Technical Writing for Reports: 10-Step Plan

There are two essential themes in technical writing  for reports. The first is having a step-by-step timeline that maps out the process. The second is choosing a topic that interests you enough to do the research and writing required. The ADR 10-Step plan combines both elements using a famous writer’s philosophy …

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.” ~ Mark Twain

STEP #1: RESEARCH POSSIBLE TOPICS – If the specific topic isn’t assigned, read a minimum of 3 articles on an assigned or chosen topic. Circle 3 ideas that you’d like to read more about as you write the paper. Choose the one idea that interest you the most and make a list of similar articles to read for the paper/report.

STEP #2: CHOOSE A TITLE – Write down three possible titles for your report. Choose one of the titles or keep writing until you have a title that you think will work. If you do this now, the rest of the paper will flow from it. If you do the title last, you will end up rewriting substantial portions of your paper because it lacks focus. When in doubt, read the title choices out loud to a friend for feedback.

STEP #3: TABLE of CONTENTS – Whether you are given the elements of the Table of Contents (TOC) or create it yourself, draft a TOC early in the writing process. The TOC is your writing plan. A short paper may not require page numbers in the TOC. For longer reports, insert page numbers.

STEP #4: SECTION CONTENT – Write each section in sequence. Consider the related tables, figures, and footnotes as part of the content. Don’t jump around or try to write several chapters at once. Focus & Finish!

STEP #5: ABSTRACT – Write an abstract/executive summary only when you’ve finished writing the report, including the bibliography.

STEP #6: THE DRAFT – When you’ve finished writing, think of the results as a rough draft. Sleep on it. Give your brain some distance from writing before reviewing and finalizing it.

STEP #7: CONTENT EDIT – Review your writing to make sure that you defined your terms, described your methodology, and analyzed the results so that readers can follow your thinking. CLICK here if you need help?.

STEP #8: FORMAT & COPYEDITING REVIEW – Review your report for technical problems such as grammatical mistakes and formatting errors. If possible, have a friend or colleague read it at this point.

STEP #9: FINALIZE – When you’ve made all the necessary corrections, take a break. Then read your paper one last time for both content and format. Make corrections as necessary.

STEP #10: DEADLINE – Get known for meeting deadlines and producing quality work! Schedule backwards from the deadline, putting the date for completion of each step on your calendar. Budget extra days for complicated sections. If you don’t need those extra days, you’ll finish early. If they are needed, you can still meet the deadline.

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