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Technical Communications Basics: Lab Reports

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Title: Technical Communications Basics: Lab Reports


1
Technical Communications Basics Lab Reports
More
  • Metro Writing Studio
  • November 18, 2009
  • Instructor Nancy Passow
  • npassow_at_fdu.edu

2
Technical Writing Communication
  • Communication skills are extremely important.
    Unfortunately, both written and oral skills are
    often ignored in engineering schools, so today we
    have many engineers with excellent ideas and a
    strong case to make, but they dont know how to
    make that case. If you cant make the case, no
    matter how good the science and technology may
    be, youre not going to see your ideas reach
    fruition. George Heilmeier, corporate executive
    of Bellcore, in Educating Tomorrows Engineers,
    ASEE Prism, May/June 1995 (from A Guide to
    Writing as an Engineer)

3
Overview
  • Introduction to technical business writing
  • Writing resources
  • Editing proofreading
  • E-mail, letters, memos
  • Numbers, units of measurement, equations,
    abbreviations
  • Lab reports
  • Technical articles papers
  • Tables, graphs, illustrations

4
Introduction
  • Your writing reflects who you are.
  • It must be readable and understandable.
  • Know your audience.
  • Organize, outline, summarize.
  • Use short paragraphs, sentences, and words.
  • Use real language no jargon, buzzwords, or
    clichés.

5
Guidelines for Good Technical Writing
  • Focus on why you are writing.
  • inform
  • request
  • instruct
  • propose
  • recommend
  • persuade
  • record

6
Guidelines
  • Get to the point
  • most important information at the beginning
  • Letter opening sentence
  • Memo e-mail subject line
  • Report abstract, summary (or conclusion),
    and/or results (or recommendations)

7
General Advice for Reports
  • Determine the requirements for the report.
  • Define the needs requirements of the audience.
  • Find out specific requirements from instructor
    (format, etc.)

8
English (American English)
  • English is an imprecise, inconsistent, and
    illogical language that can be frustrating and
    difficult to use.
  • Pocket Book of English Grammar for Engineers
    and Scientists by Leo Finkelstein, Jr.

9
Web Resources
  • Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science
    Students (Virginia Tech Penn State Univ.)
  • http//www.writing.eng.vt.edu/
  • Writing Exercises for Engineers and Scientists
  • http//www.writing.eng.vt.edu/exercises/
  • Engineering Communication Centre, The University
    of Toronto
  • http//www.ecf.utoronto.ca/writing/handbook-lab.
    html

10
Web Resources
  • On-line dictionaries
  • Merriam-Webster Online (this web site also
    includes a word a day, word games, and daily
    crossword puzzles) www.m-w.com
  • Dictionary.com (this web site also includes a
    word a day and a daily crossword puzzle)
    dictionary.com
  • Increase your vocabulary, subscribe to
    A.Word.A.Day wordsmith.org

11
Editing Proofreading
  • Never send out the first draftlet time elapse.
  • Make sure draft makes sense.
  • facts correct
  • main message stands out
  • Never rely on spell check or grammar check (or
    autocorrect) but use them!

12
Editing Proofreading
  • Print draft out.
  • easier to review than on the screen
  • how does it look printed?
  • Review with someone else.
  • Read draft backwards.
  • When its really important, hire someone to
    proofread draft.

13
Editing Proofreading
  • Edit at different levels
  • Check for technical accuracy
  • Level 1spelling, punctuation, typos
  • Level 2paragraph sentence length and
    structure, verbiage, and precise word choice
  • Level 3overall format, organization, and
    appearance

14
E-mail
  • Maintain a business/professional image.
  • Use a clear subject line.
  • Only one topic per e-mail.
  • Use an e-mail signature.
  • Limit message to one screen.
  • Avoid acronyms and Instant Messaging
    abbreviations.

15
Example of e-mail signature
  • Nancy Passow
  • Adjunct Instructor
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University
  • 201-541-9702 (telephone/fax) www.write4unj.com

16
E-mail (page 2)
  • When responding to e-mails, include reference.
  • Dont forward chain e-mails.
  • Set tone (no emoticons).
  • Limit number of recipients.
  • Use bcc for large groups.
  • Limit use of Reply All.
  • E-mails are not private.

