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Reports, Proposals, and Technical Papers
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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.
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.
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.
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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Table of contents
2 structure, 3 presentation, 4 planning the report, 5 writing the first draft, 6 revising the first draft, 7 diagrams, graphs, tables and mathematics, 8 the report layout, 10 references to diagrams, graphs, tables and equations, 11 originality and plagiarism, 12 finalising the report and proofreading, 13 the summary, 14 proofreading, 15 word processing / desktop publishing, 16 recommended reading.
A technical report is a formal report designed to convey technical information in a clear and easily accessible format. It is divided into sections which allow different readers to access different levels of information. This guide explains the commonly accepted format for a technical report; explains the purposes of the individual sections; and gives hints on how to go about drafting and refining a report in order to produce an accurate, professional document.
A technical report should contain the following sections;
For technical reports required as part of an assessment, the following presentation guidelines are recommended;
There are some excellent textbooks contain advice about the writing process and how to begin (see Section 16 ). Here is a checklist of the main stages;
- Collect your information. Sources include laboratory handouts and lecture notes, the University Library, the reference books and journals in the Department office. Keep an accurate record of all the published references which you intend to use in your report, by noting down the following information; Journal article: author(s) title of article name of journal (italic or underlined) year of publication volume number (bold) issue number, if provided (in brackets) page numbers Book: author(s) title of book (italic or underlined) edition, if appropriate publisher year of publication N.B. the listing of recommended textbooks in section 2 contains all this information in the correct format.
- Creative phase of planning. Write down topics and ideas from your researched material in random order. Next arrange them into logical groups. Keep note of topics that do not fit into groups in case they come in useful later. Put the groups into a logical sequence which covers the topic of your report.
- Structuring the report. Using your logical sequence of grouped ideas, write out a rough outline of the report with headings and subheadings.
N.B. the listing of recommended textbooks in Section 16 contains all this information in the correct format.
Who is going to read the report? For coursework assignments, the readers might be fellow students and/or faculty markers. In professional contexts, the readers might be managers, clients, project team members. The answer will affect the content and technical level, and is a major consideration in the level of detail required in the introduction.
Begin writing with the main text, not the introduction. Follow your outline in terms of headings and subheadings. Let the ideas flow; do not worry at this stage about style, spelling or word processing. If you get stuck, go back to your outline plan and make more detailed preparatory notes to get the writing flowing again.
Make rough sketches of diagrams or graphs. Keep a numbered list of references as they are included in your writing and put any quoted material inside quotation marks (see Section 11 ).
Write the Conclusion next, followed by the Introduction. Do not write the Summary at this stage.
This is the stage at which your report will start to take shape as a professional, technical document. In revising what you have drafted you must bear in mind the following, important principle;
- the essence of a successful technical report lies in how accurately and concisely it conveys the intended information to the intended readership.
During year 1, term 1 you will be learning how to write formal English for technical communication. This includes examples of the most common pitfalls in the use of English and how to avoid them. Use what you learn and the recommended books to guide you. Most importantly, when you read through what you have written, you must ask yourself these questions;
- Does that sentence/paragraph/section say what I want and mean it to say? If not, write it in a different way.
- Are there any words/sentences/paragraphs which could be removed without affecting the information which I am trying to convey? If so, remove them.
It is often the case that technical information is most concisely and clearly conveyed by means other than words. Imagine how you would describe an electrical circuit layout using words rather than a circuit diagram. Here are some simple guidelines;
The appearance of a report is no less important than its content. An attractive, clearly organised report stands a better chance of being read. Use a standard, 12pt, font, such as Times New Roman, for the main text. Use different font sizes, bold, italic and underline where appropriate but not to excess. Too many changes of type style can look very fussy.
Use heading and sub-headings to break up the text and to guide the reader. They should be based on the logical sequence which you identified at the planning stage but with enough sub-headings to break up the material into manageable chunks. The use of numbering and type size and style can clarify the structure as follows;
- In the main text you must always refer to any diagram, graph or table which you use.
- Label diagrams and graphs as follows; Figure 1.2 Graph of energy output as a function of wave height. In this example, the second diagram in section 1 would be referred to by "...see figure 1.2..."
- Label tables in a similar fashion; Table 3.1 Performance specifications of a range of commercially available GaAsFET devices In this example, the first table in section 3 might be referred to by "...with reference to the performance specifications provided in Table 3.1..."
- Number equations as follows; F(dB) = 10*log 10 (F) (3.6) In this example, the sixth equation in section 3 might be referred to by "...noise figure in decibels as given by eqn (3.6)..."
Whenever you make use of other people's facts or ideas, you must indicate this in the text with a number which refers to an item in the list of references. Any phrases, sentences or paragraphs which are copied unaltered must be enclosed in quotation marks and referenced by a number. Material which is not reproduced unaltered should not be in quotation marks but must still be referenced. It is not sufficient to list the sources of information at the end of the report; you must indicate the sources of information individually within the report using the reference numbering system.
Information that is not referenced is assumed to be either common knowledge or your own work or ideas; if it is not, then it is assumed to be plagiarised i.e. you have knowingly copied someone else's words, facts or ideas without reference, passing them off as your own. This is a serious offence . If the person copied from is a fellow student, then this offence is known as collusion and is equally serious. Examination boards can, and do, impose penalties for these offences ranging from loss of marks to disqualification from the award of a degree
This warning applies equally to information obtained from the Internet. It is very easy for markers to identify words and images that have been copied directly from web sites. If you do this without acknowledging the source of your information and putting the words in quotation marks then your report will be sent to the Investigating Officer and you may be called before a disciplinary panel.
Your report should now be nearly complete with an introduction, main text in sections, conclusions, properly formatted references and bibliography and any appendices. Now you must add the page numbers, contents and title pages and write the summary.
The summary, with the title, should indicate the scope of the report and give the main results and conclusions. It must be intelligible without the rest of the report. Many people may read, and refer to, a report summary but only a few may read the full report, as often happens in a professional organisation.
- Purpose - a short version of the report and a guide to the report.
- Length - short, typically not more than 100-300 words
- Content - provide information, not just a description of the report.
This refers to the checking of every aspect of a piece of written work from the content to the layout and is an absolutely necessary part of the writing process. You should acquire the habit of never sending or submitting any piece of written work, from email to course work, without at least one and preferably several processes of proofreading. In addition, it is not possible for you, as the author of a long piece of writing, to proofread accurately yourself; you are too familiar with what you have written and will not spot all the mistakes.
When you have finished your report, and before you staple it, you must check it very carefully yourself. You should then give it to someone else, e.g. one of your fellow students, to read carefully and check for any errors in content, style, structure and layout. You should record the name of this person in your acknowledgements.
Two useful tips;
- Do not bother with style and formatting of a document until the penultimate or final draft.
- Do not try to get graphics finalised until the text content is complete.
- Davies J.W. Communication Skills - A Guide for Engineering and Applied Science Students (2nd ed., Prentice Hall, 2001)
- van Emden J. Effective communication for Science and Technology (Palgrave 2001)
- van Emden J. A Handbook of Writing for Engineers 2nd ed. (Macmillan 1998)
- van Emden J. and Easteal J. Technical Writing and Speaking, an Introduction (McGraw-Hill 1996)
- Pfeiffer W.S. Pocket Guide to Technical Writing (Prentice Hall 1998)
- Eisenberg A. Effective Technical Communication (McGraw-Hill 1992)
Updated and revised by the Department of Engineering & Design, November 2022
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- Academic Skills
- Report writing
Technical report writing
A quick guide to writing technical reports in Engineering.
The main purpose of an Engineering technical report is to present a solution to a problem in order to prompt action. Technical reports provide a record of your developing expertise and are a legal record of your work and decision making.
What is a technical report?
Technical reports are a central part of your professional success and are usually designed to:
- Convince the reader of your position
- Persuade them to act, or
- Inform them of your findings.
They are an opportunity for you to:
- Clearly communicate a solution to a problem
- Recommend action, and
- Aid decision making.
Technical reports are designed for quick and easy communication of information, and use:
- Sections with numbered headings and subheadings, and
- Figures and diagrams to convey data.
How do I structure a technical report?
Regardless of the specific purpose of your technical report, the structure and conventions rarely differ. Check your subject requirements and expand the sections below to learn more about each section. Download a Technical Report template here.
