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So, what exactly is a technical report?

A technical report is a particular type of document used by scientists and engineers to perform a very specific job. It communicates to the reader information about the work that has been done; presenting the findings and helping the reader to understand the implications of the results in context.

A technical engineering report should be written as an independent record that can be read and understood by the reader, without any further explanation from the author. It stands as a comprehensive record of exactly how the work was done and what results were obtained.

A report should include every important piece of information associated with the work conducted. This will include things such as:

  1. The background to the subject and the context in which the work is being performed.
  2. The reasons why the work is being done and what outcomes are expected to be achieved.
  3. The processes, methods and equipment used to perform the work.
  4. The results or findings, presented in a way that allows the reader to understand them.
  5. The author’s interpretation of those results and their relevance to the context of the subject area.

Almost all technical engineering reports follow this ‘storytelling’ format; the narrative being a logical and linear delivery of information about the work that was conducted, which has a beginning, middle and end.

The scene is set at the start, followed by the story of what happened. The ending provides the author with the opportunity to consider the impact and significance of what has happened and to consider, “what’s next?”. There are also a number of sections that appear after the report to provide extra information for the reader.

Over time, standard sections and conventions have become established to present and organise information contained within these documents.

Readers of technical engineering reports have come to expect certain information in these sections, so for the sake of clearly communicating the work, it is important to use these sections correctly.

On the next step, we’ll define what these sections are and look at the content, style and presentation that each requires.

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This article is from the free online course:

Technical Report Writing for Engineers

The University of Sheffield