technical research report writing

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Guide to Technical Report Writing

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technical research report writing

Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 structure, 3 presentation, 4 planning the report, 5 writing the first draft, 6 revising the first draft, 7 diagrams, graphs, tables and mathematics, 8 the report layout, 10 references to diagrams, graphs, tables and equations, 11 originality and plagiarism, 12 finalising the report and proofreading, 13 the summary, 14 proofreading, 15 word processing / desktop publishing, 16 recommended reading.

A technical report is a formal report designed to convey technical information in a clear and easily accessible format. It is divided into sections which allow different readers to access different levels of information. This guide explains the commonly accepted format for a technical report; explains the purposes of the individual sections; and gives hints on how to go about drafting and refining a report in order to produce an accurate, professional document.

A technical report should contain the following sections;

For technical reports required as part of an assessment, the following presentation guidelines are recommended;

There are some excellent textbooks contain advice about the writing process and how to begin (see Section 16 ). Here is a checklist of the main stages;

  • Collect your information. Sources include laboratory handouts and lecture notes, the University Library, the reference books and journals in the Department office. Keep an accurate record of all the published references which you intend to use in your report, by noting down the following information; Journal article: author(s) title of article name of journal (italic or underlined) year of publication volume number (bold) issue number, if provided (in brackets) page numbers Book: author(s) title of book (italic or underlined) edition, if appropriate publisher year of publication N.B. the listing of recommended textbooks in section 2 contains all this information in the correct format.
  • Creative phase of planning. Write down topics and ideas from your researched material in random order. Next arrange them into logical groups. Keep note of topics that do not fit into groups in case they come in useful later. Put the groups into a logical sequence which covers the topic of your report.
  • Structuring the report. Using your logical sequence of grouped ideas, write out a rough outline of the report with headings and subheadings.

N.B. the listing of recommended textbooks in Section 16 contains all this information in the correct format.

Who is going to read the report? For coursework assignments, the readers might be fellow students and/or faculty markers. In professional contexts, the readers might be managers, clients, project team members. The answer will affect the content and technical level, and is a major consideration in the level of detail required in the introduction.

Begin writing with the main text, not the introduction. Follow your outline in terms of headings and subheadings. Let the ideas flow; do not worry at this stage about style, spelling or word processing. If you get stuck, go back to your outline plan and make more detailed preparatory notes to get the writing flowing again.

Make rough sketches of diagrams or graphs. Keep a numbered list of references as they are included in your writing and put any quoted material inside quotation marks (see Section 11 ).

Write the Conclusion next, followed by the Introduction. Do not write the Summary at this stage.

This is the stage at which your report will start to take shape as a professional, technical document. In revising what you have drafted you must bear in mind the following, important principle;

  • the essence of a successful technical report lies in how accurately and concisely it conveys the intended information to the intended readership.

During year 1, term 1 you will be learning how to write formal English for technical communication. This includes examples of the most common pitfalls in the use of English and how to avoid them. Use what you learn and the recommended books to guide you. Most importantly, when you read through what you have written, you must ask yourself these questions;

  • Does that sentence/paragraph/section say what I want and mean it to say? If not, write it in a different way.
  • Are there any words/sentences/paragraphs which could be removed without affecting the information which I am trying to convey? If so, remove them.

It is often the case that technical information is most concisely and clearly conveyed by means other than words. Imagine how you would describe an electrical circuit layout using words rather than a circuit diagram. Here are some simple guidelines;

The appearance of a report is no less important than its content. An attractive, clearly organised report stands a better chance of being read. Use a standard, 12pt, font, such as Times New Roman, for the main text. Use different font sizes, bold, italic and underline where appropriate but not to excess. Too many changes of type style can look very fussy.

Use heading and sub-headings to break up the text and to guide the reader. They should be based on the logical sequence which you identified at the planning stage but with enough sub-headings to break up the material into manageable chunks. The use of numbering and type size and style can clarify the structure as follows;

  • In the main text you must always refer to any diagram, graph or table which you use.
  • Label diagrams and graphs as follows; Figure 1.2 Graph of energy output as a function of wave height. In this example, the second diagram in section 1 would be referred to by "...see figure 1.2..."
  • Label tables in a similar fashion; Table 3.1 Performance specifications of a range of commercially available GaAsFET devices In this example, the first table in section 3 might be referred to by "...with reference to the performance specifications provided in Table 3.1..."
  • Number equations as follows; F(dB) = 10*log 10 (F) (3.6) In this example, the sixth equation in section 3 might be referred to by "...noise figure in decibels as given by eqn (3.6)..."

Whenever you make use of other people's facts or ideas, you must indicate this in the text with a number which refers to an item in the list of references. Any phrases, sentences or paragraphs which are copied unaltered must be enclosed in quotation marks and referenced by a number. Material which is not reproduced unaltered should not be in quotation marks but must still be referenced. It is not sufficient to list the sources of information at the end of the report; you must indicate the sources of information individually within the report using the reference numbering system.

Information that is not referenced is assumed to be either common knowledge or your own work or ideas; if it is not, then it is assumed to be plagiarised i.e. you have knowingly copied someone else's words, facts or ideas without reference, passing them off as your own. This is a serious offence . If the person copied from is a fellow student, then this offence is known as collusion and is equally serious. Examination boards can, and do, impose penalties for these offences ranging from loss of marks to disqualification from the award of a degree

This warning applies equally to information obtained from the Internet. It is very easy for markers to identify words and images that have been copied directly from web sites. If you do this without acknowledging the source of your information and putting the words in quotation marks then your report will be sent to the Investigating Officer and you may be called before a disciplinary panel.

Your report should now be nearly complete with an introduction, main text in sections, conclusions, properly formatted references and bibliography and any appendices. Now you must add the page numbers, contents and title pages and write the summary.

The summary, with the title, should indicate the scope of the report and give the main results and conclusions. It must be intelligible without the rest of the report. Many people may read, and refer to, a report summary but only a few may read the full report, as often happens in a professional organisation.

  • Purpose - a short version of the report and a guide to the report.
  • Length - short, typically not more than 100-300 words
  • Content - provide information, not just a description of the report.

This refers to the checking of every aspect of a piece of written work from the content to the layout and is an absolutely necessary part of the writing process. You should acquire the habit of never sending or submitting any piece of written work, from email to course work, without at least one and preferably several processes of proofreading. In addition, it is not possible for you, as the author of a long piece of writing, to proofread accurately yourself; you are too familiar with what you have written and will not spot all the mistakes.

When you have finished your report, and before you staple it, you must check it very carefully yourself. You should then give it to someone else, e.g. one of your fellow students, to read carefully and check for any errors in content, style, structure and layout. You should record the name of this person in your acknowledgements.

Two useful tips;

  • Do not bother with style and formatting of a document until the penultimate or final draft.
  • Do not try to get graphics finalised until the text content is complete.
  • Davies J.W. Communication Skills - A Guide for Engineering and Applied Science Students (2nd ed., Prentice Hall, 2001)
  • van Emden J. Effective communication for Science and Technology (Palgrave 2001)
  • van Emden J. A Handbook of Writing for Engineers 2nd ed. (Macmillan 1998)
  • van Emden J. and Easteal J. Technical Writing and Speaking, an Introduction (McGraw-Hill 1996)
  • Pfeiffer W.S. Pocket Guide to Technical Writing (Prentice Hall 1998)
  • Eisenberg A. Effective Technical Communication (McGraw-Hill 1992)

Updated and revised by the Department of Engineering & Design, November 2022

School Office: School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Chichester 1 Room 002, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QJ [email protected] T 01273 (67) 8195 School Office opening hours: School Office open Monday – Friday 09:00-15:00, phone lines open Monday-Friday 09:00-17:00 School Office location [PDF 1.74MB]

Copyright © 2023, University of Sussex

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Technical report writing

A quick guide to writing technical reports in Engineering.

The main purpose of an Engineering technical report is to present a solution to a problem in order to prompt action. Technical reports provide a record of your developing expertise and are a legal record of your work and decision making.

What is a technical report?

Technical reports are a central part of your professional success and are usually designed to:

  • Convince the reader of your position
  • Persuade them to act, or
  • Inform them of your findings.