Technical reports usually require a title page. To know what to include, follow the conventions required in your subject.
A technical report summary (or abstract) should include a brief overview of your investigation, outcomes and recommendations. It must include all the key information your reader needs to make a decision, without them having to read your full report. Don’t treat your summary as an introduction; it should act as a stand-alone document.
Tip: Write your summary last.
Help your reader quickly and easily find what they are looking for by using informative headings and careful numbering of your sections and sub-sections. For example:
A 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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How to Write a Technical Report
Last Updated: September 28, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD . Christopher Osborne has been a wikiHow Content Creator since 2015. He is also a historian who holds a PhD from The University of Notre Dame and has taught at universities in and around Pittsburgh, PA. His scholarly publications and presentations focus on his research interests in early American history, but Chris also enjoys the challenges and rewards of writing wikiHow articles on a wide range of subjects. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 74,928 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
Planning Your 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Executive Summary
- Table of Contents
- List of Figures / List of Tables
- Main Report: Introduction; Background / Literature Review; Project Description; Data / Description of Data; Conclusion
- 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.
- 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.
- Check for any formatting guidelines for these sections. If the format is left up to you, keep things simple and straightforward.
- This section typically runs 1-2 paragraphs, and follows a fairly simple “The author would like to thank…” 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.  X Research source
- 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.
You might also like.
- ↑ 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/
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Chapter 1: Introduction to Technical and Report Writing
What is Technical Writing? 
You’re probably wondering what this “technical writing thing” is. Someone may even have told you, “It’s this course where they make you write about rocket science and brain surgery.” Well, not really, as you will see in a moment. Actually, the field of technical communication is essential in a wide range of fields and occupations. It is a fully professional field with degree programs, certifications, and—yes!—even theory. It’s a good field with a lot of growth and income potential; and an introductory technical-writing course for which this book has been developed is a good way to start if you are interested in a career in this field .
Technical writing is an audience-centered means of communication that provides a reader with clear and easy access to information. In the business world, time equates to profit, and profit is the force behind all business interaction. The technical writer and reader have a vis-à-vis relationship. The writer recognizes, respects, and addresses the importance of time in effective and efficient communication by providing documents written in specific formats, using unambiguous language to send clearly accessible information. The reader in turn thoroughly understands the information in order to give a thoughtful response.
The Meaning of “Technical”
Technical communication—or technical writing, as the course is often called—is not writing about a specific technical topic such as computers, but about any technical topic. The term “technical” refers to knowledge that is not widespread, that is more the territory of experts and specialists. Whatever your major is, you are developing an expertise—you are becoming a specialist in a particular technical area. And whenever you try to write or say anything about your field, you are engaged in technical communication .
Academic Writing Versus Technical Writing
The definite purpose, strict format and use of appropriate language in technical writing define the differences between technical writing and academic writing. The academic writer’s purpose may be to write an assignment, a story, a letter, etc.. These works may or may not have a reader. However, technical writing always has a definite purpose and will always have a reader. Regardless of the number of the intended readers of a document who may or may not read the document, the document will be read by the primary reader.
However, the focus for technical-writing courses is not necessarily a career as a technical writer but an introduction to the kinds of writing skills you need in practically any technically oriented professional job. No matter what sort of professional work you do, you’re likely to do lots of writing—and much of it technical in nature. The more you know about some basic technical-writing skills, which are covered in this guide and in technical-writing courses, the better job of writing you’re likely to do. And that will be good for the projects you work on, for the organizations you work in, and—most of all—good for you and your career .
Really Technical Writing
Keep relaxing, but you should know that professional technical writers do in fact write about very technical stuff—information that they cannot begin to master unless they go back for a Ph.D. But wait a minute! The technical documents have to ship with the product in less than nine months! How do they manage? Professional technical writers rely on these strategies to ensure the technical accuracy of their work:
- Study of books, articles, reports, websites related to the product
- Product specifications: what the product is supposed to do, how it is designed
- Interviews with subject matter experts: the product specialists, developers, engineers
- Product meetings during the development cycle
- Live demonstrations of the product
- Familiarization with similar, competing products
- Experimenting with working models of the product
- Most importantly, subject matter experts’ review of technical writers’ work for technical accuracy and completeness
Of course, experienced technical writers will tell you that product development moves so fast that specifications are not always possible and that working models of the product are rarely available. That’s why the subject matter experts’ review is often the most important.
Considerations of Technical Documents
There are key components of what makes a document strong. Therefore, writers keep these items in mind while constructing technical documents.
The Importance of Audience
Another key part of the definition of technical communication is the receiver of the information—the audience. Technical communication is the delivery of technical information to readers (or listeners or viewers) in a manner that is adapted to their needs, level of understanding, and background. In fact, this audience element is so important that it is one of the cornerstones of this course: you are challenged to write about highly technical subjects but in a way that a beginner—a nonspecialist—could understand. This ability to “translate” technical information to non-specialists is a key skill to any technical communicator. In a world of rapid technological development, people are constantly falling behind and becoming technological illiterates. Technology companies are constantly struggling to find effective ways to help customers or potential customers understand the advantages or the operation of their new products .
Not only is the the level at which you write important but so are the language choices you make as you do so. Please review the information on the following link for tips: Use Language that is Sensitive to Your Audience 
So relax! You don’t have to write about computers or rocket science—write about the area of technical specialization you know or are learning about. Also, plan to write about it in such a way that even Grandad can understand !
Formatting and Language
Formatting and appropriate language are the basic design elements of all technical documents. A format that shows a hierarchical structure and a coordinate structure of information le ads the reader thorough text.
Readers should be able to identify a writer’s organizational pattern very quickly when reading a technical document . This sometimes refers to a document being “reader friendly.” In addition , using appropriate language is significant in providing the reader with a thorough understanding of the purpose of the document, how the document relates to the reader’s needs, and what action is expected of the reader. 
A document may also have one reader (the primary reader) or several readers (the secondary readers). A primary reader is the person who ordered the report to be written or the person for whom a report is intended. These readers will usually read the entire report. Secondary readers are those readers who will read only the sections of the report that relate to them, their jobs, their departments, responsibilities, etc. For example, if a report was sent that detailed funding for different departments, a piping superintendent may only want to read the section that relates to piping. This is where format, the use of headings, is significant in allowing the reader easy access to information. When the piping superintendent can scan through the document and clearly find the heading that identifies his department saves time.
Technical writers need to be aware of the differences between the behavior and the norms, beliefs and values of specific cultural. According to Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall, In Understanding Cultural Differences, each culture operates according to its own rules (1990, pp. 3-4). Hall and Hall add that problems occur when members of one culture apply the rules to another culture (1990, pp. 3-4). To communicate effectively with other cultures, the technical writer needs to not only be aware of rules governing behaviors that can be observed but also of the not-so-obvious rules that govern the norms, beliefs, and values of the people of a culture. The invisible rules of a culture dramatically impact the acceptance of ideas, plans, and strategies. The Cultural Iceberg illustrates patterns of world communication, showing indicators of Institutional Culture (the obvious behavior of a culture), which can be clearly seen as the tip of the iceberg, and People Culture (the norms, beliefs and values of a culture), which cannot be seen and which are the barriers to successful communication .
Figure 2 The Cultural Iceberg
Technical writers have a responsibility to their readers and to their employers to follow ethics when writing reports.
Technical writers must use words that demonstrate valid appeals to reason, avoiding emotional words and phrases that appea l to basic emotion instead of justifiable reasoning. In addition, technical writers must use valid references to support ideas and strategies, avoiding referencing non experts to sway readers’ support. Also, technical writers must use accurate numbers to report data, avoiding charts and tables that skew data. Using any type of fallacies in technical writing is unethical and could result in dire consequences.
Not only do technical writers have a responsibility to report accurate information, but they also have a responsibility to credit accurate sources of information. At no time is it acceptable to rearrange information in order to attempt to indicate that the writer is the source of someone else’s idea or to indicate that the writer read a report that included information he/she cited, when the primary source of the information was cited in another report. All sources must be referenced accurately in the text and cited on a reference page.
Daniel G. Riordan (2005), in Technical Report Writing Today, cites Dombrowski to define three threads of ethics:
One major thread is that the communicator must be a good person who cares for the audience. Communicators must tell the truth as convincingly as possible, because truth will lead to the good of the audience. Another thread is that the communicator must do what is right, regardless of possible outcomes. A third thread is that communicators must act for the greatest good for the greatest number of people (p. 16) .
