As an engineering student, you can be tasked to write engineering reports quite frequently. And in most of those cases, you have a one-time deal. If you write the report properly, you’ll get a good grade and also a ticket inside your teacher’s good books. And if you flunk it…then you’ll just flunk it.
In this guide, we will help you understand how an engineering report is typically written and what you can do to make yours particularly high-quality.
Parts of an Engineering Report
An engineering report is written in a specific format, and it usually consists of the following parts:
- Table of contents
- Main body
- Conclusionary parts
How to Write an Engineering Report?
Since writing an engineering report is a multi-faceted process spread out over different steps, we will carry on our guide in a like manner. We will list each part of the report, describe what it usually contains, and how you can properly write it.
The first part of the report is the summary. This is often called the executive summary in some places.
This part of the report basically describes the main points that the report covers. While the table of contents follows afterward, the summary is written in paragraph(s) i.e., in textual form.
If, for example, you want to write a report on a topic like “An analysis of the risks associated with the innovative sprinkler system,” the summary could read thus:
“This report covers the various risks associated with the new sprinkler system, such as the insensitivity of its smoke sensors as well as the paucity of the pressure with which the water is ejected.”
Mind you, this is just an example. Summaries can be way longer than this, and the exact way in which they are written depends on the guidelines provided by your institute.
How can you write a good summary for your report?
Here are some of the things that you should do to write a good summary for your report:
- Be sure to include everything that the report covers. Leaving details out or adding nonexistent ones can detract from the overall quality of your report.
- Be sure to use easy words and phrases. While maintaining readability is something that you should do throughout the report, it’s more important for the introduction. The whole report can acquire an undesirable impression should the readability be compromised right at the start.
Take care of the word count. When you’re writing a summary, you have to treat it as a summary. You should not make it so long as to make the main body redundant (by giving all the details at the start), and neither should you make it so short as to render it useless and incomprehensible.
Table of Contents
The table of contents follows the executive summary. The table merely lists the headings and sections that the report will contain. There are some things that you have to do right when drawing out the table, some of which we’re mentioning below:
How to create a good table of contents?
- For starters, be sure to include all the headings and sub-headings in the table. If you leave out any of them, it will make your entire report look amateurish and unreliable.
- Add page numbers in front of all the headings/sub-headings so that the reader can easily jump to any of them.
- Use the right font sizes and indents to denote the different levels of headings and sub-headings
Make sure the table of contents matches the color theme and formatting styling of the rest of the report
The introduction is the part of your report which leads into the main body. Unlike a summary, you don’t have to include all and everything in the introduction. Rather, you just have to describe the main concept behind the report and then explain what you will be discussing in the main body.
Once again, as is the case with the other stuff that we’ve mentioned above, here are some tips that you can follow to write a good introduction.
How to write a good introduction for your engineering report?
- Keep it short. The introduction should not be too long since the purpose of writing is to only describe the context and setting of the report. As a rule, your intro should be 5 – 10% of the total word count of the report.
- Describe everything in the correct chronological order. As we mentioned earlier, the introduction is not where you have to let loose with details about all the aspects of the report. That is what you have to do in the summary. In the intro, the information you provide should be limited and placed in the correct chronological order. That way, even if you leave out some of the details, the existing ones won’t be confusing due to being anachronistic.
Keep your wording understandable. As is the case with the summary, the introduction can be the factor that decides whether the reader continues the report with a positive impression or a negative one. If the introduction is on point, it will make your overall report look authoritative as well.
After the introduction comes the main body of the report itself.
The main body can consist of different parts and sections depending on the type of report you’re writing. For example, there could be some text-based theoretical parts as well as some evidential graphs/charts, etc.
In some reports, the main body could wholly contain the latter, i.e., graphics, whereas in some, it could contain just the former, i.e., plain text.
Since this is a guide for the “writing” part, we will discuss some tips that you can follow for the textual areas:
- Create headings and sub-headings in the content. To make the text easier to read and understand, you should create headings and sub-headings to segmentize it. Even if you separate all the points into paras but don’t arrange them into headings and sub-headings, the readability and visual convenience of the report will get compromised.
- Use easy and simple wording. As far as possible, keep your wording easy and simple. Of course, this tip does not cover technical terms. It’s fine to include technical terms as they are since the reader will be acquainted with them. If you want to simplify your words/sentences after you write them, you can use an online paraphrasing tool to do it easily and quickly. High-quality paraphrasing tools can make your content look more readable by affecting suitable changes to it.
Substantiate all the claims and arguments with proper evidence. At any and every instance in the report where you mention any claim of yours, i.e., something that is not attributed to an existing source or author, you should substantiate it with evidence.
The conclusionary parts of the engineering reports usually consist of the conclusion of the findings as well as the recommendations. The recommendations basically refer to the suggestions that are provided by the writer for solving the main issues covered in the report.
Here are some tips that you can follow when writing the conclusion of your report:
- When writing the actual conclusion, don’t stretch it out for too long. Use it to briefly summarize the findings in the report in such a way that if someone happens to skip the entire main body, they can still understand the points that you’ve mentioned in it.
The recommendations you provide should be on-point and relevant to the problems discussed in the report. The more practical and direct your recommendations are, the more viable and effective they will look. Instead of branching out on hypothetical situations and scenarios, your recommendations should address the actual problems that you had enumerated in your report.
The “References” part of the report basically contains the names and other details of the sources that you use throughout the main body. This can include the sources of any evidence that you may have used in the report or any other facts/figures that you may have presented to back up your point/arguments.
There aren’t a lot of tips that we can enumerate for this step. You just have to be careful about getting the details of the sources right. And you should also mention all the references in the correct order, i.e., in which they are mentioned in the report.
Writing an engineering report can be tricky, but if you know how to write one, you can take care of it fairly easily.
In the guide above, we’ve listed the main steps of the report-writing process as well as some tips that you can follow to complete them properly.