Body of the report

The Introduction and Conclusions act as a frame for the body of the report, which is where you present your own work. The information should be organised so that the reader can follow the development of your project. You will therefore need to put some thought into ordering the sections and choosing concise but informative headings and subheadings.

The body of the report:

  • presents the information from your research, both real world and theoretical, or your design
  • organises information logically under appropriate headings
  • conveys information in the most effective way for communication by means of:
    • figures and tables
    • bulleted or numbered lists
    • formatting to break up large slabs of text.

Presentation conventions and section headings

Provide informative headings

Headings should tell the reader exactly what type of information is contained in the section. They should be specific and content-focused rather than just labels. Devising informative headings as opposed to label headings right from the planning stage will help you to clarify exactly what you want to achieve in each section and subsection. Compare these pairs of headings:

Uninformative headings

Informative headings

Consumption patterns

Changes in water consumption patterns

Survey results

Turning movement survey results

Overview

Overview of the organisation

Management

Management style and method

Make all headings consistent and parallel in structure

This means that headings should follow a similar grammatical form. In the following table, each heading is structured differently:

Example: Inconsistent headings

Heading

Grammatical form

The company structure

Noun phrase

What is our management style?

Question

How we communicate

Noun clause

Working in teams

Gerund phrase

Usually, it is not difficult to convert such headings to a common form. In this example, all have been changed to noun phrases. This is the most commonly used format for section headings in an informational report.

Grammatically inconsistent

Noun phrases

The company structure

The company structure

What is our management style?

Management style

How we communicate

Communication channels

Working in teams

Teamwork

Conventions about the capitalisation of titles and headings have changed in recent years. Previously, a section heading might have looked like this: The Effect of Weld Metallurgy on Pitting Corrosion.

Now it would be written: The effect of weld metallurgy on pitting corrosion

Activity

Incorporating figures and tables

One of the purposes of engineering reports is to convey information as clearly and simply as possible. For this reason, figures and tables are commonly used. Anything other than a table (e.g. maps, charts, schematic diagrams, circuit diagrams, drawings, graphs, images) is called a figure.

  • Each figure and table must have a number and a descriptive title.
  • Each figure and table must be referred to in the text of the report.
  • Figures and tables should be placed just after they are first referred to in the text.

The edge effect

Click on the comment buttons in the sample text below to learn more.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 20

As the volume of liquid per unit length increases, a bulge will form in an attempt to reduce the surface energy of the channel as shown in Figure 1 below.

Lecturer's comment:
Where relevant, an indication of scale should be included.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 21 Show/hide lecturer's comment 22

Figure 1: Stable states of liquid microchannels on hydrophilic strips bonded to a hydrophobic substrate. A) Lecturer's comment:
Where a figure consists of more than one part, each part is identified by letter, A, B etc. The letters should appear on the images themselves as well as in the caption.
Low volume per unit length resulting in uniform channels B) higher volume per unit length resulting in a single bulge state after a certain contact angle is exceeded (image adapted from Gau et al, 1999) Lecturer's comment:
Figures and tables copied from someone else's work, published or unpublished, must be referenced. This applies to someone else's data, even if you created the figure or table you present it in. The citation should be placed in brackets after the figure or table title, and the source included in the References list.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 23 Show/hide lecturer's comment 24 Show/hide lecturer's comment 25

Other than hydrophilic strips on a hydrophobic substrate, sharp edges can be used to contain liquid microchannels. Figure 2Lecturer's comment:
Each figure or table must be referred to by number in the text and presented as close to the first mention as possible.
shows how contact with a sharp edge allows a droplet to hold more liquid than would otherwise be possible.

Lecturer's comment:
Figures should be uncluttered and easy to read. All the relevant parts of a diagram or other image must be clearly labelled.

Figure 2: Diagram Lecturer's comment:
For anything apart from a table or graph, begin the caption by stating what the figure is, e.g. diagram, flowchart, map, SEM image. Then describe what the figure shows.
showing the use of the edge effect in constraining the three-phase interface line for a droplet formation


Table tips

  • The label of a table goes above the table (unlike figures, which are labelled below).

  • Units of measurement are given in the column headings. Be careful to use upper and lower case correctly, e.g. ‘kg’, not ‘Kg’

Table 4. Vapour pressure of tested formulations at testing temperatures.

Formulation

Canister temperature (°C)

Vapour pressure (kPa)

HFA 134a

25

665.31

37

937.17

50

1317.89

HFA 134a / Ethanol (15%)

25

560.48

37

708.56

50

817.11

HFA 227ea

25

455.14

37

646.62

50

916.54

Equations

You will often have to include equations in your reports. The conventional style for presenting equations is as follows:

  • Centre the equation on the page.
  • Place the equation number in round brackets at the right-hand margin.
  • In the text of your report, refer to the equations as either Eq. (1) or equation (1). Use whichever format you choose consistently throughout your report.

Justifying your approach

In many projects you are given a task, some background information and some guidelines, but expected to make many decisions yourself, based on your own research. In such cases, your lecturer will want to know why you made the choices you did, so you will need to show the reasoning behind your decisions.

Example 1

The example below is from a first year report presenting the design for a composting toilet to be used in remote regions of developing countries.

Sustainability was one of the essential criteria for this project. Our objective was provide a solution that would be sustainable not only in terms of materials, but also ongoing operation and maintenance. We therefore decided that the first unit should be constructed by members of the local community,  supervised by our project manager. This would give the local team hands-on experience of building the unit and a clear understanding of how it operates, enabling them to train other members of the community.

