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Specific Applications Technical Reports. Part II. Technical Reports. Report structure is argumentative or chronological, what is the difference?Usually, technical reports are argumentative while lab and research reports are chronological.

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technical reports
Technical Reports
  • Report structure is argumentative or chronological, what is the difference?Usually, technical reports are argumentative while lab and research reports are chronological.
  • Reports are read by a variety of audiences: technical, busy managers, and non experts The report should be responsive to heir needs. How?
  • The foreword sets up a problem, the summary identifies the solution, and the discussion provides the detailed support for the proposed solution.
  • Two structural features to increase responsiveness:
    • Foreword (introduction) and summary (overview) for non-specialists followed by discussion or details for experts
    • Placement of generalization or claims before their support in the part written for specialist readers.
the foreword introduction
The Foreword (Introduction)
  • Foreword not forward!
  • Placed at the beginning of the document to be accessible to the busy managerial or non-special readers.
  • The foreword identifies the issue or problem discussed in the report.
  • The purposes of the foreword are:
      • To show the reader how it fits overall goals, why is it important
      • To define what was done and to indicate the missing information the report provides
      • To define the purpose of the report and to predict what information the report present, is it a cost study? Etc.
example of a foreword
Example of a Foreword

Example 1

  • During my visit to your nursery on September 15, 2002, you and I observed the high mortality of seedlings in bed 19. As you stated, this will lead to a production shortage in 2010. You requested my help in finding the cause of this problem so that it can be corrected in the near future. The purposes of this report are (1) to explain that the parasitic nematodes are the probable cause of high seedling mortality and (2) to recommend a solution to the problem.
the summary
The Summary
  • Comes after the the foreword to address the busy managers and non-specialists.
  • The summary provides a compact statements of results, conclusions, and recommendations to help managers make a decision.
  • The purposes of the summary are:
    • To quickly present the main results of the project
    • To quickly present the important recommendations and implications of the project.
example 2
Example 2
  • Notice how the foreword drives the structure of the report around two criteria: effectiveness and cost of the options.


In your letter of July 7, 2002, you asked me to suggest a treatment process for the wastewater from your new citrus processing plant. You stated that any treatment process selected should:

  • exhibit performance effectiveness under average and adverse flow conditions
  • exhibit cost superiority in initial cost and yearly spending.


Consequently , I have compared several treatment alternatives using the data you have supplied and your criteria as a basis for comparison. The purpose of this report is to recommend a process for economically and efficiently treating citrus processing waste


An aerated lagoon is recommended as the most efficient and economical method for treating citrus processing wastes. Several treatment processes were considered in the selection. These include the activated sludge process, the anaerobic lagoon, and the aerated lagoon. The advantages of the aerated lagoon over the other treatment processes are as follows:

The aerated lagoon is the only alternative which could meet the federal pollutions standards under adverse flow conditions. It exhibits significantly better performance and under all conditions through more consistent BOD reduction and higher organic loading potential.
  • The aerated lagoon affords significantly lower initial and yearly costs due to its ease of construction,operation,and maintenance. Per lagoon, the estimated initial cost is only $114,000 and the annual operating cost $22,800, approximately half as expensive as the more economical of the other two options.


Framing Summaries for Particular Audiences

Once you have defined the audience for a report, you need to decide how to convoy the information so that the audience can understand and use it.

Consider the following example. You are a geologist working for a city. You have been hired hired to locate new wells to increase water supply. The council includes two businesspeople, one farmer, one school teacher, and one lawyer. Which version of a summary would be most appropriate?

structuring proofs and technical discussions
Structuring Proofs and technical Discussions
  • “Discussion or details” section follows the summary and provides details to support the proposed solution.
  • This section is called “discussion” in a long report, and the Details or Discussion in a short report.
  • The details are are which the manager could read or skip depending upon a need to know
  • The specialist would find the details essential in evaluating the argument.
The details are followed by Appendixes which provide other supporting details but nonessential, or so lengthy that they might disrupt the argument in the details section if presented there. See the figure for the structure of a short informal report.
  • The report moves from generalization or claims (the Foreword and Summary) to support (the Details).
  • Similarly, inside the details section, the report moves from main claim to support. Within support of the main claim, there are subclaims and supports. See the figure.
long reports
Long Reports
  • In a long report, you structure the discussion section differently and you provide a nice title page (in a formal report).
  • Long Informal Reports
    • Written for users inside the same organization. Usually start with a heading that lists: to, from, subject, date, and a distribution list.
    • The discussion is written for a technical reader. It contains three main subsections:

A.1 Introduction to the Discussion:

restates the foreword in terms useful to the technical reader. The foreword concentrates on issues such as safety, cost, and efficiency.

The Introduction to the discussion focuses on issues such as definition of the technical nature and details of the problem or outlines technical assumptions, values, background, or resources relevant to the problem.

Consider the following example written by an electrical engineer at a company making heaters, fans, and portable lights. Can you see the difference?

A.2 The Main Proof or Development of claims Section

A. 3 Conclusion and Recommendations

  • This section might be too complex and technical for a managerial reader, that is where it is mainly different from the Summary.
  • When possible, the writer moves from generalization or claims to data and support.
  • Consider the following example written by a geologist to a city council. You will understand the Summary. You need to be a geologist to understand the Conclusions and Recommendations.
b long formal report
B. Long Formal Report
  • Written to readers outside the writer’s organization.
  • Different from a short informal report in the following:
    • It begins with a title page, see example next two slides. The information given on and the format of a Title Page may vary with the requirements of different organizations
    • It includes an abstract.
    • It includes a table of contents and sometimes a list of Illustrations, each beginning in a new page.
    • It begins the Foreword, Summary, and discussion, or their equivalent, on new pages.
A descriptor Variable Approach To Modeling

Large Scale Systems

Final Report

January 2003-March 2003

Systems Control, Inc.

1234 Al_Thawra Street

Cairo-Egypt 34567

Kamal M. Ahmed

John Doe

Date Prepared- March 2003

Prepared for the



Division of Electric Energy Systems

Work Performed under Contract NCS EX-75-0-0-2090

  • The Discussion section of a long formal report is divided into sections. Each section may start with “Introduction” to the discussion.
  • The last section of the discussion is for Specific Conclusions and Recommendations.
  • The report may also include appendixes. In a very long report, the report can be broken into Volumes, separate books. Some of the volumes can be devoted to the Appendixes.
  • Examine the given example of the table of contents of Volume 1 of a report. Volume 2 and 3 function as Appendixes for volume 1.

End of example of a Title Page