They are an opportunity for you to:

  • Clearly communicate a solution to a problem
  • Recommend action, and
  • Aid decision making.

Technical reports are designed for quick and easy communication of information, and use:

  • Sections with numbered headings and subheadings, and
  • Figures and diagrams to convey data.

How do I structure a technical report?

Regardless of the specific purpose of your technical report, the structure and conventions rarely differ. Check your subject requirements and expand the sections below to learn more about each section. Download a Technical Report template here.

Technical reports usually require a title page. To know what to include, follow the conventions required in your subject.

A technical report summary (or abstract) should include a brief overview of your investigation, outcomes and recommendations. It must include all the key information your reader needs to make a decision, without them having to read your full report. Don’t treat your summary as an introduction; it should act as a stand-alone document.

Tip: Write your summary last.

Help your reader quickly and easily find what they are looking for by using informative headings and careful numbering of your sections and sub-sections. For example:

A table of contents

A technical report introduction:

  • provides context for the problem being addressed,
  • discusses relevant previous research, and
  • states your aim or hypothesis.

To help, consider these questions:

  • What have you investigated?
  • How does your study fit into the current literature?
  • What have previous studies found in the area?
  • Why is it worth investigating?
  • What was the experiment about?
  • Why did you do it?
  • What did you expect to learn from it?

The body of a technical report is structured according to the needs of your reader and the nature of the project. The writer decides how to structure it and what to include.

To help, ask yourself:

  • What does the reader need to know first?
  • What is the most logical way to develop the story of the project?

Tip: look at other technical reports in your discipline to see what they’ve included and in what order.

Technical reports include a mixture of text, tables, figures and formulae. Consider how you can present the information best for your reader. Would a table or figure help to convey your ideas more effectively than a paragraph describing the same data?

Figures and tables should:

  • Be numbered
  • Be referred to in-text, e.g. In Table 1 …, and
  • Include a simple descriptive label - above a table and below a figure.

Equations and formulae should be:

  • Referred to in-text, e.g. See Eq 1 for …
  • Centred on the page, and
  • On a separate line.

Your conclusion should mirror your introduction.

Be sure to:

  • Refer to your aims
  • Summarise your key findings, and
  • State your major outcomes and highlight their significance.

If your technical report includes recommendations for action. You could choose to report these as a bullet point list. When giving an answer to your problem, be sure to include any limitations to your findings.

Your recommendations can be presented in two ways:

  • Action statements e.g. Type approval should be issued for tunnel ventilation fans.
  • Conditional statements e.g. If fan blades are painted with an anti-corrosion coating system, it is likely that… e.g. The research has found that the fan hub should be constructed from forged steel and the fan housing should be constructed from hot dipped galvanised steel, but future research…

Acknowledge all the information and ideas you’ve incorporated from other sources into your paper using a consistent referencing style. This includes data, tables and figures. Learn more about specific referencing conventions here:

If you have data that is too detailed or lengthy to include in the report itself, include it in the appendix. Your reader can then choose to refer to it if they are interested. Label your appendix with a number or a letter, a title, and refer to it the text, e.g. For a full list of construction phases, see Appendix A.

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Technical Reports

  • What is a Technical report?
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What is a Technical Report?

What is a Technical Report?  

"A technical report is a document written by a researcher detailing the results of a project and submitted to the sponsor of that project." TRs are not peer-reviewed unless they are subsequently published in a peer-review journal.

Characteristics (TRs vary greatly): Technical reports ....

  • may contain data, design criteria, procedures, literature reviews, research history, detailed tables, illustrations/images, explanation of approaches that were unsuccessful.
  • may be published before the corresponding journal literature; may have more or different details than  its subsequent journal article.
  • may contain less  background information since the sponsor already knows it
  • classified and export controlled reports
  • may contain obscure acronyms and codes as part of identifying information


  • Physical sciences, engineering, agriculture, biomedical sciences, and the social sciences. education etc.

Documents research and development conducted by:

  • government agencies (NASA, Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DOE) are top sponsors of research
  • commercial companies
  • non-profit, non-governmental organizations
  • Educational Institutions
  • Issued  in print, microform, digital
  • Older TRs may have been digitized and are available in fulltext on the Intranet
  • Newer TRs should be born digital

Definition used with permission from Georgia Tech. Other sources: Pinelli & Barclay (1994).

  • Nation's Report Card: State Reading 2002, Report for Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools. U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences The National Assessment of Educational Progress Reading 2002 The Nation’s
  • Study for fabrication, evaluation, and testing of monolayer woven type materials for space suit insulation NASA-CR-166139, ACUREX-TR-79-156. May 1979. Reproduced from the microfiche.
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Technical Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Structure Included)

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A technical report can either act as a cherry on top of your project or can ruin the entire dough.

Everything depends on how you write and present it.

A technical report is a sole medium through which the audience and readers of your project can understand the entire process of your research or experimentation.

So, you basically have to write a report on how you managed to do that research, steps you followed, events that occurred, etc., taking the reader from the ideation of the process and then to the conclusion or findings.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

Well hopefully after reading this entire article, it won’t.

A girl writing a technical report

However, note that there is no specific standard determined to write a technical report. It depends on the type of project and the preference of your project supervisor.

With that in mind, let’s dig right in!

What is a Technical Report? (Definition)

A technical report is described as a written scientific document that conveys information about technical research in an objective and fact-based manner. This technical report consists of the three key features of a research i.e process, progress, and results associated with it.

Some common areas in which technical reports are used are agriculture, engineering, physical, and biomedical science. So, such complicated information must be conveyed by a report that is easily readable and efficient.

Now, how do we decide on the readability level?

The answer is simple – by knowing our target audience. Home Page CTA

A technical report is considered as a product that comes with your research, like a guide for it.

You study the target audience of a product before creating it, right?

Similarly, before writing a technical report, you must keep in mind who your reader is going to be.

Whether it is professors, industry professionals, or even customers looking to buy your project – studying the target audience enables you to start structuring your report. It gives you an idea of the existing knowledge level of the reader and how much information you need to put in the report.

Many people tend to put in fewer efforts in the report than what they did in the actual research..which is only fair.

We mean, you’ve already worked so much, why should you go through the entire process again to create a report?

Well then, let’s move to the second section where we talk about why it is absolutely essential to write a technical report accompanying your project.

Read more:  What is a Progress Report and How to Write One?

Importance of Writing a Technical Report 

1. efficient communication.

Technical reports are used by industries to convey pertinent information to upper management. This information is then used to make crucial decisions that would impact the company in the future.

Technical team communicating with each other

Examples of such technical reports include proposals, regulations, manuals, procedures, requests, progress reports, emails, and memos.

2. Evidence for your work

Most of the technical work is backed by software.

However, graduation projects are not.

So, if you’re a student, your technical report acts as the sole evidence of your work. It shows the steps you took for the research and glorifies your efforts for a better evaluation.

3. Organizes the data 

A technical report is a concise, factual piece of information that is aligned and designed in a standard manner. It is the one place where all the data of a project is written in a compact manner that is easily understandable by a reader.

4. Tool for evaluation of your work 

Professors and supervisors mainly evaluate your research project based on the technical write-up for it. If your report is accurate, clear, and comprehensible, you will surely bag a good grade.

A technical report to research is like Robin to Batman.

Best results occur when both of them work together.

So, how can you write a technical report that leaves the readers in a ‘wow’ mode? Let’s find out!

How to Write a Technical Report? 

When writing a technical report, there are two approaches you can follow, depending on what suits you the best.

  • Top-down approach- In this, you structure the entire report from title to sub-sections and conclusion and then start putting in the matter in the respective chapters. This allows your thought process to have a defined flow and thus helps in time management as well.
  • Evolutionary delivery- This approach is suitable if you’re someone who believes in ‘go with the flow’. Here the author writes and decides as and when the work progresses. This gives you a broad thinking horizon. You can even add and edit certain parts when some new idea or inspiration strikes.

A technical report must have a defined structure that is easy to navigate and clearly portrays the objective of the report. Here is a list of pages, set in the order that you should include in your technical report.

Cover page- It is the face of your project. So, it must contain details like title, name of the author, name of the institution with its logo. It should be a simple yet eye-catching page.

