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Basics of Technical Writing

Basics of Technical Writing

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Published by: api-26345195 on Oct 18, 2008
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What are Reports?

an orderly and objective communication of factual information that serves some business purpose”.
Raymond Lesikar and John Pettit

Orderly- carefully prepared Objective- unbiased Communication- mostly writing Factual information-emphasis on events, records, data. • Purpose-example; solve a problem and to present information. • • • •

which a given problem is examined for the purpose of conveying information, reporting findings, putting forward ideas and sometimes making recommendations”
The British Association of Commercial and Industrial Education

Types of Report
1. Formality ( relationship of writer and reader) and legality; • Formal • Informal 2. Function; • Informational • interpretative

3. Time interval; • Periodic • Special 4. Physical factors/form; • Memorandum • Letter • Short • Long 5. Nature of subject; • Problem determining report • Fact finding report • Performance report • Technical report

• Title • Terms of reference 3. By whom has the report been requested/directed 4. The precise area to be covered 5. Intended outcome of the report 6. Establishing the limits of the report

Table of contents
• List headings as they appear in the body of the report, along with page numbers.

• 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. • • •

Procedure (methods of investigation) Experiment Observation Survey Consultation Research Findings Recommendations (listed in conclusion) signature


Basics of Technical Writing
Main documentation priorities Use simple sentence structure (subject-verb-object) Minimize adjectives and adverbs Write predictably Use graphics
this method terminates communication

“A picture is worth 1,000 words” Apply seven ‘C’s

Problems that beginner writers have
 Thinking that writing is easy  Writing in English  Understanding how to get started  Understanding how the software works  Organizing material

“Every journey begins with a step”

Write Clear Sentences

 Write active sentences  Write present tense  Write positive sentences  Use short, familiar words  Write short sentences  Use lists

Write clear sentences

 Are clearer; they tell the user who or what does the action
Passive; A mail message is sent to the main service. Active; The handler sends a mail message to the main service

Active sentences

 Are more concise  Help you write from user’s view


Actor is unknown
The file is opened by Ralph

Passive Vs Active 

Actor is unknown

• Ralph opens the file

Uses “to be”
5. 6. The file is printed Lunch is eaten

Uses strong verbs
• I print the file • I eat lunch

Use passive sentences in certain situations
The actor is unknown or unimportant

To make any kind of connection to the internet, you must determine how your computer is connected to the internet

The action or object is more important

To set up XYZ component, a sample application is provided in the Samples directory of your program

Transitions need to be strengthened
• To print the file. Press Print. The file is printed by your printer

Present tense
• •
• •

Helps users read the material quickly Tells users when to do something
You will be able to select all display options Click the button. A submenu will appear

Correct: You can select all display options • Click the button. A submenu appears •
Acceptable use of future tense; Write down these steps. You will use these later.

Write positive sentences
• Do not turn off your computer without saving your work. Correct; • Save you work, and then turn off your computer.
Acceptable use of negatives;
Caution. Do not put your coffee up on the CD-ROM drive

Use short familial words
• Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men; the magnitude of the effect of cigarette smoking far outweighs all other factors. The data for women, though less extensive, point in the same direction. Correct • Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer in men, and probably in women too.

Write short sentences
• We hereby wish to let you know that our company is pleased with the confidence you have reposed in us. • We appreciate your confidence Write a long sentence if separate sentence is too complex

Use lists
• Use bulleted lists for similar but unordered ideas • Use numbered lists for a sequence of events or steps

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

The Seven ‘C’s of effective communication
Completeness Conciseness Consideration Concreteness Clarity Courtesy Correctness

• • • • • • • Tables Fonts Flowcharts and process charts Pie chart Line chart Statistical Maps Illustrations

• Paraphrase
Logan Wilson (201) criticized academicians for being scientific in their approach to every area…

• Key phrase quotation

Logan Wilson (201) characterizes as a “curious paradox” what he sees as the failure of academics to be scientific….

• Verbatim • Partial quotation
According to Logan Wilson(201), “… academics display a scientific attitude toward every universe except that which comprises their own profession”

• Extended quotation

Use MLA ( Modern Language Association) style sheet Methods; 3. Footnote method •
Cindy Burford, Aline Culberson, and Peter Dykus, Writing for Results, 4th ed.,New York: Charles Storm Publishing Company, 1994, 17-18.

Methods of compiling data
• Library research • Sampling theory • Face to face interview

Library research
• • • • • Encyclopedias Government publications International sources Searching Databases Internet

Sampling theory as a basis for surveying
• • • • • • • Random sampling Systematic sampling Stratified sampling Convenience sampling Judgment sampling Quota sampling Snowball sampling

2. 3. 4.

Random Systematic Stratified

Sampling methods

• • • •

Non probability
convenient Judgment Quota Snowball

• Random sampling is the purest form of probability sampling. Each member of the population has an equal and known chance of being selected

• Systematic sampling is often used instead of random sampling. It is also called an Nth name selection technique. After the required sample size has been calculated, every Nth record is selected from a list of population members.
• Systematic sampling is frequently used to select a specified number of records from a computer file.

