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Writing Report Abstracts

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Types of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts: informational and descriptive.

Informational abstracts

  • Communicate contents of reports
  • Include purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Highlight essential points
  • Are short—from a paragraph to a page or two, depending upon the length of the report (10% or less of the report)
  • Allow readers to decide whether they want to read the report

Descriptive abstracts

  • Tell what the report contains
  • Include purpose, methods, scope, but NOT results, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Are always very short— usually under 100 words
  • Introduce subject to readers, who must then read the report to learn study results

Qualities of a good abstract

An effective abstract

  • Uses one or more well-developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone
  • Uses an introduction-body-conclusion structure in which the parts of the report are discussed in order: purpose, findings, conclusions, recommendations
  • Follows strictly the chronology of the report
  • Provides logical connections between material included
  • Adds no new information but simply summarizes the report
  • Is intelligible to a wide audience

Steps for writing effective report abstracts

To write an effective report abstract, follow these four steps.

Reread your report with the purpose of abstracting in mind. Look specifically for these main parts: purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations.

After you have finished rereading your report, write a rough draft without looking back at your report. Consider the main parts of the abstract listed in step #1. Do not merely copy key sentences from your report. You will put in too much or too little information. Do not summarize information in a new way.

Revise your rough draft to

Correct weaknesses in organization and coherence,

Drop superfluous information,

Add important information originally left out,

Eliminate wordiness, and

Correct errors in grammar and mechanics.

Carefully proofread your final copy.

Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

how to write a technical report abstract

Academic and Professional Writing

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Analysis Papers

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A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Using Literary Quotations

Play Reviews

Writing a Rhetorical Précis to Analyze Nonfiction Texts

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Grant Proposals

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing

Job Materials and Application Essays

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

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Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors

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Writing an Abstract and Introduction

The goal of an engineering abstract is to efficiently and concisely express the purpose and results of your paper. Readers look at the abstract because they are in search of answers, and the abstract allows them to know if your paper is of use to them or not. If the research problem is presented but not the results that address the problem, the reader will not read the article and will search elsewhere. By including the overall results in the abstract, the reader gets a feel for the article and if it is worth reading.

Abstract follows a structure of introductory sentence, a methods sentence, 2-3 sentences of key data points and a conclusion sentence on the overall result. First, there should be an introductory sentence on the research that is needed in a specific area or a problem that needs to be examined. It should introduce the study; that is, the plan to address the problem. Next, the abstract should also include a sentence on data such as tests, samplings, survey results, etc. Following the method of study, a two to three sentence discussion that includes key data points of the study would be helpful to the reader. The abstract should not include mathematics or citations (remember–it is a summary, not a detailed explanation). The conclusion of the abstract should share the overall results from the study. An abstract should stand on its own, i.e. the reader should be able to understand the content of the paper just from reading the abstract.

For an example of how to write an abstract, see the sample document below (Fig. 3.1). Notice the length and placement of the abstract. Also notice that at the end of the abstract are a list of keywords that would be used in a search engine to find the article.

Sample engineering article page 1

Introduction

The introduction could be very lengthy or quite short depending on how long and involved the research is. At times, an introduction could include an abbreviated literature review or history of the project. If the research is a part of a bigger endeavor, the entire study could be briefly discussed and referenced.

Technical Writing @ SLCC Copyright © 2020 by Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies at SLCC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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10.3 Abstract and executive summary

Most technical reports contain at least one abstract—sometimes two, in which case the abstracts play different roles. Abstracts summarize the contents of a report, but the different types do so in different ways:

  • Descriptive abstract. This type provides an overview of the purpose and contents of the report. In some report designs, the descriptive abstract is placed at the bottom of the title page, as shown in the following:

Descriptive abstract. Traditionally, it is placed on the title page (not the cover page).

  • Executive summary. Another common type is the executive summary, which also summarizes the key facts and conclusions contained in the report. Think of this as if you used a yellow highlighter to mark the key sentences in the report and then siphoned them all out onto a separate page and edited them for readability. Typically, executive summaries are one-tenth to one-twentieth the length of reports ten to fifty pages long. For longer reports, ones over fifty pages, the executive summary should not go over two pages. The point of the executive summary is to provide a summary of the report—something that can be read quickly.

If the executive summary, introduction, and transmittal letter strike you as repetitive, remember that readers don’t necessarily start at the beginning of a report and read page by page to the end. They skip around: they may scan the table of contents; they usually skim the executive summary for key facts and conclusions. They may read carefully only a section or two from the body of the report, and then skip the rest. For these reasons, reports are designed with some duplication so that readers will be sure to see the important information no matter where they dip into the report.

Chapter Attribution Information

This chapter was derived by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, from  Online Technical Writing by David McMurrey – CC: BY 4.0

Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline. An abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.

Why write an abstract?

You may write an abstract for various reasons. The two most important are selection and indexing. Abstracts allow readers who may be interested in a longer work to quickly decide whether it is worth their time to read it. Also, many online databases use abstracts to index larger works. Therefore, abstracts should contain keywords and phrases that allow for easy searching.

