Engineering students in a study space at The University of Sheffield

Know your audience

Technical reports should be as concise and effective as possible, without unnecessary detail. To make sure you have an appropriate level of complexity and explanation in your report, you should tailor each report you write to your expected audience.

You need to consider:

  • Who are you writing the report for?
  • How much will they already understand about the subject?
  • What will they want to know about your work?

Think about your audience not as a single person but as a level of knowledge. Sometimes it’s helpful to think about the reader as someone just below your position (e.g. in the year below you) and to position your explanations at that level.

If you assume that the reader is your boss, supervisor, tutor or module leader, you’ll be in danger of not fully explaining the context because you assume they will know it already.

Your report should demonstrate your knowledge on a subject and be able to stand alone. Never assume that the reader has been to the same lectures that you’ve attended or completed the same project that you have.

Discussion

Think about the audience for your last (or next) report. What key bits of knowledge would they need to understand your report?

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This article is from the free online course:

Technical Report Writing for Engineers

The University of Sheffield