17
E-mail (page 3)
  • Save e-mail into files or folders
  • Keep copies of e-mail you send
  • Search e-mail folders
  • Create and use distribution lists
  • Use templates
  • Attach files to e-mail
  • Proofread and spell check e-mail
  • Know how to access e-mail on the road

18
Why Use Paper?
  • Permanent record.
  • Recipient not comfortable with e-mail.
  • Complexity of topic, amount of information.
  • Need to transmit printed item or item with
    signature.

19
Why Use Paper?
  • Security
  • Memos internal
  • Letters external
  • Faxes need to show a signature or transmit
    something

20
General Tips
  • Write as though talking to recipient
  • Give your reason for writing in first paragraph
  • Establish an order for your responses
  • Use the proper format

21
General Tips
  • Keep letters and memos short, simple, and
    structured
  • stop when youre through
  • End with a call to action/what comes next
  • Make the closing simple
  • Adopt an easy-to-read format
  • Dont use stilted expressions

22
Memos
  • To, from, date
  • Subject make it descriptive
  • Address only to person who must take action
  • Use ccs bccs for others list names
    alphabetically (except for president or CEO)
  • MS Word provides memo templates

23
Sample Memo
  • To Technical Communications Class
  • From Nancy Passow
  • Date September 18, 2006
  • cc Dr. Tan
  • Subject Sample Memo
  • Memos are used to send information inside of a
    business or other organization. A memo can be
    used to ask or answer a question, report on a
    trip, transmit a report, or for any other type of
    communication that needs a written record.
  • A full signature isnt needed on a memousually
    senders sign their initials next to their name.

24
Letters
  • Company logo /or address and date
  • Correct name, title, address
  • Attention line if actual recipient isnt known
  • Reference line refer to previous letter
  • Subject line

25
Letters
  • Salutation
  • use Mr. or Ms. (or Dr. or other honorific)
  • if not sure of gender, use full name or else
    title
  • Dear Terry Smith
  • Dear Supervisor Smith
  • can use first name after relationship established
  • Body of letter

26
Letters
  • Close
  • Sincerely,
  • Regards,
  • Signature
  • professional name typed
  • can sign with first name if recipient is
    addressed by first name

27
Letters
  • Reference initials
  • authors initials, capitalized typists initials
    lowercase
  • End notations
  • enclosure
  • cc and bcc

28
Letter Format
  • Block Style
  • 80 of all letters
  • all elements flush against the left margin
  • Modified Block Style
  • date and signature block start at center of page
  • other elements flush against left margin

29
Sample Letter Block Style
  • October 24, 2005
  • Mr. Arthur H. Bell
  • Barron Educational Series
  • 250 Wireless Boulevard
  • Hauppauge, New York 11788
  • Dear Mr. Bell
  • Ive just finished reading your book Writing
    Effective Letters Memos and want to thank you
    for writing such a useful book! Your book is not
    only very informative but fun to read. It will
    have a prominent spot on my reference shelf.
  • To show you what I learned, here is an example
    of a Block Letter Style. Normally this would be
    printed on my letterhead.
  • Sincerely,

30
Sample Letter Modified Block Style
  • October 24, 2005
  • Mr. Arthur H. Bell
  • Barron Educational Series
  • 250 Wireless Boulevard
  • Hauppauge, New York 11788
  • Dear Mr. Bell
  • Ive just finished reading your book Writing
    Effective Letters Memos and want to thank you
    for writing such a useful book! Your book is not
    only very informative but fun to read. It will
    have a prominent spot on my reference shelf. To
    show you what I learned, here is an example of a
    Modified Block Letter Style.
  • Sincerely,

31
Sample Letter
  • October 24, 2005
  • Barron Educational Series
  • 250 Wireless Boulevard
  • Hauppauge, New York 11788
  • Attention Customer Service Department
  • Please send me 10 copies of the book Writing
    Effective Letters Memos by Arthur H. Bell.
    Enclosed is a check for 70.00 to cover the cost
    of the books and shipping. Thank you very much.
  • Sincerely,

32
Numbers
  • Write out all numbers below 10.
  • exceptions
  • time 5 pm 9-second delay
  • units of measure 3 inches 1 pound
  • money -- 7
  • dates August 2
  • page numbers page 8

33
Numbers
  • numbers that can go either way
  • age
  • percentages
  • proportions
  • ordinals (first, third, etc.)
  • spell out single words first, fourteenth
  • write others as numerals 21st, 93rd

34
Numbers
  • When two or more numbers appear in a sentence or
    paragraph, be consistent.
  • If a number begins a sentence, write it out (or
    rewrite the sentence to change the order).
  • Millions can either be
  • 2 million or 2,000,000