Say you are beginning a research project on how Brazilian newspapers helped Brazil’s ultra-liberal president Luiz Ignácio da Silva wrest power from the traditional, conservative power base. A good first place to start your research is to search Dissertation Abstracts International for all dissertations that deal with the interaction between newspapers and politics. “Newspapers and politics” returned 569 hits. A more selective search of “newspapers and Brazil” returned 22 hits. That is still a fair number of dissertations. Titles can sometimes help winnow the field, but many titles are not very descriptive. For example, one dissertation is titled “Rhetoric and Riot in Rio de Janeiro.” It is unclear from the title what this dissertation has to do with newspapers in Brazil. One option would be to download or order the entire dissertation on the chance that it might speak specifically to the topic. A better option is to read the abstract. In this case, the abstract reveals the main focus of the dissertation:

This dissertation examines the role of newspaper editors in the political turmoil and strife that characterized late First Empire Rio de Janeiro (1827-1831). Newspaper editors and their journals helped change the political culture of late First Empire Rio de Janeiro by involving the people in the discussion of state. This change in political culture is apparent in Emperor Pedro I’s gradual loss of control over the mechanisms of power. As the newspapers became more numerous and powerful, the Emperor lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people. To explore the role of the newspapers in the political events of the late First Empire, this dissertation analyzes all available newspapers published in Rio de Janeiro from 1827 to 1831. Newspapers and their editors were leading forces in the effort to remove power from the hands of the ruling elite and place it under the control of the people. In the process, newspapers helped change how politics operated in the constitutional monarchy of Brazil.

From this abstract you now know that although the dissertation has nothing to do with modern Brazilian politics, it does cover the role of newspapers in changing traditional mechanisms of power. After reading the abstract, you can make an informed judgment about whether the dissertation would be worthwhile to read.

Besides selection, the other main purpose of the abstract is for indexing. Most article databases in the online catalog of the library enable you to search abstracts. This allows for quick retrieval by users and limits the extraneous items recalled by a “full-text” search. However, for an abstract to be useful in an online retrieval system, it must incorporate the key terms that a potential researcher would use to search. For example, if you search Dissertation Abstracts International using the keywords “France” “revolution” and “politics,” the search engine would search through all the abstracts in the database that included those three words. Without an abstract, the search engine would be forced to search titles, which, as we have seen, may not be fruitful, or else search the full text. It’s likely that a lot more than 60 dissertations have been written with those three words somewhere in the body of the entire work. By incorporating keywords into the abstract, the author emphasizes the central topics of the work and gives prospective readers enough information to make an informed judgment about the applicability of the work.

When do people write abstracts?

  • when submitting articles to journals, especially online journals
  • when applying for research grants
  • when writing a book proposal
  • when completing the Ph.D. dissertation or M.A. thesis
  • when writing a proposal for a conference paper
  • when writing a proposal for a book chapter

Most often, the author of the entire work (or prospective work) writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract. Undergraduates are sometimes asked to draft abstracts of books/articles for classmates who have not read the larger work.

Types of abstracts

There are two types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. They have different aims, so as a consequence they have different components and styles. There is also a third type called critical, but it is rarely used. If you want to find out more about writing a critique or a review of a work, see the UNC Writing Center handout on writing a literature review . If you are unsure which type of abstract you should write, ask your instructor (if the abstract is for a class) or read other abstracts in your field or in the journal where you are submitting your article.

Descriptive abstracts

A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract describes the work being abstracted. Some people consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short—100 words or less.

Informative abstracts

The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the writer presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the complete article/paper/book. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract (purpose, methods, scope) but also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is rarely more than 10% of the length of the entire work. In the case of a longer work, it may be much less.

Here are examples of a descriptive and an informative abstract of this handout on abstracts . Descriptive abstract:

The two most common abstract types—descriptive and informative—are described and examples of each are provided.

Informative abstract:

Abstracts present the essential elements of a longer work in a short and powerful statement. The purpose of an abstract is to provide prospective readers the opportunity to judge the relevance of the longer work to their projects. Abstracts also include the key terms found in the longer work and the purpose and methods of the research. Authors abstract various longer works, including book proposals, dissertations, and online journal articles. There are two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. A descriptive abstract briefly describes the longer work, while an informative abstract presents all the main arguments and important results. This handout provides examples of various types of abstracts and instructions on how to construct one.

Which type should I use?

Your best bet in this case is to ask your instructor or refer to the instructions provided by the publisher. You can also make a guess based on the length allowed; i.e., 100-120 words = descriptive; 250+ words = informative.

How do I write an abstract?

The format of your abstract will depend on the work being abstracted. An abstract of a scientific research paper will contain elements not found in an abstract of a literature article, and vice versa. However, all abstracts share several mandatory components, and there are also some optional parts that you can decide to include or not. When preparing to draft your abstract, keep the following key process elements in mind:

  • Reason for writing: What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
  • Problem: What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
  • Methodology: An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research.
  • Results: Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way.
  • Implications: What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?

(This list of elements is adapted with permission from Philip Koopman, “How to Write an Abstract.” )

All abstracts include:

  • A full citation of the source, preceding the abstract.
  • The most important information first.
  • The same type and style of language found in the original, including technical language.
  • Key words and phrases that quickly identify the content and focus of the work.
  • Clear, concise, and powerful language.

Abstracts may include:

  • The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence.
  • Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature.
  • The same chronological structure as the original work.

How not to write an abstract:

  • Do not refer extensively to other works.
  • Do not add information not contained in the original work.
  • Do not define terms.

If you are abstracting your own writing

When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks (or months, or even years) into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.

