What Is a Technical Report?

A technical report is a formal document that details the results of a study through in-depth experimental information, data, and results. These are often written to address a specific research need without having to undergo the stress that comes with long production schedules of academic journals. The report may cover subjects in the fields of physical sciences, engineering, agriculture, and education, among others. Many commercial companies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies sponsor these researches for the benefit of their respective areas of study. Authors may choose to issue the technical report in a print or digital format, depending on their objectives and means of distribution.

The Parts of a Technical Report

Have you ever written a technical report before? Or something close to it? Carnegie Mellon University emphasizes the Chronicle of Higher Education’s claims that 61% of high school teachers mentor students who have never written a paper that was more than five pages in length. Unlike academic reports made in school, technical reports tackle complex subject matters that require extensive research and careful analysis to complete. Each page of the report contains vital information about the topic that readers may find useful for their own study.

A technical report generally comprises of the following parts:

Cover Page: Here you can find the title of the report, the logo of your organization (if you have one), the names of the author(s), the date it is written, and other necessary information that might be useful. The cover page allows you to formally introduce yourself and your research to an audience without providing much details on what it is about. Abstract: When people don’t have the time to read through the entire document, the abstract can offer them a quick overview of what the report is about. It is usually a one-page summary of the discussion that identifies the problem statement, the methods used, the means of obtaining the data, the significant results, and the conclusion. It aims to capture a person’s interest and encourage further reading.Table of Contents: Reports that are more than ten pages typically require a table of contents to guide readers. Page numbers of each section are indicated in this part of the document to help readers quickly locate the necessary information. Introduction: You can find background information about the report in this part of the document. It contains a brief description of the subject, the approach taken, and the procedure used to solve the problem. It also highlights the aims of the research to the reader so that one may understand your purpose for writing.Development: This section defines the conceptual design, methods, procedures, techniques, analysis, and project plan of the study. It is a crucial part of the report that explains the specifics of the project for future researchers to refer to. Think of it as a longer version of a lab report. A detailed look into the process also makes it easy for readers to understand how results were garnered at a later part of the experiment. Discussion: To understand the data obtained from the survey, experiment, or test, findings and other vital issues related to the subject are thoroughly discussed in this part of the report. It must be informative enough to educate readers on the topic based on factual data acquired.Conclusion: Those who go straight to the abstract of your report are the same individuals who will find value in your conclusion. This specifies the significance and weaknesses of the work and provides suggestions that may be considered for future works on the topic.References: Be sure to credit the books, Internet sources, journals, reports, articles, and other papers used as references for your report in this part of the document. Only do this if you’ve cited references somewhere in your report to help support your data and prove its credibility.Appendices: Other tables and figures, drawings, research questionnaires, survey results, and drawings mentioned in the body of your report yet do not play a primary significance can be gathered and put into an appendix. These are usually attached to the end of the report for additional reference.

50+ Technical Report Examples, Templates, Format in Word, PDF

How to Write a Technical Report

About three-quarters of both 8th and 12th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to The New York Times. This is an alarming fact that we must take seriously, as it isn’t long until these individuals begin writing critical documents for business or scientific researches in their chosen fields. Technical documents play a key role in business communication, so knowing how to write a report for any professional purpose is not something you should neglect practicing.

Step 1: Establish the Message You Want to Convey

After conducting your research and collecting your data, it’s time to begin writing your technical report. Always start your report by planning out the message you want to deliver. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a report for an academic or business purpose, as long as the plan is enough to keep you on the right track. Defining the problem or topic you want to address will also help you stay focused on the main message. Make sure you know who you are writing to and how the information you are about to deliver may be helpful to your audience in any way.

Step 2: Prepare an Outline

Technical reports are typically structured in a way that states facts and figures in an organized manner. It often comes with clearly labeled sections and numbered parts for easy reference. Thus, it only makes sense to draw up a report outline that will guide you through the major elements of the document. The outline of your report will help you determine which sections are valuable from those that you could do without. Once you have a general idea of what to write, the rest of the information to include in the report would flow naturally.

Step 3: Write the Main Body of the Report

The main body of the report, otherwise recognized as the “substance” of the entire document, lays out the problem of the matter being addressed, the steps to resolve it, and the results obtained from the entire procedure. Remember to clearly establish the primary goal of your report and its relevance in today’s age. Also, make it a point to describe what your data and findings all mean to your study. Your audience may have some knowledge about the topic, but that doesn’t mean they can comprehend your message the way you intend them to. It’s important to put your findings into a context that translates well with your defined readers.

Step 4: Add the Abstract

Although you can find the abstract on the first few pages of the technical report, this is typically written only after the rest of the document. It’s a mistake that some writers fail to acknowledge as they begin writing their reports. This part of the document must contain a more condensed overview of the report, which only covers the essentials for readers to take into account. This can often influence a person’s decision to continue reading the contents of the report for some useful information on the topic. Unless you’re left with a word limit to comply with, 300 words are enough to get your point across.