Title page- In addition to all the information on the cover page, the title page also informs the reader about the status of the project. For instance, technical report part 1, final report, etc. The name of the mentor or supervisor is also mentioned on this page.

Abstract- Also referred to as the executive summary, this page gives a concise and clear overview of the project. It is written in such a manner that a person only reading the abstract can gain complete information on the project.

Preface – It is an announcement page wherein you specify that you have given due credits to all the sources and that no part of your research is plagiarised. The findings are of your own experimentation and research.

Dedication- This is an optional page when an author wants to dedicate their study to a loved one. It is a small sentence in the middle of a new page. It is mostly used in theses.

Acknowledgment- Here, you acknowledge the people parties, and institutions who helped you in the process or inspired you for the idea of it.

Table of contents – Each chapter and its subchapter is carefully divided into this section for easy navigation in the project. If you have included symbols, then a similar nomenclature page is also made. Similarly, if you’ve used a lot of graphs and tables, you need to create a separate content page for that. Each of these lists begins on a new page.

A lady creating table of contents in a technical report

Introduction- Finally comes the introduction, marking the beginning of your project. On this page, you must clearly specify the context of the report. It includes specifying the purpose, objectives of the project, the questions you have answered in your report, and sometimes an overview of the report is also provided. Note that your conclusion should answer the objective questions.

Central Chapter(s)- Each chapter should be clearly defined with sub and sub-sub sections if needed. Every section should serve a purpose. While writing the central chapter, keep in mind the following factors:

  • Clearly define the purpose of each chapter in its introduction.
  • Any assumptions you are taking for this study should be mentioned. For instance, if your report is targeting globally or a specific country. There can be many assumptions in a report. Your work can be disregarded if it is not mentioned every time you talk about the topic.
  • Results you portray must be verifiable and not based upon your opinion. (Big no to opinions!)
  • Each conclusion drawn must be connected to some central chapter.

Conclusion- The purpose of the conclusion is to basically conclude any and everything that you talked about in your project. Mention the findings of each chapter, objectives reached, and the extent to which the given objectives were reached. Discuss the implications of the findings and the significant contribution your research made.

Appendices- They are used for complete sets of data, long mathematical formulas, tables, and figures. Items in the appendices should be mentioned in the order they were used in the project.

References- This is a very crucial part of your report. It cites the sources from which the information has been taken from. This may be figures, statistics, graphs, or word-to-word sentences. The absence of this section can pose a legal threat for you. While writing references, give due credit to the sources and show your support to other people who have studied the same genres.

Bibliography- Many people tend to get confused between references and bibliography. Let us clear it out for you. References are the actual material you take into your research, previously published by someone else. Whereas a bibliography is an account of all the data you read, got inspired from, or gained knowledge from, which is not necessarily a direct part of your research.

Style ( Pointers to remember )

Let’s take a look at the writing style you should follow while writing a technical report:

  • Avoid using slang or informal words. For instance, use ‘cannot’ instead of can’t.
  • Use a third-person tone and avoid using words like I, Me.
  • Each sentence should be grammatically complete with an object and subject.
  • Two sentences should not be linked via a comma.
  • Avoid the use of passive voice.
  • Tenses should be carefully employed. Use present for something that is still viable and past for something no longer applicable.
  • Readers should be kept in mind while writing. Avoid giving them instructions. Your work is to make their work of evaluation easier.
  • Abbreviations should be avoided and if used, the full form should be mentioned.
  • Understand the difference between a numbered and bulleted list. Numbering is used when something is explained sequence-wise. Whereas bullets are used to just list out points in which sequence is not important.
  • All the preliminary pages (title, abstract, preface..) should be named in small roman numerals. ( i, ii, iv..)
  • All the other pages should be named in Arabic numerals (1,2,3..) thus, your report begins with 1 – on the introduction page.
  • Separate long texts into small paragraphs to keep the reader engaged. A paragraph should not be more than 10 lines.
  • Do not incorporate too many fonts. Use standard times new roman 12pt for the text. You can use bold for headlines.


If you think your work ends when the report ends, think again. Proofreading the report is a very important step. While proofreading you see your work from a reader’s point of view and you can correct any small mistakes you might have done while typing. Check everything from content to layout, and style of writing.


Finally comes the presentation of the report in which you submit it to an evaluator.

  • It should be printed single-sided on an A4 size paper. double side printing looks chaotic and messy.
  • Margins should be equal throughout the report.

Employees analysing sales report

  • You can use single staples on the left side for binding or use binders if the report is long.

AND VOILA! You’re done.

…and don’t worry, if the above process seems like too much for you, is here to help.

Read more:  Technical Manual: What, Types & How to Create One? (Steps Included) : The Ultimate Tool for Writing Technical Reports Tool to create technical reports

What if we tell you that the entire structure of a technical report explained in this article is already done and designed for you!

Yes, you read that right.

With’s 70+ templates , all you have to do is insert your text in a pre-formatted document that has been designed to appeal to the creative nerve of the reader.

Bit features infographic

You can even add collaborators who can proofread or edit your work in real-time. You can also highlight text, @mention collaborators, and make comments!

Wait, there’s more! When you send your document to the evaluators, you can even trace who read it, how much time they spent on it, and more.

Exciting, isn’t it?

Start making your fabulous technical report with today!

Few technical documents templates you might be interested in:

  • Status Report Template
  • API Documentation
  • Product Requirements Document Template
  • Software Design Document Template
  • Software Requirements Document Template
  • UX Research Template
  • Issue Tracker Template
  • Release Notes Template
  • Statement of Work
  • Scope of Work Template

Wrap up(Conclusion)

A well structured and designed report adds credibility to your research work. You can rely on for that part.

However, the content is still yours so remember to make it worth it.

After finishing up your report, ask yourself:

Does the abstract summarize the objectives and methods employed in the paper?

Are the objective questions answered in your conclusion?

What are the implications of the findings and how is your work making a change in the way that particular topic is read and conceived?

If you find logical answers to these, then you have done a good job!

Remember, writing isn’t an overnight process. ideas won’t just arrive. Give yourself space and time for inspiration to strike and then write it down. Good writing has no shortcuts, it takes practice.

But at least now that you’ve in the back of your pocket, you don’t have to worry about the design and formatting!

Have you written any technical reports before? If yes, what tools did you use? Do let us know by tweeting us @bit_docs.

Further reads:

How To Create An Effective Status Report?

7 Types of Reports Your Business Certainly Needs!

What is Project Status Report Documentation?

Scientific Paper: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps and Format)

  Business Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Format)

How to Write Project Reports that ‘Wow’ Your Clients? (Template Included)

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Business Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Format)

Internship Cover Letter: How to Write a Perfect one?

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How to Write a Technical Report

Last Updated: September 28, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD . Christopher Osborne has been a wikiHow Content Creator since 2015. He is also a historian who holds a PhD from The University of Notre Dame and has taught at universities in and around Pittsburgh, PA. His scholarly publications and presentations focus on his research interests in early American history, but Chris also enjoys the challenges and rewards of writing wikiHow articles on a wide range of subjects. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 74,267 times. Learn more...

Engineers, scientists, and medical professionals need to be good writers too—and technical reports prove it! A good technical report presents data and analysis on a specified topic in a clear, highly-organized, and effective manner. Before you begin writing, define your message and audience, and make an outline. Then, write the main body of the report and surround it with the other necessary sections, according to your chosen layout.

Technical Report Outline

technical research report writing

Planning Your Report

Step 1 Establish the message you want to convey through the report.

  • For instance, you may want to convey the message that a new technique for extracting a particular chemical compound is both safer and more cost-effective.
  • The best technical reports remain clear and focused throughout—they have a specific purpose and convey the information in a logical order.
  • Work with advisors, supervisors, or colleagues to fine-tune the message and/or goal of your report. These can vary widely depending on whether the report is being produced for academic, business, or other purposes.

Step 2 Define your audience before you begin writing.

  • If others in your field will be reading the report, it can be more “technical” in language and detail. In many cases, though, technical reports are intended for those outside of your particular discipline. If so, cut back on the jargon for non-expert readers.
  • Consider having a non-expert friend look over your report throughout the process to give you feedback on its accessibility to a broad audience.

