How to Write a Technical Report – Steps, Format, and More
A technical report, which is sometimes called a ‘Scientific Report,’ is a type of paper where a company writes down all the details about their scientific or technical research in one place. This paper explains how a team worked on a project, what they did, what they achieved, and any challenges they faced and solved along the way. All of this information is put together in a report called technical report.
Once we add advice, suggestions, sources we used, and a summary of the research, the report gathers all the important information in one organized document. This makes it easy to look at later when we need to refer back to it in the future.
We do all these things to write down the technical problems the company encounters while doing the research. Finally, the researchers who worked on the project give the report with their findings to the project’s supporter or sponsor.
Writing a technical report falls into a category called “Grey Literature,” which is different from regular academic or commercial publishing. Grey Literature includes things like papers, reports like white papers, annual reports from private firms, research papers, government documents, and other similar documents.
The 7 C’s of Technical Report Writing
Clarity is an integral part in a technical report and it should not be confusing. If there are unclear parts in the report, it’s better to make them clear so that readers can understand easily. The report should answer the questions your audience has because that’s why they are reading it.
Correcting your grammar mistakes, getting rid of factual errors, and fixing typos before sharing your report will make it easier for readers to understand. Your readers won’t have to stop and figure out errors, which will make their reading experience smoother. Mistakes can disrupt the thrill of reading.
If you write a report that stays focused and doesn’t add too much unnecessary information, it will help the reader understand it clearly and simply. It’s a good idea to replace long phrases with shorter words, but be careful not to lose the main point of the topic.
It’s important for the information in your report to flow smoothly so that readers stay interested as they read on. Also, using the same formatting and words consistently throughout the document helps readers understand the ideas quickly.
When you write something, there are three important steps: planning, finding information, and organizing it. Putting these pieces together can be a bit tricky, but it’s really important. If you do it carefully, it will help readers follow your writing easily.
Once you pick a topic, the next important thing is to figure out what you need to include about that topic. Knowing what should be in your document is crucial. Your main goal should be to give the information you promised to provide. This means you’ll need to do a comprehensive research and have the right resources ready to answer your readers’ questions.
Today, with short attention spans, it’s really important to have really good content. Your content should be trustworthy to the people you’re trying to reach. If you don’t give them good answers that satisfy their questions, they won’t return. So, it’s crucial to be reliable in what you do and the content you create.
How to Format A Technical Report?
Like any kind of writing, technical report writing also has two styles. Writers usually pick the one that works best for them. You can follow a planned outline, or you can go with the flow and write as you think.
This first method is when you plan out each step carefully. It’s like making a list of what to include in your technical report writing. You decide on the title, the different sections, what goes in each part, and how you’ll wrap it up at the end. This helps you write in a clear and organized way because you’ve already thought through everything. But, if you have to change something later, you might need to redo a lot of it.
Maintain a Flow
Authors often use this structure when writing books, especially fiction. It allows them to be open to new ideas and add them to their writing at the last moment, just like many authors do when they change their stories as they go along. This approach can also be used in technical report writing if someone really needs to keep their options open. It works well for people who like to go with the natural flow and see where their writing takes them. However, one risk is that you might lose track.
Guidelines for Writing a Technical Report
For professional reports, especially technical ones, it’s a good idea to use a structured or planned approach. In this format, the important points you need to include are already listed, which makes it easier for writers to compose the report and for readers to grasp the content. This approach ensures that both the writer and the reader clearly understand the report’s objective.
Now that you’ve chosen the format, the next step is to fill the document with eloquent words. The following guidelines will show you how to structure a technical report correctly.
The Page with the Title and the Cover Page
The cover page is the initial thing people see in your technical report. It’s like the face of your project, the first impression. To make it look professional and clear, you put the author’s name or team name, the institution’s name, and the title with the logo on the first page. This helps the readers know what the report is about right away.
The cover page should strike a balance between being simple and visually appealing since it’s a professional and technical document. It should also clearly indicate the report’s status and include the names of the supervisor or mentor.
The abstract, sometimes called the “Executive or Authoritative summary”, gives a short and clear overview of the project. It should be written from the reader’s point of view, so that the person reading the report can understand all the important project details quickly.
Including this step in your report is like making a declaration. It shows that you’ve given proper credit to the people or sources who assisted you in creating the report. Plagiarism is a big deal in all types of writing, including technical writing. So, in this segment, you need to state that your research isn’t copied from anywhere else. You should also mention that what you’ve found is based on your own analysis.
This step-in technical writing format, called the ‘Dedication’ page, is usually placed in the middle of a new page. It’s optional and involves dedicating the study to someone special. However, it’s not common in these reports, and after writing a short sentence, there won’t be much on this page.
Now, it’s time to show gratitude to the people who supported you in making the report. This is where you mention individuals, groups, or even institutions that helped with your research. You can also acknowledge those who inspired the idea.
Table of Contents
You can find a table of contents in many types of papers, like research papers and even novels. It’s there to help readers quickly see what they’ll find in the report. It’s like a roadmap for what’s inside. The table of contents helps both readers and writers find their way through the chapters and sections of the technical report. In technical report writing, it’s important to include a nomenclature page if you’re using symbols in your report.
If you’re using graphs and tables in your report, you should think about making a separate content page for them. Start on a new page, and then list all of them together.