35
Numbers
  • Place a zero before the decimal point for numbers
    less than one (but dont use trailing zeros
    unless they indicate precision).
  • 0.72
  • 1
  • 6.30

36
Numbers
  • Write fractions as numerals when they are joined
    by a whole number, connecting them with a hyphen.
  • 2-1/2
  • 5-1/16
  • For very large or small numbers, use scientific
    notation.
  • 0.0036 3.6 x 10-3
  • 135,000 1.35 x 105

37
Numbers
  • Place a hyphen between a number and unit of
    measure when they modify a noun.
  • 15,000-volt charger
  • Use the singular when fractions and decimals of
    one or less are used as adjectives.
  • 0.9 pound

38
Numbers
  • In a listing of numbers, align decimal points
    vertically.
  • 133.4
  • 27.06
  • 0.345
  • Spell out one of two numbers that appear
    consecutively.
  • four four-color photos/four 4-color photos
  • 12 60-ohm resistors/ twelve 60-ohm resistors

39
Units of Measurement
  • Be consistent.
  • English (inch, feet, Fahrenheit, pound)
  • Metric/SI (Système International)
  • can use both (second in parentheses)
  • Use commonly accepted abbreviations.
  • Leave a space between the number and measurement
    unit.

40
Units of Measurement
  • Use the correct symbol remember a symbol may
    stand for more than one thing.
  • C degree Celsius or C coulomb (electric charge)
  • Units of measurement derived from a persons name
    usually not capitalized, even if abbreviation is.
  • amperes A kelvins K
  • volts V webers Wb

41
Units of Measurement Prefixes
  • 1018 exa- E
  • 1012 tera- T
  • 106 mega- M
  • 103 kilo- k
  • 10-1 deci- d
  • 10-2 centi- c
  • 10-3 milli- m
  • 10-6 micro- µ
  • 10-9 nano- n

42
Units of Measurement
  • Dictionary of scientific terms
  • Only use the terms, symbols, etc., if you and
    your audience know what they mean.
  • Can define them in the text

43
Equations
  • Define your audience, if non-technical, keep
    equations to a minimum.
  • Many word processing programs can write equations
    in text.
  • If writing long-hand, make sure it is legible and
    accurate.

44
Equations
  • Center equations on page.
  • Number equations sequentially for reference.
  • 5 7 12 (1)
  • 27 13 14 (2)
  • Align plus, minus, multiplication, and division
    signs with equal sign.

45
Equations
  • For a series of equations, align equal signs
    vertically.
  • Leave a space between text and an equation and
    between lines of equations.
  • Leave a space on both sides of the signs.
  • Microsoft has an Equation Editor

46
Abbreviations
  • computer-aided design/computer-aided
    manufacturing CAD/CAM
  • spell abbreviations out the first time
  • initialisms (initializations)first letter from
    each word and pronouncing as initials (GPA, IBM)
  • acronymsfirst letters or sounds but pronounced
    as a word (AIDS, ROM, NASA)

47
Laboratory Reports
  • Present the data from an experiment.
  • Present the conclusions that can be drawn from
    the data.
  • Present the theory, methods, procedures, and
    equipment.
  • Reader should be able to replicate the experiment.

48
Lab Reports Contents Organization
  • Title page
  • name of experiment
  • names of lab partners
  • date
  • Abstract 200 words max.
  • purpose
  • key results
  • significance
  • major conclusions

49
Lab Reports Contents Organization
  • Introduction background
  • objective
  • important background or theory
  • show why you are doing this work
  • Methods materials or equipment
  • list (accurate complete)
  • may be able to reference lab manual or standard
    procedure

50
Lab Reports Contents Organization
  • Experimental procedure
  • describe process in chronological order
  • note any changes from planned method
  • Observations, data, findings, or results
  • what happened?
  • collect data, organize it, present it
  • use tables, graphs, or charts

51
Lab Reports Contents Organization
  • Discussion conclusions
  • analysis and interpretation
  • explain why you think your conclusions are valid
  • Implications and further research
  • how can the conclusions be applied?
  • are there further research possibilities?
  • Information sources/references
  • Appendices

52
Lab Reports Resources
  • On-line resources
  • http//www.ecf.utoronto.ca/writing/handbook-lab.h
    tml
  • http//www.writing.engr.psu.edu/workbooks/laborato
    ry.html

