calculations as an Engineer?

• Studying
I always get lost in my work and my work looks like this mess usually.
Any tips on how to be neat? How to do calculations?
Should I do put all numbers with their units in the paper?
How about the units my Statics book says that I should always put them and this really gets boring so any idea on how can I get better?

Your guidance would be suggested from the good textbooks from which you study. Your much more formal guidance comes from your teacher, professors, and instructors. If these personnel are guiding you poorly, then you will need to decide just how, on paper, you can communicate both with yourself and with other people who may wish or need to understand your written calculations. You must at least arrange some logical flow in your written work. The illustration shown in the black background and white drawings and text is disorganized. YOU organize to have clear flow and meaning! Need less crowding.

Should I do put all numbers with their units in the paper?
Definitely, yes. A big YES. Units can save lives being an engineer and you should get used to this habit.

DeBangis21, symbolipoint and berkeman
I always get lost in my work and my work looks like this mess usually.
Any tips on how to be neat? How to do calculations?
What and how you write on paper could be considered a reflection of your mental processes.
If those become more logical and ordered, such will become what you express on paper for others and for your own analysis.

It is not easy, but enough practice could help you slowdown the flow of ideas and make each of then clearer and in better harmony with each other.
Study how good books progressively and ordered show the information that the authors expose for us to understand.

Always keep in mind that the person you are trying to communicate with needs and deserve the clearest presentation possible: he/she doesn't know all the details you do.

https://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~amenta/w10/writingman.pdf

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Thanks all this was very helpful!

Lnewqban and berkeman
I always get lost in my work and my work looks like this mess usually.
Any tips on how to be neat? How to do calculations?
I think there is value in free-form sketching when you are first trying to get a handle on a problem. If it's not obvious how to best approach a new problem, doing some free-form sketching can start to bring out some approaches and ideas, and help to guide you to the best way to do the final diagram (FBD or EM diagram or whatever). But for presentation to others (on homework solutions or exam solutions or real world work solutions), it's best to use a neat and well-ordered set of diagrams and equations. That's where using some drawing program and LaTeX or similar can help.

When I was in undergrad many years ago, I did "crib sheets" for each of my classes that summarized the important concepts and equations. I always wished that I had programs to help me do those (like maybe Visio or other drawing programs, and LaTeX or similar for the equations), but that was before their time. So I lived with doing them (and re-doing them) by hand. Now you have much better options...

Should I do put all numbers with their units in the paper?
Definitely. Carrying units along in calculations is one of the most important basic tricks you can learn. Doing this helps you to keep an intuitive understanding of what you are doing, and it helps you to find mistakes in big calculations right away instead of finding the error many lines later at the end of the calculation.

One of the best lessons I learned in my first semester in undergrad was in an intro Engineering class where all the different Engineering specialties were studied. At one point the TAs were up in front of the class and we were all working through a relatively simple velocity-distance-time problem, and the TAs asked us which form of the equation we should be using to calculate the answer. The first student's guess was wrong, and the second student's guess was right. The TAs patiently explained that we could think about the units in the equations to verify that we were using the correct form of the equation...
$$v(t) [m/s] = \frac{x(t) [m]}{t [s ]}$$

I agree with @berkeman , Post 6. A few amplifying thoughts:

Depending on the situation, you may have to write out your calculation twice: first as a nasty mess that evolves as you figure it out, and second as a "smooth" calculation that you keep for yourself, or turn in as a class assignment, or forms part of the design record where you work.

Once you finish school and start working, you will probably need to keep the calculations that support whatever design or analysis you do. Different industries have different requirements for such documentation, ranging from none, to duplicate storage for 40 years. The idea is that if a question arises ("why is this bracket only 1/8 inch strip?") you, or someone else, can look back at the design calculation and re-create the original thinking.

Where I worked (nuclear power plant design), all of our calculations were independently verified by another engineer. The verifier has to reach the same results without talking to the author. So our calculations had to be clear and complete, in addition to being correct.

DeBangis21, symbolipoint, Lnewqban and 2 others
@gmax 's description in post #7 need to be emphasized more!

Here is a thought for the original question described:

Remember when you were being taught basic writing skills as a child? Make written organized information; make an outline; make a rough composition; decide how to clean it and make a final composition which is then what you give to your teacher for assessment. You can do something like that.

Do you remember if your first real Physics course written work (homework) was required to be arranged into a certain form, like maybe this? A section for necessary drawings, diagrams, figures; a list of given values, a list of unknown variables, ; a listing of any relevant equations, principles, relationships, laws for the exercise problem; Your steps to SOLVING the problem; AND THEN a section for making the substitutions for the given values, and then finish the computation or "evaluation". This meant that your work was organized; and you and other people can follow what you did. You could do the same or something like it for Engineering exercises.

## 1. What tools should I use for engineering calculations?

As an engineer, you can use a variety of tools for calculations, including scientific calculators, spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, and specialized engineering software such as MATLAB, ANSYS, or SolidWorks. The choice of tool depends on the complexity and type of the calculation you need to perform.

## 2. How do I ensure accuracy in my calculations?

To ensure accuracy, always double-check your calculations, use appropriate significant figures, and cross-verify with different methods or tools. It's also important to understand the underlying principles and assumptions of the formulas and methods you are using.

## 3. What are the common mistakes to avoid in engineering calculations?

Common mistakes include unit conversion errors, incorrect assumptions, rounding errors, and not accounting for all variables. Always keep track of units throughout your calculations and validate your assumptions with real-world data or literature.

## 4. How can I improve my problem-solving skills in engineering calculations?

Improving problem-solving skills involves practicing regularly, studying various case studies, and learning from both successes and mistakes. Engaging in group discussions and seeking feedback from peers and mentors can also provide new perspectives and enhance your skills.

## 5. When should I consult a specialist for complex calculations?

You should consult a specialist when dealing with highly complex or critical calculations that require advanced knowledge or when you are uncertain about the results. Specialists can provide expert insights and ensure that the calculations meet industry standards and safety requirements.

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