In addition, Riordan (2005) references the “code of ethics of the Society for Technical Writers, and cites five of the code’s tenants:
My commitment to professional excellence and ethical behaviors means that I will …
- Use language and visuals with precision.
- Prefer simple direct expression of ideas.
- Satisfy the audience’s need for information, not my own need for self-expression.
- Hold myself responsible for how well my audience understands my message.
- Report the work of colleagues, knowing that a communication problem may have more than one solution (Riordan, 2005, pp. 15-16) .
Hall, E. T. & Hall, M. R. (1990). Understanding Cultural Differences. Yardmouth: Intercultural Press, Inc.
Riordan, D. G. (2005). Technical Report Writing Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Visuals & Readability
To make a document more reader friendly, many technical writers rely on visuals to achieve this goal.  For example , la bels, callouts and captions are identifying text for graphics . Labels and callouts identify specific elements or features on a graphic; whereas captions are short phrases or sentences that describe the graphic. Notes, or footnotes, explain, or give credit.
Labels and Callouts
To identify specific elements or features, labels and captions are placed directly on the graphic or near it. “Although the terms are used interchangeably, labels are text identifiers that are self-explanatory in an image, while callouts are labels that require further information outside the image to explain what they are identifying” (Gurak 304). They supplement the visual information. But use them selectively; use them only if readers need them (Rude 116).
The advantage of labels is that the reader gains a basic understanding of elements in the graphic without referring to supplementary explanations. But, too many labels obscure the image. In this case, callouts are the better option. Use numbers or letters to identify each element and the supplementary explanations.
Guidelines for Creating Labels and Callouts
- Determine the number of items to identify in the image (Gurak 308).
- Estimate how much explanation each item requires to determine if labels or callouts are more appropriate (Gurak 308).
- create a consistent visual style (Gurak 308)
- use the same terms on the label or callout as in the text (Rude 116)
- in general, all parts mentioned in the text should have a label or callout, and all parts with a label or callout should be mentioned in the text. (Rude 116)
- Use a standard font and size for readability (Rude 116)
- Align the labels and callouts for a neater appearance (Rude 116)
- If callouts are used, place the explanatory text in a key next to the graphic.
Labels can take different forms (Gurak 304 – 306):
- They may be placed directly on the graphic (whereby they become part of the graphic).
- They may be placed around the graphic and use lines to point to the relevant element in the graphic.
- Online, labels can be links or hotspots whereby more information about the element is displayed on mouse rollover.
This is an example of l abels placed directly on the graphic.
Figure 3 Map of the West Side Central Park, NYC between 102nd and 110th Streets.
Here, the labels are placed around the graphic.
Figure 4 Parts of a flower.
In this sample, when the mouse is rolled over the ‘Firebox’ label, the text will read: “Literally a box containing the fire. It is surrounded by water on the top and all sides. The bottom is a grate with an ash pan below that.” Additional information is displayed .
Figure 5 Labels as hotspots.
Callouts are best used when many parts of the image need to be labeled and each part requires a longer explanation. In fact, the label sequence may be in alphabetical or numerical (as in Figure 6) order. Ensure that the explanation is near the graphic.
Figure 6. How to understand and use the Nutrition Facts Label.
Coded callouts are in numerical sequence; the explanation for each number appears below the graphic. The example above shows part of the explanation of Number 1 explanation only.
Captions, table, and graphics titles must clearly identify information to the reader. Interpretive captions usually require one or more sentences. Captions should be informational, without becoming too lengthy. Captions that are merely a title for a graphic are not very helpful (Franklin 96).
Writing Style for Captions
- Captions for graphics include the title and any explanatory material, immediately under the graphic.
- Words such as Figure, Illustration, and Table should be in bold type.
- The caption should be italicized.
- Treat tables and figures the same.
Good captions are what guide readers not only to see, but also to understand. Captions label graphics with titles and explain to readers what they are seeing, and how to interpret the information captured in the visual. The Franklin Covey Style Guide for Business and Technical Communication provides an excellent source for writing captions (Franklin 39 – 41).
Five Specific Style Rules
- Use interpretive captions whenever possible. I nterpretive captions provide both a title and explanatory information, usually expressed in a complete sentence, to help readers understand the central point(s) that the writer wants to convey. A graphic and its caption should be clear and understandable without requiring readers to search for clarifying information in the text:
- Figure 4. Cabin-Temperature Control System. Constant cabin temperature control is maintained by the system’s modulated cabin sensor.
- This interpretive caption gives the title and then tells the reader the principle message – that the check valve provides near-zero risk. And, it states how the check valve provides near-zero risk (Franklin 39).
- Figure 23. Check Valve . The risk of bad air entering the changer is near zero because the check valve permits air flow in one direction only.
- This interpretive caption gives the title of the figure and emphasizes that the cabin has a constant temperature – a benefit provided by the feature described in the figure. The caption states clearly what the writer wants the reader to learn from the drawing (Franklin 39).
- Avoid using short, often ambiguous, titles to replace interpretive captions. In the past, styles for technical and scientific documents used only short, simple title captions for visuals. These were often superfluous, providing no real information other than the obvious to the reader, i.e. – A Horse. Titles that are so short and cryptic that they sound telegraphic are not useful. Such captions are only useful when the graphics are self-explanatory, and require no interpretation (Franklin 40).
- Number figures and tables sequentially throughout the document, and place the number before the caption. If an important figure or table is presented twice, treat it as two separate visuals and number each. Figure and table numbers should be whole numbers (Franklin 40).
- Captions may appear below or above a visual, but consistency throughout a document is critical. Arguments support both options; choose one, warrant your choice, and be consistent.
- Put the caption above the visual for better visibility when captions are used with slides and other project visual aids. Captions placed at the bottom may be blocked by the heads of those seated in front (Franklin 99).
Notes or footnotes are categorized as either explanatory or source notes. Explanatory footnotes are identified by a superscript number or letter. The order in which notes appear is important; explanatory footnotes are placed above source notes. And both are placed above the caption, if the caption is placed at the bottom of the illustration.
Figure 7. Placement of footnote, source note and caption.
Source: Rude, p. 115, modified.
The Writing Process 
Writing, especially when compiling a larger document, is not something you sit down, complete in one session, and quickly submit. This is especially true when writing for the workplace where accuracy and clarity are necessary. In fact, writing should be seen as a process that is recursive where the writer moves in and out of various stages of writing and often times revisits some of the stages. The writing process might consist of the following:
This is the planning done before writing a document. It may be defining the purpose of the task, analyzing the primary and secondary readers, sketching the document and what will go in each section, or gathering research.
This is writing and compiling a first draft of the document. Sometimes, the writer worries more about getting ideas down more than guaranteeing every punctuation or grammar choice is correct.
When a writer revises, a writer revisits the draft and makes substantial changes to it. This is more than editing. It is adding, deleting, and moving entire sections of the document around to prepare it as a final, comprehensive document. In fact, it is here that many writers ask others for feedback before revising to ensure that another, unbiased set of eyes have looked over the document and easily understand it.
This is the final part of the process. It is reading through the document several times while looking for clarity, consistency, and accuracy. In fact, consider reading your document aloud and listening to it as you do so instead of reading and “seeing” it. Most individuals communicate mostly through talking and listening. Therefore, when you read aloud, you can hear if something in your document doesn’t sound right and then correct it. You should be able to read it in a way that it is understandable and sounds conversational.
For additional information on the writing process, visit The Writing Center website for the University of Texas: University of Texas Writing Center & The Writing Process .
Using a process in the workplace and in our class will strengthen your documents significantly. In fact, remember that your documents reflect on who you are as student, technical writer, employee, and even researcher.