• Stratified sampling is commonly used probability method that is superior to random sampling because it reduces sampling error. A stratum is a subset of the population that share at least one common characteristic. Examples of stratums might be males and females, or managers and nonmanagers. • Random sampling is then used to select a sufficient number of subjects from each stratum. "Sufficient" refers to a sample size large enough for us to be reasonably confident that the stratum represents the population. Stratified sampling is often used when one or more of the stratums in the population have a low incidence relative to the other stratums.

• This non probability method is often used during preliminary research efforts to get a gross estimate of the results, without incurring the cost or time required to select a random sample. • In convenience sampling, the selection of units from the population is based on easy availability and/or accessibility.

• usually an extension of convenience sampling • a researcher may decide to draw the entire sample from one "representative" city, even though the population includes all cities. When using this method, the researcher must be confident that the chosen sample is truly representative of the entire population.

• the non probability equivalent of stratified sampling • Like stratified sampling, the researcher first identifies the stratums and their proportions as they are represented in the population. Then convenience or judgment sampling is used to select the required number of subjects from each stratum. This differs from stratified sampling, where the stratums are filled by random sampling.

• used when the desired sample characteristic is rare • Snowball sampling relies on referrals from initial subjects to generate additional subjects. • Chances of bias as it may be less representative


Why Questionnaires?
• To maximize the proportion of subjects answering our questionnaire - that is, the response rate. • To obtain accurate relevant information for our survey.

Types of questionnaires
• Open • Closed

Open format
• Advantages of open format • Allows exploration of the range of possible themes arising from an issue • Can be used even if a comprehensive range of alternative choices cannot be compiled

Open format
• Numeric open end
How much did you spend on groceries this week?_______

• Text open end
• How can our company improve its working conditions?______________________

Closed format
• Closed-that is, forced choice-format • Easy and quick to fill in • Minimize discrimination against the less literate (in self administered questionnaire) or the less articulate (in interview questionnaire) • Easy to code, record, and analyse results quantitatively • Easy to report results


Types of closed format
• • • • • Choice of categories Likert style Checklists Differential Ranking

Types of closed format
• Choice of categories For example( what is your marital status) Single [] Divorced [] Married [] Widowed []

Likert style scale
• Statistics is an important subject Strongly disagree disagree Cannot decide Agree Strongly agree

“Circle the clinical specialties you are particularly interested in”
• • • • • • • General medicine General surgery Pediatrics Ophthalmology Orthopedics Accident and emergency General practice

Differential scale
• How would you rate the puppet show?
Extremely interesting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 extremely dull

How would you rate this product?
Excellent ___ Good ___ Fair ___ Poor ___

Please rank your interests in the following specialties
• • • • • • General medicine General practice Orthopedics Ophthalmology Pediatrics General surgery


Wording of individual questions
• Use short and simple sentences • Ask for only one piece of information at a time • Avoid negatives if possible
Small group teaching should not be abolished Small group teaching should continue

• Ask precise questions
How often did you borrow books from your library? How many books have you borrowed from the library within the past six months altogether?

• Ensure those you ask have the necessary knowledge • Level of details • Sensitive issues • Minimize bias • Must be non-threatening

• accommodate all possible answers

What brand of computer do you own? __ A. IBM PC B. Apple ( possible other choice)
Do you own an IBM PC? (circle: Yes or No)
• What brand of computer do you own? (Check all that apply) __ Do not own a computer __ IBM PC __ Apple __ Other

There should be only one correct or appropriate choice for the respondent to make. An obvious example is: Where did you grow up? __ C. Country D. farm E. city

• Does not presuppose a certain state of affairs
Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance? (Yes or No) This question will present a problem for someone who does not currently have auto insurance. Write your questions so they apply to everyone. This often means simply adding an additional response category.
• Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance? ___ Yes ___ No ___ Don't have auto insurance

• Does not use unfamiliar words or abbreviations. • Remember who are your audience. • Do not use uncommon words or compound sentences. • Write short sentences. • Abbreviations are okay if you are absolutely certain that every single respondent will understand their meanings

Length of questionnaire
• There are no universal agreements about the optimal length of questionnaires. However, short simple questionnaires usually attract higher response rates than long complex ones.

Arranging the questions
The order of the questions is also important. Some general rules are:
• • • • • • Go from general to particular. Go from easy to difficult. Go from factual to abstract. Start with closed format questions. Start with questions relevant to the main subject. Do not start with demographic and personal questions

Introduction, personalized letter, and ending
• It seems a good idea to have either a personalized covering letter or at least an introduction explaining briefly the purpose of the survey, the importance of the respondents' participation, who is responsible for the survey, and a statement guaranteeing confidentiality. A personalized letter can be easily generated using mail-merge on a word processor. It is also important to thank the respondent at the end of the questionnaire.

1. Describe why the study is being done (briefly) and identify the sponsors. 2. Mention the incentive. (A good incentive is a copy of the results). 3. Mention inclusion of a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. 4. Encourage prompt response without using deadlines. 5. Describe your "confidentiality/anonymity" policy. 6. Give the name and phone number of someone they can call with questions.

Cover letter

Face to face interview

Don’t forget the most important thing!!!!

Have loads of fun and enjoy what you do !!!

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