53
Technical Articles Papers
  • Types of technical publications
  • academic journals
  • trade journals
  • Why write an article?
  • offers personal satisfaction
  • showcases authors technical expertise
  • publicity for company or school
  • professional prestige
  • helps others learn

54
Technical Articles Papers
  • Types of articles
  • scientific research
  • new or improved products
  • new techniques
  • market trends
  • case histories
  • Authors guidelines
  • length, style, and format

55
Technical Articles Papers
  • Author Tools
  • Writing technical papers plays an important role
    for engineers, and for growth of technology. With
    more than 120 journals, 450 annual conferences,
    and other publication options, IEEE offers
    authors the opportunity to make a difference in
    their careers and in their fields. Authors are
    invited to submit their work to IEEE journals,
    magazines, and other publications. Prospective
    contributors should be familiar with the
    submission guidelines for the appropriate
    publications, as outlined below.
  • Submission Guidelines and Calls for Papers
  • IEEE Transactions, Journals, and Letters IEEE
    Author Digital Toolbox      - Proceedings of the
    IEEE IEEE Magazines      - IEEE
    Spectrum      - EEE Computer Society
    Magazines      - IEEE Communications Society
    Magazines IEEE Newsletters EEE Standards
    Information Network  IEEE Conference
    Proceedings  IEEE Press Books  IEEE Computer
    Society Press IEEE Conference Calls for Papers
    and Deadlines

56
Technical Articles Papers
  • Why Publish with IEEE?
  • Prestige - IEEE is a not-for-profit publisher,
    with a mission to promote "the engineering
    process of creating, developing, integrating,
    sharing, and applying knowledge about electro and
    information technologies and sciences for the
    benefit of humanity and the profession."
  • Legacy - IEEE authors include the giants of
    technology from Edison and Marconi to Flanagan
    and Holonyak, and beyond.
  • Impact - Your research will be noticed and
    read. IEEE journals are among the most-cited in
    Electrical and Electronics Engineering,
    Telecommunications, Robotics, Medical Imaging,
    Computer Science, any many other technologies.

57
Technical Articles Papers
  • Growth - Publication enhances your career.
    Technical papers published by IEEE are an
    important part of your resume, and play a vital
    role in determining your status in the technical
    community.
  • Reach - Technology professionals around the world
    depend on IEEE publications. More than 1 million
    researchers use IEEE online publications every
    month.
  • Quality - No one understands technology like
    IEEE. Volunteer editors and peer reviewers have
    access to the latest trends in their disciplines,
    because technology is their only business.

58
Nontextual Material
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Graphics or illustrations

59
Tables
  • Use word-processing software to convert text to a
    table.
  • Can turn off grid lines to look like columns.
  • Import spreadsheet data to create a table.

60
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Formatting Tables
  • Heading at top of each column.
  • Can include row heading in farthest left
    column.
  • Text is left-aligned.
  • Numbers are right-aligned.
  • Measurement value goes in column or row heading
    (or in note below).
  • Table title goes above the table.

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65
Charts Graphs
  • Visual representations of tables.
  • Shows the significance of the data.
  • Line graphs change in data occurring over time.
  • Pie charts depict the relative portion of a
    total amount.
  • Bar charts compares sets of data.
  • In Excel, under Insert, click on chart and follow
    the Chart Wizard.

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Illustrations or Graphics
  • Photographs
  • Drawings
  • Diagrams
  • Schematics

69
Sources of Illustrations
  • Internet
  • Hardcopy scans
  • Professional clipart
  • Graphics professional
  • Crop, size, label, clean up

70
Guidelines for Graphics Tables
  • Add descriptive figure and table titles
  • below figures
  • above tables
  • Add labels.
  • Indicate sources of borrowed graphics or tables.
  • Place graphics tables at point of first
    reference.

71
Guidelines for Graphics Tables
  • Align and position graphics carefully.
  • adequate spacing
  • can flow text around
  • Intersperse graphics tables with text.
  • Include a legend symbols, colors, shadings,
    patterns, etc.
  • Provide a cross-reference to tables graphics.

72
References
  • D. Beer D. McMurrey, A Guide to Writing as an
    Engineer, 3rd ed.
  • A. H. Bell, Writing Effective Letters, Memos,
    E-mail, 3rd Ed.
  • G. Blake R. Bly, The Elements of Technical
    Writing
  • Engineering Communication Centre, The University
    of Toronto, Laboratory Reports
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