It can be difficult to write technical reports without the proper knowledge of the subject. Many people are often hesitant to take on this task because they do not know how or where to start. There are many different styles and formats that you can choose from when writing a report, so you need to understand what your topic is before selecting one. In this blog post, we will discuss technical report writing and tips for writing a perfect one.
What is a Technical Report?
Technical reports are the primary means by which scientists and engineers exchange information about their research. A technical report can be very different from other forms of writing like that used for novels or even technical papers. It also differs very much depending on its intended readership; Departmental (internal) reports are usually quite different from those produced for external purposes such as journal publications. The main reason for this difference is that internal/departmental reports often contain confidential material which must not be made public without permission but, at the same time, may have great value as historical documentation.
What is the Purpose of a Technical Report?
A technical report is a form of internal/departmental communication or, in some cases, external communication. It usually has one main goal (i.e., the focused topic). This does not mean that it cannot be used to discuss other issues that are related to the main point, but these should generally be discussed in such a way as to help readers understand how they relate. In general, a technical report should contain all necessary background information for an expert in the field and should also make clear why this investigation was done and what its results mean.
Technical Report Structure
The following is a general structure for technical reports. It should be considered as a guide only and not as something to be strictly followed since it may need considerable modification depending on the situation.
Contains the title of the report, author names (usually with affiliations), and any other bibliographical details if required.
A summary of the report’s content, including a brief description of its contents and important results.
This contains a short background to the report, how it fits in with other work done, and any essential points relating to methodology.
This section details the experiment/investigation that were carried out and the methods used.
This contains all relevant results obtained from the investigation. Any graphs or tables should be included here rather than in separate Appendices (this avoids redundancy).
This section discusses any important issues arising from the results, their implications, and offers possible explanations for unexpected findings where appropriate.
This is a short suggestion on ways in which further work could be undertaken based on conclusions drawn from the report. The final section gives references to papers or other documents to support experimental procedures, calculations, etc., if required. Figures and tables should generally not be placed in appendices since they are integral to the text. However, it is sometimes necessary to do this if there is an unusually large number of these items included in the main body of the text.
Any tables and figures should be titled, even those that were produced for other purposes. All figures should appear on separate pages at the end of a report unless they are essential to understanding the experimental details (in which case, they may be put in smaller font inside relevant sections).
Figures created with computer graphics programs will generally need to have vertical lines marking off spaces since these do not appear when illustrations are printed out. This can usually be done by specifying a minimum character height as part of the setup procedure. It is also important to make sure that all symbols used are clearly defined and avoid using non-standard symbols, especially those that are not in common use.
10 Tips of Writing an Excellent Technical Report
- Do not write the report in the first person – this is for your audience and not about you!
- Start with a summary of the work that was done, why it was carried out, and its main results.
- Always explain how the experiment was carried out if appropriate – if possible use photos or drawings instead of words where possible so that people who are not familiar with the technique used can follow easily.
- Always define all terms used in the text (e.g. machine names).
- Use short paragraphs or bullet points to help separate ideas, but don’t overdo it and write one sentence per paragraph unless necessary!
- Be consistent with fonts – e.g. make sure that all equations are done in the same font whether you have Word or LaTeX written them – otherwise, you will look unprofessional and confuse your reader as they try to decipher what you were trying to say!
- Avoid unnecessary words – say what you need to say as clearly as possible without being unnecessarily verbose – if anything is not essential, leave it out!
- Write in an appropriate tense – always use past tense when you describe what happened – but use the present tense to describe what the report sets out to do.
- Use signposting words at appropriate points in the text (e.g. Conclusions, Recommendations, Further work). These will help your reviewer/referee and editor spot key sections of your work and avoid them missing anything important!
- Be careful with grammar and spelling – you may be a fantastic scientist, but you need to ensure that you also come across as an excellent communicator in writing!
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