Professional engineering reports identify a potential problem, outline a series of objectives in addressing that problem, and conclude with strong recommendations about how to solve that problem. Writing a professional engineering report requires you to understand how each section of the report operates with the others, who is likely to read each section of the report, and who is likely to merely skim certain sections.
Draft your executive summary. The purpose of the executive summary is to provide a bird’s eye view of the entirety of your report. When writing this section of your report, focus on the significant details of your project, particularly your results and your conclusions/recommendations. Write the executive summary as though it is going to be read quickly by someone who does not have enough time to read your entire report, but is still interested in knowing the salient details of the report.
Outline your objectives before starting the research and experimentation. Your objectives will be the very first component of your final report that you’ll write. In your objectives section, you will identify exactly what you hope to accomplish over the course of your research and experimentation. Present your objectives in "bullet" fashion, using clear and precise statements. For example: “Identify the structural deficiencies of the Miller’s Town bridge,” rather than “examine the Miller’s Town bridge.”
Develop a plan for accomplishing your objectives. This plan is your methodology. When writing your final report, you will describe in a step-by-step fashion the steps you took toward accomplishing your objectives. For example, you might write: “Take a field team of three industrial engineers and one architect to the Miller’s Town bridge” then “Conduct rigorous and thorough stress tests on the joists and support beams of Miller’s Town bridge” and finally “Build a scale model of the Miller’s Town bridge and subject it to appropriately scaled stress.” Writing your methodology section will take up a significant amount of time and space when completing your final report, approximately 30 to 40 percent of the final report.
Share the different observations and information you gathered when attempting to achieve your objectives. You should probably include various tables of data that you collected from your research and experimentation. You will also provide a clear description of this data. This is the “discussion” portion of the results and discussion section. Writing the results and discussion section will also take up a significant portion of your time and space when completing your final report, approximately 20 to 25 percent of the final report.
Offer conclusions and recommendations regarding the task on which your report focuses. For many readers, this section will be the most pertinent. For this reason, when writing this section, focus on brevity and precision. You want to employ similarly clear language as the language you used in your objectives section. For example, you might write, “Based on our findings, we strongly recommend demolishing the Miller’s Town bridge” or “Based on our observations, we recommend fortifying the buttresses on the western half of the Miller’s Town bridge.” The more specific your recommendations are, the less likely your readers will be to misinterpret them.
- Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (7th edition); Paul V. Anderson; 2010
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