Reverse outlining:

This technique is commonly used when you are having trouble organizing your own writing. The process involves writing down the main idea of each paragraph on a separate piece of paper– see our short video . For the purposes of writing an abstract, try grouping the main ideas of each section of the paper into a single sentence. Practice grouping ideas using webbing or color coding .

For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement.

Cut and paste:

To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph.

If you are abstracting someone else’s writing

When abstracting something you have not written, you cannot summarize key ideas just by cutting and pasting. Instead, you must determine what a prospective reader would want to know about the work. There are a few techniques that will help you in this process:

Identify key terms:

Search through the entire document for key terms that identify the purpose, scope, and methods of the work. Pay close attention to the Introduction (or Purpose) and the Conclusion (or Discussion). These sections should contain all the main ideas and key terms in the paper. When writing the abstract, be sure to incorporate the key terms.

Highlight key phrases and sentences:

Instead of cutting and pasting the actual words, try highlighting sentences or phrases that appear to be central to the work. Then, in a separate document, rewrite the sentences and phrases in your own words.

Don’t look back:

After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it. In the first draft, you may not remember all the key terms or the results, but you will remember what the main point of the work was. Remember not to include any information you did not get from the work being abstracted.

Revise, revise, revise

No matter what type of abstract you are writing, or whether you are abstracting your own work or someone else’s, the most important step in writing an abstract is to revise early and often. When revising, delete all extraneous words and incorporate meaningful and powerful words. The idea is to be as clear and complete as possible in the shortest possible amount of space. The Word Count feature of Microsoft Word can help you keep track of how long your abstract is and help you hit your target length.

Example 1: Humanities abstract

Kenneth Tait Andrews, “‘Freedom is a constant struggle’: The dynamics and consequences of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1984” Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997 DAI-A 59/02, p. 620, Aug 1998

This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so. The time period studied includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies. Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports. This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Now let’s break down this abstract into its component parts to see how the author has distilled his entire dissertation into a ~200 word abstract.

What the dissertation does This dissertation examines the impacts of social movements through a multi-layered study of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement from its peak in the early 1960s through the early 1980s. By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.

How the dissertation does it The time period studied in this dissertation includes the expansion of voting rights and gains in black political power, the desegregation of public schools and the emergence of white-flight academies, and the rise and fall of federal anti-poverty programs. I use two major research strategies: (1) a quantitative analysis of county-level data and (2) three case studies.

What materials are used Data have been collected from archives, interviews, newspapers, and published reports.

Conclusion This dissertation challenges the argument that movements are inconsequential. Some view federal agencies, courts, political parties, or economic elites as the agents driving institutional change, but typically these groups acted in response to movement demands and the leverage brought to bear by the civil rights movement. The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi.

Keywords social movements Civil Rights Movement Mississippi voting rights desegregation

Example 2: Science Abstract

Luis Lehner, “Gravitational radiation from black hole spacetimes” Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1998 DAI-B 59/06, p. 2797, Dec 1998

The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search for and analysis of detected signals. The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm. This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

This science abstract covers much of the same ground as the humanities one, but it asks slightly different questions.

Why do this study The problem of detecting gravitational radiation is receiving considerable attention with the construction of new detectors in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The theoretical modeling of the wave forms that would be produced in particular systems will expedite the search and analysis of the detected signals.

What the study does The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source. A module to calculate the waveforms is constructed and included in the evolution algorithm.

Results This code is shown to be second-order convergent and to handle highly non-linear spacetimes. In particular, we have shown that the code can handle spacetimes whose radiation is equivalent to a galaxy converting its whole mass into gravitational radiation in one second. We further use the characteristic formulation to treat the region close to the singularity in black hole spacetimes. The code carefully excises a region surrounding the singularity and accurately evolves generic black hole spacetimes with apparently unlimited stability.

Keywords gravitational radiation (GR) spacetimes black holes

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.

Koopman, Philip. 1997. “How to Write an Abstract.” Carnegie Mellon University. October 1997. http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html .

Lancaster, F.W. 2003. Indexing And Abstracting in Theory and Practice , 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Tips for Writing Technical Papers

Jennifer widom , january 2006, running example, paper title, the abstract, the introduction, related work, performance experiments, the conclusions, future work, the acknowledgements, grammar and small-scale presentation issues, versions and distribution.

  • Academic Skills
  • Reading, writing and referencing

Technical reports

A resource 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: https://library.unimelb.edu.au/recite

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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1 The Formal Technical Report

For technical reports, formal and informal, readers are generally most interested in process and results. Clear presentation of results is at least as important as the results themselves; therefore, writing a report is an exercise in effective communication of technical information. Results, such as numerical values, designed systems or graphs by themselves are not very useful. To be meaningful to others, results must be supported by a written explanation describing how results were obtained and what significance they hold, or how a designed system actually functions. Although the person reading the report may have a technical background, the author should assume unfamiliarity with related theory and procedures. The author must consider supplying details that may appear obvious or unnecessary. With practice, the technical report writer learns which details to include.

The formal technical report contains a complete, concise, and well-organized description of the work performed and the results obtained. Any given report may contain all of the sections described in these guidelines or a subset, depending upon the report requirements. These requirements are decided by the author and are based on the audience and expected use of the report. Audience and purpose are important considerations in deciding which sections to include and what content to provide. If the purpose is to chronicle work performed in lab, as is typical for an academic lab report, the audience is typically the professor who assigned the work and the contents usually include detailed lab procedure, clear presentation of results, and conclusions based on the evidence provided. For a technical report, the audience may be colleagues, customers, or decision makers. Knowing the audience and what they are expecting to get out of reading the report is of primary consideration when deciding on sections to include and their contents.

