PREPARATION OF TECHNICAL REPORTS
no good engineer
has ever been fired simply because he was
a poor report writer. Far too often, however, good engineers have
missed out on promotions and other rewards because their poorly
written reports did not do justice to their technical achievements.
Unless you can communicate effectively to others the information
and knowledge you have gained through experimentation, much of the
value of your work will be lost. Writing is one of the higher forms
of human endeavors. Your writing can be expected to serve as a
source of reference to others. Your future employer will be
entitled to a written record of what you have been paid to do.
Writing is invaluable assistance in the organization of your
thoughts for future efforts. The activity of reporting, therefore,
is an important part of your work, laborious as the job often
The specific content of your report will depend somewhat upon
it was written and for whom; i.e., journal (which), patent people,
supervisor, administration, contractor. The format presented here
is the formal final report format which is usually followed because
it presents the material in a logical order. You must have very
good reasons for using a different form. Recognize the other forms,
however, which are based on other objectives than project summary.
Occasionally, the requestor of the report wishes at that time only
a summary of results or progress and not much on the details. The
letter to the editor form is an abbreviated version of the
following to serve the purpose of rapid communication. Examples of
the reporting we are trying to develop here will be found in any of
the technical journals such as PHOTOGRAPHIC SCIENCE AND
ENGINEERING, the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAL CHEMICAL SOCIETY or
A technical report should be written in correct,
language with due attention to clarity, completness and
conciseness, grammar, diction, spelling, punctuation and style. It
is well to have your report reviewed by a competent writer before
handing it in--not with the idea of having someone do the job for
you (which you won't have in industry) but to learn from the
I. REPORT FORMAT
The major sections of reports are: abstract, introduction,
experimental, results, discussion, conclusion, acknowledgement,
references and appendix. Sub-headings are a distinct aid to the
reader. Use them to assist the flow of your report.
The covers will follow a standard format, prescribed for easy
reference and filing. Place the experiment number, course number
and the date the report is submitted in the upper right corner.
Place the title of the report about ten spaces above your name in
the center of the page.
The title may be the title of an experiment. In any case, it
be chosen carefully in order to convey immediately, accurately and
as completely as possible, the subject matter of the report.
A short statement of the purpose of the work, the pertinent
conditions, and the results in brief. Since this is a concise
summary, it should be the last part written. It is designed for the
reader's quick appraisal of the nature of your report. Remember--
the abstract may be the only part of your report read so it must
tell what you did, how, for what purpose and with what results in
consise, yet meaningful statements. Abstracts are usually done in
one paragraph. When they are only three or four sentences, stick
Statements of proposed additional work are not appropriate for
This is often called "Objectives", and the statement of
is the most important function of this section. This comprises the
problems which the experimentation was designed to answer. The
objectives need to be exactly and clearly stated. The justification
for performing the investigation should be here also. This often
takes the form of a brief historical reviewof the problem.
Make this sufficiently clear and complete so that another
could repeat the work. A standard procedure or standard apparatus
need not be more than mentioned. Describe, however, any deviations
from standard procedure. Do not list equipment and chemicals used.
It may be important for subsequent work to list the serial or
property number of the specific instrument or lot number of a
chemical reagent used. Under no circumstance transcribe the lab
instructions. Indicate calculations also, the approaches used in
treating the data, e.g., definitions of sensitometric and image
Include raw data and calculated values, visual observations,
(Raw data that are extensive, such as density measurements, can
remain in the notebook. If, however, the author feels they are
essential to the report, he may include them in the appendix or
simply reference them to a notebook if the report distribution is
Great pains need to be taken in the presentation of this
Place tabulated data and calculated results in tables wherever
possible; use overlay on graphs, place families of curves on the
same page to make comparisons easy; illustrations, graphs and
tables can eliminate the need for pages of description. Sample
calculations belong in the appendix.
Complex coding of sample should be avoided in the final
Readers won't bother to leaf through pages of report to try to
figure out what sample 6-d-1 or 4-b-8 is. On plots, in tables and
in discussion, it is better to describe the sample. If this is not
possible, put in a table of sample numbers and descriptors so that
the reader may be able to turn to one place to break your code. Be sure
also that your results are presented in logical order so
that the reader will not have to look back and forth in this
section to find it intelligible.
IMPORTANT POINT: you want the reader to be induced to read
report, not somebody else's. Make it as easy for him as possible.
The entire experiment and report to this point has been
toward collection of material for this section.
This section should discuss the significance of what you have
Do not simply put into words what you got for results. Analyze!
Make quantitative comparisons of the data in view of what you know.
Build a case for your conclusions. Speculate if you don't know
anything. What seems reasonable to you. Discuss the merit of the
whole experiment as a means of obtaining the information you were
after. What is the validity of the data. Above all, be
The conclusion is the statements of fact which are inferred
your experiment results. In a successful experiment, the conclusion
is the answer to the problem stated in the objectives.
There are three approaches to the conclusion section: 1) It may
stand alone as indicated here. 2) At times, it is impossible,
awkward or tedious to set it as a separate section when it fits
better into the discussion. In this case, the two sections become
one under the title "Conclusion". 3) Placing the conclusions in
tabular form at the front of the report after the abstract is
becoming very common in government and company reports. This
presumable gives the reader the main thing he is looking for from
the onset of his reading.
Credit persons other than the author or authors who have made
substantial contributions to the success of your work, such as
through discussions with you, loan of equipment, computations, a
small experiment or some other service.
Practice is not entirely uniform but the following samples of
different references are preferred. Each journal or company will
convert your work to its practice. Mees and James contains 2689
references and practically every situation is covered there
1. C.K.E. Mees and T.H. James, THE THEORY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC
PROCESS, 3rd Ed., Macmillan Co., New York, 1966
2. J.R. Manhardt and D.J. Forst, "The Albert Effect: I.Dual
Mechanism", PHOTO. SCI. ENG., 8, 265 (1964)
3. Kodak Publication J-1, "Processing Chemicals and Formulas
Black and White Photography", 1963
4. R. Francis, personal communication.
5. G. Achilli, Laboratory Report for R.I.T. Course 41-101,
Experiment 5a, "Omission of an Ingredient from a Developer", Fall 1969
Information relevant to the report, but of a supplementary
is presented. This might include such things as:
a) sample calculations.
b) detailed and involved diagrams of equipment, supplemental testing
c) long tables of data.
d) supplemental discussion such as a vaguely related application of the
K. Recommendations for Future
These are part of your conclusions and belong in that section.