Technical Report Writing
A technical report is a formal report designed to convey technical information in a clear and easily accessible format. It is divided into sections which allow different readers to access different levels of information. This guide explains the commonly accepted format for a technical report; explains the purposes of the individual sections; and gives hints on how to go about drafting and refining a report in order to produce an accurate, professional document.
Structure of the Report
- Title Page – Must include the title of the report and other information related to submission of the report.
- Abstract – A summary of the whole report including important features, keywords.
- Contents – Numbers and lists all section and subsection headings with page numbers.
- Introduction – States the objectives of the report and comments on the way the topic of the report is to be treated.
- Body of the report – Divided into numbered and headed sections. These sections separate the different main ideas in a logical order.
- Conclusions – A short, logical summing up of the theme(s) developed in the main text.
- References – Details of published sources of material referred to or quoted in the text (including any lecture notes and URL addresses of any websites used.
- Bibliography – Other published sources of material, including websites, not referred to in the text but useful for background or further reading.
- Acknowledgements – List of people who helped you research or prepare the report, including your proofreaders.
- Appendices – Any further material which is essential for full understanding of your report (e.g. large scale diagrams, computer code, raw data, specifications) but not required by a casual reader.
Presentation of the Report
- Script – The report must be printed single sided on white A4 paper. Hand written or dot-matrix printed reports are not acceptable.
- Margins – All four margins must be at least 2.54 cm.
- Page numbers – Do not number the title, summary or contents pages. Number all other pages consecutively starting at 1.
- Binding – A single staple in the top left corner or 3 staples spaced down the left hand margin. For longer reports (e.g. year 3 project report) binders may be used.
Before preparing the report, collect all the required information. Various sources to collect information include laboratory handouts and lecture notes, the University Library, the reference books and journals in the Department office. Keep an accurate record of all the published references which you intend to use in your report, by noting down the following information:
title of article
name of journal (italic or underlined)
year of publication
volume number (bold)
issue number, if provided (in brackets)
title of book (italic or underlined)
edition, if appropriate
year of publication
Diagram, Graphs, Tables and Mathematics in the Report
It is often the case that technical information is most concisely and clearly conveyed by means other than words. Imagine how you would describe an electrical circuit layout using words rather than a circuit diagram. Here are some simple guidelines:
- Diagrams – Keep them simple. Draw them specifically for the report.
- Tables and Graphs – Is a table or graph the best way to present your information? Dependent tables or graphs can be placed within the text, even as part of a sentence. Independent one are separated from the text with numbers and captions.
- Mathematics – Only use mathematics where it is the most efficient way to convey the information.
Layout of the Report
The appearance of a report is no less important than its content. An attractive, clearly organised report stands a better chance of being read. Use a standard, 12pt, font, such as Times New Roman, for the main text. Use different font sizes, bold, italic and underline where appropriate but not to excess. Too many changes of type style can look very fussy.
Headings in the Report
Use heading and sub-headings to break up the text and to guide the reader. They should be based on the logical sequence which you identified at the planning stage but with enough sub-headings to break up the material into manageable chunks. The use of numbering and type size and style can clarify the structure.
Originality and Plagiarism
You should indicate text with a number which refers to an item in the list of references, if you make use of facts or ideas of someone. Material which is not reproduced should be referenced by a number. Information that is not referenced is assumed to be either common knowledge or your own work or ideas; if it is not, then it is assumed to be plagiarized i.e. you have knowingly copied someone else’s words, facts or ideas without reference, passing them off as your own. This is a serious offence. If the person copied from is a fellow student, then this offence is known as collusion and is equally serious. Examination boards can, and do, impose penalties for these offences ranging from loss of marks to disqualification from the award of a degree. This warning applies equally to information obtained from the Internet. It is very easy for markers to identify words and images that have been copied directly from web sites.
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