There are certain aspects to all reports that are common regardless of audience and expected usage. Rather than relegate these overarching report-writing considerations to a secondary position, these items are presented before detailing the typical organization and contents for technical reports.

Universal Report-Writing Considerations

The items listed in this section are often overlooked by those new to technical report writing. However, these items set the stage for how a technical report is received which can impact the author, positively or negatively. While in an academic setting, the author’s grade could be impacted.  While in a professional setting, it is the author’s career that could be affected. Effective communication can make the difference in career advancement, effective influence on enacting positive change, and propelling ideas from thought to action. The list that follows should become second nature to the technical report writer.

Details to consider that affect credibility:

  • Any information in the report that is directly derived or paraphrased from a source must be cited using the proper notation.
  • Any information in the report that is directly quoted or copied from a source must be cited using the proper notation.
  • Any reference material derived from the web or Internet must come from documentable and credible sources. To evaluate websites critically, begin by verifying the credibility of the author (e.g. – credentials, agency or professional affiliation). Note that peer reviewed materials are generally more dependable sources of information as compared to open source. Peer review involves a community of qualified experts from within a profession who validate the publication of the author. Open source information may be created by non-qualified individuals or agencies which is often not reviewed and/or validated by experts within the field or profession.
  • Wikipedia is NOT a credible reference because the information changes over time and authors are not necessarily people with verifiable expertise or credentials.
  • Provide an annotated bibliography of all references. Typically, annotations in technical reports indicate what the source was used for and establish the credibility of the source. This is particularly important for sources with credibility issues. However, an annotation can clarify why a source with questionable credibility was used.
  • With the increasing availability of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as provided by ChatGPT, where GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, credibility will likely be challenged more frequently and will be more difficult to establish. Generative AI models may provide invalid responses and a knowledgeable reader will pick up on that quickly.
  • Make sure to know the consequences if you violate rules provided by your instructor in an academic setting or by your employer in a workplace setting for presenting work by another or by AI as if it were your own (without citation). Additionally, there may be rules on how much of your work can be AI-generated and what annotation you are required to provide when using generative AI. Know the rules and if you can’t find the rules, ASK.
  • See Appendix A for information about citing sources and AI-generated content.

Details to consider that affect the professional tone:

  • Passive voice: “The circuit resistance will be measured with a digital multimeter”.
  • Active voice: “Measure the circuit resistance with a digital multimeter”.
  • Avoid using personal pronouns such as “you”, “we”, “our”, “they”, “us” and “I”. Personal pronouns tend to personalize the technical information that is generally objective rather than subjective in nature. The exception is if the work as a whole is meant to instruct than to inform. For example, technical textbooks whose only purpose is to instruct employ personal pronouns.
  • Avoid using “it”. When “it” is used, the writing often leads to a lack of clarity for the reader as to what idea/concept “it” is referring to, thus negatively impacting overall clarity of the writing.
  • Use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Pay attention to and address spell and grammar check cues from writing software such as Microsoft (MS) Word.  

Details to consider that affect the professional appearance:

  • All figures and tables must be neatly presented and should be computer generated. Use a computer software package, such as Paint, Multisim, AutoCAD, or SolidWorks, to draw figures. If inserting a full-page figure, insert it so can be read from the bottom or from the right side of the page . ALL figures and tables must fit within or very close to the page margins.
  • Generate ALL equations using an equation editor and provide each equation on its own line. Under normal circumstances, there is no reason to embed an equation within a paragraph.  Depending on presentation and how many equations are involved, number the equations for easy reference.
  • Refer to appendix B for information on how to automatically create a Table of Contents and properly number pages.
  • If the report includes an abstract, it should be on an unnumbered page after the title page and before the Table of Contents or it can be included on the title page.
  • For all hard copy reports, all pages of the report must be 8 ½“ X 11” in size. Any larger pages must be folded so as to fit these dimensions. HOWEVER, in this day and age, an electronic submission is most common. Keep in mind that with an electronic submission, it is easier to provide an appealing look with color since a color printer is not required.

Details to consider that affect readability:

  • Every section and sub-section of the report needs to start with an introductory paragraph that provides the context for the section or sub-section.
  • Every figure, graph, table, and equation needs to be introduced to the reader prior to being presented to the reader. This introduction provides the context.
  • ALWAYS NUMBER AND PROVIDE A TITLE FOR ALL FIGURES .
  • Make sure that the verb used can actually operate on the noun. For example, stating “the goal for this report is to observe …” implies that the report can observe when it is likely that the goal of the work reported on is to make certain observations.
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors which are often highlighted with cues by the text editing software. Follow capitalization, punctuation, and indentation norms. Remember to capitalize the names of proprietary items such as licensed software.
  • Define acronyms and abbreviations prior to using them.

Finally, always consider carefully the context of information provided. Know your audience. Thoughtfully consider if a statement is clearly supported by the information provided without leaving your reader confused. Remember that by the time you are writing a report, you should know the information inside and out, but your audience is reading your report to learn.