Example 2

The example below is from the Method section of a fourth year report on an investigation into pitting corrosion in marine environments.

Pipe sections of 4.2mm thickness and a diameter of 168.3mm with a longitudinal seam weld were selected in order to represent industry standard conditions. The pipe was cut into coupons of 100mm x 50mm, based on the ASTM Standard G52-00. The coupons were exposed at the half-tide mark as this is where the most severe pitting corrosion occurs.

Active or passive voice

In both of the example texts above, the students are reporting on what they did. However, they use different writing conventions:

Example 1: “We therefore decided that...”.

This sentence is written in the active voice. It has a subject who performed the verb: “We decided…”.

Example 2: “The pipe was cut…”

This is written in the passive voice. It does not specify who performed the verb: we don’t know who cut the pipe.

The convention of using the passive voice when writing about method arose in order to avoid:

a. beginning every sentence with “I” or “We”, which would sound repetitive

b. focusing on who did the work rather than what they did, which is more important.

There is now a movement away from the strict use of the passive voice in academic writing. Example 1 above would now generally be acceptable in an undergraduate report. Nevertheless, it is still best to avoid overuse of “I” or “we” when describing what you did, for the reasons given above.

Uses of ‘we’

You may have been told not to use “I” or “we” in your reports; however. there are two cases in academic writing when ‘we’ is quite acceptable.

Consider the examples below:

The number of animal extinctions is rapidly increasing worldwide. In Australia, we have now lost 54 species, with another 457 classified endangered or vulnerable (Commonwealth of Australia, 2018).

In this case, “we” means ‘we Australians’ and refers to our society. It could also refer to human beings in general.

The other acceptable use of “we” is when we mean “you the reader and me the writer”, as in: “We saw in section 2 that…”

Activity

1. Below is an excerpt from the Results and Discussion section of a first year project report.

Table 1.

Fuel

Wick height

Burning rate

CO2 generation rate

1-propanol

10mm

0.0028335

0.0062335

 

20mm

0.0032485

0.0071465

 

30mm

0.0038335

0.0084335

Kerosene

10mm

0.00158

0.002461865

 

20mm

0.002041667

0.00311

 

30mm

0.0035

0.00389

We can see from the table above that, as the burning rate increases, so does the rate of CO2 generation. This is true for all three fuels. Testing was conducted at different wick heights for each fuel. As the wick height increases, so do the burning rate and the rate of CO2 generation. This is because the more fuel present in the reaction, the more CO2 is produced.

Activity

Below is an excerpt from a research report.

4.1 Biofilter design

Figure 3 shows a diagram of the biofilter column used by Bratiers et al. (2008). This design will be adopted for the current project as it is easy and inexpensive to construct. ..

Presenting your outcomes

The outcomes you present in your report will take different forms according to the type of project. However, in all cases, your marker wants to know that you have thought about what you have learned. This can be in relation to both the unit content and your developing knowledge of engineering in general.

Design project

  • Clarify how your design fits the design criteria or relevant theory.
  • Use visual representations such as sketches, diagrams and photographs to supplement your description.
  • Acknowledge and explain any limitations and compromises that have affected your design.
From a project to design a sustainable water supply and treatment system with minimal environment impact in a rural area of India. Although the chlorination system has several advantages, its byproducts can form potential environmental and health hazards (EPA 2018). The UV treatment unit better complies with the key criterion of having minimal environmental impact (ESP Water Products 2018).  While more expensive to install, maintenance costs are very low as it requires only an annual change of light bulb (ESP Water Products 2018). The UV option does have the disadvantage of being reliant on electricity, however, with the installation of solar panels in the first phase of the project, this is considered a minor issue.

Investigative (literature review) project

  • After researching your topic thoroughly, decide how you want to present it and structure your report accordingly.
  • Select the relevant information, illustrations and examples, and supporting evidence from your notes.
  • Do not merely report what you have learned; add value by commenting, making connections and drawing a conclusion.
Claims have been made that noise from wind turbines, whether aerodynamic noise from the blade movement or mechanical noise from the generators [1], have caused illness in people living in their vicinity. However, wind farms are governed by Department of Environmental Protection regulations which limit their noise output to 5dB [2], significantly lower than the 45dB of a quiet suburban street [3]. Headaches and sleep problems have also been blamed on infrasound (frequencies below threshold of human hearing) [2]. However, sources of infrasound are everywhere in the environment, for example, from traffic and air conditioning units. Infrasound emitted by wind turbines is relatively low [2]. Nevertheless, it can be useful for the sake of community relations to keep turbines at least 1km from habitation, and install buffers and setbacks to block vibration noise.

Site visit or work experience report

  • Explain the organisation, its purpose, values, systems, and processes clearly.
  • Use maps, diagrams and photographs to supplement your description.
  • Comment on what you have observed and make connections with your course content.
The following excerpt is from a report on a site visit to a water processing facility. The recycled water produced by means of the three-stage treatment process described above is Class A recycled water, suitable for farming and manufacturing purposes. Seeing these processes in operation has provided a clearer understanding of the purpose of each treatment stage and of the order in which they need to be performed for maximum efficiency. It is now clear why primary processes are generally physical in nature, secondary processes are biological in nature and tertiary treatments are chemical in nature. The visit has also demonstrated that wastewater treatment is a dynamic industry that will continue to develop and evolve to provide increasingly targeted treatment processes.