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The procedure section of a technical report

The Procedure section

This week, we turn our attention to the Procedure section. This is where you will explain what you did in your work to obtain your results. This includes recording the steps that you followed and the equipment that you used.

This section is sometimes called the ‘method’ section or, in scientific experiments, ‘materials and methods’. For example, a typical experiment in chemistry is the acid/base titration; the ‘materials’ part would involve listing the actual acid and base, as well as their concentrations; the ‘methods’ part would then make clear how the titration was carried out.

There are four aspects that should be included in the Procedure section:

  1. A list of the equipment used and the types of measurement taken.
  2. A chronological description of the steps you followed.
  3. Any time considerations - for example, the time spent on a particular experimental step.
  4. Any safety issues, especially if the reader is intending to repeat the experiment.

You can also include experimental diagrams to help your reader to understand the results and to repeat the experiment if necessary.

What will the reader get out of this section?

There are two reasons why the reader will find this section useful:

  1. The methods section will help the reader to make sense of the results. For example, a number in a table may represent a measurement; however, showing how this measurement was obtained and the range of equipment used gives more context to that number.
  2. The reader may want to recreate your experiment, for example, to check your results for reproducibility. It should, therefore, contain enough detail to enable the reader to repeat the experiment if necessary - like sharing a recipe.

What skills will I learn this week?

We’ll show you how to produce and embed useful engineering images into your report.

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This article is from the free online course:

Technical Report Writing for Engineers

The University of Sheffield