failure Analysis (FA) is both a preventative process and forensic tool in engineering. FA is used during the design and development phase of a product, process, or service to systematically anticipate potential points of failure and correct them before the product is released to the consumer. As a forensic process, FA is used to diagnose actual failures and recommend solutions. For both kinds of FA, standards may be employed to guide decisions.

Famous cases of engineering failure include the Challenger Shuttle Disaster, the I-35W Mississippi Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN, and more recently, the I-85 bridge collapse and fire in Atlanta, GA. Every day, though, engineering failures happen all over the world, both big and small, with damage ranging from minimal to catastrophic. Failures may be due to manufacturing decisions (e.g., using a lower quality material to cut costs), use violations (the consumer uses the item in an incorrect manner, e.g., pushing a machine past capacity), or unexpected environmental conditions (e.g., extreme weather events or unanticipated air flow through a building). FA as a process is at the heart of balancing production and performance in engineering.


You will research and document an engineering failure in your area of engineering. There are 3 options for writing this paper. Choose 1 of these three: 

Choice 1) Write about a type of failure that happens in your field – A “type of failure” can be a product or process failure; for example, a piece of equipment or type of material that fails OR it can be a type of failure that is common to your area of engineering, such as stress or fatigue loading. This paper can be written by a student with any level of engineering experience. NOTE: This paper should NOT be about a famous failure. It should be about a TYPE of failure that happen with frequency in your field of engineering.

Choice 2) Write an FMEA report on an everyday failure – for this option, you will document all the steps of an FMEA on an engineering failure that you have personal experience with, then write a report. This report will include an FMEA table in the appendix. This paper can also be done at any level of engineering experience, though it is more challenging than option 1, as it requires a reasonable ability to analyze a failure, evaluate its impact, and recommend a solution.

Choice 3) Write an original analysis of an engineering failure – that is, write an actual case study. This option requires that you have access to the failure itself AND the equipment, resources, ability, and time required to perform the analysis.

For each option, the paper will have at least 3 main parts: Introduction, Analysis, Conclusion.

Introduction (may also call this section “Background”) – the introduction explains the context and causes of the failure. This includes why the failure matters.

Analysis – this section documents the failure analysis’s methodology; that is, the tests that were performed and the outcomes of the tests.

Conclusion – this section explains the impact of the failure, identifies standards or practices which may have contributed to the failure, and makes recommendations for how to prevent the failure from happening again.

Any of the above sections may have sub-sections. For example, it is common for the Analysis to include subheadings for each type of test that was used. You may also use lists, tables, and diagrams in your paper.

Other Requirements At least three images or figures must be used in the paper. Of these three, at least 2 must be created by the writer (not copied). You may use more than three figures. Make sure to label and cite figures properly. Hint: Use the Word “References” menu to insert captions. A minimum of 6 high quality sources: academic, trade, and reference texts ONLY. Using low-quality sources will result in a 25% reduction in grade. The final paper must have a title, abstract, and references page. If you do not use a title page, then include your name in the header with the page number. Your title should indicate to your reader which type of failure analysis you’ve written.

Other Instructions Stylistically, the paper is written in the 3rd person, for a mixed audience. Technical language is allowed, but important terms should be defined more extensively as this kind of paper is meant to inform and educate. Do not use the second person (you/your/you’re). Expand important terms using one or more of the extended definition strategies discussed in Technical Communication: Parenthetical/Sentence Graphics Examples Partition Principle of Operation Comparison/Contrast Analogy Etymology