Standard Components of a Formal Technical Report

Technical reports should be organized into sections and are typically in the order described in this section. While this is the recommended order, certain reports may lend themselves to either reordering sections and/or excluding sections.

The format for this page may vary, however, the following information is always included: report title, who the report was prepared for, who the report was prepared by, and the date of submission. This is not a numbered page of the report.

An abstract is a concise description of the report including its purpose and most important results . An abstract should not be longer than half a page, single-spaced, and must not contain figures or make reference to them. Technical authors are generally so focused on results that they neglect to clearly state the purpose for the work. That purpose is derived from the objectives or goals, most commonly provided by the person who assigned the work. In stating the purpose, it is critical to include key words that would be used in a database search since searches of abstracts are commonly used by professionals to find information they need to do their jobs and make important decisions. Results are summarized in the abstract but how much quantitative information is provided varies with report audience and purpose. It is common to include maximum percent error found in the experimental results as compared to theory. Do not use any specific technical jargon, abbreviations, or acronyms. This is not a numbered page of the report.

Table of Contents

Include all the report sections and appendices. Typically, sub-sections are also listed. This is not a numbered page of the report.

The Table of Contents is easy to include if you properly use the power of the software used to generate the report. The Table of Contents can be automatically generated and updated if the author uses built in report headings provided in the styles menu. It is worth the time and effort to learn these tools since their application are ultimately time-savers for report writers. Directions are provided in Appendix B on creating a Table of Contents in MS Word using section headings.

Introduction

The length of the Introduction depends on the purpose but the author should strive for brevity, clarity, and interest. Provide the objective(s) of the work, a brief description of the problem, and how it is to be attacked. Provide the reader with an overview of why the work was performed, how the work was performed, and the most interesting results. This can usually be accomplished with ease if the work has clearly stated objectives.

Additionally, the introduction of a technical report concludes with a description of the sections that follow the Introduction. This is done to help the reader get some more detailed information about what might be found in each of the report sections included in the body of the report (this does not include appendices). This can feel awkward but providing that information is the accepted standard practice across industries.

Be careful not to use specific technical jargon or abbreviations such as using the term “oscope” instead of “oscilloscope”. Also, make sure to define any acronyms or abbreviations prior to using them. For example, in a surveying lab report a student might want to refer to the electronic distance measuring (EDM) device. The first time the device is referred to, spell out what the acronym stands for before using the acronym, as demonstrated in the previous sentence. Apply this practice throughout wherever an acronym or abbreviation is used but not yet defined within the report.

Background Theory

The purpose of this section is to include, if necessary, a discussion of relevant background theory. Include theory needed to understand subsequent sections that either the reading audience does not already comprehend or is tied to the purpose for the work and report. For example, a report on resistor-capacitor electric circuits that includes measurement of phase shift would likely include a theoretical description of phase shift. In deciding what should or should not be included as background theory, consider presenting any material specific to the work being reported on that you had to learn prior to performing the work including theoretical equations used to calculate theoretical values that are compared to measured values. This section may be divided into subsections if appropriate. Keep the discussion brief without compromising on content relevant to understanding and refer the reader to and cite outside sources of information where appropriate.

The purpose of this section is to provide detailed development of any design included in the report. Do not provide a design section if there is no design aspect to the work. Be sure to introduce and describe the design work within the context of the problem statement using sentences; a series of equations without description and context is insufficient. Use citations if you wish to refer the reader to reference material. Divide this section into subsections where appropriate. For example, a project may consist of designing several circuits that are subsequently interconnected; you may choose to treat each circuit design in its own subsection. The process followed to develop the design should be presented as generally as possible then applied using specific numbers for the work performed. Ultimately, the section must provide the actual design tested and include a clear presentation of how that design was developed.

Theoretical Analysis

Although a theoretical analysis might be part of a design, the author needs to decide if that analysis should be included as part of the design section or a separate section. Typically, any theoretical work performed to develop the design would be included in the design section but any theoretical analysis performed on the design would be included in a separate section. Do not provide a theoretical analysis section if the theoretical work is all described as part of background theory and design sections. However, in most cases, a theoretical analysis section is included to provide important details of all analyses performed. Be brief. It is not necessary to show every step; sentences can be used to describe the intermediate steps. Furthermore, if there are many steps, the reader should be directed to an appendix for complete details. Make sure to perform the analysis with the specific numbers for the work performed leading to the theoretical values reported on and compared to experimental values in the results section of the report. Worth repeating: perform the analyses resulting in the numbers that are included as the theoretical values in the results section of the report. Upon reading the results section, the reader should be familiar with the theoretical values presented there because the reader already saw them in this section.

This section varies depending on requirements of the one who assigned the work and the audience. At a minimum, the author discusses the procedure by describing the method used to test a theory, verify a design or conduct a process. Presentation of the procedure may vary significantly for different fields and different audiences, however, for all fields, the author should BE BRIEF and get to the point . Like with any written work, if it is unnecessarily wordy, the reader becomes bored and the author no longer has an audience. Also, the procedure section should never include specific measurements/results, discussion of results, or explanation of possible error sources. Make sure all diagrams provided are numbered, titled, and clearly labeled.

Depending on the situation, there are two likely types of procedure sections. In one case, a detailed procedure may have already been supplied or perhaps it is not desirable to provide a detailed description due to proprietary work. In another case, it might be the author’s job to develop and provide all the detail so work can be duplicated. The latter is more common in academic lab settings. Writing guidelines for these possible procedure sections are provided below.

