Engineering Memo

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  1. Engineering Memo
  2. Engineering Memorandum Example
  3. Engineering Memo Cover Page

Undergraduate Student guide in effect when they entered the. 153 Engineering Research Building, 1500 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI. (2) Plasma Science and Engineering Focus Area: Plasma is the fourth state of matter a thesis should be submitted to the Engineering Physics Department Office. Memos are a type of informal report. Memos should be clear and concise documents. The purpose of your memo should be clearly stated. Headings can be used to make your memo clearer.

Engineering

Within a Lab Report, data presentation, analysis, and explanation should be thorough and should make no assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the laboratory background or experiment. A Lab Memo assumes that the reader is familiar with the background and procedure of a specific lab, but includes what results were obtained, answers discussion questions, and provides general conclusions and recommendations.

Different instructors or even employers may ask for different content based on the situation and their specific needs or interests, but the organization and information outlined here will provide a solid foundation to build on and adapt in the future.

As always, defer to the specific assignment requirements and documentation for your class and instructor. Outlined in this chapter are the general guidelines, but there may be some variation in practice. For example, in some cases an instructor might ask that each team member write a Conclusion or Summary, but at other times a single Conclusion or Summary will be written by the group.

Lab Reports and Lab Memos should be written in paragraph form, using headings for main sections like Introduction, Experimental Methodology, etc. There is no length stipulation; however, a lab memo will be shorter than a lab report.

Submitted to:
Inst. Name
GTA Name

Created by:
Team Letter

Team Member 1
Team Member 2
Team Member 3
Team Member 4

Engineering 1181
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH
Date Month Year

Executive Summary

An executive summary is often provided at the beginning of a report to provide a summary to readers who may or may not wish to read the full report. An executive summary might also be a standalone document, described here. The executive summary should be one page in length with no subheadings. When included with a Lab Report, the summary should not include or reference tables and figures within the report. It is acceptable to repeat information from the rest of the lab report, however the summary should not include any new information or conclusions that are not already stated elsewhere. For this reason, it is advisable to write the executive summary last.

See Executive Summary for a complete content and writing guide.

Table of Contents

Formal documents often contain a Table of Contents to help users find specific information or sections. Each major section should be listed in the ToC with the page number.

Introduction1
Experimental Methodology1
Results2
Discussion4
Conclusions & Recommendations6
References7
Appendix A8
Appendix B10
Appendix C11

Introduction

The introduction should be a paragraph that contains the goals of the lab and an overview of what the reader can expect to find within the report.

  • State the objective of the lab exercise. Though this is provided in the lab documents, the purpose should be restated in your own words.
  • Provide a brief overview or “roadmap” of the report contents.

Experimental Methodology

This section should detail the procedure and equipment used in the lab.

  • Describe the steps used in the experiment in paragraph form. The goal is for the reader to understand and be able to replicate the experiment.
  • Explain how and where equipment is used in the experiment. It is not necessary to explain in detail how common equipment, such as a voltmeter or strain gage, functions, but the report should include what equipment would be needed in order to replicate the experiment. Images should be added to support the text when appropriate.

Results

The Results section should describe all observations and data that are relevant to the purpose of the lab.

  • Provide objective observations from the lab. What was noticed throughout the course of the experiment? Example: As the AEV traveled along the track, it was noticed that the speed decreased on the sloped portion of the track. On trials 2 and 3, the AEV stopped forward motion near the top of the slope and began to roll backward.
  • Present the raw data from each major part of the experiment, followed by how this data was analyzed to reach the final results.
    • Provide results in the order of the experimental methodology.
    • Include any data that will be discussed later in the report. This is the only section in which results should be introduced.
    • Use a combination of text, figures, tables, and equations to present the data as clearly as possible. There should be enough descriptive text to guide the reader through the results and explain any assumptions or analysis performed in order to reach the results.
    • NOTE: Raw data can become overwhelming quickly and make it difficult to read the results. Some data, particularly large tables of values, can be placed in an appendix and referenced as needed to increase the readability of your report. If you are not discussing the contents of a table or figure, it may belong in an appendix.