Step 5: Check for Specific Guidelines

While technical reports are standardized to a certain degree, the layout of the report may sometimes vary according to individual preferences and requirements. In some cases, these reports come with special instructions that authors must conform to in order to meet an absolute need. Be sure to check with your advisor, manager, client, or colleague to identify the specifics of its layout as a final review before printing.

The Dos and Don’ts of a Technical Report

Refining your technical writing skills is vital to minimize the risk of human error. Imagine making a technical report on a topic under medical sciences and failing to make your document clear enough for your target audience. With that said, it’s important to know what to emphasize and what not to write when creating a technical report. Listed below are some rules of thumb to consider when involved in technical documentation.

Dos

1. Do know your audience well. 

Get to know who your target audience is. The technical report aims to benefit those who read it, not you. Once you can define your audience, you’ll know exactly how to write the contents of your report for better communication. This pertains to the style of writing and other elements that influence a reader’s ability to comprehend a discussion. For instance, talking about certain algorithms in computer programming will leave people of the older generations in a state of confusion. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the basics of programming will interpret terms like “pseudocode” and “bugs” differently than those with a general understanding of the topic.

2. Do use simple, everyday language. 

Avoiding technical jargon might seem impossible given how the report you are writing drips with technicalities. However, you can still talk about the specifics of a subject as long as you choose your words carefully. The report must be clear, direct, and neutral in a possible sense. You can also have someone from your target group review the document to make sure it meets their needs. If there are words or concepts that are difficult to grasp, you may have to look for a different way to get your points across. Don’t worry too much about revising the report more than a couple of times, as revisions are meant to improve the way your report delivers its message.

3. Do pay attention to its structure. 

Readability should remain a priority in any form of writing. You don’t want to make it hard for people to digest the information you are about to give them, especially for larger documents such as manuals and handbooks. To help simplify a reader’s experience, make sure to use headings, bullet points, and a table of contents to break down chunks of text into manageable sections. That way, people no longer have to skim through the entire document to locate the information they are looking for. It’s also a way of encouraging an effortless reading experience for better comprehension.

4. Do make sentences as short as possible. 

The report serves as a summary of a broader topic that will help readers focus on the points that matter. Thus, sentences should be kept short and straightforward to avoid any misunderstandings. Take out words, phrases, or sentences that play no significance to your main point. You need to give your readers enough time to think and ponder on an idea before moving forward to the next concept. By doing so, readers can associate one idea with another and learn something valuable from what they’re reading.

5. Do reference tables and figures.

Using tables and figures to interpret data in a visual form is an efficient method of communicating information. You can take this approach to help summarize your content and make it easy for your audience to understand. Make sure to label your tables and figures appropriately to minimize confusion. You can insert a brief explanation for the data covered in the body of your text.

Don’ts

1. Don’t expect prior knowledge. 

Don’t assume that readers already know a thing or two about your topic. This is a common pitfall among writers who believe that their reports would make complete sense to their target audience. You might have a few readers who possess basic knowledge on the subject, but there’s no point in going deeper into a topic if the majority don’t even know the backstory of the matter at hand. This can be especially complicated for scientific reports that are based on the theories and principles of a study. Hence, you have to be considerate about the type of information you share and the manner of delivery.

2. Don’t repeat anything. 

Although repeating your words can sometimes add gravity to a fact or opinion, it isn’t exactly the case with a technical report. Not only does it lengthen your content, but it also dulls the reader and leaves an impression of laziness on your part. Repetition of facts may confuse readers, especially if you rephrase poorly for the sake of making these details seem new. There’s no reason to repeat something if you’ve already made it perfectly clear the first time around. The same goes for data presented in a table or figure.

3. Don’t ignore the proper use of punctuation marks. 

Punctuation marks help improve one’s reading experience by setting the tone of your report accordingly. It’s important to know when to use commas, semicolons, and colons to separate ideas and introduce a new concept. Knowing which one to use can also help a reader understand what you are trying to convey in each statement. If you aren’t too familiar with its proper usage, you might want to revisit your old English textbooks for a quick refresher.

4. Don’t cite a paper you haven’t read. 

Why reference a journal, article, or book you have never even read before? If you want to cite some useful resources to support your claims, you need to make sure you’ve read and understood the materials before referencing it in your report. This will help you identify the relevance of the borrowed data to the procedures and findings of your own research. The credibility of these sources must be verified for your integrity as well.

5. Don’t miss the chance to review the document.

This is one of the most crucial steps in technical writing that must never be taken for granted. Any typos in numbering and labeling can already take a toll on the document’s readability. It’s even worse when you fail to correct these mistakes before publishing the report or submitting it to the recipient. Take the time to review and revise your report to free it from all types of errors in terms of structure, format, and content.

Well-written reports allow readers to quickly understand what the researcher was capable of accomplishing through a particular procedure. Investing some time in enhancing your technical report writing skills is essential for the effective delivery of a message. It might seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll learn to write the report as effortlessly as you possibly could. So, refine your writing skills today with the help of the steps and guidelines provided.