Procedure Type 1

Use this procedure type if you have been supplied with a detailed procedure describing the steps required to complete the work or detailed procedure is not to be supplied to potential readers (procedure may be proprietary). Briefly describe the method employed to complete the work. This is meant to be a brief procedural description capturing the intention of the work, not the details. The reader may be referred to the appendix for detailed procedure steps. The following list provides considerations for this type of procedure section.

  • Example: For measurements made over a range of input settings, provide the actual range without including the details of the specific input settings or order data was taken (unless order affects results).
  • If required by the person who assigned the work, include the detailed procedure in the appendix.
  • MUST provide detailed diagram(s) of all applicable experimental set-ups (i.e. circuit diagram) that include specific information about the set-up, such as resistor values.
  • Provide diagrams and/or pictures that will further assist the reader in understanding the procedural description.
  • Provide a details of any work performed for which prescribed steps were not provided and that the author deems necessary for the reader’s comprehension.
  • To test the theory of superposition, the circuit shown in Figure 1 is employed. The circuit is constructed on the lab bench and using MultismTM, a circuit simulation software. In both settings, a multimeter is used to measure the output voltage, as shown in Figure 1, for the following three cases: (1) Source 1 on and Source 2 off, (2) Source 1 off and Source 2 on, and (3) both sources on. These measurements are compared to the output voltage derived using theory as described earlier. Refer to the appendix for further detail or procedure.
  • In order to test the theory of superposition, first each team member must calculate the output voltage for the circuit shown in Figure 1 for the following three cases: (1) Source 1 on and Source 2 off, (2) Source 1 off and Source 2 on, and (3) both sources on. Then one team member is assigned to build the circuit on the lab bench while the other team member constructs the circuit in Multisim. Once constructed, turn Source 1 on and Source 2 off then connect the positive lead of the meter to the positive end of the output voltage and the negative lead of the meter to the negative end of the output voltage. Record the meter reading. Next turn on Source 2 and turn off Source 1. Again, measure the output voltage using the meter ….

Procedure Type 2

Use this procedure type if you have not been supplied with a detailed description of the steps required to complete the work and/or you were required to develop and report procedure. The reader should be able to repeat the work based on the content supplied in this section.

  • Equipment use
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Define terms specific to the technology
  • Measurement techniques and/or calibration
  • The description should be sufficiently clear so that the reader could duplicate the work. Do not assume that the reader has prior knowledge or access to prior reports, textbooks, or handouts.
  • If part of the procedure was successfully described in a previous report, either repeat the procedure or include that report in the appendix and refer the reader to it.
  • Where appropriate, provide additional diagrams and/or pictures to assist the reader in understanding the procedure.

Results and Discussion

Present the results of the work performed, within the context of the problem statement, using neatly organized and completely labeled tables and/or graphs whenever possible. When comparative data is available, present the data in a way that facilitates the comparison. For example, if theoretical and experimental values are available, present the values alongside one another accompanied by percent error. If it would help the reader understand the results, include a few sample calculations but put lengthy calculations in an appendix.

ALWAYS accompany results with a meaningful discussion. The discussion explains what the results mean and points out trends. In some cases, the results speak mostly for themselves and the discussion may be brief, i.e., “Table 2 shows that the designed variable modulus counter works as expected” along with a sentence or two stating how a variable modulus counter works and referring to parts of the table that verify/justify the statement. In other cases, the meaning of the results may not be as clear requiring more detailed discussion. In most cases, the results include data from more than one source to be compared to establish validity. Meaningful discussion immediately follows presentation of results and include:

  • commenting on percent difference making sure it is clear to the reader which values are being compared and establishing comparative size of the difference in relation to expectations (negligible, small, large),
  • cause for the difference (error sources are discussed further in the next paragraph), and
  • how the results inform the reader as framed by the work’s objectives.

All three of the points are important to a meaningful discussion but the third one is most often overlooked. Discussion related to (3) may provide a statement about the theory used to predict the measured data. That statement often includes the theoretical assumptions made to predict the results and what the measured results indicate about the applicability of those theoretical assumptions to the experimental setting.

ALWAYS discuss the possible significant sources of error and how accurate the results need to be in order to be meaningful. Do not include a discussion of possible sources of error that would not add significantly to the observed error. What counts as significant depends on the situation. For example, if the components used have a tolerance of 5% and the accuracy of the equipment is within 0.5% of the measured value, then the equipment does not add significant error. However, if the components used have only a 1% tolerance then equipment with 0.5% accuracy is problematic. In general, it is impossible to obtain error-free results, therefore when there is 0% error there is still cause for discussion to comment on the situation that may result in error-free results or meaningful justification for expectation of error-free results. Expecting some error is not an excuse for lack of attention to detail when conducting procedures that minimize the error. Errors are different from mistakes. It is unacceptable to report mistakes. If a mistake was made, the work must be repeated until acceptable tolerances are achieved before submitting a report. Please find more on discussing percent error or percent difference in Appendix C.

When working in industry, it is imperative to know required level of accuracy for results. Your supervisor or client will expect results within specifications. If that means repetitive measurements to check for accuracy within tolerance, then do it. If it means performing a detailed analysis prior to making measurements, then do it. In an academic setting, the result of laziness or lack of effort may only be a bad grade. In a workplace, you may get fired!