 Technical Writing. Authored by : Dr. Elizabeth Lohman. Provided by : Tidewater Community College. Located at : http://www.tcc.edu/ . Project : Z Degree Program. License : CC BY: Attribution , edited by Amber Kinonen , edits included in italics
 Use Language that is Sensitive to Your Audience. Provided by : Writing Commons. Located at : http://writingcommons.org/open-text/collaboration/143-common-comments/word-choice-/575-use-language-that-is-sensitive-to-your-audience . License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives edited by Amber Kinonen , edits included in italics
 Image of Textbook. Authored by : Dominik Wagner. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/eoAvCb . License : CC BY: Attribution
 Image of Text with Watch. Authored by : Stephen Wu. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/tZ1LP . License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
 Norbert Elliot’s “Labels, Callouts, Captions and Notes” CC-BY Saylor, edited by Amber Kinonen , edits included in italics
 The Writing Process CC-BY Amber Kinonen
Chapter 1: Introduction to Technical and Report Writing Copyright © by Bay College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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20 – Recommendation Reports
Formatting a Technical Report
Kalani Pattison; Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; David McMurrey; Annemarie Hamlin; Chris Rubio; Michele DeSilva; and Claire Carly-Miles
While formatting may seem to be of lesser importance than content, the way that something looks conveys the first impression your reader has of your work. Making sure that your formatting is clear, logical, and consistent can be compared to dressing professionally for a job interview. You want your first impression to be a strong one. Use formatting to ensure that your reader knows you are serious about and proud of your work: you care enough about your own ideas to make sure that they are easy to navigate, that they are ordered logically, and that they are polished visually.
Page numbering (or pagination) is an expectation for any major written source that uses pages. Depending on your style, you may use a combination of Roman numerals (i, ii, iii…) and Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3). Below are key points to remember when paginating your document:
- All pages in the report (within but excluding the front and back covers) are numbered, but on some pages, the numbers are not displayed. Microsoft Word and Google Docs allow you to present the page numbers in this way, but other word processors may require you to compose the report’s parts in different documents, save them as PDFs, and then combine the PDFs.
- On special pages, such as the title page, page numbers are not displayed.
- In the contemporary design format, all pages throughout the document use Arabic numerals; in the traditional design format, all pages before the introduction (or the first page of the body of the report) use lowercase Roman numerals.
- Page numbers can be placed in one of several areas on the page. Usually, the best and easiest choice is to place page numbers at the bottom center of the page. (Remember to hide or remove them on special pages!)
In all but the shortest reports (two pages or less, and often even then), use headings to distinguish the different topics and subtopics covered. Headings are an important feature of professional and technical writing: they alert readers to upcoming topics and subtopics, help readers find their way around in long reports and skip what they are not interested in, and break up long stretches of text.
Headings are also useful for writers. They keep you organized and focused on the topic. Indeed, headings are like the parts of an outline that have been pasted into the actual pages of the document. When you begin using headings, your impulse may be to add in the headings after you’ve written the rough draft. Instead, visualize the headings before you start the rough draft, and incorporate them as you write.
Here are a number of helpful tips for ensuring your headings are as clear and useful as possible for your readers:
- Make the phrasing of headings self-explanatory. Instead of “Background” or “Technical Information,” use a more descriptive title, such as “Physics of Fiber Optics.”
- Make headings parallel in phrasing. That is, use the same syntax and word forms for each heading. Parallelism sends readers important clues as to whether the section is similar in nature to the preceding ones. For example, take a moment to notice the first word of each bullet point in this list: Make, Make, Make, Avoid, Avoid, Avoid, etc. These words are all imperative verbs and thus parallel in phrasing.
- Make headings indicate the range of topic coverage in the section. For example, if the section covers the design and operation of a pressurized water reactor, the heading “Pressurized Water Reactor Design” would be incomplete and misleading.
- Avoid “lone headings.” That is, avoid only including one subheading in a section. This is the same concept as having an “A” without a “B” or a “1” without a “2” in outlines. It is also the same as having a bullet-point list with only one bullet point. These are all cases where the format indicates that there is more than one of something (headings, bullet points, etc.).
- Avoid “stacked” headings. This occurs when there are any two consecutive headings without intervening text. For example, if you have the Level 1 heading Methods and a Level 2 heading (Task 1: Researching Physics of Fiber Optics) immediately below it, make sure to include some introductory text after the Level 1 heading and before the Level 2 heading.
- Avoid pronoun reference to headings. For example, if you have a heading “Torque,” don’t begin the sentence following it with something like this: “This is a physics principle…” Reiterate the main idea first so that pronouns clearly have a noun (or antecedent) to refer back to.
- Omit articles from the beginning of headings, when possible. For example, “The Pressurized Water Reactor” can easily be changed to “Pressurized Water Reactor” or, better yet, “Pressurized Water Reactors.”
- Don’t use headings as lead-ins to lists or as figure titles. Headings are for sections of text. Lists and figures should be integrated into their appropriate section and should not stand alone. For example, if you have the Level 1 heading “Task Schedule,” do not immediately follow that heading with the actual task schedule. Instead, introduce the task schedule before inserting it.
- Avoid “orphan” headings. An orphan heading occurs at the bottom of a page and the text it introduces starts at the top of the next page. To fix, insert a page break before the heading; this will move the heading onto the next page.
If you manually format each individual heading using the guidelines presented in the preceding list, you’ll find you’re doing quite a lot of repetitive work. The styles provided by Microsoft Word, Open Office Writer, Google Docs, Pages, and other software save you this effort. You simply select Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and so on. You’ll notice the format and style are different from what is presented here. However, you can design your own styles for headings. See Chapter 7: Design for more information about headings.
Information Sources and Documentation
Documenting your information sources is all about establishing, maintaining, and protecting your credibility in the profession. You must cite (or “document”) borrowed information regardless of how you present it. Whether you directly quote it, paraphrase it, or summarize it, that information is still borrowed information. Whether it comes from a book, an article, a diagram, a table, a webpage, a product brochure, or an expert whom you interview in person, it’s still borrowed information. Typically, citing outside information requires you to include an in-text citation and a corresponding bibliographic entry in a References, Works Cited, or Bibliography section.
Documentation systems vary according to professionals and fields. For a technical writing class in college, you may be using either MLA or APA style. See Chapter 12: Avoiding Plagiarism and Citing Sources Properly for APA and MLA citation formatting guidance.
This text was derived from
Gross, Allison, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva. Technical Writing . Open Oregon Educational Materials, n.d. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/technicalwriting/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .
McMurrey, David. Online Technical Writing . n.d. https://www.prismnet.com/~hcexres/textbook/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License .
Formatting a Technical Report Copyright © 2022 by Kalani Pattison; Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; David McMurrey; Annemarie Hamlin; Chris Rubio; Michele DeSilva; and Claire Carly-Miles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Technical Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Structure Included)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Introduction- Finally comes the introduction, marking the beginning of your project. On this page, you must clearly specify the context of the report. It includes specifying the purpose, objectives of the project, the questions you have answered in your report, and sometimes an overview of the report is also provided. Note that your conclusion should answer the objective questions.
Central Chapter(s)- Each chapter should be clearly defined with sub and sub-sub sections if needed. Every section should serve a purpose. While writing the central chapter, keep in mind the following factors:
- Clearly define the purpose of each chapter in its introduction.
- Any assumptions you are taking for this study should be mentioned. For instance, if your report is targeting globally or a specific country. There can be many assumptions in a report. Your work can be disregarded if it is not mentioned every time you talk about the topic.
- Results you portray must be verifiable and not based upon your opinion. (Big no to opinions!)
- Each conclusion drawn must be connected to some central chapter.
Conclusion- The purpose of the conclusion is to basically conclude any and everything that you talked about in your project. Mention the findings of each chapter, objectives reached, and the extent to which the given objectives were reached. Discuss the implications of the findings and the significant contribution your research made.
Appendices- They are used for complete sets of data, long mathematical formulas, tables, and figures. Items in the appendices should be mentioned in the order they were used in the project.
References- This is a very crucial part of your report. It cites the sources from which the information has been taken from. This may be figures, statistics, graphs, or word-to-word sentences. The absence of this section can pose a legal threat for you. While writing references, give due credit to the sources and show your support to other people who have studied the same genres.
Bibliography- Many people tend to get confused between references and bibliography. Let us clear it out for you. References are the actual material you take into your research, previously published by someone else. Whereas a bibliography is an account of all the data you read, got inspired from, or gained knowledge from, which is not necessarily a direct part of your research.
Style ( Pointers to remember )
Let’s take a look at the writing style you should follow while writing a technical report:
- Avoid using slang or informal words. For instance, use ‘cannot’ instead of can’t.
- Use a third-person tone and avoid using words like I, Me.
- Each sentence should be grammatically complete with an object and subject.
- Two sentences should not be linked via a comma.
- Avoid the use of passive voice.
- Tenses should be carefully employed. Use present for something that is still viable and past for something no longer applicable.
