Save Money, Time & Energy by Learning to write a good Technical Report

Prof. Goodwill Ofunne

Introduction

Technical report writing is the presentation of documented information that helps
the reader solve a particular problem and is also a means of communicating useful
information from the results of investigations or research to others, possibly at a
later date.

A technical report also called a scientific report , is a document that describes the
process, progress, or results of technical investigations, surveys or scientific
research or the state of a technical investigation, survey or scientific research
problem. The report generally includes conclusions of the investigation or research
and recommendations for strategic decisions.

Consequently, the process of gathering figures, data, and information from
investigations, research, surveys, interpreting and documenting them in a clear,
logical, easily understandable form to make recommendations to an audience, is
called Technical report writing.

Therefore the skill of Technical report writing should be an important part of
everyone’s career, especially for those whose job is to report on technical subjects
to an audience.

With the advent of the information age, decision-makers are increasingly asking
their staff to transform their data and information into actionable recommendations.
This requirement demands that people write technical reports to propose projects,
to document their actions, to help others understand the research or investigations
they have carried out, to analyze and solve problems, to describe procedures and
objects, to persuade its readers to accept the writer’s idea and to provide necessary
information for strategic decisions.
Consequently, Technical communicators must learn to write, eloquently, and be
able to collect and interpret investigation and survey data, and evaluate many other
kinds of professional documents and transform them into effective technical reports.

As a result, many individuals who write technical reports want to build integrity,
confidence, quality and be trusted to provide an accurate and unbiased analysis of
data and information in the document. More significantly, several technical report
writers face the challenge of documenting their findings because of the inherent
difficulties associated with data and information transformation into
recommendations and strategic decisions.

An effective technical report writing learning and training platform are therefore
required to focus on the unique needs of technical report writing professionals who
write for both technical and non-technical audiences. Technical report writing
professionals can use their technical knowledge and logical edge to write in a
reader-friendly, grammatically accurate manner and persuasively communicate with
their audience.

The purpose of this article is to completely demystify technical report writing, and
show intending professionals that when the right procedure is followed and skills
are acquired it can be done easily by any committed individual.


Figure:1.0 Summary of the process of technical report writing.

What Is Involved In Writing A Technical Report
Worldwide the mechanics and format of writing a report vary, but the results are the
same as a good technical report communicates correct and accurate information
and recommendations. Technical report writing skills do not only include guidelines
for producing a well-written technical report but also many other important aspects
and key skills to discover as we grow in expertise. They typically reflect the
understanding of the distinct sections in the stages of the investigation, survey or
research process and their interrelationships, which should not be reported in the
sequence they were performed.

However, no amount of skill in writing can disguise an investigation, survey or
research that is poorly designed or managed. Indeed such a defect is a major
cause of poor technical reports. Before committing to writing a technical report it is
important to critically review the design and justification for the study and
investigation, its correctness, accuracy, and usefulness to the problem. No matter
how well written, a technical report that reflects poor methods is a waste of money,
energy and time to the organization or client.

The key to a well-written report is the organization of the report. A report that is
divided into several sections, occurring in a logical sequence, makes it easy for the
reader to quickly obtain an overview of the contents, as well as locate specific
information. A typical sequence of content in technical report writing that bring out
the meaning of the investigation is as follows:

● Introduction: Development of the problem under investigation and
statement of the purpose of the investigation
Method: Description of approach and method used to conduct the
investigation or study.
Results: Report of the tests, survey, figures, data, information observation
and information gathered from the investigation.
Discussion: The interpretation and discussion of the implications of the
results of the investigation.
● Conclusions and Recommendations: A review of what the investigation or
study achieved and what should be done with the implications of the
findings.

Also, it is important to use a checklist to assess the quality of content and decide if
the problem in the investigation, survey or research has been addressed.
Therefore, the writer must answer the following questions and be satisfied with the
results to proceed with the writing:

  • Is the investigation question significant and important to the organization?
  • Have the investigation approach and method been demonstrated to have
    satisfactory reliability and validity?
  • Are the outcome measures related to the variables with which the
    investigation is concerned?
  • Does the investigation, survey or scientific study design fully and
    unambiguously test the hypothesis?
  • Is the subject’s representative of the population to which generalizations are
    made?
  • Did the study team observe ethical standards in the treatment of the
    procedures and test methods, figures and data generated?
  • Is the investigation complete and at a stage that requires meaningful
    derivation of information from the results?

Further to the above questions, six basic generic properties of a good and effective
Technical report must be considered, and these are :

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Accuracy of figures, data, and information
  • The comprehensiveness of population investigated and subject
    representation of reality,
  • Accessibility of documentation process used
  • Conciseness of the technical report, and
  • The correctness of approach to the investigation.

By following the above format, a professional technical report writer will quickly
write and transform accurate technical data and information into recommendations
to meet stipulated deadlines and strategic goals. The significance of meeting
deadlines is to avoid any unnecessary delays and save costs. Similarly, the writer
who uses the above format helps the understanding of how technical reports should
be structured by applying a systematic approach to the writing task, which involves
planning, drafting, revision, and production. This systematic approach will ensure
that the report has a good structure and flow which will make it easier for the
readers to comprehend. The concise structure recommended above enables the
professional technical report writer to use clear and powerful language to target and
persuade readers for positive results, as we know language plays an important role
in persuasiveness. Robustly enhancing the report by having the right choice of
words and command of the language, makes the report more convincing to those
who read it.

Another important and significant step in writing a technical report is the use of tried
and tested proofreading techniques to check and review documents more
effectively. Before submitting or printing a technical or research report, it is very
important to carefully proofread it. Proofreading of the written material is the final
step that must be done before a document can be considered complete.
It is always a wise decision from the aforementioned issues to first identify and
avoid common pitfalls in technical report writing. Being able to identify those pitfalls
in the first place would be the first step to avoiding them. A report will of course
never be perfect, but these are the ways to improve accuracy.

The Qualities of a Good Technical Report
When a technical report is well written it is an engaging document to read and a
fulfilling experience to comprehend. Nevertheless, if it is poorly done, it is
time-wasting, frustrating to read, and even harmful to career development and the
project.
Overall, a good Technical report must convey a single meaning, accurate data and
information, presented in plain language that the reader can understand. It must
possess a vital communication link between the various readers and the entire
project, research, survey, and investigation. On the other hand, unclear technical
reports are expensive, increasing the execution and operating costs and can render
the project unsustainable.
A well-written report allows the reader to quickly understand what has been
accomplished. The report also provides sufficient detail to allow the reader to
recreate the results although the level of detail provided, which may depend heavily
on the report’s audience and any proprietary nature of the work. A technical report
must therefore fully inform the readers of the reasons, means, results, and
conclusions of the subject matter being reported.

Conclusions
In this most trying of times, an adage says “time is money”. Time away from work,
time spent in soft skills training, time spent explaining unclear technical writing,
rewriting and clearing up misunderstandings in poorly written reports, and
correcting damaging mistakes caused by these misunderstandings cost the
organization time, energy and money. Therefore, investing time in understanding
the practical skills required for writing a good technical report will save professionals
and organizations lots of time, energy and money, when being tasked to write a
technical report.

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