Other information pertaining to writing Results and Discussion section can be found in Appendix C. This information includes

  • How to calculate percent difference/error.
  • Typical magnitudes of percent error for courses where circuits are constructed.
  • What to consider writing about based on questions posed by the person assigning you to write the report.
  • Guidelines for graphs provided in a report.

In this final section of the body of the report, the author should briefly bring everything together. It is similar to the abstract except that now specific results are concluded upon in a quantitative way. Therefore, the conclusion should be a concise description of the report including its purpose and most important results providing specific quantitative information. The conclusion should not contain figures or refer to them. As with the abstract, the reader should be able to read this section on its own which means that there should be no specific technical jargon, abbreviations, or acronyms used.

Anywhere within your writing that you have either copied or paraphrased another source, you must cite that source. This entails two steps. One is to provide a parenthetical citation at the location in the report where the material that is not your own resides and the other is to provide the complete bibliographic information in a References page following the Conclusion section of the report. If an annotated bibliography is required, include an annotation for ALL sources describing what the source was used for within the report and establishes the source’s credibility.

Using the APA style, the parenthetical citation at the location in the document where the copied or paraphrased material exists includes: author, publication date, and page number(s). For sources with no author, the name of the reference material is used. All this information is included within parentheses thus being referred to as a “parenthetical citation”.

The full bibliographic information for all reference material cited within your writing is collected on the References page. In technical papers, the referenced sources are usually listed in the order they are referred to in the body of the report and, in fact, many published engineering papers will simply number the references and then use that number in square brackets to replace the parenthetical citation within the body of the report. Those new to this form of technical writing, often ask about how and where to list references used but not explicitly cited in the body of the report. However, if the reference is important enough to list, that generally means that there is an appropriate place to cite it in the body of the report, perhaps in the introduction or background theory. In Appendix A you can find further information about creating citations using citation generators available on the internet that will create a properly formatted citation for you when provided with the relevant information. Although citation generators are readily available, the one I recommend is from Calvin College called KnightCite due to the minimum sponsored advertisements and can be found at http://www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite/ .

The References section begins on a new page; not on the same page with the conclusion. Refer to Appendix A for detailed information on preparing the References section. Also, there is a wealth of information about citation styles, including lengthy guides and short handouts, at https://sunydutchess.libguides.com/citations .

One final note on references and providing bibliographic information concerns use of sources that may appear to be questionable. There is no doubt that information from a wiki is questionable since, by definition, it can be changed by users including unqualified users. Although most wikis are reviewed and erroneous or misleading information corrected, at any given time there could be erroneous and misleading information. However, depending on report content, internet sources, including .com sites that have industry bias and .org sites that have policy bias, may have valuable information. Even .edu sites can be problematic if site is by an individual rather than an educational group within the institution since the former is likely not to have any editors and the latter is likely to be monitored and curated by the group. In order to establish credibility or usefulness of a source, especially a questionable one, provide an annotation to the bibliographic information that provides further information as to why the source was included and perspective on its application to the work reported. Information about annotated bibliographies is provided in Appendix A.

This section may not always be present. Materials included in an appendix may include lab sheets, parts list, diagrams, extensive calculations, error analyses, and lengthy computer programs.  Introduce numbered or lettered appendices rather than putting different items in one appendix.

Technical Report Writing Guidelines Copyright © by Leah M. Akins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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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 84,887 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

how to write a technical report abstract

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

You might also like.

Write an Expression of Interest

  • ↑ https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/explore-our-resources/report-writing/technical-report-writing
  • ↑ https://www.sussex.ac.uk/ei/internal/forstudents/engineeringdesign/studyguides/techreportwriting
  • ↑ http://homepages.rpi.edu/~holguj2/CIVL2030/How_to_write_search/How_to_write_a_good_technical_report.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.theiet.org/media/5182/technical-report-writing.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.sussex.ac.uk/ei/internal/forstudents/engineeringdesign/studyguides/techreportwriting
  • ↑ https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/explore-our-resources/report-writing/executive-summaries
  • ↑ https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/technicalwriting/chapter/10-4-table-of-contents/

About This Article

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5.2 Executive Summary and Abstract

An Executive Summary is a short document that details the results of a laboratory experiment. It may appear as a stand-alone document or included within a longer report. The reader should be able to quickly read it and obtain important results and conclusions from an experiment.

Individual sections of an Executive Summary are not divided by subheadings. As a stand-alone document, the length of text should not exceed one page with an additional 1-2 pages for figures or tables.

When included as part of a Lab Report, the summary should not include or reference tables and figures.

It is acceptable to repeat information from the rest of the lab report; however, the summary should not include any new information or conclusions that are not already stated elsewhere. For this reason, it is advisable to write the executive summary last , after all other sections of the document are drafted.

Many technical reports include a short abstract at the beginning of the report. Abstracts are typically written to enable the reader to determine if they want to read the report in its entirety. They are extremely concise version of the full report. They do not present any information that is not included in the full report.

An abstract is written in introduction–body–conclusion paragraph form and should not include subsections. Abstracts should not include any images, graphs, tables, or sample calculations. The parts of an abstract are related to their counterparts in the full lab report, but are abbreviated versions.

Executive Summary

Background & Purpose: The background should be a paragraph that contains the goals of the lab and briefly explains what significance it has to the scientific community.