This is where the project report officially begins. The writer must clearly explain to the readers what they can expect. Be sure to include the objectives, purpose, and goals of the report in the introduction. Include the questions you’ve answered in the report. If you can, provide a brief summary of the project too. Remember that your decision should provide answers to the objective questions, so write it with that in mind.
This part contains the main chapters where the writers give a lot of information about the subjects they introduced at the start of the report. Now, readers can finally read about these topics and find the answers they were looking for. So, it’s important to make the content detailed and well-organized. This means you should use sections and subsections. Experienced technical writers even suggest using sub-subsections when needed. Doing this makes the report look neat, which makes it easier for readers to read and comprehend.
Before you start each chapter, it’s a good idea to begin by explaining what you aim to achieve in that chapter. Technical reports should not include the personal opinions of the people who write them. Instead, they should only include facts that have been gathered after a lot of research over days or months. So, make sure to present only facts that can be checked and confirmed.
The conclusion is like the ending of your report. Its main job is to wrap up everything the writer talked about in the report. It brings all the ideas together. In the conclusion, the writer needs to say they discussed a specific topic and have now finished it with a clear purpose. They should also talk about what the report means, what it aimed to do, and why it was written.
Additionally, it’s important to mention how much progress was made in exploring an idea and whether it was successful or not. Lastly, think about going over how your research contributed to addressing unanswered questions.
If your report required a lot of data, complex math formulas, explanatory diagrams, and a table, this is the part where you list all these things and explain where they were used in the report. Make sure to put them in the same order they appeared in your report.
Skipping this step could lead to legal issues for any writer. When you chose your topic and began writing about it, you relied on information you found through research. So, not giving credit to those sources will be against the law.
Everything you gathered, from numbers and charts to pictures and even the sentences you mentioned, it’s important to say where you got them. This way, you won’t get into legal trouble because you’re not doing anything wrong.
When writers research for a report, they find a lot of information that inspires them and teaches them new things. This stuff is usually not included in the report because it’s not directly related to the research topic. Instead, this extra knowledge is collected as data and listed in this section.
Important Things to Keep in Mind When Formatting a Technical Report
The goal of technical report writing is to tell the audience about a specific subject. That’s why it’s different from other types of writing in many ways.
- Technical report writing isn’t meant to entertain; it’s all about providing information using simple and easy-to-understand sentences.
- To make it easy for the audience, it’s best to avoid long sentences because they can be confusing. Instead of connecting two short sentences with a comma, it’s better to break one sentence into short ones that are easy to understand.
- Steer clear of words like ‘this,’ ‘way,’ ‘some,’ and similar ones. These words tend to pop up when the writer isn’t completely sure about what to say, even after doing research. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully review the gathered information and write in a clear and informative manner.
- Avoid using short forms like “doesn’t,” “they’re,” “can’t,” “isn’t,” and also stay away from informal words or slang when writing a technical report. Since reports are formal documents, it’s better to use the full versions, such as “does not,” “they are,” “is not,” etc.
- Proofreading is a common practice in writing, whether it’s for creative stories, regular news articles, or formal documents like technical reports. Checking and double-checking is important in all these cases.
You can’t release any piece of writing without checking it carefully, so it’s crucial to review the grammar, punctuation, and spelling in your sentences. Tools like Grammarly assist writers every day in doing this.
- Avoid using “I” or “we” in a formal report because it can make readers experience like the points in the report aren’t supported by facts or sources.
- Including words like “I” or “me” in a report might give the reader the impression that it’s based on the personal opinion of author and that the writer doesn’t know the industry’s standard practices.
However, it’s okay to use “I” when the writer is an experienced scientist, professional, or engineer who knows the industry’s rules well. A study from the University of New South Wales mentioned that being a ‘professional’ in a specific field allows the writer to utilize “I” in a technical report.
- When your report uses abbreviations or acronyms, it’s important to first write out the full form and then put the abbreviated version in parentheses.
- A technical writer’s role is to explain things in a way that even people who aren’t experts can grasp. The choice of language depends on the readers. For instance, if the audience consists of engineers, using technical terms or jargon won’t hinder their understanding.
But if a report is packed with technical language for people who aren’t experts, it won’t be suitable because they won’t understand it. That’s why it’s important to steer clear of jargon in such cases.
- Use ‘active voice’ more often than ‘passive voice,’ but don’t completely disregard passive voice. It’s about finding a balance that suits the reader’s understanding.
- Make sure to use clear numbered and bulleted lists. The recommended font for reports is ‘Times New Roman’ with a font size of 12. Also, use bold for headlines, and keep them in the same size.
How to Share Your Report?
- You can’t submit handwritten technical reports. So, it’s important to print them on A4-sized paper, single-sided.
- Don’t put page numbers on the title page.
- Keep a minimum of 2.54 cm of space on all sides of the report.
- For a short report, use a staple in the top left corner to hold it together. But if it’s a long report, get it bound to keep all the pages together.
To Sum Up
Technical Report Writing sets itself apart from other forms of writing because its primary goal is to convey researched information directly and clearly. It avoids the use of convoluted language and instead aims to present knowledge and information in straightforward and explanatory terms. In essence, it prioritizes clarity and precision to ensure that the reader can easily understand and benefit from the information presented.
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