For obvious reasons, the reader will first read the title page and abstract. Therefore, it is imperative that the abstract be clear and well written. It should tease the reader into looking further into the paper. The conclusion is often the next section to be read. All valuable readers, politically speaking, will jump directly to the conclusion making it important to provide a table of contents to ease document navigation. If the conclusion, relative to the title page, sounds interesting and conclusive they will read the other sections to learn more.
The introduction is read next. It should provide the reader with enough information about how the report progresses so that the reader can pick and choose which sections are most applicable to their interests. Based on this, some or all of the subsequent sections may be read, but the Results & Discussion section is likely to be most important to majority of readers such that readers may skip over sections to go right to results!
In light of understanding how a technical report is read, there are several general guidelines to consider:
- A professional looking and well-organized document sets the tone for the reader.
- If acronyms are used, describe them first then include the acronym in parenthesis, i.e. Digital Multimeter (DMM). Do not use acronyms in the abstract and conclusion sections.
- DO NOT be judgmental in your writing; “I felt that …”, “the results were great …”, etc. Present the work clearly and validate the work with data accompanied by meaningful discussion.
- Give your report to someone to proofread. Note where they had questions or couldn’t understand your discussion. Then see if you can improve how that information is presented.
- Remember that the reader can’t understand what you are “thinking”. Know your audience and write your report for that audience. Ask questions of the person(s) who assigned the work to you if you are unsure of the comfort level of the identified audience with the material as that will establish the level of detail required in the content.
- Write your reports independent of other reports. Referring to a “Lab 3 Part 1” does not mean anything to a general audience. If the current work is based on prior work, then provide an overview of that work and include explicit citations.