  • State the objective of the lab exercise. Though this is provided in the lab documents, the purpose should be restated in your own words. The purpose should be specific and focus on scientific principles. Example: In this lab, four types of beams were tested to determine which has the greatest strength-to-weight ratio (grams-pounds).
  • In a sentence or two, explain why the purpose of the lab is important to the scientific community. What is the motivation behind performing this lab? Example: ABC Company wants to determine whether lighting is better in parallel or in series. The results of the lab will allow the team to make a recommendation for the company.

Results and Analysis: In 1-2 paragraphs, summarize the most important results and trends in the experiment. In a stand-alone document, figures and tables in an appendix can be referenced to support your analysis.

  • State results and content independent of your own influence. These observations should be relevant to the purpose of the lab experiment.
  • Describe trends and implications by referencing your results. What can you infer from your data? Example: Increasing wind speeds caused the turbine to produce more power, as shown in Table 4. To maximize power production, turbines should be placed where they will receive the strongest winds.
  • Briefly describe possible errors and discuss potential solutions.

Conclusion & Recommendations: The final paragraph should emphasize the conclusions drawn from the results and how the results can be used in your scenario.

  • State your conclusions based on the results of the lab.
  • Provide recommendations for the scenario posed at the beginning of the lab procedure, based on the lab results. Example: Based on the results of the procedure, the team recommends a tapered channel with a toothed check valve that leads to an oval detection well.

Appendices: Create a new appendix for each category of content.

  • Appendix A: Experimental Data
  • Appendix B: Equations and Sample Calculations
  • Arrange appendices in the order in which they are referenced within your summary. Every appendix must be referenced within the document.
  • Start figure and table labels at 1 in each appendix. Each numeric label will be preceded by the appendix letter and a period with no spaces (e.g., A.1, or B.3) . Labels should be formatted as described in Using Graphics and Visuals Effectively .
  • Organize and format each appendix neatly. Appendices should not be storage for messy or extraneous information.
  • Place any necessary figures and tables in an appendix. Executive summaries should not have figures and tables within the summary. It is acceptable to choose the most important content to limit the figures and tables to 1-2 pages.

Introduction: Briefly describe the goals of the lab and explain its significance to the scientific community.

Experimental Methodology: An abstract will typically be read by someone who is not familiar with the experiment. Mention the methods used in your experiment.

  • Include a brief description of the experiment. Example: The efficiency of each design was measured by retrieving data from the Arduino and analyzing the energy usage in MATLAB.
  • Discuss what data was collected and how you collected it.
  • Do not discuss specific equipment unless it is unique and vital to the purpose of the experiment.

Results: Provide a summary of the results of the experiment in a few sentences.

  • Present the final, processed results and observations of the experiment. Example: A circular check valve with tapered channels leading to an ovalur detection well required the smallest fluid sample to fill the detection well.
  • State any possible sources of error.
  • Do not include or reference any raw data, calculations, graphs, or tables.

Conclusion: Summarize the conclusions and recommendations from the experiment in 1-2 sentences.

  • State the conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the experiment and connect these conclusions to the purpose as described in the introduction.
  • Briefly describe possible solutions to the limitations of the experiment and suggest any further studies that may be meaningful.

Additional Resources

University of Toronto Engineering Communication Program: Abstracts and Executive Summaries University of Waterloo: Executive Summaries USC Research Guides: Appendices

Fundamentals of Engineering Technical Communications Copyright © by Leah Wahlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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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.

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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.

Proofreading

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.

Presentation

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, Bit.ai is here to help.

Read more:  Technical Manual: What, Types & How to Create One? (Steps Included)

Bit.ai : The Ultimate Tool for Writing Technical Reports

Bit.ai: 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 Bit.ai’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 Bit.ai 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 bit.ai 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 bit.ai 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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Writing an abstract - a six point checklist (with samples)

Posted in: abstract , dissertations

how to write a technical report abstract

The abstract is a vital part of any research paper. It is the shop front for your work, and the first stop for your reader. It should provide a clear and succinct summary of your study, and encourage your readers to read more. An effective abstract, therefore should answer the following questions:

  • Why did you do this study or project?
  • What did you do and how?
  • What did you find?
  • What do your findings mean?

So here's our run down of the key elements of a well-written abstract.

  • Size - A succinct and well written abstract should be between approximately 100- 250 words.
  • Background - An effective abstract usually includes some scene-setting information which might include what is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question (a few short sentences).
  • Purpose  - The abstract should also set out the purpose of your research, in other words, what is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present).
  • Methods - The methods section should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. It should include brief details of the research design, sample size, duration of study, and so on.
  • Results - The results section is the most important part of the abstract. This is because readers who skim an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.
  • Conclusion - This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcomes of the study. However, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:
  • The primary take-home message.
  • Any additional findings of importance.
  • Implications for future studies.

abstract 1

Example Abstract 2: Engineering Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone.

bone

Abstract from: Dalstra, M., Huiskes, R. and Van Erning, L., 1995. Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone. Journal of biomechanical engineering, 117(3), pp.272-278.

And finally...  A word on abstract types and styles

Abstract types can differ according to subject discipline. You need to determine therefore which type of abstract you should include with your paper. Here are two of the most common types with examples.

Informative Abstract

The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300 words in length.

Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgements about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract only describes the work being summarised. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less.

Adapted from Andrade C. How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;53(2):172-5. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.82558. PMID: 21772657; PMCID: PMC3136027 .

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