- Readers should be kept in mind while writing. Avoid giving them instructions. Your work is to make their work of evaluation easier.
- Abbreviations should be avoided and if used, the full form should be mentioned.
- Understand the difference between a numbered and bulleted list. Numbering is used when something is explained sequence-wise. Whereas bullets are used to just list out points in which sequence is not important.
- All the preliminary pages (title, abstract, preface..) should be named in small roman numerals. ( i, ii, iv..)
- All the other pages should be named in Arabic numerals (1,2,3..) thus, your report begins with 1 – on the introduction page.
- Separate long texts into small paragraphs to keep the reader engaged. A paragraph should not be more than 10 lines.
- Do not incorporate too many fonts. Use standard times new roman 12pt for the text. You can use bold for headlines.
If you think your work ends when the report ends, think again. Proofreading the report is a very important step. While proofreading you see your work from a reader’s point of view and you can correct any small mistakes you might have done while typing. Check everything from content to layout, and style of writing.
Finally comes the presentation of the report in which you submit it to an evaluator.
- It should be printed single-sided on an A4 size paper. double side printing looks chaotic and messy.
- Margins should be equal throughout the report.
- 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
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.
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
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.
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How to Write a Technical Report?
What Is a Technical Report?
The definition of a technical report is the following: a technical report is a document written by a researcher; it describes how the research was conveyed: its phases, steps, results, peculiarities, etc., and may include deeper details like experimental data and outcome. It is a document that literally guides readers through the course of your work.
Who Needs a Technical Report?
Many organizations and companies use this type of technical documentation:
- Educational institutions
- Governmental organizations
- Commercial companies
- Non-profit organizations
As a rule, technical reports are widely used in the following industries: engineering, physical sciences, medical and biomedical fields, social sphere, etc.
Why Use a Technical Report?
If you have one of the following goals, a technical report will surely help you:
- You need to show the process of your work. Readers are interested in how you do it. Of course, results have a great value as well but how to check whether you’ve chosen the right way to get them?
- You need to represent important information. This type of technical documentation is often chosen to provide efficient communication among employees on different levels. For example, top management can make decisions based on the information given in technical reports. It means that a technical report may influence the way a company is going to develop in the future.
- You need to structure data. A technical report helps to represent information logically and show the cause-and-effect relations between the blocks of data.
- Attract the attention of readers to a problem. A technical report is a very good solution to show readers a problem and, of course, why it should be solved as soon as possible.
What Makes a Good Technical Report?
To write a high-quality technical report, you are to follow the rules that are common nearly for all types of technical documentation:
- Write for your readers : define your audience, their level of knowledge, organize the document the way they can easily use it;
- Use accurate, concise, and clear language;
- Eliminate errors: technical errors, inconsistencies, and errors in language;
- Use additional sources of information: references and visuals (diagrams, tables, graphs, etc.). For example, using diagrams can be very helpful if you need to show statistical data analyses. Our post - Using Diagrams in IT Documentation: Best Practices - will tell you more on how to use diagrams in technical documentation and which tools to choose;
- Keep your report short but informative.
What Is the Difference Between a Technical and Non-Technical Report?
Not every report can be called a technical one. Let’s figure out the difference between a technical report and a non-technical one.
So, a technical report is a document that gives in-depth technical information. A non-technical report contains other types of information - more general ones. A popular report is a good example of a non-technical report. A popular report is a short document that describes the state’s or government’s financial performance.
Structure of a Technical Report
A technical report usually contains the following elements:
- Synopses. This is the first element of a technical report, but it should be the last thing to write. It is only a couple of paragraphs long. You are to underline your attitude to the problem, the methods used, the purpose, and the concept of the report.
- Title page. It is not only the title of the project, there should be some information about the author, their position, submission date, etc.
- Abstract. It is a short technical summary. As a rule, it is addressed to the audience. They decide whether to read the report or not, as they may already be acquainted with the problem.
- Table of contents (TOC) . It is a guide to the report’s structure.
- List of illustrations. It is a list of diagrams, graphs, tables, or other materials that support the content of the report.
- Introduction. This is the introduction to the body of the report. Sometimes it contains relevant background information. This section describes the aims and objectives of the report, the scope of work, limitations, etc.
- Body. The longest and most important section of the report. It can be subdivided into logical parts. This is the main scope of work, ideas, methods, etc.
- Conclusion. Contains the answers to the questions that were specified at the beginning or solutions to the problems.
- Appendices. The list of references, books, etc.
- Glossary . The list of terms and symbols used in the report.
Formatting of Technical Reports
Formatting means highlighting some data or information. Formatting may include using corporate style guides to underline that the document belongs to a particular company, or it may include highlighting in order to underline the sense or importance of information. Sometimes, documents have both types of formatting.
Types of Technical Reports
Technical reports can be of various types depending on the industry, goals, and needs:
- Feasibility report. Is the most popular document at the beginning of the software development process. It helps teams make their choice between several options. It shows whether or not the task in question can be fulfilled with the specified resources.
- Business plan. It describes the goals of a business, methods of achievement, resources, timeline, etc.
- Technical specification. Describes requirements for a product or project and information on design and development.
- Research report. Is the result of an investigation: process and findings.
- Recommendation report. Contains recommendations to solve a problem.
- Policies and procedures. Contains guidelines for rational actions.
Even more types of technical reports can be singled out. The above-mentioned ones are considered to be basic.
If you are a newbie technical writer, now you surely know what a technical report is and how to write it; if you are an experienced one, you may find new ideas and sources of inspiration in this post. Whatever document you are creating, make sure you do your best to make it as clear as possible to your readers. Stay safe and create perfect technical documentation with ClickHelp !
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Technical Report Writing For Engineers To Nail Your First Report
Let’s say you are an engineer who has now been entrusted with writing a technical report. but you are writing a technical report for the first time and feel intimidated by it. several questions are running over your head ranging from what a technical report is to how you are going to present it. this article aims to put you at ease on the concept of technical report writing for engineers and help you break the shackles of intimidation..
What is a Technical Report?
Any document that contains details regarding the research performed on a particular issue or a group of issues is a report. The whole process details like the issue, the research, and the inferences obtained are recorded in detail in a report. A report also does not include the opinions of people in it.
When the issue that is dealt with, the research, and the inferences obtained are all technical, then the report is termed a technical report. Based on the inferences, possible solutions may also be recommended in the report.
Read this article on Technical Report Writing: Steps, Format, and much more
General Structure of a Technical Report
The structure of a technical report varies across different organizations and domains. The organization might provide a report structure to follow. The author of the report should strictly adhere to this structure. For the sake of explanation, we have listed down and elaborated on the usual elements of a technical report below :
- Executive Summary
- Table of Contents
- Body of the Report
- Formulae, Equations, Tables, and Figures.
Check out this Guide to Technical Report Writing Skills
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 1: Title Page
The title page as the name suggests usually contains the title of the report apart from the name and designation of the author and date of submission. The title page might also contain subtitles, the name, and the designation of the reader in some cases. The title page should contain the correct font sizes and other aspects as per the norms provided by your institution.
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 2: Executive Summary
This part of the report is something like a separate document in itself. Most of the time, managers to whom the report is submitted may be extremely busy with their work. In such cases, they won’t have time to go through the entire report. This is where the executive summary steps in.
The executive summary should be short, precise, and up to the point. It should include all and only the critical information from the report such that a decision can be made by the decision-maker without having to read the entire report.
Learn about the 10 Ideals to Follow During Technical Report Writing
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 3: Table of Contents
The table of contents is that part of the technical report that acts as the navigation aid to the reader. It contains all the sections and subsections mentioned in the report with proper numbering on the left side along with the corresponding page numbers mentioned on the right side. A reader should be quickly able to navigate to any part of the report using the table of contents.
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 4: Introduction
The introduction of the report introduces the reader to aspects like the context of the report, its goals, and possible comparisons with existing research on the problem. This part lays the foundation for the reader to comprehend all the upcoming parts of the report. The introduction also needs to provide brief information on the experiments carried out in the current report and their relevance to the problem being assessed.
Check out Top 10 Technical Writing Courses in India
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Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 5: Body of the Report
The body of the report is the core part of it. This is the main explanation portion where all the content of the report is explained in full detail. The author can decide how to structure the body of the report based on its nature and how it would best suit the needs of its readers.
