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204: Technical Communication for Engineers

Engineering report writing


Handout #1:
How to structure an engineering report
Table of Contents
1. Learning outcomes of this section of the module1
2. Why do you need to be competent in this area?....................................................................1
3. When will you need this information?...................................................................1
4. What can you expect to learn from this section of the module?...........................................1
5. How do you do this?..................................................................................................................1
6. A report on experimental work (a laboratory report; a Part 4 project report)2
7. Structure for complicated report on experimental work (e.g. a Part 4 project report)...2
8. A general structure acceptable for most engineering documents3
9. Requirements for practical work reports and design reports..3
Appendix A: Table of Contents from Part 4 report, to illustrate structuring..4
The material in ENGGEN 204 gives you the basics of what is needed. For more detailed material, see the
following books:
1. Silyn-Roberts, H. (2002) Writing for Science: a Practical Handbook for Science, Engineering and
Technology Students. 2
nd
edition. Pearson Education, Auckland.
Written for undergraduates. Many copies on short loan in Engineering library.
2. Silyn-Roberts, H. (2000) Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports.
Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.
Written for postgraduate students and junior professional engineers and scientists: greater scope
and more detail than (1). In Engineering Library.
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1. Learning outcomes of this section of the module
To structure a report according to the accepted engineering conventions and expectations:
1. An acceptable structure for report on experimental work (laboratory report; Part 4 project report)
2. A general structure that is acceptable for all engineering documents (progress reports; proposals;
field trip reports; investigative reports that are reporting work that is not experimental; and many
others.
2. Why do you need to be competent in this area?
Engineering reports cannot be written as a brain dump. The Faculty of Engineering and the engineering
profession need them to be clearly structured and clearly and concisely worded.
Youll need to structure them according to the specific conventions of engineering documentation. This handout
will show you how to fit the information that you need to convey into an acceptable structure for a report.
3. When will you need this information?
1. In your BE, you will be required to write various types of reports: for instance, short lab reports,
your Part 4 project report, practical work reports, management reports, and others.
2. Finding a job. Employers place great emphasis on competency in report writing. If you can show
them evidence of your competency (e.g. your Part 4 project report), you will have an advantage.
3. As a professional engineer, youll spend a substantial part of your time writing up the results of
your work and that of your colleagues. Youll be aiming these reports at clients, potential clients,
other engineers, local government and other recipients. The organisation that you work for will
expect these reports (1) to be written according to the conventions; and (2) to give that
organisation a competitive advantage.
4. What can you expect to learn from this handout?
1. An acceptable structure for report on experimental work (laboratory report; Part 4 project report)
2. A general structure that is acceptable for all engineering documents: progress reports; proposals; field
trip reports; investigative reports that are reporting work that is not experimental; and many others.
5. How do you do this?
A good engineering report needs to tell the story of your investigation, or proposal, or whatever the type of
your report. The conventions are that it should tell that story by having the following basic overall
structure:
1. An explanatory title, to give the reader immediate access to the subject matter.
2. A form of summary (either an Abstract, Summary, or an Executive Summary): to give an
overview of the important points of the whole report.
3. An Introduction: to explain the background and context of the work.
4. Various middle sections to describe the subject matter; these will vary according to the type of
report youre writing. You choose the headings for these.
NOTE: there is no such heading as Middle Section!
5. Some form of Discussion; to discuss what your work means.
6. A Conclusions section: to present the conclusions you have drawn from that material in the report.
Longer, more complex reports will also have additional sections.
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What were going to do in this section
1. Well look at structures for:
a) A report on experimental work (a laboratory report; a Part 4 project report).
b) Practical work reports and design reports.
2. Well propose a general structure acceptable for most engineering documents.
For the requirements for the various individual sections of a report, see Handout #2
6. A report on experimental work (a laboratory report, Part 4 project report)
This type of report describes experimental work that you have done, either as a lab exercise (written up as a
short lab report), or as an original piece of research (e.g. a lengthy Part 4 project report). There is a
standard structure for such a report.
Aims of a report on experimental work
To describe your experimental work in sufficient detail for it to be repeat ed and verified by
others.
To draw conclusions from your data and findings.
To place those conclusions in the context of related work in the area.
Structure for a simple lab
report
1. Title.
2. Abstract (may not be asked for in some lab reports).
3. Introduction.
4. Methods (or Experimental Procedures).
5. Results.
6. Discussion.
7. Conclusions (some departments may want you to include your conclusions in the Discussion.
In this module we will have a separate section for them).
7. Structure for a more complicated report on experimental work (some
Part 4 project reports)
This type of report will also follow the basic structural plan of a lab report, but may have a more complex
structure of headings. But you still need to work within the framework of first describing your methods,
then presenting your results, then discussing them, and finally presenting your conclusions.
Always include an Abstract.
a. Title page.
b. Abstract.
c. Contents page.
d. Introduction.
e. Literature review.
f. Middle part, with section headings relevant to your project work (NOTE: dont use
Middle sections as a section heading).
Choose a set of headings appropriate to your research work, but always follow the
scheme of, first a description of your methods and then following with a description of
your results.
g. Discussion.
h. Conclusions.
i. Acknowledgements.
j. List of References.
k. Appendices.
See Appendix A: Table of Contents from Part 4 report, to illustrate structuring of a complex report
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8. A general structure acceptable for most engineering documents
For example: progress reports; proposals; field trip reports; investigative reports that are reporting work
that is not experimental; and many others.
The skeleton of possible sections of a generalised report (other than a design report or a practical
work report).
1. Title Page (necessary).
2. Executive Summary (necessary).
3. Aim (not necessary but recommended if appropriate).
4. Table of Contents (not necessary if report very small but recommended).
5. List of Illustrations (if you have a small number of illustrations; simply list them at the end of
the Contents Page). Also tables of tables if required.
6.
Glossary of Terms (not necessary but recommended).
7.
Background or Introduction (necessary).
The middle part of your report, with appropriate section headings
8. Conclusions (necessary).
9. Recommendations (if needed).
10. Acknowledgements.
11. List of References (necessary if using text citations).
12. Appendices.
9. Requirements for practical work reports and design reports
9.1 Practical work reports
Purpose: to describe the activities of the organisation and the work you did within it.
See the Faculty of Engineering Handbook for the current years requirements for a practical work
report.
9.2 Design reports
Purpose: to communicate your solution to a design problem.
There is no single structure that is suitable for a design report. Follow the instructions for that particular
assignment. Different departments may have different requirements.
Appendix A: Table of Contents from Part 4 report, to illustrate structuring
1.0 Brief
introduction
2.0 Brief
objectives and
description of
methodology
3.0 Literature
review
4.0 Analysis of
problem
5.0 Methods:
initial testing
TO NOTE:
1. Logical structure
that follows basic
scheme of
experimental report.
2. Methods has
been split into three
separate sections:
5.0, 6.0 and 7.0
3. Results section
has been combined
with Discussion
section: very good
thing to do.
4. Conclusions
section has been
combined with
Recommendations
section: very good
thing to do.
6.0 Methods:
development of
alternatives
7.0 Methods:
Final testing
8.0 Results and
discussion of
the results
9.0 Conculsions &
Recommendations
10.0 Further
work that needs
to be done
References:
List of all
source material
cited in text of
report
Appendices; each
numbered and
titled
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