Enhancing Your Career Through Technical Writing and Peer Review

Source: Getty Images.

Good technical writing is an important skill for professionals in all disciplines, and petroleum engineering is no different—it is always in your best interest to organize and communicate your ideas clearly, whether you are a student, a young professional, or an experienced academic or industry professional.

Developing good writing skills (and submitting a paper for presentation at a conference or publication in a journal) is a valuable means of furthering your career. The key benefits you will experience include the following:

Recognition at the office. Quite often, the purpose of writing a document is to “sell” something to management; it may be an idea, a project proposal, or documentation of one’s competence as an engineer. A well-written document communicates the idea clearly and often results in the desired action. You may well get wider and more lasting recognition than if you simply presented arguments orally.

Enhanced technical reputation. Well-written documentation of projects identifies the author as an expert on the subject long after the project has ended and the engineer has moved on.

A wider range of career opportunities. Almost every technical job description includes a statement about the need for good communication skills. Quite often, these skills are the deciding factors in selecting a job applicant. For some types of jobs, it is common to ask for samples of publications or reports.

If you are unsure of how to get started with writing, or if you would like to improve your current skill level, you can start by visiting to find information about writing tips and other English-language resources (the SPE channel on YouTube also features some helpful videos on this subject).

One way to gain writing experience is to submit a paper for presentation at an SPE-sponsored conference; all papers that are presented at a conference are automatically added to OnePetro, the multisociety digital library for the petroleum industry. In addition to sharing your work with a large audience at a conference, you will also be part of an online resource that is accessible and popular worldwide—4 million papers were downloaded in 2013.

Of the thousands of papers submitted to SPE conferences each year, many are also submitted for review and possible publication in one of SPE’s peer-reviewed journals (SPE Drilling & Completion, SPE Production & Operations, SPE Economics & Management, SPE Journal, SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering, and the Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology. SPE’s Oil and Gas Facilities magazine also includes a section of peer-reviewed papers relevant to that discipline). Peer-reviewed papers tend to be cited by other authors more frequently than other types of content, so having your paper appear in a journal will only increase its impact on the industry.

As part of the peer-review process, your paper will be read by industry experts who will provide feedback on technical content and overall organization of ideas; you may be asked to make revisions to the paper before it can be accepted for publication. While the process can be a bit time-consuming, it is ultimately worthwhile, and it is especially helpful in the earlier stages of an engineer’s career.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge with colleagues throughout the industry, effective communication is imperative. If you have yet to go through the process of writing and submitting a paper to SPE, I encourage you to look for an opportunity to do so, whether that is through a conference or a peer-reviewed journal (or both!).

Dean Oliver is a principal researcher at the Uni Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research in Bergen, Norway. He was previously director of the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering at the University of Oklahoma and has also been a faculty member in the petroleum engineering department at the University of Tulsa. Before joining academia, Oliver worked for 17 years in the petroleum industry (for Chevron). He has written more than 70 peer-reviewed journal papers and is the coauthor of a book on history matching. Oliver was executive editor of SPE Journal from 2005 to 2009 and is currently editor-in-chief for SPE’s peer-reviewed journals. He received the 2004 SPE Reservoir Description and Dynamics award, the 2008 SPE Distinguished Member Award, and the 2010 SPE Distinguished Service Award.

Enhancing Your Career Through Technical Writing and Peer Review

Dean Oliver, Uni Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research

01 October 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 10