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 6: Formulae, Equations, Tables, and Figures
Information can be presented through words and other means like formulae, equations, tables, and figures. These modes of information describe a concept shortly and straightforwardly which otherwise when presented through words would be overwhelming and confusing to the reader.
For figures and tables, they must have proper numbering attached to them. They should also be referred to in words like “Table 1”. Both figures and tables need to have a simple description that is above in the case of a table and below a figure.
In the case of equations and formulae, similar to tables and figures, they should be numbered and referred to in words like “Eq 1”. An equation or a formulae needs to be on a separate line at the center of the page.
Also, dig into Technical Report Writing Today: What You Need to Know
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 7: Conclusion
The conclusion part is used to re-iterate the aims of the report and then present the significant findings derived from the research. You also need to stress the major inferences and explain their significance in this section. The conclusion would need to have all the necessary findings that are required to provide the reader a clear understanding of what the report has been able to achieve from the experiments.
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 8: Recommendations
Recommendations are nothing but possible solutions devised by the author based on the research and findings obtained in the report. It is up to the decision-makers whether to accept the recommendations or not.
A technical report may or may not have recommendations based on the type of technical report being framed. If your report does have recommendations, list out all of them in the form of pointers. It is important to also mention any limitations that may be present in your inferences. This is important since the readers need to plan for the limitations if they decide to implement the recommendation.
Explore the Options for Career Growth in Technical Writing
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 9: References
Whenever you prepare a report you would likely have taken the help of many resources by others. As a mark of respect and courtesy, you need to mention the sources that helped you compile your report. The style of reference to these sources needs to be consistent throughout. References need to be mentioned for elements like tables and figures as well.
Technical Report Writing for Engineers – Element 10: Appendices
There might be certain pieces of information that might be very long or need not be fully included in the report. But still, that information might be useful to the readers. Such types of information can be included in the appendices section.
You need to name your appendix using a number or an alphabet and a title such as “Appendix B”. Apart from the title, refer to it using words of the concept you are trying to direct the reader to which would look something like this: “For a complete list of motor terminologies, please refer to Appendix D”.
Letter of Transmittal
Apart from the above-mentioned components, a transmittal letter is attached when submitting technical reports. A transmittal letter is sent along with a report giving a brief on what the report is about and what is included in it. This is generally used when sending the report to readers who might not have prior context on the report.
Types of Technical Reports
Before we dive into writing technical reports, it is important to know that there are different types of it. Based on your issue and area of expertise, the type of technical report you need to write varies. Let us look at some of the types of technical reports to help you zero in on the type that you need to write.
Background reports, business plan reports, recommendation reports, committee reports, institutional reports, project proposal reports, project reports, status reports, trend reports.
Feasibility reports are generally made to decide whether a particular plan should be implemented or not. It involves a situation where a plan or a set of plans are available but not enough data is present for the decision-makers to be confident of implementation.
Thorough research is performed on the plans taking into consideration various factors affecting implementation to decide whether the plans fit well.
Background reports are meant to be very specific in every sense. It is intended to provide a specific set of information to a specific set of audiences for a specific purpose. Let’s say you are hiring a freelance software developer to build an app for a specific product of yours. You would need to provide only the information that the developer needs to build the app and not in-depth details about your company or product. A background report does not provide any recommendations to its target audience.
A business plan report is one of the most crucial aspects of any business. This report outlines the activities and objectives of a business and how they are going to adopt them. Any business needs to know its target audience, what it is going to offer, the milestones they are planning to achieve, and keep track of its finances.
Without a business plan report, there would be no proper records of the aspects related to the functioning of the business and thus would make the business go haphazard. A business plan report is important to attract investors.
Recommendation reports come into play when there is a need for a decision to be made regarding a situation. A recommendation report aims at providing research-based insights into how a plan regarding the situation can be implemented with the available resources in hand.
In this type of report, the situation and the audience are generally pre-determined. Then, the available options are looked into and a detailed analysis is done on each of them. Finally, based on the findings, recommendations are made.
The government appoints committees to look into various issues and the committees, in turn, analyze the issue and submit their reports to the government. Such reports are considered to be committee reports. In such a case, the different members of the committee would have expertise in their different areas. They put in their expertise to use and this results in a report containing valuable information that can be used to tackle the issues at hand. An example of an issue and its solution may be the prevention of losses during natural disasters.
An institute needs to keep track of its activities and resources to maintain its position. The activities of an institute may deal with the manpower available or research regarding its ongoing projects. Institutional reports are crucial for an institute to monitor its progress, identify and work on issues affecting normalcy, and devise plans and milestones for the institute. Annual reports of an institute are a good example of an institutional report.
Project proposals are unique in the sense that it is prepared based on an upcoming event rather than what has already been done. Project proposals are generally prepared to acquire a contract for a project. The report would contain how the organization coming up with the proposal would be able to efficiently complete the project. There would be information elaborating on the infrastructure, records of successful projects completed, and various other such details justifying its capability to take up the current project.
A project report comes into the picture after a project contract has been acquired by an organization. It is meant to track the progress of the project at a specified frequency of time. The project report is important to identify blocker issues during the project and churning out solutions to keep the project on track. A project report is also submitted after the completion of the project analyzing the whole project process to look out for improvements using the outcomes obtained.
A status report is slightly similar to a project report but differs in the section addressed. A status report is also generated at frequent intervals of time but it focuses on a specific set of topics meant for a specific set of readers. A status report serves the purpose of keeping track of the progress of a specifically focussed section and aims to resolve any issues popping up.
Trend reports generally evaluate the research process. Assessment is performed on the present status of the report and the future course of the research might be predicted. One important aspect of this type of report is that the evaluation can be done only by subject matter experts.
Planning a Technical Report
To work on a technical report, there are certain factors to be taken into consideration to avoid wastage of effort and resources in preparing the report. Listed below are some of the crucial aspects to be ensured to work on a technical report :
- Clearly understand the concept on which the report is to be drafted.
- Make sure you know and understand who the target audience is.
- Based on the understanding, finalize which type of technical writing is to be prepared.
- Collect genuine information from trustworthy sources.
- Strictly follow the deliverable timelines.
- Stringently follow the structure of the report.
- Thoroughly go through the report and make sure everything is fine before submission.
Now it is time for you to get your hands dirty to draft a clean technical report. This article is a basic overview aimed at introducing the concept of a technical report lucidly to help you not to get overwhelmed by it. Added to this generic coverage of technical reports, you can scroll and download these example technical reports for reference. Wishing the very best to all you engineers to engineer the perfect engineering technical report.
Author: Vinay Karthikk S
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ChatGPT Cheat Sheet: Complete Guide for 2023
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Get up and running with ChatGPT with this comprehensive cheat sheet. Learn everything from how to sign up for free to enterprise use cases, and start using ChatGPT quickly and effectively.
ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly users in January, according to a UBS report , making it the fastest-growing consumer app in history. The business world is interested in ChatGPT too, trying to find uses for the writing AI throughout many different industries. This cheat sheet includes answers to the most common questions about ChatGPT and its competitors.
What is ChatGPT?
Who made chatgpt, how much does chatgpt cost, how to use chatgpt, chatgpt updates and openai api news, criticisms and security issues.
- What are ChatGPT’s competitors?
The future of AI in business
- What’s next for OpenAI?
ChatGPT is an AI chatbot product developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT is built on the structure of GPT-4 . GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer; this indicates it is a large language model that checks for the probability of what words might come next in sequence. A large language model is a deep learning algorithm — a type of transformer model in which a neural network learns context about any language pattern. That might be a spoken language or a computer programming language.
The model doesn’t “know” what it’s saying, but it does know what symbols (words) are likely to come after one another based on the data set it was trained on. The current generation of artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT, its Google rival Bard and others, don’t really make intelligently informed decisions; instead, they’re the internet’s parrots, repeating words that are likely to be found next to one another in the course of natural speech. The underlying math is all about probability. The companies that make and use them pitch them as productivity genies, creating text in a matter of seconds that would take a person hours or days to produce.
In ChatGPT’s case, that data set is a large portion of the internet. From there, humans give feedback on the AI’s output to confirm whether the words it uses sound natural.
The public version of ChatGPT can call on current events information as recent as January 2022. ChatGPT Plus can call on current events information as recent as April.
