Laboratory Reports

Writing is an essential part of an engineer’s job. Proposals, reports, your professional opinion: all essential parts of your job and all practically permanent examples of your professional activities and abilities. Fortunately the nature of our work and our writing is such that it is not necessary to become professional writers before becoming professional engineers. Our writing is usually of a technical, factual, functional nature and is judged more on accuracy, relevance and the logical development of an idea than on the literary style and the creative expressions of these ideas. We are also fortunate in that an engineer’s writing usually must conform to a prescribed format and length, restrictions which actually structure our writing for us. We are also fortunate in that our readership is generally very select. Still, like all writing, it must effectively communicate your findings and ideas in an efficient and convincing manner.

Consider also that writing is a unique form of communication, consisting of little more than your words and pictures on paper, without the benefit of the inflection in your voice,personal nuances and gestures used in personal communication. Also, the assumption is that by putting something in writing you have chosen your words and how you use them carefully and that you intend for these words to have some permanence. Finally, you’ll have no opportunity to expand on or clarify a point for the reader so you must anticipate the questions and concerns of your audience and as well as their ability to grasp your ideas given the limited amount of information you are presenting.

It can be a real challenge to get your ideas across to readers whom you may or may not ever meet yet who may be important to your career. A badly written report can be a lasting embarrassment but a well written report on a relevant topic can stand as a example of your professional standards and achievement. The importance of being able to represent yourself well in your writing should not be underestimated.

To assist in writing reports for this class we have included a number of examples and exercises to aid you in writing your laboratory reports. You should spend at least a little time looking these over to get an idea of what is expected in terms of your writing. Your instructor might use these as the basis for work done in class or even as homework assignments.

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