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Foundation year Engineering Systems

N Green

TECHNICALREPORTWRITING
Atechnicalreportshouldbewrittenformallyanddesignedtoconveycleartechnical
informationinaneasilyaccessibleformat.Itsstructurewillbemadeupofdifferentsections
whichwillhavedifferentlevelsofinformationwhichwillbepertinenttosomeorallofthe
readers.Thus,onlysomeoralloftheinformationneedstobeaccessedandread.
Atechnicalreportisaprofessionaldocumentthatshouldadheretocertainconvention.A
technicalreportcouldbeoneofthefollowing;laboratoryreport,productreport,feasibility
studyreportorsimplyareviewonaparticularactivity.
Question1
Whatisthepurposeofareport?

Theobjectivesofareportidentifyexactlywhatinformationitcovers,forwhomitiswritten
andwhyitshouldbeproduced;theseobjectivesshouldbecleartothewriterlongbeforethe
processofwritingstarts.Closelyalliedtothisisthewhyshoulditbeproducedatall?
question.
Question2
Whatstageswouldbeinvolvedinwritingareport?

TermsofReference
Thetermsofreferenceactasaguideforthewriterandidentifythecontentandscopeofthe
reportandtheinformationuponwhichitwillbebased.Theremustbenoambiguityabout
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whatistobedoneand/orhowitistobedone.Knowingthepurposeandrationaleofareport
willhelpthecommunicationprocess.Itwillalsoallowcorrectselectionanduseof
informationanddata.
Planandmanagethereport
Withcarefulconsiderationofthereportsrequirementsandactivitiesinvolvedinthewrite
up,abetterunderstandingandappreciationofthestepsrequiredwilldefinitelyaidprogress.
Thefollowingmaybecarriedout:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Taketimetoanalysethereportsrequirements,thiswillhelpyou
identifytheindividualtasksandactivities,whichthengivesyouabetter
timeconsiderationagainstthehandindateandhowthetasks
canbeplanned,i.e.sequentialorconcurrent
anoutlineplancannowbeproducedwhichgivesatimescaleanddeadlinefor
completion

Theinitialstagesareoftenthemosttimeconsuming,especiallythinkingaboutthestructure
andwhatinformationisrequired.Remembertocheckthereport.
Agoodplanwillhelptoeliminateerrors,mistakesandpoorstructure.
Dataandinformationacquisition
Mostofthedataandinformationrequiredwillhavecomefromthelabexperimentorfrom
theprojectbrief.Oftenthough,researchmaybeneededtoeithersupplementthecurrentinfo
ortofurtherclarifyanydoubtsorspecificinfothatmaybemissing.
Question3
Whatdoyouneedtoknowabouttheinformation?

Managementandorganisationalskills
Writingupalabreportoranyothertechnicalreportdoesrequireplanningandathoughtto
howtheinformationwillbeusedandorganised.Ifthereportisrelevanttoalaboratory

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experiment,muchinfowillalreadyexistbutwhatsupplementaryinfocould/shouldbeused
toprovetheexperimentorotherinfo?
Question4
Whatcanbedrawntohighlighttheissue/topicandsubsequentideas?

Writethemaintopic/issueinthecentreofthepageandthenthenextlevelofideas/topic
followedbyafurtherlevel.Aseachtopicleveliswrittendownarelationshipmightstartto
formbetweencertainideas.
Relationshipsshouldbehighlightedorcircledasthesemayinitiatetopicareasorsalient
featuresthatshouldbeincludedinthereport.
Goasfaraspossiblewiththedifferentideasuntilyouareexhaustedorfurtherideasare
irrelevant.
Reportstructure
Mostreportsarestructuredinasimilarwaybuttheremaybespecificrequirementsfora
structuretobeadheredtowhetheritiscompanypolicyoranationalrequirement.The
followingshouldbeincludedinthereport,someofwhichareanabsolutemust:
WritingReports6
Titlepage
Acknowledgements
Contents
Abstractorsummary
Introduction
Individualsections(methodologyforalabreport)
Resultsorfindings
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Discussion
Conclusionandrecommendations
References
Bibliography
Appendices

Exercise1
Considereachoftheabovesectionsandwhatinformationmustbeincludedtherein.
Intentionallyblank

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Headings
Headingswithintheorganisationofthereportmustbespecificanduseful.Thelogical
linkingofheadingsisshownbynotation,mostcommonlydecimalnotation.Thismethodis
easytoproduceandfollow,andtheveryfactthatitiswidespreadmeansthatreadersare
probablyfamiliarwithit.
Asfaraspossible,headingsshouldmatchnumberinginimportance,sothatthevisualimpact
ofmajorheadingsiscorrelatedwiththemajornotation.Lowerdownthehierarchy,this
correlationmaybreakdown,butitshouldcertainlybefollowedforfirstandsecondlevel
headings.
Thepatternisthis:
1.MAINHEADING
1.1LesserHeading
1.1.1SmallHeading
andthiswillbemaintainedthroughoutthereport:
8.MAINHEADING
8.4LesserHeading
8.4.6SmallHeading
Asfaraspossible,theheadingnumbered1.1.1shouldbeequalinimportancetoheading
8.4.6.
Fourfiguresisusuallysufficient(forexample,8.4.6.2),asmoresubdivisionsaredifficultto
follow.Informationshouldifnecessarybeadjustedtofitfourlevelsofheading,andindeed
morearerarelyneeded.
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Appendicesshouldbedistinguishedfromthemaintextbyletter,andifnecessarydecimal
notationaftertheletter.AppendixB2.4isthereforethefourthsubsectionofthesecond
majorsectionofthesecondAppendix,andifreferencingiscorrectitshouldbeeasytolocate
andidentify.
Whentowritethereport
Mostengineersdonotappeartolikewritingreportsasthisistimeawayfromtheenjoyable
activities.Ifthepreparationhasbeenthorough,thewritingwillbelessofaburdenbecause
someimportantquestionswillalreadyhavebeenanswered.
Iftheobjectivesofthereporthavebeenclarified,thewriterwillknowtheappropriatelevel
oftechnicallanguageandthecorrecttoneforthereadership.Thestylewillbeformalbecause
reportsareformaldocuments,buttheexactdegreeofformalitywillhavebeendecidedwith
thewriter/readerrelationshipinmind.
Question5
Whatmustbecheckedregularly?

Gettothepointdontdillydally
Avoidusinggrandiosewriting,usealanguageandstylethatisunderstandableand
encouragesthereadertocontinue.Useappropriatewords.
Illustrations
Wherepossibleusethecorrectdrawing,chartand/orsketchtoreinforcethepointbeingmade
ortomakeatechnicalexplanationunderstandable.Makesurethough(wherepossible)that
theillustrationfollowsnaturallythetextthathasintroducedit.Dontwastethereaderstime
bydirectinghim/herforwardsorbackwards.Itisirritating.
Labelillustrationshorizontally.Thiseasesthetaskofreadingwithouthavingtoreorientate
thereportallthetime.
Question6
Whatelseneedstobeputontheillustrations?

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Appearance
Doesthereportlookinteresting?Isitovercrowdedandistheprintsmall?Doeseverything
seemtomergeintoablur?
Considerthereaderseyesandabilitytoread,willhe/shewanttoreaditifitlookstoo
complex?
Ifitisanimportantdocumentthenhaveitprofessionallyillustrated,editedandproduced.
Exercise2
Inyourgroups,commencewitheitherthelabreportsorgroupprojects.
Startplanningtheactivities
Mindmap
Whatadditionalinfoisrequired?