Step 3 Create an outline to follow while you write.

  • Determine which particular sections your report must or may have. Consult the person or organization to whom you’ll be submitting the report for any layout requirements.

Writing the Main Body of the Report

Step 1 Create a thorough but focused introduction to the report.

  • In most cases, the introduction will likely be 1-3 paragraphs in length.
  • The end of the introduction should clearly state what the report “does.” It might do so by way of a direct statement (“This report analyzes…”), or by providing a series of questions (which may in some cases be bulleted or numbered) to be addressed.

Step 2 Provide background information and/or a literature review in the next section.

  • Essentially, you want readers who may be new to the subject matter to feel like they have at least a rudimentary grasp of it after reading this section.

Step 3 Follow up with a clear and detailed project description.

  • If, for instance, your report is focused on a particular experiment, be specific on the way it was conceived, set up, and conducted.
  • This is sometimes called a “methods” section, since you are describing the methods used to conduct your research.

Step 4 Present your data and describe what it all means in the next sections.

  • It can be hard to determine how much data to present. Giving too little can significantly weaken your analysis and the overall report. Giving too much, however, can drown the reader in a sea of tables and figures. Make sure you provide all essential data, and err on the side of providing a bit too much unless otherwise instructed.
  • Present your data in a logical order, so that each table or figure leads into the next one.

Step 5 Round out the...

  • Be as bold in your conclusions as your data and analysis permits you to be. Don’t use terms like “might,” “perhaps,” “could,” and so forth—write something like, “The data shows that…” However, don’t draw conclusions that aren’t supported by your data.

Adding Components in the Proper Layout

Step 1 Check for specific guidelines with your university, employer, etc.

  • Executive Summary
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures / List of Tables
  • Main Report: Introduction; Background / Literature Review; Project Description; Data / Description of Data; Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements

Step 2 Create a simple title page at the beginning of your report.

  • Write the abstract after you’ve written the actual report. You want it to be a condensed description of what you have written, not of what you intend to write.
  • Check to see if there is a specific word limit for your abstract. Even if there isn’t, 300 words is a good word limit to aim for.

Step 4 Create an executive summary that condenses the report by about 90%.

  • The executive summary should focus on your findings, conclusions, and/or recommendations, and allow the report itself to present the data—although highlights of the data should be provided.
  • Depending on your situation, you may need to write an abstract, an executive summary, or both.

Step 5 Draw up a table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures.

  • Check for any formatting guidelines for these sections. If the format is left up to you, keep things simple and straightforward.

Step 6 Follow the main body of the report with an acknowledgments section.

  • This section typically runs 1-2 paragraphs, and follows a fairly simple “The author would like to thank…” format.

Step 7 Include citations in the references section, using a consistent format.

  • In some cases, you may also be expected to provide a listing of works you have consulted but not specifically cited in the work. Check with the relevant department, organization, individual, etc., if you’re not sure. [13] X Research source

Step 8 Use appendices...

  • Use a consistent, easy-to-navigate format when creating appendices. They aren’t meant to be dumping grounds for random snippets of data or information.

Expert Q&A

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technical research report writing

Engineering Technical Reports

Technical reports include various types of "technical" information. For example, if you need to report why a design or piece of equipment failed, you'd write a forensic report. Or, you might have to write about a design you created. Then, you'd produce a design report or, you may need to combine these two. Many report types are classified as technical reports. You should always determine what information you need to convey and who your audience is before you start writing.

Technical reports present facts and conclusions about your designs and other projects. Typically, a technical report includes research about technical concepts as well as graphical depictions of designs and data. A technical report also follows a strict organization. This way, when other engineers read what you write, they can quickly locate the information that interests them the most.

As a student, you might assume that your technical report's audience is your instructor, however, this may not always be the case. Your instructor may ask you to produce a report for your peers or for other engineers. However, you shouldn't always assume that your audience has a strong engineering background or is familiar with the engineering terminology you use. Always check with your instructor to know who your audience is.

As an engineer in the field, the most likely audience for the technical reports you produce is other engineers with a background similar to yours. This audience is more likely to understand the terminology you use. However, you should always evaluate who your readers will be before assuming they will understand your jargon. Consider how your readers will use your report. For instance, you might submit a technical report to a publication or your technical report may present a specific design. The audiences in each situation have different needs. Audiences may read the publication for information and insight while audiences reading about your specific design may critique your design or make decisions based on its content.

General Format

Technical Reports have an organized format because a majority of your audience may not read the entire report in one reading. This specific format allows readers to quickly locate the information they need.

Most technical reports include the parts listed below. However, you may be required to include or exclude specific sections. Be sure to check with your instructor before using the format outlined here.

Transmittal Letter

Transmittal letters often accompany reports and inform readers of a report's context. Typically, the letter includes information not found in the report. For example, the letter contains information about the particular project and/or due dates. A Transmittal Letter is a business letter and should be formatted accordingly; that is, you should include the recipient's address, your address, a salutation and closing. Depending on the project, you may also need to include contact information. Always check with your instructor to determine whether or not you should attach a transmittal letter to your report.

A technical report should always include a title clearly identifying the report. A title should be descriptive and accurate, but not wordy, verbose or too terse.

The Abstract is extremely important because it helps readers decide what to read and what to pass over. The idea of the Abstract is to give readers an honest evaluation of the report's content, so they can quickly judge whether they should spend their valuable time reading the entire report. This section should give a true, brief description of the report's content. The most important purpose of the Abstract is to allow somebody to get a quick picture of the report's content and make a judgment.

Since an Abstract is a brief summary of your report, its length corresponds with the report's length. So, for example, if your report is eight pages long, you shouldn't use more than 150 words in the Abstract. Generally, Abstracts define the report's purpose and content.

Executive Summary

Typically, Executive Summaries are written for readers who do not have time to read the entire technical report. An executive summary is usually no longer than 10% of the report. It can be anywhere from 1-10 pages long, depending on the report's length. In the executive summary, you should summarize the key points and conclusions from your report. You might include anexecutive summary with your report, or the summary can be a separate document.

Some reports only include an abstract while others include an executive summary. Always check with your instructor to determine which to include or if you should include both.

Table of Contents

A Table of Contents includes all the headings and subheadings in your report and the page numbers where each of these begins. When you create a Table of Contents, one of the most important decisions you have to make involves design. A good Table of Contents distinguishes headings from subheadings and aligns these with the appropriate page numbers. This also means you should pay attention to capitalization, spacing, and indentation.

List of Figures & List of Tables

These two separate lists assist readers in locating your photos, drawings, tables, graphs and charts. Like the Table of Contents, you need to present both of these in an organized, appealing format. Typically, you can shorten a figure or table's title when you create these lists.

Report Body

In a technical report, the body typically presents an Introduction, various other sections, depending on your topic, and a Conclusion. Throughout the body, you should include text (both your own and research from other sources), graphics, and lists. Whenever you cite information or use graphics from another source, you must credit these sources within your text. Check with your instructor to know which reference style to use.

Whenever you cite information (this includes graphics) from another source, you must credit the source in your References. Always check with your instructor to determine which reference style to use.

Appendices include information that is too large to fit within your report, yet information necessary to your report. For example, large graphics, computer print-outs, maps, or sample codes are best placed in Appendices. When making decisions about what to place in an Appendix, consider whether or not the material interrupts the reading flow. For instance, six pages of calculations would obviously cause readers to loose their train of thought. Appendices always appear at the end of a report.

Example Technical Report

As you read the example, keep in mind that this technical report was a requirement for CE208 at Colorado State University. The course instructor, Dr. Tom Siller, commented on this document. Other instructors or job situations may have different opinions or require a different format.

December 12, 1996

Dr. Tom Siller Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80524

Dear Mr. Siller:

We are submitting to you the report, due December 13, 1996, that you requested. The report is entitled CSU Performing Arts Center. The purpose of the report is to inform you of our design decisions for the center. The content of this report concentrates on the structural and acoustical aspects of the CSU Performing Arts Center. This report also discusses cable-stayed technology. If you should have any questions concerning our project and paper please feel free to contact Mike Bridge at 491-5048.