In August OpenAI launched a GPTBot, a web crawler meant to expand ChatGPT’s knowledge. Technical details and ways to keep GPTBot from crawling a website you run can both be found here .
SEE: OpenAI’s probability assessments were trained on Microsoft’s Azure AI supercomputer. (TechRepublic)
Several organizations have built this ability to answer questions into some of their software features too. Microsoft, which provides funding for OpenAI, rolled out ChatGPT in Bing search and in Microsoft 365 . Salesforce has added ChatGPT to some of its CRM platforms in the form of the Einstein digital assistant.
ChatGPT was built by OpenAI, a research laboratory with both nonprofit and for-profit branches. At the time of its founding in 2015, OpenAI received funding from Amazon Web Services, InfoSys and YC Research and investors including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Musk has since cut ties with the company, while Microsoft provided $10 billion in funding for OpenAI in 2023.
The base version of ChatGPT can strike up a conversation with you for free. For $20 per month, ChatGPT Plus gives subscribers priority access in individual instances, faster response times and the chance to use new features and improvements first. For example, right now ChatGPT Plus subscribers will be running GPT-4, while anyone on the free tier will talk to GPT-3.5.
For developers and organizations who don’t already have a specific contract with OpenAI, there is a waitlist for access to the ChatGPT API.
In August, OpenAI launched ChatGPT Enterprise , a subscription plan for business with more security enhancements and admin controls compared to the basic version. Organizations interested in pricing for ChatGPT Enterprise can contact OpenAI’s sales team.
It’s easy to use the free version of ChatGPT. You need to sign up for an account with OpenAI , which involves fetching a confirmation code from your email; from there, click through and provide your name and phone number. OpenAI will warn you that the free version of ChatGPT is “a free research preview.” For the Plus version, you’ll see an “upgrade to Plus” button on the left side of the home page.
New signups or account upgrades for ChatGPT Plus were paused on Nov. 14. “The surge in usage post devday has exceeded our capacity and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman wrote on X (the social media site formerly known as Twitter). To be notified when signups and account upgrades are available again, sign up to be alerted on the ChatGPT mobile app.
For businesses, ChatGPT can write and debug code, as well as create reports, presentations, emails and websites. In general, ChatGPT can draft the kind of prose you’d likely use for work (“Write an email accepting an invitation to speak at a cybersecurity conference.”). ChatGPT can answer questions (“What are similar books to [xyz]?”) as well. Microsoft showed off these features in its announcement that OpenAI is coming to Word and some other parts of the 365 business suite .
ChatGPT has historically not ‘remembered’ information from one conversation to another. However, starting on July 20, ChatGPT Plus members can use a feature called custom instructions to make sure the AI remembers certain things about them. For example, it can remember a specific user tends to want content for a business audience, or, conversely, for third graders. It is not available in the UK and EU.
ChatGPT app for iOS
On May 18, OpenAI announced the launch of the free ChatGPT app for iOS . The company stated the app syncs your history across devices, and that it integrates with its open-source speech-recognition system Whisper. On the iOS app, OpenAI said ChatGPT Plus subscribers get exclusive access to GPT-4’s capabilities, early access to features and faster response times.
OpenAI started this rollout in the U.S. As of May 24 it expanded to 11 more countries — Albania, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Jamaica, Korea, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and the UK, with more expected to follow.
ChatGPT app for Android
ChatGPT for Android dropped on July 25 for users in the US, India, Bangladesh, and Brazil. Android users in those countries can download the app through the Google Play Store now. Additional countries gained access over the following week, OpenAI said .
Browse with Bing
ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise subscribers can use ChatGPT to answer questions using the Bing search engine. Browsing was brought out of beta on October 17.
To access Bing in ChatGPT, subscribing customers can choose Browse with Bing in the selector under GPT-4. OpenAI expects to expand internet browsing to all users at a later date.
Browse with Bing was disabled on July 3 out of “an abundance of caution,” OpenAI wrote, and reinstated in beta on Sept. 27. OpenAI has since added “updates include following robots.txt and identifying user agents so sites can control how ChatGPT interacts with them.”
Voice and image capabilities
On Nov. 21, ChatGPT Voice was released for all users. This feature allows users to ask questions out loud and for ChatGPT to reply in the same way.
Subscribers to ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise first reported new voice and image capabilities rolling out in late October.
The ability to use Tools without switching is an important step toward multimodality, in which GPT-4 can automatically access DALL-E 3 to analyze or create images without a manual switch. Text-based queries will be able to result in images and vice versa. OpenAI expects to expand these capabilities to developers and other groups of users “soon after” the October release for Plus and Enterprise users.
OpenAI continues to update ChatGPT and its other services with developer-focused changes.
OpenAI’s bug bounty program
OpenAI started a bug bounty program on April 12, offering between $200 and $20,000 to ethical hackers who find vulnerabilities in the code. More critical vulnerabilities net larger bounties.
OpenAI isn’t looking for solutions to problems with ChatGPT’s content (e.g., the known “hallucinations”); instead, the organization wants hackers to report authentication issues, data exposure, payments issues, security issues with the plugin creation system and more. Details about the bug bounty program can be found on Bugcrowd .
Web browsing and plugins
GPTPlus users gained access to a beta version of web browsing and Plugins on the week of May 12. The beta includes web browsing mode, in which ChatGPT will sometimes access the internet to pull in information about current events.
Secondly, the beta version of ChatGPT will call on third-party plugins at the appropriate times if the user enables them. Third-party plugins can be accessed in the Plugin Store under Plugins in the model switcher. This opens ChatGPT up to more than 70 third-party plugins.
June 2023 API and pricing updates
On June 13, OpenAI added function calling to the Chat Completions API; reduced the price of their embeddings model (which helps the model interpret tokens); and reduced the price of input tokens for GPT-3.5 -turbo, one of the subscription models for the GPT 3.5 model.
With function calling, developers can describe functions to GPT-4 or GPT-3.5 turbo and the AI will return a JSON object which can call those functions. This could be used to create chatbot tools that call external plugins, convert natural language into database queries or API calls, or extract structured data from text.
Other announcements from OpenAI’s June 13 blog post include:
- updated and more steerable versions of GPT-4 and GPT-3.5-turbo
- new 16K context version of GPT-3.5-turbo (compared to the standard 4Kversion)
- Applications using GPT-3.5-turbo, GPT-4, and GPT-4-32K will automatically be upgraded to new models on June 27th.
On July 6, OpenAI made ChatGPT’s code interpreter function available to all ChatGPT Plus users. The Code interpreter is an in-house plug-in with which ChatGPT can run code to analyze data, solve math problems, create charts, edit files, and similar tasks. It functions using a Python interpreter in a sandboxed, firewalled execution environment in a persistent session the length of the chat conversation, OpenAI said in their blog post .
Code interpreter is available in beta by taking the following steps in a ChatGPT Plus account:
Click on your name
Select beta features from your settings
- Toggle on the beta features you’d like to try.
On Nov. 6, OpenAI released GPT-4 Turbo and GPTs, custom versions of ChatGPT that can be built for specific tasks, for ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise users. GPTs do not require any knowledge of coding to create; instead, users can have a natural language conversation with generative AI to create them. Developers can define custom actions for GPTs by making one or more APIs available to the GPT. Enterprise customers can share GPTs within their organizations.
Later in November, creators will be able to promote and sell GPTs on the GPT Store.
With more and more organizations adopting generative AI, many questions arise. Will AI be able to fill jobs currently held by humans? What privacy and ethical concerns does it raise? These questions apply to both ChatGPT and its competitors, since any generative AI can perform similar tasks.
Will ChatGPT result in people losing jobs?
Whether ChatGPT will take jobs away from humans is impossible to predict. Goldman Sachs says in an April report that a quarter to a half of humans’ workloads could be automated with generative AI. The financial institution notes that doesn’t necessarily mean those jobs will disappear – instead, most will be “only partially exposed to automation” – and it may lead to up to a 7% increase in global GDP.
Roles that are repetitive or based on very specific rules are most likely to be able to be performed by AI, Steven Miller, professor emeritus of information systems at Singapore Management University, told CNBC .
ChatGPT could lead to new job roles being created, too. At the very least, people will be needed to prompt, train and audit AI like ChatGPT. Most likely, we’ll see the kind of shuffle that comes with any major technological shift as some jobs change and others do not.
