The Introduction tells the reader what the report is about. It sets the project in its wider context, and provides the background information the reader needs to understand the report.
- introduces the topic of the report in context
- explains the problem and/or motivation for the project
- states the aim/s of the project
- indicates the purpose of the report
- briefly outlines the report structure (not necessary in a short report).
Length: ½ to ¾ of a page is sufficient for most undergraduate reports.
In a short report, the technical background necessary to understand the problem may be included in the Introduction. In longer reports this may be summarised in the Introduction and presented in detail in a separate section.
When writing the Introduction, take care not to confuse the report with the project. The project is the work you did; it had an aim, motivation and an outcome. The report is the mode of communicating that work to the reader.
This is the Introduction to a report presenting two concept designs for a civil engineering project. Click on the blue comment buttons to learn more.
Slaty Creek Bridge: alternative designs report.
1. IntroductionShow/hide lecturer's comment 11Show/hide lecturer's comment 12
A dual carriageway bridge with two traffic lanes in each direction is to be constructed on the Calder Freeway crossing Slaty Creek in the Shire of Macedon Ranges in Victoria.Lecturer's comment:
This sentence introduces the topic in context. It also informs us about the aim of the overall project.The bridge will rise approximately 15 metres above the river surface and span 125 metres between man-made compacted fill embankments. Lecturer's comment:
In the final design report, these specifications would appear in a separate section with much more detail.
This report presents two concept designs for the bridge. Lecturer's comment:
This tells the reader the purpose of the report.The designs are presented in the form of sketches of the elevations and cross-sections of the structures. They are then compared in terms of construction method, construction and maintenance costs, possible disruption to traffic during construction, durability and aesthetics. This discussion underpins the preliminary recommendation that completes the report.Lecturer's comment:
Structure outline. In this case, the structure outline also tells us more about the purpose of the report.
Introductions to long reports or complex projects usually introduce the topic in general terms, and gradually narrow in to the precise focus of the project. This usually involves the context and/or motivation for the project. The example below introduces a project to establish the viability of a particular method of solar desalination in a particular context. Only the first one or two sentences of each paragraph are given. Note how the author leads the reader from the general to the specific topic, and maintains the contextual and motivational threads of Australia’s arid climate and need for potable water throughout.
This is the Introduction to a project report. Click on the comment buttons to learn more.
A vision based altitude detection system for UAVs.
1. IntroductionShow/hide lecturer's comment 15 Show/hide lecturer's comment 16
Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used for military purposes, particularly since technical advances have increased their range.Lecturer's comment:
This sentence introduces the topic in context. One barrier to the greater use of UAVs, however, is the fact that altitude can be difficult to ascertain at long range by ground-based ‘pilots’. Also, traditional altitude determination systems require heavy radio communication hardware to be carried aboard the aircraft, reducing fly times and adding to operational costs.Lecturer's comment:
The rest of the paragraph explains the problem to be addressed and why it matters (motivation).
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The aim of this project was to develop a light-weight, real-time system to reliably determine the altitude of a UAV from the ground.Lecturer's comment:
The aim statement follows logically from the problem. The vision based system described here is based on visual markers painted onto the UAV.Lecturer's comment:
This sentence clarifies what the report is about. The rest of the paragraph introduces the solution. At the core of the system is a correlation algorithm that compares known geometrical parameters with parameters calculated from the vision system, allowing three-dimensional information to be extracted from a single image in real-time. This has obvious benefits. With less instrumentation required onboard, fly times can be increased. In addition, a vision based system requires no communication between the UAV and a base station, and thus information cannot be intercepted.
Show/hide lecturer's comment 19 The report begins with a detailed description of the system design and operation. The results of laboratory and field tests on the prototype under a range of conditions are then presented and analysed. Finally, limitations of the project are discussed, and recommendations made for future work.Lecturer's comment:
The Introduction finishes with the structure outline.