A fundamental duty or task for most engineers is to be able to effectively communicate the findings of a given project, test, simulation, etc. In fact, many technical exercises require their outcome/findings to be communicated to stakeholders (or in the case of students, assessors). Here, some of the most important considerations to be taken into account when writing a technical report are highlighted. This section will briefly address the following points:
What is a technical report?
In simple terms, a report is a document that presents or communicates to a target audience the findings (results, guidelines or outcomes) of technical work that was carried out by an individual and/or group. When this definition is carefully looked at, it becomes evident that it involves 3 key points. These are:
• What is a report?
• Classic format of a technical report
• Breakdown of the sections of a technical report
• Writing tips
• A report involves communication (comunication)
• A report involves the findings of a technical piece of work (outcome)
• A report involves a target audience (audience)
It is of paramount importance to remember when preparing a technical report that one of the objectives for writing such a report is to communicate to others (audience) the nature, as well as the findings of the work that was carried out. In order to ensure that the report is capable of effectively reaching the audience, it is extremely important for the 'language' to be clear. That is, the report must be written using a 'language' that is compatible with the target audience. For example, if it is expected that the target audience has a strong technical background on the subject covered/included in the report, it is usally acceptable to use technical jargon as a means to succintly describe the work done. However, if the target audience does not have sufficient understanding of the subject included in the report, care must be taken in order to avoid or prevent the use of technical jargon. Finally, the language (in this case in reference to the actually language being used e.g. English, Spanish, French, etc.) must also be appropriately used. This implies, respecting grammatical contructions, as well as employing correct punctuation in order to facilitate reading. In technical writing (particularly in English), it is common to use short and succint sentences.
Another factor that can significantly facilitate effective communication includes the use of a report structure that is logical and clear. Deciding upon the structure of a report can often be one of the most challenging tasks, particularly for unexperienced writers. However, designing/choosing a good report structure can significantly improve its impact. When desiging the structure of a report ensure that the report 'tells a story'. In other words, the writer must ask the question: do the different sections of the report flow naturally and without difficultly? This is often a very difficult question to answer, particularly, to novel or inexperienced writers. One of the main difficulties when asnwering this question (correctly) comes from self-familarity. That is, the writer is familiar with the work and cannot anticipate which aspects of the work are not clear to the reader. Whilst, in essence, the writer can use any report structure, it is highly recommended for novel or inexperienced writers to adhere to the classical technical report strucutre (discussed later).
Finally, it is worth highlighting that when deciding how to structure a report, the writer must, again, consider the target audience. For example, within an academic context, it is common practice to ensure that report are self-contained. This means that all background information related to the topic of the report is included explicitly, or a the very least in the form of references. However, this may not necessarily be the case when writing technical reports within an industrical context. In this case, it may be appropriate to only cover the most fundamental aspects of the work/topic and ensure that the report is brief and succint for the benefit of line managers and/or senior managers.
Findings or outcome
Work in progress!
Work in progress!
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