Sincerely, Mike Bridge Lead Engineer

Instructor Comments

This is not a very good business letter. In a business letter, you typically present your own address in addition to the receiver's address. Also, my address is incomplete. They need to include "Department of Civil Engineering." And what about a logo? Letterhead? Typically, businesses have letterhead.

Another problem is that the contact phone number is buried in the text. This makes it easy to miss. A good idea is to list the contact phone number under your title at the bottom. This letter should also provide a context for the project, "This final project was completed for CE 208…" In other words, this project represents your last say; no more is coming.

Project Engineers: Mike Bridge

Alice Lake Simon Civil Karen Nuclear

The title page here is missing key information. There should be date and client name (That'd be me!). A client in this environment is the class. For instance, you might say, "submitted for" or "to," something of that nature.

The format looks good. I like the use of bold in spots. It highlights the text.

It's also good that they identified themselves with the group.

MASK Engineering has designed a performing arts center for the CSU campus in order to provide a complex that will better serve the campus and the community. This facility will not only improve the performing arts programs on campus, but will encourage students and community members to attend more cultural events in Fort Collins. The capacity of the new facility will exceed that of existing structures on campus, and the quality of sound and aesthetics will be improved. Some of the features included are a large performing hall, a coffee shop, a banquet hall, and a recording studio. The total area of the complex is 56,500 square feet split into three levels.

This abstract summarizes the accomplishments of the project and what it will do. It also summarizes some of the actual design and indicates that it's going to include a performing hall, coffee shop, banquet hall, and recording studio.

The writing, however, could be a little tighter in my opinion. The first sentence looks like it's around 20 words long. First of all, that whole expression "will better service the Campus and the Community" doesn't mean anything. What does "better serve" mean? And so, I look at something like that and say, "Mask Engineering has designed a new Performing Arts Center that will meet the needs of the theater community," or something more specific.

And then the second sentence is typical. It gives the particular vehicle for doing the programs. It implies the facility improves programs, and I'm not sure that's quite the right subject in a sentence like that. There's no point in a "but" here. It will do this and this; it's not a contrast. They're not contrasting anything. And so, there are some grammatical problems here. I think these kinds of grammatical problems come up because students don't read carefully. They write it. To avoid this construction, read it sentence by sentence and say, "What does this sentence accomplish for me?" And you can see that this sentence structure doesn't accomplish; it implies there's a contrast, well, there is no contrast.

Then the abstract gets stronger. "The capacity of the new facility will exceed that," so they get very specific. "The quality, sound and ascetics will be improved. Some of the features included are this." They're very good at being descriptive and saying this, this and this. The struggle I think engineering students have is the motivational lead-in to their material. They're more comfortable at the descriptive aspect of their material.


MASK Engineering would like to thank Dr. Michael Schaff of the CSU Music Department and Ms. Annie Cleveland from the CSU Theater Department for their expertise and input for the CSU Performing Arts Center. We would also like to thank Dr. Tom Siller for his aid in our research and use of his research materials.

Excecutive Summary


Our main goal was to design a Performing Arts Center for the CSU campus that would blend well with the rest of the campus. To achieve this goal, our group split into two smaller groups; Alice in one and Simon, Mike, and Karen in the other. Alice concentrated on acoustical aspects of the complex. Simon, Mike, and Karen concentrated on the structural plans.

In this section, we specify the exact location of the structure and why we believe it is a prime location.

Cable-stayed Technology

Here, we present our rationale for using cable-stayed technology. We base this technology on several other existing structures.

Main Hall Acoustics

One of the key characteristics of a concert hall that greatly influences sound quality, is its reverberation time (the time before the decay of the reflected sound ). In the construction of the main hall for the CSU Performing Arts Center a balance will be determined that will create a reverberation time of two seconds, as independent of audience size as possible.

In this section, we discuss the materials to be used. Retractable banners will be built into the ceiling, and can be lowered to create this effect. Cloth seats will be used as they best assimilate an occupied audience area ( Beranek 1962 ). This allows sound within the hall to be independent of audience size. The low sound absorbency of plaster also makes it ideal for the creation of the desired reverberation time of two seconds.

The intensity of the direct sound should not be too weak, but at the same time, it must not become uncomfortably loud. This problem will be dealt with by limiting the length of the room, and by designing the surfaces above and around the stage to project the sound evenly throughout the concert hall. Another problem arises with the seats placed under a balcony. To prevent a muddiness within the sound, the depth under the balcony should not exceed the height of the opening beneath the balcony.

The Colorado State University Performing Arts Center consists of three levels. The total area of the complex is 56,500 square feet. The basement and ground floors consist of 20,500 square feet apiece. The second floor has a square footage of 15,500.

During the duration of the project, we accomplished our goal of designing a Performing Arts Center for the CSU campus that would blend well with the rest of the campus. A cable-stayed support system for the roof will allow for a compact facility and an unobstructed view for patrons. In order to achieve the best acoustical results in the main performance hall, we have designed a rectangular hall made of plaster. We have also designed the hall so that the depth under the balcony does not exceed the height of the opening beneath the balcony. The total area of the complex will be 56,500 square feet split into three levels. The main hall will have a seating capacity of 1,200.

Introduction: You don't need to summarize the paper's introduction since the introduction is generally an overview to the whole report. In other words, don't summarize what you're going to summarize.

Executive Summary: This summary is too short compared to the report's length.

Location: This information doesn't tell me squat. They should have said something like, "This report presents the location at the northwest corner of the Oval as being the ideal location. The motivation for this decision is documented in this section." This is a summary. Summaries should inform me; they shouldn't tell me what I'm being told.

Main Hall Acoustics: This section is more informative. Here, they tell me the key characteristics influencing sound quality. As for the phrase "It will be determined," well, hasn't it already been determined? They should have written, "In the construction of the main hall for the CSU Performing Arts Center, a balance of x was defined. This creates a reverberation time of two seconds." You need to positively say what's been done. In other words, you did this, you designed it.

Conclusion: You should only summarize the conclusion if it's really a conclusion and not a summary. By this I mean have you come to a conclusion? Based on everything you've done, have you made conclusions or recommendations and not summarized what you've covered in the report?



Executive Summary.............................iii

List of Figures..................................iv

List of Tables....................................v



Cable-Stayed Technology.....................5


Floor Plans........................................12



First of all, I like the dots that make the visual connection. This report does not go into much in the way of subsections, and so from that standpoint, it is probably appropriate not to number the sections. This table of contents doesn't use subsections, which is adequate for the length of this project. I'm expecting a more detailed table of contents this year. I'd like to see further subsections on ideas. That helps writing be more organized.

Example of Table of Contents with Subsections:

1.0 Introduction..........

Here, the main topics are at one level, then indented to the next level. And they're just great visual clues. One of the purposes of the table of contents is to give readers a visual map of the document. They can look at this before they start reading and know where things fit. Writers need to think of a table of contents as providing a mental map for readers.

List of Figures

The captions on this list are weak, and this is obvious because of the phrases, "Map of Campus," "Bridge Diagram." There's no use of capitalization because they're just phrases. This is a balancing act. You don't want to write long sentences, but you don't want to write something that's so vague readers aren't certain what it means. For example, a reader might ask "What campus?" The students are obviously thinking in their own minds of one campus, CSU. They need to think beyond that. One of the things I try to impress on students in figures and tables too, is that sometimes these will be pulled out of your report. And so now, they're out of context. You've got to balance giving enough information, so someone can interpret it when it's out of the context of the existing report. Captions should not be so overly verbose that you've got a paragraph. I think a figure caption should be about one line at the most. At times captions may get a little longer, but I find those distracting.

The purpose of designing a performing arts center on the CSU campus is to provide adequate capacity and higher quality of sound and aesthetics as compared to the existing structures in the region. Factors that MASK Engineering considered included accessibility, cost effectiveness, location, and an efficient use of space. Our intent was to preserve the open space of the CSU campus and to design the complex in such a manner that it will blend well with its surrounding environment.

