3. The Style and Structure of Technical Writing


Structure and organization: Overall sections and subsections in technical reports


Typical Report Structure

Section Description


Abstract/ Summary


  • Identifies the problem/questions that the project addresses
  • States the objectives of the project
  • Describes the general procedures
  • Includes key results (quantitative results and key trends)
  • Evaluates results in light of the problem/ questions
  • Lists the main conclusions
  • Suggests future work or implementation


(and Theoretical Background)


  • Identifies the problem/ questions that the project addresses
  • Describes related work done on the topic (previous work, theoretical background, key parameters, equations, etc.)
  • States the (specific and measurable) objectives of the current project
  • Lists the general procedures (including the measurements and calculations) that will be used to achieve the objectives  
Methods/ Procedures


  • Describes the scientific method/ approach used to collect data
  • Describes the materials and equipment used to collect data
  • Describes the detailed procedures followed to collect data in a way that would allow someone else to reproduce such procedures
  • Describes the process by which measurements were recorded, preserved, and analyzed
Results/ Data/ Findings (and Analysis)


  • Reports key results and explains their meaning
  • Explains data derivations and transformations obtained from the measured data
  • Presents key results visually (tables, figures, graphs)
  • Reports discrepancies and anomalies in the results


  • Compares measured results to predicted values
  • Explains the discrepancies and anomalies in the results
Conclusions and Recommendations


  • Summarizes the most important results reported in the report
  • Assesses the success of the project
  • Suggests possible future improvements (e.g. address error sources, safety issues, alternative approaches)
  • Ends with a bottom line statement (why should the reader care about the results?)
Additional sections


  • References (lists the external sources cited in the report)
  • Appendices (includes raw data, sample calculations, error analysis, etc.)​

Structure and organization: Overall sections and subsections in research papers


Typical Research Paper Structure

Section Description


Abstract/ Summary


  • Provides an overview of the paper: background, purpose, methods, findings, conclusions, value/implications



and Literature Review


  • Establishes the topic (narrows down the topic from general explanations to a specific angle/scope/problem)
  • Reviews the literature (reviews aspects of the problem that have been previously studied and organizes them thematically)
  • States the gap (identifies the need for further investigation/research with respect to a particular aspect of the problem)
  • States the purpose (explicitly states the purpose/ objective/ hypotheses of the study)




  • Details the methods, materials, and procedures used in the study


Results/ Findings


  • Presents the findings by theme
  • Reports the data and interprets their meaning in light of the purpose of the paper


  • Expands on the major interpretations
  • Compares findings to the literature




  • Presents the importance of the findings and how they may be applied in broader contexts (other contexts, disciplines, real-life scenarios, etc.)
  • Includes limitations and suggestions for future work




  • Gives thanks and credit to contributors other than the listed authors


  • Documents the sources using an acceptable style