Technology

Technical Reports Made Easy — Here’s How to Write Them

Technical reports are created to outline the research process, its advancement and results. Let's get you started.

Introduction

You want to improve the customers’ experience with your products, but your team is too busy creating and/or updating products to write a report.

Getting them ready for the task is another problem you need to overcome. 

Who wants to write a technical report on the exact process you just conducted? 

Exactly, no one.

Honestly, we get it: you’re supposed to be managing coding geniuses — not writers.

But it's one of those things you need to get it done for sound decision-making and ensuring communication transparency. In many organizations, engineers spend nearly 40 percent of their time writing technical reports.

If you're wondering how to write good technical reports that convey your development process and results in the shortest time possible, we've got you covered. 

Let’s start with the basics.  

What is a technical report?

A technical report is a piece of documentation developed by technical writers and/or the software team outlining the process of:

  • The research conducted.
  • How it advances.
  • The results obtained.

In layman's terms, a technical report is created to accompany a product, like a manual. Along with the research conducted, a technical report also summarizes the conclusion and recommendations of the research.

The idea behind building technical documentation is to create a single source of truth about the product and including any product-related information that may be insightful down the line.

Industries like engineering, IT, medicine and marketing use technical documentation to explain the process of how a product was created. 

Ideally, you should start documenting the process when a product is in development, or already in use. A good technical report has the following elements:

  • Uses. 
  • Functionality.
  • Features.
  • Development. 
  • Method.

Gone are the days when technical reports used to be boring yawn-inducing dry text. Today, you can make them interactive and engaging using screenshots, charts, diagrams, tables, and similar visual assets.

But who is responsible for creating these reports?

Who is responsible for creating reports?

Anyone with a clear knowledge of the industry and the product can write a technical report by following simple writing rules. 

It's possible your developers will be too busy developing the product to demonstrate the product development process.

Keeping this in mind, you can have them cover the main points and send off the writing part to the writing team. Hiring a technical writer can also be beneficial, who can collaborate with the development and operations team to create the report.

Why is technical documentation crucial for a business?

If you’re wondering about the benefits of writing a report, here are three reasons to convince you why creating and maintaining technical documentation is a worthy cause. 

1. Easy communication of the process

Technical reports give you a more transparent way to communicate the process behind the software development to the upper management or the stakeholders. 

You can also show the technical report to your readers interested in understanding the behind the scenes (BTS) action of product development. Treat this as a chance to show value and the methodology behind the same. 

2. Demonstrating the problem & solution

You can use technical documentation tools to create and share assets that make your target audience aware of the problem.

Technical reports can shed more light on the problem they’re facing while simultaneously positioning your product as the best solution for it. 

3. Influence upper management decisions 

Technical reports are also handy for conveying the product's value and functionality to the stakeholders and the upper management, opening up the communication channel between them and other employees. 

You can also use this way to throw light on complex technical nuances and help them understand the jargon better.

Benefits of creating technical reports

The following are some of the biggest benefits of technical documentation:

  • Cuts down customer support tickets, enabling users to easily use the product without technical complications. 
  • Lets you share the detailed knowledge of the product's usability and potential, showing every aspect to the user as clearly as possible.  
  • Enables customer success teams to answer user questions promptly and effectively.
  • Creates a clear roadmap for future products. 
  • Improves efficiency for other employees in the form of technical training.

The 5 types of technical reports

There are not just one but five types of technical reports you can create. These include:

1. Feasibility report 

This report is prepared during the initial stages of software development to determine whether the proposed project will be successful. 

2. Business report

This report outlines the vision, objectives and goals of the business while laying down the steps needed to crush those goals. 

3. Technical specification report

This report specifies the essentials for a product or project and details related to the development and design. 

4. Research report 

This report includes information on the methodology and outcomes based on any experimentation. 

5. Recommendation report

This report contains all the recommendations the DevOps team can use to solve potential technical problems.

The type of technical report you choose depends on certain factors like your goals, the complexity of the product and its requirements. 

What are the key elements of a technical report?

Following technical documentation best practices, you want the presented information to be clear and well-organized. Here are the elements (or sections) a typical technical report should have:

Cover Page

This part is simple and usually contains the names of the authors, your company name, logo and so on. 

Synopses 

Synopses are usually a couple of paragraphs long, but it sets the scene for the readers. It outlines the problem to be solved, the methods used, purpose and concept of the report. 

Title 

You can’t just write the title of the project here, and call it a day. This page should also include information about the author, their company position and submission date, among other things. The name and position of the supervisor or mentor is also mentioned here. 

Abstract 

The abstract is a brief summary of the project addressed to the readers. It gives a clear overview of the project and helps readers decide whether they want to read the report. 

Foreword

The foreword is a page dedicated to acknowledging all the sources used to write this report. It gives assurance that no part of the report is plagiarized and all the necessary sources have been cited and given credit to. 

Acknowledgment 

This page is used for acknowledging people and institutions who helped in completing the report. 

Table of Contents 

Adding a table of contents makes navigating from one section to another easier for readers. It acts as a compass for the structure of the report.

List of illustrations 

This part contains all the graphs, diagrams, images, charts and tables used across the report. Ideally, it should have all the materials supporting the content presented in the report. 

