MEAM.Design - MEAM 247 - Report Guidelines

Technical writing should be concise, specific, and to the point, with well-formatted equations, figures, and tables to convey your data in a compact format. Being able to clearly articulate technical thoughts, hypotheses, and experimental results is a critical skill with broad application throughout engineering. This guide will help you formulate your thoughts and provide a framework within which to present your work.

The Process


As with most writing, begin by collecting your thoughts in outline form. This will enable you to more clearly capture the purpose of the report and gain a better sense of the overall structure and flow of the document.

First Draft

Working from your outline, fill in the pertinent content, including any supporting graphics, equations, or tables to create a first draft of your report.


After you proofread the draft, have a colleague scrutinize your report for clarity and grammatical errors. Consider contacting the Technical Communication Program for more guidance. If you submit a draft to the TCP for comments, standard .doc files are preferred (not .docx!).

Subsequent and Final Drafts

Revise and complete your work to incorporate all necessary changes, proofread your work one last time, and submit your report.



Avoid ‘we’ or ‘I’ except when needed for clarity. The focus of a technical report is the technical information, not the author.
This focus is reflected in the language used, as in these examples: “This report analyzes the results of tests conducted over a period of two months...” “The strain before fracture was found to be...”
Occasional reference to the author(s) is appropriate if it is needed for clarity: “Previous studies hypothesized that…. Our results confirm this hypothesis.” Or “Earlier studies failed to consider the possibility of variations between samples provided by diverse suppliers. To overcome this deficiency, we used materials from only one supplier.”
State what you did in the past tense. For general background information, general truth, and reference to figures, use present tense. Examples:
Background: “Velocity profiles have been analyzed using various techniques…no consensus exists regarding the possibility of...”
What was done: “Velocity profiles were measured for three samples... images were captured using..."

Font Size

Reports should be typeset with either 11-, or 12-point font.


Unless told otherwise, use a single-column, single-line-spacing format. Double space between paragraphs.


Equations should be typeset and numbered consecutively. One way to generate well-formatted equations is to use math software such as Maple, Mathematica, Microsoft Equation Editor, or LaTeX.

Figures and Tables

All figures and tables should present the data as clearly as possible (anything submitted using the old default Excel format with a grey background will be summarily rejected). Below are some general guidelines to in the graphical presentation of data:
1. Only include graphics that serve a purpose. If words say it all, skip the graphic. Avoid decoration.
2. Include a caption, centered below the figure, which adequately describes the content of the object (when you have a caption, you should not also have a title). Plots must include appropriate axes labels, and you must state the units for any measured quantities.
3. Figures and tables should be located near the text in which they are first referenced, and should be numbered consecutively throughout the report. When referencing a figure or table in the body of the report, use the word “Figure” or “Table”, followed by the corresponding number.


When mentioning a company or product, use the capitalized full name.


You must always cite the source for information that is not of your own creation. Citations should be placed immediately after the text being referenced and should be formatted with a consecutively-ordered number placed inside square brackets (e.g.“... as first presented in [4].”) corresponding to an entry in the references section.

Report Structure


The title of your report should identify the content of the article; clarity and conciseness are essential. For this class, we will usually request that you create a cover sheet with the title of the lab, the date, your name(s), your lab section number, and the name of your TA.


The purpose of an abstract is to give a clear indication of the objective, scope, and results of the paper so that readers may determine whether the full text will be of particular interest. Abstracts should summarize the substance of the paper in language that nonspecialists can understand, and should be kept to no more than 200 words.


The introduction should both introduce the reader to the topic, and highlight key background information that is important to the significance of the paper. It should also emphasize the motivations behind the report, often presented in the form of a scientific hypothesis. A typical introduction should be no more than four or five strong paragraphs.

Experimental Setup

Written in the past tense, this section should describe your experiment in such a way that the reader could duplicate it exactly, but it should not just be a list of steps. If you followed a pre-defined set of instructions (i.e. - the lab manual) only summarize the procedure, focusing on the details which would be essential for the reader to repeat the experiment. This section should be written in paragraph form, and you shouldn’t try to justify your procedures in this section.


The results section should contain one or more paragraphs that describe the experimental results, together with any applicable figures and tables. Avoid discussing the meaning of your results in this section, but rather seek to link the findings to the major topics of the report, as presented in the introduction.


This is where you will analyze and interpret the results of your experiment. In general, your results should either support/verify/confirm or negate/refute/contradict the hypothesis presented in the introduction (note that it is usually inappropriate to state that a hypothesis has been “proven”). Whether the results support or negate the hypothesis, it is important to use your knowledge of the system to explain why. Especially if the results do not confirm the hypothesis, it is important to discuss the potential sources of error or discrepancy, and to formulate a new hypothesis and/or new questions which should be investigated.


The primary purpose of the conclusion is to succinctly summarize the goals and results of the work. A well-written conclusion may also present the reader with new questions or paths for future investigation.


If there were people who contributed to the project but were not listed as authors on the title page, an acknowledgement section provides an opportunity to recognize their assistance.


Appendices can be used to include miscellaneous data supporting your methods or results. Before adding an appendix, ask yourself, “what reader needs this information?” If no reader needs it, don’t add it. Do not simply dump every Matlab printout you made into an Appendix.


The final section of the report should list the references in numerical order using the following structure:
[#] [Author Last Name] [First Initial] [Middle Initial], [Author Last Name] [First Initial] [Middle Initial]. [Article Title], [Journal Name] [Year Published]; [Volume] ([Issue Number]): [Page Number Starts]-[Ends].
for example:
[4] Fiene J, Niemeyer G,Toward Switching Motor Control, IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics 2006; 11(1): 27-34.