Technical Report Writing

 

The things one gleans…

Having lectured on this topic for 20 years, since I first designed the prototype in conjunction with the CSIR in 2001, that fateful year, I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of engineers, town planners, QS experts, architects, even scientists.
When one has worked so extensively with so many knowledgeable people, it’s as if the essential lessons are distilled to the basics, the minimum. It’s as if things get simpler, not more complex.
After putting thousands through formulating purpose statements, body models, mind maps, brainstorms and executive summaries, I can say a few of those simple things, inter alia.

TRY TO DISTILL YOUR PURPOSE STATEMENT INTO ONE SENTENCE
It can be more, of course, but the simpler the better. This isn’t going to be the simplest of your sentences, but the extent to which you can distill this argument into one sentence, the better for you.
INCLUDE A CONCEPTUAL VERB
Something like “analyze”, “evaluate”, “investigate”. This gives the reader a clear insight into what it is your report is doing. In addition, as to whether is a DESCRIPTIVE report or a PRESCRIPTIVE report.
THERE MUST BE AN HYPOTHESIS
Somewhere in your purpose statement there is, implicitly, hypothesis. Perhaps more than one, but that’s fine. “Fish Eagles in Richard’s Bay” says nothing. “An investigation into declining populations of Fish Eagles in Richard’s Bay as a result of industry environmental impacts” already sets the reader up for possible conclusions. Possibly encroachment of habitat. Possibly pollutants. Probably both. Let’s read on.
PROBLEMATIZE
I know this sounds negative, but I can’t remember how many delegates have had the problem of their REPORT BODY MODEL solved when I say… “problematize your issue.” So, when “An investigation into power supply for waste disposal…” is problematized, we have a structure for the report body. Problem/Cause/Solution. From there on it is plain sailing.
KEEP YOUR EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE
The biggest challenge of an executive summary is not what you put in; it’s what you leave out. Selectivity is the key practice here. One sentence purpose statement. A couple from the history or background. A need or two. Definitely scope. But, keep it to a minimum.

That’s it for now. There will be more gleanings….

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