Technical Writing & Citation

Find information on the following topics below:

  1. Technical Reports
  2. Technical Writing Resources
  3. Grey Literature
  4. Standards

Click on any of the book/eBook covers above to locate them in our collection!

1. Technical Reports

Basic Guidelines

Technical writing differs from academic writing; you are not trying to persuade the reader. Instead technical writing is sharing information that can be applied by some way.

Technical reports include information and data gathered from tests and experiments that may offer a solution to particular problem, instructional manuals, progress reports, white papers, background reports, and technical specifications. They generally follow a strict structure:

Abstract > Introduction> Methods > Results > Conclusions > References > Appendices

When writing technical reports:

  • Present information chronologically following the sequence of steps you followed.
  • Include all findings, both positive and negative.
  • Utilize headings and sub-headings to organize the report; bullet points can be used for lists.
  • Use plain clear language and avoid jargon; define all acronyms the first time they are used.
  • Include specific details; avoid using adverbs and adjectives.
  • Visual elements (diagrams, charts, graphs) are used much more in technical writing than in academic writing; visuals provide a useful way to demonstrate important concepts and to quickly communicate data relationships to the reader.
  • Write the abstract after the rest of your report is completed; your abstract should be one or two paragraphs (250 words) maximum and highlight all important information contained within the report.
  • Cite your sources.

2. Technical Writing Resources

Online Writing Guides

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): Professional, Technical Writing

  • Provides general overview of technical writing; contains useful information important to technical writing including audience analysis and writing abstracts.

Purude Online Writing Lab (OWL): Writing Engineering Reports

  • Brief online presentation provides overview of technical writing and best practices in report formatting and design.

Scientific Writing Booklet

  • Published by University of Arizona; provides guidance about language use and grammar in scientific writing; outlines the structure of the scientific report section-by-section.

Communication Resources for Engineers

  • Published by IEEE Professional Communication Society; provides tips for communicating technical information to different audiences; includes style and grammar, written reports, information communication, presentations, visuals, and other media.

The Full Technical Report

  • Published by Grand Valley State University; provides general outline and description of each section of a technical report.

Society for Technical Communication Ethical Principles

  • Outlines the responsibilities of technical writing.

3. Grey Literature

About Grey Literature

Grey literature is information that is published by authors (individuals, organizations, associations, etc.) rather than commercial publishers in order to reach a wider audience and share the information more quickly than by publishing in a book or journal.

It includes technical reports, white papers, standards, conference proceedings and datasets. A potential benefit of grey literature is that may avoid publication bias by presenting both positive and negative results. While it may be considered official, grey literature may or may not be considered scholarly and should still be evaluated using COCOA.

4. Standards

About Standards

Standards create consistency in industry; they are developed by experts at accredited standards organizations and bodies to ensure the safety, efficiency, and compatibility of products, processes, and systems. Individual standards may be adopted voluntarily or followed as law (SCC, 2016; ANSI, 2016).

How to Read a Standard

Standards generally have the following sections:

  • Cover page
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Scope
  • References
  • Terms and definitions
  • Requirements
  • Information for guidance and bibliography

How to Read a Standard Code

General formula:

Standards organization – Subject category – Document number – Year approved

  • Example #1: ULC-S651:2016

Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada – S600 Gas and Oil Equipment – 651 – 2016

  • Example #2: ASTM C90-15

ASTM International – C Construction – 90 – 2015

Citing Standards

Most citation styles do not explicitly define how to cite standards. Cite standards using APA or MLA formats as directed by your instructor.

LMS Citing Standards Handout

How to Cite Standard (from University of Iowa Engineering Library)

ASME References

IEEE Citation Reference