Introduction

The introduction is a very crucial part of the project that should specify the context of the project, along with its purpose and objective. Things like background information, scope of work and limitations are discussed under this section.

Body

The body of the report is generally divided into sections and subsections that clearly define the purpose of each area, ideas, purpose and central scope of work. 

Conclusion 

The conclusion should have an answer to all the questions and arguments made in the introduction or body of the report. It should answer the objectives of the findings, the results achieved and any further observations made.

Appendices

This part lists the mathematical formulas and data used in the content, following the same order as they were used in the report.

References

The page cites the sources from which information was taken. Any quotes, graphs and statistics used in your report need to be credited to the original source. 

Glossary 

A glossary is the index of all the terms and symbols used in the report.

Bibliography 

The bibliography outlines the names of all the books and data you researched to gain knowledge on the subject matter.

How to create your own technical report in 6 simple steps

To create a high-quality technical report, you need to follow these 5 steps. 

Step 1: Research

If you’ve taken part in the product development process, this part comes easily. But if you’ve not participated in the development (or are hiring a writer), you need to learn as much about the product as possible to understand it in and out. 

While doing your research, you need to think from your target users' perspectives. 

  • You have to know if they’re tech-savvy or not. Whether they understand industry technicalities and jargon or not?
  • What goals do you want to achieve with the report? What do you want the final outcome to look like for your users?
  • What do you want to convey using the report and why?
  • What problems are you solving with the report, and how are you solving them?

This will help you better understand the audience you’re writing for and create a truly valuable document. 

Step 2: Design

You need to make it simple for users to consume and navigate through the report. 

The structure is a crucial element to help your users get familiar with your product and skim through sections. Some points to keep in mind are:

  • Outlining: Create an outline of the technical report before you start writing. This will ensure that the DevOps team and the writer are on the same page.
  • Table of contents: Make it easy for your users to skip to any part of the report they want without scrolling through the entire document.
  • Easy to read and understand: Make the report easy to read and define all technical terms, if your users aren’t aware of them. Explain everything in detail, adding as many practical examples and case studies as possible. 
  • Interactive: Add images, screenshots, or any other visual aids to make the content interactive and engaging.
  • Overview: Including a summary of what's going to be discussed in the next sections adds a great touch to the report.
  • FAQ section: An underrated part of creating a report is adding a FAQ section at the end that addresses users' objections or queries regarding the product.

Step 3: Write 

Writing content is vital, as it forms the body of the report. Ensure the content quality is strong by using the following tips:

  • Create a writing plan. 
  • Ensure the sentence structure and wording is clear. 
  • Don’t repeat information.
  • Explain each and every concept precisely. 
  • Maintain consistency in the language used throughout the document
  • Understand user requirements and problems, and solve them with your content.
  • Avoid using passive voice and informal words. 
  • Keep an eye out for grammatical errors.
  • Make the presentation of the report clean. 
  • Regularly update the report over time.
  • Avoid using abbreviations. 

Regardless of whether you hire a writer or write the report yourself, these best practices will help you create a great technical report that provides value to the reader.

Step 4: Format

The next step of writing technical reports is formatting.

You can either use the company style guide provided to you or follow the general rules of report formatting. Here is a quick rundown:

1. Page Numbering (excluding cover page, and back covers).

2. Headers.

  • Make it self-explanatory.
  • Must be parallel in phrasing.
  • Avoid “lone headings.”
  • Avoid pronouns.

3. Documentation.

  • Cite borrowed information.
  • Use in-text citations or a separate page for the same. 

Step 5: Proofread

Don’t finalize the report for publishing before proofreading the entire documentation. 

Our best proofreading advice is to read it aloud after a day or two. If you find any unexplained parts or grammatical mistakes, you can easily fix them and make the necessary changes. You can also consider getting another set of eyes to spot the mistakes you may have missed.

Step 6: Publish

Once your technical report is ready, get it cross-checked by an evaluator. After you get their approval, publish on your website as a gated asset — or print it out as an A4 version for presentation. 

Your call.

Extra Step: Refreshing

Okay, we added an extra step, but hear us out: your job is not finished after hitting publish. 

Frequent product updates mean you should also refresh the report every now and then to reflect these changes. A good rule of thumb is to refresh any technical documentation every eight to twelve months and update it with the latest information. 

Not only will this eliminate confusion but also ensure your readers get the most value out of the document. 

Making successful technical reports with Scribe

How about developing technical reports faster and without the hassle? 

With Scribe and Scribe’s newest feature, Pages, you can do just that.

Scribe is a leading process documentation tool that does the documenting for you, pat down to capturing and annotating screenshots. Here's one in action.

Pages lets you compile all your guides, instructions and SOPs in a single document, giving you an elaborate and digital technical report you can share with both customers and stakeholders. 

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Here is a Page showing you how to use Scribe Pages.

Examples of good technical reports

You can use these real-life examples of good technical reports for inspiration and guidance!

  1. Mediums API Documentation
  2. Twilio Docs
  3. The AWS PRD for Container-based Products

Signing off…

Now you know how to write technical documentation, what's next?

Writing your first technical report! Remember, it’s not rocket science. Simply follow the technical writing best practices and the format we shared and you'll be good to go.