We at MASK Engineering believe that this project will greatly benefit both the CSU campus and the surrounding Fort Collins community. Such a facility will lead to the improvement of the performing arts programs on campus. It will directly affect the students and professors in the music, theater. and dance programs at the university, eventually increasing enrollment in these disciplines. There are approximately 230 students in the performing arts programs at CSU right now. The amount of space that is available to these students is inadequate for their performances. The construction of this complex will not only provide them with the space they need, but will also continue the growth of these programs, making CSU a leader in the education of the performing arts.

These changes at the university will result in a heightened cultural awareness in the community. Currently, community events are held at the Lincoln Center, while CSU sponsored events are held at the Lory Student Center theater. A new facility will bring community and university events together and will allow a greater variety of outside events to be brought to Fort Collins. The location of this complex on campus will bring a greater number of students to these events due to the elimination of transportation problems.

MASK Engineering has focused on the structural and acoustical aspects of the CSU Performing Arts Center, while hiring other firms to handle the parking, mechanical and electrical operation, and utilities. A cable-stayed support system has been chosen, and a floor plan has been drawn up that will produce the best acoustical results. A. L. handled the acoustical aspects of the complex, while S.C., K.N., and M.B. concentrated on the structural plans. We are planning for the construction of this complex to begin within the next few years.

The site chosen for the Colorado State University Performing Arts Center is the plot of land upon which Green Hall now stands (Figure 1). This area was chosen primarily for its location on the CSU campus and its proximity to the downtown area. Green Hall is a condemned building and is not currently used for anything beyond university storage. Some office space has been granted to the branch of the CSUPD dealing with parking violations, but this department could easily move back to its old location at Aylesworth Hall. Our firm believes that this space would be better used as a home for the performing arts than as the site of a crumbling warehouse.

We have considered possible disturbances that the construction of the performing arts center on this plot might cause. Due to the close proximity of Green Hall to Allison Hall and Parmelee Hall, we have decided to begin construction early in the summer, after classes have ended. Green Hall will be torn down first, and construction of the performing arts center will begin immediately. This will allow us a good start on the project while students are not living in the nearby residence halls. According to the front desk at Braiden Hall,, which is located near the Morgan Library construction site, residents do not have a problem with noise and there have been no complaints of disturbances. MASK Engineering believes that this will be the case for the residents in Allison and Parmelee when they return in the fall as the performing arts center is finished.

A cable-stayed support system was chosen for the design of the CSU Performing Arts Center. One reason for choosing this system was to allow for a more compact facility because the space available on campus was limited. Another reason was to give patrons an unobstructed view of events by eliminating the need for columns.

The original use of cable-stayed technology was seen in bridges. German engineers established the design of cable-stayed bridges in the 1950's and 1960's. This technology was eventually adapted to buildings, using cables to support the roof. Each tower is buttressed by two sets of cables, transferring the load into the ground. Without a roof load to support, columns are not needed in the complex and the space can be used in more ways.

The concept behind cable-stayed technology is to have the supporting reactions to the load directed in only vertical directions as opposed to vertical and horizontal. It also eliminates any tension and/or compression force (Figures 3.1 and 3.2) . For a building, the load of the roof is directed through the cables, to the towers, and down to the ground. The walls do not support the roof as they normally would; only the cables are used to hold up the roof. An example of a cable-stayed building is the Alamodome, a multipurpose stadium in San Antonio, Texas (Figure 3.3). Our model is based on this design.

Background One of the key characteristics of a concert hall that greatly influences sound quality, is its reverberation time (the time before the decay of the reflected sound ). For orchestral or band music, the ideal reverberation time is approximately two seconds. Any times approaching 1.6 seconds will lead toward a dry, dead sound ( Beranek 1962 ). The other extreme is a time that is too long. This causes the music to lose its clarity, an excessive loudness, and the blending of incompatible chords ( Beranek 1962 ). A hall's reverberation time can be affected by such things as the volume of the room or the number of people in the audience. In the construction of the main hall for the CSU Performing Arts Center a balance will be determined that will create a reverberation time of two seconds, as independent of audience size as possible.

Sound quality is also greatly determined by the warmth of the sound. Warmth is determined by the fullness of the bass tones. If the middle frequencies of a sound have longer reverberation times than the low tones, then the sound will become brittle (Beranek 1962 1).

Materials Table 4.1 gives the absorption coefficients of different frequencies for common surfaces. It shows that materials such as heavy curtains or thick carpet absorb are the ideal choice for decreasing the intensity of higher frequencies. This leads to the production of a more full, warm sound. Retractable banners will be built into the ceiling, and can be lowered to create this effect. Cloth seats will be used as they best assimilate an occupied audience area ( Beranek 1962 ). This allows sound within the hall to be independent of audience size. The low sound absorbance of plaster also makes it ideal for the creation of the desired reverberation time of two seconds.

Design considerations The intensity of the direct sound should not be too weak, but at the same time, it must not become uncomfortably loud. This problem will be dealt with by limiting the length of the room, and by designing the surfaces above and around the stage to project the sound evenly throughout the concert hall. Another problem arises with the seats placed under a balcony. To prevent a muddiness within the sound, the depth under the balcony should not exceed the height of the opening beneath the balcony, as shown in figure 4.1 ( Beranek 1962 ).

Table 4.1 Absorption coefficients of different frequencies for main hall surfaces

Table based on: Beranek, L. 1966. Music, Acoustics, & Architecture. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.

Figure based on: Beranek, L. 1966. Music, Acoustics, & Architecture. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.

Floor Plans

The basement level of this center (Figure 5.1 ) includes two main dressing rooms with shower facilities as well as four private dressing rooms with individual restrooms for guest performers. The mechanical room for the building will be in the basement, housing such devices as the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment as well as the mechanics for the elevator. A spacious performers' lounge has also been added in to the basement to provide a relaxing environment for the center's performers.

The building's main floor (Figure 5.2 ) includes the main performance hall as well as a small rehearsal hall. The main hall is 5,000 square feet and has a seating capacity of 1,200. A coffee shop and art lounge have been included in this plan for the enjoyment and convenience of the patrons. A large classroom is provided for dance classes as well as rehearsals. Sufficient office space is included adjacent to the center's box office.

The top floor of the CSU Performing Arts Center (Figure 5.3 ) includes a walk- around balcony overlooking the main lobby as well as a balcony for the main performance hall. An elevator is provided for travel between the first and second floors. A recording studio is also located on this floor as an added bonus.

In conclusion, MASK Engineering has carefully planned out the details of the proposed CSU Performing Arts Center. This facility will be a benefit to the performing arts programs at CSU, the students and faculty of CSU, as well as the members of the community. It will allow for the improvement of programs in the area and growth of interest in cultural events. The site of Green Hall will be accessible to both students and the community, and will use the space on campus most efficiently, preserving the green areas. A cable-stayed support system for the roof will allow for a compact facility and an unobstructed view for patrons. In order to achieve the best acoustical results in the main performance hall, we have designed a rectangular hall made of plaster. We have also designed the hall so that the depth under the balcony does not exceed the height of the opening beneath the balcony. The total area of the complex will be 56,500 square feet split into three levels. The main hall will have a seating capacity of 1,200. The facility contains necessary rooms to accommodate the performers, and several rooms to make the visit of the patrons more enjoyable.

Introducton: The one thing lacking in this introduction is a good, brief description of their design. The discussion about the benefits, etc. are not clear to me without first hearing what their solution is.

They do a good job of discussing the motivation for their project.

I personally like the introduction to end with a brief description of what the remaining portions of the report contain.

A little more background and possibly a map would help this discussion. DO NOT assume your reader is as familiar with this as you are.

Figure 2.1: With this figure, I'm not certain whether or not this is the caption or part of the title of the figure. This says, "Map of Campus, circle area represents the site where Green Hall currently stands." That mixes what it is. A revised caption would read something like "Map of CSU Campus Indicating Proposed Site Location."

The map also borders on plagiarism. When you take a figure from someone else's work, you put in the caption "from" and you list the document and that document better be in the references. And it's not "based on," it's "from." And that's a subtlety you need to learn. There's a distinction between something that is "from." To get permission to use this map, the writers would have to get copyright approval from the source. If they based it on, if they've redrawn the figure and they've used this map as a source, then they should, even at that point say, "based on," or "the CSU Map is from such and such source, page such and such, dated such and such." It needs to be a complete reference.