Some experts refer to the current wave of AI as similar to the early days of the internet . Technological limitations still exist, and some estimations about how many jobs would be lost through automation have proven exaggerated in the past . The IEEE points out that the AI industry will need to be aware of hardware limitations and costs. Companies may not find it practical to spend enough money on AI services in order to replace a large percentage of their workforce. Paying users of ChatGPT can make a maximum of 25 GPT-4 queries every three hours, IEEE points out.
In some jobs, the AI may remove the need for a first draft, MIT labor economics professor David Autor said in an interview with CBS MoneyWatch . A human will need to tweak the output and give in a unique angle or more varied wording, but ChatGPT could write the bare bones version of a speech or a blog post.
SEE: How ChatGPT could enhance jobs instead of replacing them. (TechRepublic)
Ethical and privacy concerns about ChatGPT
Perhaps inspired by science fiction about AI taking over the earth, some high-profile players in tech urge caution about giving AI too much free rein. On March 22, a petition and open letter signed by Elon Musk and many others urged companies to pause large AI development until more safeguards can be built in.
Ethics questions to ask when using generative AI
ChatGPT opens up questions about the ethics of using written content created by the algorithm. Posts created by AI should be clearly marked as such, but what about more casual communication such as emails? Business leaders should establish guidelines for when to be transparent about the use of ChatGPT or other AI at work.
OpenAI cautions that its products are not to be used for decisions in law enforcement or global politics . Privacy, which is perhaps a more pressing concern than global domination, led Italy to ban ChatGPT . OpenAI has since stated it wants to find a way to let ChatGPT work within the European Union’s strict privacy rules.
OpenAI’s new privacy update allows users to exclude themselves from training data
On April 25, OpenAI announced it has added a Chat History & Training setting that lets users turn off their ChatGPT chat history, preventing future versions of OpenAI’s large language models from training on those conversations. To find this option, click on your account name, which will display as your email address. Select Settings > Data Controls > Chat History & Training.
As of now, if this setting is not selected, user data will be fed back into the AI to train it on producing more naturalistic and useful responses.
OpenAI filters out personally identifiable information from the training data, OpenAI told Bloomberg . As of April 2023, users can download a copy of their ChatGPT chats and see what training data they have produced. In ChatGPT Enterprise, users’ data is used to train other OpenAI products.
On Nov. 6, OpenAI announced Copyright Shield. Copyright Shield is a guarantee that if someone files legal claims around copyright infringement against content created by users of ChatGPT Enterprise or OpenAI’s developer platform, OpenAI will costs incurred.
Malicious uses of generative AI
Another potential problem comes from people using generative AI like ChatGPT to draft business email compromise messages or other attacks. Threat actors have created WormGPT , an application specifically for drafting malicious emails and customizing them to the prospective victims. Email security company SlashNext discovered WormGPT being used on black hat forums. WormGPT doesn’t actually share any genes with OpenAI’s ChatGPT; instead, the threat-oriented AI is based on GPT-J, a large language model from EleutherAI .
Training data extracted with ‘poem’ exploit
On Nov. 28, security researchers from Google DeepMind found that adversarial actors could extract training data, including personal information, from ChatGPT using a flaw based on extractable memorization. The paper, published as a PDF on arXiv , shows that the researchers could trick the chatbot into revealing its raw training data. One way to do so was to ask ChatGPT to repeat the word ‘poem’ forever. This would result in the chatbot eventually diverging from the task and generating random content, or, in some cases, generating the exact data the generative AI was trained on.
“The actual attack is kind of silly,” the researchers wrote, referring to the endless poem prompt. However, they warn that the consequences could be quite serious, with the attack circumventing ChatGPT’s privacy safeguards.
What are ChatGPT’s competitors?
ChatGPT’s primary competitors are or could be Google’s Bard , Baidu’s Ernie, DeepMind’s Sparrow and Meta’s BlenderBot .
ChatGPT’s main competitor is Bard, Google’s AI generative AI chatbot. People who would like to try Bard’s chat function need to join a waitlist .
Now Google plans to add Bard into search. In comparison to ChatGPT , Bard focuses more on creating prose that sounds like a human could have spoken it naturally and less on being able to answer any question. Bard is built on Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications.
While Microsoft is ahead of the pack right now (as of summer 2023) in terms of providing chat functions to productivity software, the company lags behind in terms of its search engine Bing. Google decision-makers allegedly pivoted to urgently roll out a competitor for Microsoft’s decision to add generative AI to Bing search. (Meanwhile, ChatGPT helped Bing reach 100 million daily users. )
The Chinese search engine Baidu plans to add a chatbot called Ernie. Baidu announced the upcoming change on March 16, at which point the initial showing disappointed investors .
OpenAI competes with DeepMind, an artificial intelligence research laboratory owned by Alphabet. The two organizations are significantly different in terms of their aims. DeepMind focuses more on research and has not yet come out with a public-facing chatbot. DeepMind does have Sparrow, a chatbot designed specifically to help AI communicate in a way that is “ helpful, correct and harmless .” DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis told The Independent in January that DeepMind may release a private beta version of Sparrow later in 2023.
Meta’s Llama 2 and BlenderBot
Meta released BlenderBot in August 2022. The prototype BlenderBot from the company behind Facebook focuses on being able to chat, providing short, conversational replies rather than full paragraphs.
Meta also has Llama 2 , a foundational model competitive with the GPT-4 engine behind ChatGPT.
Anthropic’s Claude 2
Claude 2 is a generative AI assistant released in July. Anthropic describes it as “a friendly, enthusiastic colleague or personal assistant who can be instructed in natural language.”
Elon Musk’s AI company X.ai , which includes developers with prior experience at OpenAI and DeepMind among other AI companies, released a chatbot called Grok in November. Grok was trained on the X social media platform (formerly Twitter) and “is designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak,” X.ai wrote on Nov. 4.
What about Apple?
According to The New York Times , Apple is working on leveraging the tech it has, especially Siri, to create a ChatGPT rival. More information about what the final product might look like is thin on the ground for now.
Will ChatGPT be common in online products in the future or is it a technological innovation forever in search of a greater use case? Today its “intelligence” is clearly still in the beginning stages, with OpenAI including disclaimers about inappropriate content or incorrect “hallucinations.” ChatGPT may put the words in a coherent order, but it won’t necessarily keep the facts straight.
GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 may also be getting worse at math . An August report from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley noted this “drift,” or gradual erosion of the ability to perform tasks like identifying prime numbers. Their theories as to why it’s happening include reduced ability to follow chain-of-thought (or, roughly, step-by-step) instructions.
In July, two MIT economics graduate students conducted a study of 453 professionals. They found that people who used ChatGPT for writing tasks – such as producing press releases, short reports, or analysis plans – took 40% less time to finish their tasks than a control group that was not encouraged to use the generative AI. These professionals were then scored by their peers. On average, they received grades 18% higher than those in the control group (who did not use AI). This provides some qualitative data on the effect ChatGPT could have on white-collar work.
“Participants with weaker skills benefited the most from ChatGPT, which carries policy implications for efforts to reduce productivity inequality through AI,” wrote the authors of the study, Shakked Noy and Whitney Zhang.
Overall, Noy and Zhang maintained that widespread use of ChatGPT for writing tasks could have both positive and negative impacts in the workplace and the labor market.
Meanwhile, AI announcements that go viral can be good or bad news for investors. Microsoft’s stock price rose after the announcement of GPT-4, while Google’s stock dropped when Bard performed badly in a demonstration.
OpenAI saw visitor numbers to the ChatGPT website drop for the first time since its release in November 2022 this June. According to Similarweb , worldwide unique visitors dropped 5.7% from May to June. Global desktop and mobile web traffic dropped 9.7%. ChatGPT still receives more worldwide visitors than Microsoft’s in-house AI at Bing.com. The shine may have worn off chat AI, although it’s too early to tell whether the business world will also start to cool on this trendy technology.
What’s next for OpenAI?
For now, OpenAI says it isn’t training GPT-5, the likely successor to today’s model. In a talk at MIT reported on by The Verge , OpenAI CEO Sam Altman pushed back against the open letter – an earlier draft of which had stated that a 5th generation was on the way; primarily, he criticized the letter’s lack of technical specificity.
“We are doing other things on top of GPT-4 that I think have all sorts of safety issues that are important to address and were totally left out of the letter,” Altman said.
He said no one should expect to see a GPT-5 rollout “for some time.”
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