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Language, context and tone

Even with the most innovative research, if your discussion is not easy for the reader to understand, it will not have the impact it deserves. How you structure your discussion and the language that you use plays an important role in how well your findings are communicated.

Use subheadings

You should structure your discussion in a logical order. If this section is over three paragraphs, consider using subheadings to break up the text.

Write concisely

Your writing should be concise but remain informative to the reader. Use complete sentences and paragraphs, but avoid long sentences where the key points you are trying to communicate could be missed. Instead, break long sentences into shorter ones or remove unnecessary words to make it easier for the reader to understand.

For example:

“In histology, tissue staining is the most important step, the reason is, most cells have no colour and their structure is difficult to observe under the microscope, so staining is used to give colour to tissues and highlight important cell structures.”

Can be effectively shortened to:

“In histology, tissue staining is used to highlight important cell structures and enable observation under the microscope as most cells have no colour.”

Write impartial statements based on facts

As the purpose of a technical report is to communicate factual content, you should avoid using personal expressions, such as “I believe…” or “I think…”.

Your statements should be unbiased and based on facts, rather than personal opinion or feelings. To remain impartial and avoid making assumptions refer to the scientific literature when explaining your results and drawing conclusions.

For example:

“It can be speculated that the physical structure should be rough”.

If previous research studies have shown that the physical structure of this material is, in fact, rough, then state the findings of these research studies and cite their work in your text.

Use a combination of tenses

In the methods section, you are expected to write using past tense as you are describing what you did. In the discussion and conclusion, you may use a combination of tenses.

For example, you may use:

  • Past tense when referring to the experiment undertaken: “The experiment investigated the tensile strength of material A and B.”

  • Present tense when making conclusions: “It is appropriate to investigate these two materials because…”

  • Future tense when recommending how the experiment could be improved: “Recommendations for future work include repeating the experiment with different materials.”

Use examples relevant to your field of work

As previously mentioned, all published sources of information should be cited in your text and listed in your reference section. Refer to your department handbook or academic supervisor for the preferred reference style.

Proofread your work

Finally, check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before you submit your work. Check your sentences to make sure their meaning is clear. Read through your report and ask yourself “Are the findings of the investigation explained clearly, concisely and accurately?” If not, then edit where necessary. Ask a colleague, friend or family member to proofread your report.

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This article is from the free online course:

Technical Report Writing for Engineers

The University of Sheffield