Another problem is that by looking at this map, I can't read a darn thing from it. I know that's the Oval. And I know the Weber building because I live in it. But the scale is so off, and the reproduction is so bad that they should have made the decision to either find a better original or not used it at all.

They should also include an arrow to Green Hall. The circle's not quite sufficient. The Oval isn't that different from the circle. Part of the problem is that the scale is wrong. I shouldn't have to look at a figure and guess what writers want me to see. It should be blatant.

In terms of the placement of this figure, I have several thoughts. The writers put their figures on separate pages within the body of the text. That's an acceptable style. I have no problem with that. It comes after its first reference in the text, which is important. The inappropriate thing is referring to it in the text as "figure 1," and referring it on the paper as figure "2.1."

Figures 3.1 and 3.2: These figures are labeled "Figures 3.1 and 3.2." Which one's which? They should not be put together. What I mean by this is they can be on the same page, but Figure 3.1 needs to be where Figure 3.1 is and Figure 3.2 need to be where Figure 3.2 is. The figure numbers should not both be up at the top. The reader shouldn't have to guess "is there a dividing line between the figures or does it divide some where else?" If they had captions associated with those figures' numbers, that would not have occurred. I actually like figure numbers underneath the figure, not above the figure.

With these figures I again wonder if they were taken from some source not referenced. And so, I'm not sure these are originally hand drawn by the students. Now if they are, they could have done a better job because the legends don't fully tell me what it means. The dark square means compressive force, and I don't know what that means. I understand "load" and I understand "supporting reactions," but I don't understand "Building diagram?" That's a building?

I'm not convinced these were meant to be two figures. I think they should be one. They're talking "cable stay" technology which would of been nice to have in the title. I think they're trying to draw an analogy between "here's how a bridge is done, and here's how it's also now being done in buildings." But it's not coming through.

This figure is placed at the right location. The key thing with placement in text is to put the figure as close as possible after it is first referenced. Never put it before you reference it and don't bury it deeply in the text. This is one of the clues that leads you decide whether you do an appendix or not. If you find you're having so many figures that when you try to put them in text they're turning out to be five pages straight of figures, that's a clue that you have so many figures, they're probably better handled in the back.

Figure 3.3: I know the writers didn't take this photograph! And I want to know who did take the photograph because that person needs to be credited. This figure's location in the text is fine. I'm happy with their style of one figure per page.

The quality of this reproduction is not very good. But that's always hard with photographs. It does make their point, which is the tall columns with the cables coming off. However, the fine details have been wiped away, so it's a bad photograph for their purposes.

This visual also works off the previous two visuals since it represents another way of looking at the particular structure. Whenever you can, especially when you're dealing with new technology, you've got to give people good visual images. And anyway you can do that is useful. Schematics allow you to do certain things like add arrows and show load paths. So this had a different function. The other two depicted load paths. This one was trying to give the viewer a big picture of what this looks like. After all, a bridge is difficult to imagine.

Table 4.1: This table accurately sites its source, "Table based on such and such." However, it gives too much information. All that is needed is the author's name, so readers could then look it up in the references.

Some suggestions are to put "Based on Byronic L 1966." all within the caption. Then the table would physically separate the title if I felt there was a title too, separate from the caption. It would then be clear, spatially, that there's a caption up here. And below is the title on the table.

Another alternative would be to "footnote" the table. Not a real footnote, but a footnote within the table. This can be done by using an identifier like a "star." So I might say, "Table," if it's the whole table, and put, "Table 4.1*" showing that there's a clue to come, down at the bottom. If there were particular pieces of information in here, a particular column or something, such as just the surface frequency or heavy fabric, or it was two of these, I could then put stars on there and indicate, "This was based on this person's work, as opposed to my original work.

Figure 4.1: When a figure like this needs to be drawn, you should follow normal conventions for drafting, including dimension lines with arrowheads. I'm assuming the "D" and "H" represent "depth" and "height."

A figure is for clarification, and this one raises many questions. I don't know what the point of this figure is. I'm assuming there's a value here. If this was to be a conceptual diagram representing, "We now can do a sensitivity D over H," then you might do that. But I think they were trying to show us how big is was. It's not a very good figure because it leaves too much to my imagination. This is not worth a thousand words.

Figure 5.1: A scale should be included here. Also, these should be numbered. Students should indicate how each one works (e.g. doors, etc.).

Figure 5.2: A scale should be included here. Also, is that the Performance Hall in the middle?

Figures 5.1, 5.2, & 5.3: These were done with AutoCAD, so it's hard to criticize the quality of them because this is what AutoCAD produces.

"M" and "W" should be explained; I am assuming these stand for a Mens' Room and a Women's Room. There are better visual ways of doing that more explicitly, as with international symbols, etc. Also, "E" for "exit" is a little short.

These are meant to be schematic floor plans. And they are. It'd be nice to have a "north arrow" here. Students will always think of a "north arrow" on a map, but they won't necessarily think of it on a building. It's important because it helps readers tie back to the orientation of the building on the site.

These serve very well as schematics. They do not serve well as details. They don't show doors; they don't show windows. But this design is more at the conceptual level, so I understand why they did it. The detail fits the purpose. The problem is, when readers look at this example, they don't necessarily know that whole context.

It really would have been nice to have put these visuals in the front. A neat way to have done that would have used this as a figure on the title page to introduce the concept right up front.

The captions on these are all right. If you put to much lettering on a figure, it gets busy. This is actually a pretty good balance. They're descriptive enough. I understand just about what everything is. I'm not sure what the basketball-like part is since it's not labeled. But overall, these are pretty good, typical, schematic drawings.

Using a different font is a stylistic mistake. If you have an area that you want to label and the font you're using doesn't fit in there, don't just use a real small font because it fits. Move the label out and put an arrow to it.

This is a fairly low number of references. Three is minor. Sometimes, you might not have references because much of your text is original work on your part, but then you should include appendices on calculations and such.

Appendices: When deciding to place information in an appendix, ask yourself, "Are there reams and reams of figures that are best put in an appendix or will using a small number of figures integrate better throughout the text?" and "Do I have a source document that’s very critical to the report I want to attach to it, a data report or letter that is secondary to the actual writing, but not secondary to the major issue of the report?" Much of this depends upon your interpretation. A likely source for appendices is computational results. I like to think you’re doing work, so it’s logical to do screen dumps or spreadsheet dumps of tables and calculations. The best place for these is in appendices.

Perspectives on Technical Reports

Dave alciatore, mechanical engineering.

Writing Technical Design Reports as a Group

"Often, technical design reports require that multiple experts help write them. This is called "concurrent engineering." This way, everyone involved with a project contributes. More ground gets covered this way. The report is also a good way to document a design. Then, if problems arise later, everyone can refer to the document. This helps determine where changes were made, etc."

Report Content

"Every company has different means of documentation. Typically, in industry, you won't have to provide as much history in a technical report. This is because in academia, we want you to document your thought processes and project evolution. In industry, you will concentrate more on the initial problem, requirements, and solutions. "

Neil Grigg, Civil Engineering

Multiple Reports for a Project

"Suppose your engineering task is to build a retaining wall. As the main engineer, you've got to consider many aspects: the load, the height, the structural design. You'll write a report where you state the goals and how they will be accomplished. This includes input parameters, the conditions in which you have to work, alternatives, recommendations. Next, soil engineers may actually test the soils at the location. They would then produce a report about what they found. Every project generates multiple reports. "

"Many designs begin with identifying the problem, determining the goals, and creating a list of alternatives. The next part is the evaluation. This includes the technical, legal, economic, financial, environmental, and social evaluations. Then you make recommendations based on these evaluations. Most reports, especially design reports include this information. "

Tom Siller, Civil Engineering

An Example Technical Report

"I once helped produce a report about rock fracturing for a whip site. In that report, we stated the situation, how we would analyze the situation, (because we wanted to be hired as the engineers for the project), the analytical tools we would develop, and our results based on those analytical tools. We did not present a shaft design. Overall, the report presented our way of understanding the issues that would help design a shaft."

