Clarity of technical reporting

Clarity of technical reporting – NASA SP – 7010

Ask yourself as you write each word, phrase, or sentence whether its meaning would be clear or whether it has a chance of being momentarily misunderstood.

If you find your paragraph getting very long, either simplify the idea or break up the idea into smaller units, with a paragraph for each.

The Experimental Research Report


  • It may be written in a straightforward and brief manner.
  • It may begin by describing enough of the background to show where or how the problem arose and how important it is.
  • As a result of such-and-such developments, such-and-such problems have arisen. In reference 1, such-and-such phases of the matter were studied. In reference 2, certain other phases were studied. The results, however, leave the question of... unsettled…
  • so that the basic problem of... remains, and it is not yet possible to design accurately…
  • Having indicated where the problem exists, or, in general, what the background is, now state broadly what it is that you have tried to contribute by your research and along what general lines you have worked.
  • In an effort to obtain further insight into..., an experimental study was made of...,with special emphasis on... The material available was considered to be especially favorable for the study because...
  • Furthermore, special apparatus (to be subsequently described) developed for this purpose was capable of..., thereby providing information of (a previously unavailable) type. . .
  • Your reader is now aware of what you have tried to do and why. It is usually desirable at this point to add a final portion to the Introduction, in which you state more specifically what types of tests and analyses were made, the ranges of variables considered, and similar information that broadly defines the nature and extent of your work. The reader will thereby get an insight into the scope and thoroughness of your research and will know what to expect in the report.
  • Frequently the three sections are found in three paragraphs, but such sharp separation is not essential

Apparatus and tests – description>

Results and discussion

  • Sometimes preferred to be presented together, sometimes separately, depending on the context
  • You will recall that in the Introduction you described the problem and what you hoped to accomplish or contribute. Bear this Introduction in mind while you present your data, and show by your discussion how these data shed light on the problem or, in general, to what extent your originally stated objectives were achieved. Some authors also find it helpful to prepare a list of the main points that were developed in the investigation (these are, essentially, the final Conclusions of the report) and then to aim the Results and Discussion to bring out these points
  • Whichever structure you choose, it is essential to keep certain rules. Avoid rambling and disorganized presentation! Above all, avoid the ponderous revelation of unenlightening trivia.


  • Essentially, the Conclusions state concisely (seldom more than two sentences per conclusion) what you have concluded from your research.
  • They are the answer to "So you have done a piece of research. Well, what did you find out?'' They should be written with little or no reference to the body of the report.
  • Sometimes the research turns out in such a way that enumerating sharply drawn conclusions is practically impossible. In such cases a short discussion of the problem and what you learned and believe about it should be given under Conclusions. Sometimes, however, the original problem, as stated in the Introduction, remains essentially unanswered (as when the experimental technique turned out to be inappropriate, or the information obtained turned out to be less useful than originally expected).
  • A frank discussion of the situation, together with, possibly, suggestions for future research, is preferable in such cases to drawing uninteresting or irrelevant conclusions.
  • Such a final section is generally entitled Concluding Remarks.

The Analytical Research Report

The remarks previously made with regard to the Introduction and Conclusions still apply, but the body of the paper is arranged in whatever manner seems most logical.
A long theoretical development, however, frequently tends to leave the reader unable to see the woods for the trees. Accordingly, you might do well to include near the beginning of such a report an overall view of your line of development, and as you begin each chapter, indicate what will be done in that chapter and how it fits into the development.
Incidental material, such as a side proof or derivation, may be put into an appendix in order to avoid interrupting the continuity of the main development.