Your Report's Purpose

"If your report's purpose is to create an artifact, then you have to present all the technical aspects of the design. This way, someone can read the report and build your artifact. You have to be aware of very fine details whenever you write a report. For instance, will your designs receive public approval? Are you in compliance with regulatory agencies? And so why you are writing the report helps you determine what details to include and exclude."

Kowalski, Dawn. (1994). Engineering Technical Reports. Writing@CSU . Colorado State University.

How to Write a Technical Report?

technical research report writing

What Is a Technical Report?

The definition of a technical report is the following: a technical report is a document written by a researcher; it describes how the research was conveyed: its phases, steps, results, peculiarities, etc., and may include deeper details like experimental data and outcome. It is a document that literally guides readers through the course of your work.

Who Needs a Technical Report?

Many organizations and companies use this type of technical documentation:

  • Educational institutions
  • Governmental organizations
  • Commercial companies
  • Non-profit organizations

As a rule, technical reports are widely used in the following industries: engineering, physical sciences, medical and biomedical fields, social sphere, etc.

Why Use a Technical Report?

If you have one of the following goals, a technical report will surely help you:

  • You need to show the process of your work. Readers are interested in how you do it. Of course, results have a great value as well but how to check whether you’ve chosen the right way to get them?
  • You need to represent important information. This type of technical documentation is often chosen to provide efficient communication among employees on different levels. For example, top management can make decisions based on the information given in technical reports. It means that a technical report may influence the way a company is going to develop in the future.
  • You need to structure data. A technical report helps to represent information logically and show the cause-and-effect relations between the blocks of data.
  • Attract the attention of readers to a problem. A technical report is a very good solution to show readers a problem and, of course, why it should be solved as soon as possible.

What Makes a Good Technical Report?

To write a high-quality technical report, you are to follow the rules that are common nearly for all types of technical documentation:

  • Write for your readers : define your audience, their level of knowledge, organize the document the way they can easily use it;
  • Use accurate, concise, and clear language;
  • Eliminate errors: technical errors, inconsistencies, and errors in language;
  • Use additional sources of information: references and visuals (diagrams, tables, graphs, etc.). For example, using diagrams can be very helpful if you need to show statistical data analyses. Our post - Using Diagrams in IT Documentation: Best Practices - will tell you more on how to use diagrams in technical documentation and which tools to choose;
  • Keep your report short but informative.

person using microscope

What Is the Difference Between a Technical and Non-Technical Report?

Not every report can be called a technical one. Let’s figure out the difference between a technical report and a non-technical one.

technical and non technical report

So, a technical report is a document that gives in-depth technical information. A non-technical report contains other types of information - more general ones. A popular report is a good example of a non-technical report. A popular report is a short document that describes the state’s or government’s financial performance.

Structure of a Technical Report

A technical report usually contains the following elements:

  • Synopses. This is the first element of a technical report, but it should be the last thing to write. It is only a couple of paragraphs long. You are to underline your attitude to the problem, the methods used, the purpose, and the concept of the report.
  • Title page. It is not only the title of the project, there should be some information about the author, their position, submission date, etc.
  • Abstract. It is a short technical summary. As a rule, it is addressed to the audience. They decide whether to read the report or not, as they may already be acquainted with the problem.
  • Table of contents (TOC) . It is a guide to the report’s structure.
  • List of illustrations. It is a list of diagrams, graphs, tables, or other materials that support the content of the report.
  • Introduction. This is the introduction to the body of the report. Sometimes it contains relevant background information. This section describes the aims and objectives of the report, the scope of work, limitations, etc.
  • Body. The longest and most important section of the report. It can be subdivided into logical parts. This is the main scope of work, ideas, methods, etc.
  • Conclusion. Contains the answers to the questions that were specified at the beginning or solutions to the problems.
  • Appendices. The list of references, books, etc.
  • Glossary . The list of terms and symbols used in the report.

Formatting of Technical Reports

Formatting means highlighting some data or information. Formatting may include using corporate style guides to underline that the document belongs to a particular company, or it may include highlighting in order to underline the sense or importance of information. Sometimes, documents have both types of formatting.

Types of Technical Reports

Technical reports can be of various types depending on the industry, goals, and needs:

  • Feasibility report. Is the most popular document at the beginning of the software development process. It helps teams make their choice between several options. It shows whether or not the task in question can be fulfilled with the specified resources.
  • Business plan. It describes the goals of a business, methods of achievement, resources, timeline, etc.
  • Technical specification. Describes requirements for a product or project and information on design and development.
  • Research report. Is the result of an investigation: process and findings.
  • Recommendation report. Contains recommendations to solve a problem.
  • Policies and procedures. Contains guidelines for rational actions.

Even more types of technical reports can be singled out. The above-mentioned ones are considered to be basic.

man and woman sitting side by side

If you are a newbie technical writer, now you surely know what a technical report is and how to write it; if you are an experienced one, you may find new ideas and sources of inspiration in this post. Whatever document you are creating, make sure you do your best to make it as clear as possible to your readers. Stay safe and create perfect technical documentation with ClickHelp !

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  • A Research Guide
  • Writing Guide
  • Assignment Writing

How to Write a Technical Report

  • Technical report format
  • How to write a technical report

Tips on writing a good technical report

Technical report format – how to apply it.

  • The title page
  • Introduction
  • The summary
  • Experimental details
  • Results and discussions
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements
  • Script – the report should be printed on an A4 paper on one side. You should note that the hand-written report is not accepted when it comes to the technical report.
  • Page numbers – while numbering your pages the title page and the summary is an exception. You should number the pages that contain the content.
  • Margins – you should use a margin of at least 2.54cm all round.
  • Binding – when joining your report, you can staple it at the top left if it does not comprise of many pages. If the report is too long, then it is good to bind it so that all the pages may be joined well.

How to write a technical report and where to start

  • Graphs – your graph should be well labelled to avoid confusion of the variables. When it comes to graphs, you can use pie charts and even bar graphs to indicate the trend of what you are analyzing.
  • Diagrams – for the diagrams you should draw simple diagrams, and they should appear after or before the content you are discussing so that the reader can be able to understand its relation.
  • Tables – tables are used for summary purposes. A table can help you list points and explain them in brief which helps the reader go through everything in a brief summary. You should also number your tables for easy reference in your work.
  • Mathematics – while writing a technical report that involves some analysis, it is better to use mathematics because it makes the analysis easier and convenient.


Check out our full review: Read More
  • For you to have a good technical report, you should avoid overusing different fonts in your work because it makes it fussy. You should use different fonts to pinpoint an idea that you want the reader not to miss on it.  You can also use underlining and bolding to serve the same purpose.
  • Use of headings and subheadings is also important because it plans your points. The reader is able to understand different points when you categorize them into small headings and sub-headings. The reader may happen to have so little time with your report, and this will make them want to scheme through the major points, so when you have these headings, you make their work easier.
  • You may use content that does not belong to you while writing your technical report; this will entail proper in-text citation to avoid unoriginality in your work. It is good to know how to cite just as I have mentioned. After citing the source in your content proceed and list the source in your reference list. To avoid plagiarism, you should also try to use your own words while explaining points do not copy everything word by word because it may turn out to be plagiarized and you will be penalized. If you fail to citeyour content, it is assumed to be your content t, failure to which it is said to be plagiarized and this is a big offence which is punishable.
  • You should also be cautious about the information that you obtain from the internet, ensure the sources of information for your report is credible. Sources such as Wikipedia are not reliable and therefore should not be used as your reference. Some of the reference materials that are credible include approved books, articles and journals. You can determine whether a source is credible by looking at the author and their work, a good author will always have positive reviews for all their writings.
  • The final step in your report writing is proofreading your work to ensure everything reads well. Proofreading also helps to avoid spelling and grammatic errors which are common mistakes that are unavoidable. When you proofread your work, you will also discover points that are missing in your report which are essential in that topic and you can make necessary adjustments.
  • While writing your summary, you should be keen on the length so that it does not go beyond 300 words. A summary should not be too long because it will make the reader tired while reading it, it should be short and to the point. The purpose of the summary is usually to give the reader a brief overview of what you are going to cover in the technical report. The reader should have that rough idea in mind of what to expect so that when they go through it, it becomes easier to understand the points.
Read also: “Who can write me a research paper of an excellent quality?”

Technical report example

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