Note on using figures, tables, and equations

Figures are used to better describe something that is difficult to convey in text or in a table. Graphs are used to present data visually. Diagrams or images can be used to show results that would be difficult to describe in words. See Using Graphics & Visuals Effectively for more information.

Memo

Tables are typically used to display various data values that are not appropriate for a figure or for which a numerical value is important. A good indication that a table may be necessary is if a paragraph contains many data values.

Equations are needed whenever a calculation is part of the analysis unless it is a calculation where there is a universal understanding of the associated equation, such as the average of a set of numbers.

Discussion

The Discussion should analyze the data presented in Results, compare it to expected values based on existing theory, and address potential error.

  • Discuss what trends, or lack thereof, are present in the results that are relevant to the lab objectives. This section should answer the question, “What do the results clearly show?”
    • This section requires the most comprehension of the theory behind the experiment in order to give context to the results. Example: The stress was greater when the knee was subjected to dynamic loads than when it was subjected to static loads.
    • If needed, reference figures from the Results section by name; figures are not typically introduced in the Discussion.
  • Address whether the trends you observed were expected based on theory.
    • This section should discuss whether the results “make sense.” You would expect that running a motor at a higher speed would use more energy than at a lower speed. Is that what you saw in your results?
    • The results should be compared to theory quantitatively. Do relevant equations and the existing knowledge in this area support the results of the experiment?
  • Disclose the limitations and delimitations of the experiment or sources of error. Why would your data not exactly match the theory? Potential errors should be mentioned whether or not it is believed that they affected the data.
    • Both systematic and random error should be discussed. What errors could have occurred and how would they affect the data? See “Addressing errors in lab documentation” in (Chapter 3).
    • If it is obvious that an error did affect the data, this should be acknowledged and the estimated effects reported.
    • The suggested modifications to the experiment that would reduce or eliminate these errors should not be presented in the discussion.

Conclusions & Recommendations

This section should summarize the findings of the experiment and offer recommendations for the scenario, including methods for decreasing the effect of error.

  • Summarize the experiment and results, and highlight key points from the discussion. This 1-2 paragraph section should contain no new data that is not already part of the other sections in the report, but should pull together ideas from the entire document.
  • State your conclusions. Provide quantified, high level support from data where applicable. How do these ideas compare to the lab objectives and results? How do your conclusions relate to the objective of the lab? Example: The synthetic material’s tensile strength was higher than that of the natural material, requiring 5% more stress to cause failure.
  • Discuss potential solutions for all errors mentioned in the Discussion. Example: Timing error could be minimized by using multiple timers for each run or adding an automatic sensor-based timer that does not rely on human reaction time.
  • Provide recommendations for the scenario posed at the beginning of the lab procedure based on your conclusions.

References

A list of references cited in the report.

  • Reference any sources used in creating or following the lab procedure. Ex. lab documents or guides for data interpretation.
  • Include any resources used to write the background or discussion. These might be more theoretical sources like textbooks or journal articles.

See Citations and Citation Styles for more information.

Appendices

Create a new appendix for each category of content.

  • Title each appendix using the format Appendix A: Descriptive Title. For example, a report might contain the appendices:
    • Appendix A: Circuit Diagrams
    • Appendix B: Experimental Data
    • Appendix C: Equations and Sample Calculations
  • Arrange appendices in the order in which they are referenced within your report—each appendix should start on a new page. Every appendix must be referenced within the document.
  • Start figure and table labels at 1 in each appendix. Each numeric label will be preceded by the appendix letter and a period with no spaces (e.g., A.1, or B.3) . Labels should be formatted as described in Using Graphics and Visuals Effectively.
  • Organize and format each appendix neatly. Appendices should not be storage for messy or extraneous information.
  • Do not repeat figures and tables between appendix and main text. Each item should appear only once in the report.

Memo

Date:
To: Inst. Name & GTA Name
From: Group Letter – Team Member 1, Team Member 2, …
Subject: Title of Lab

Introduction

The introduction should be a paragraph that contains the goals of the lab and an overview of what the reader can expect to find within the report.

  • State the objective of the lab exercise. Though this is provided in the lab documents, the purpose should be restated in your own words. Example: In this lab, four types of beams were tested to determine which has the greatest strength-to-weight ratio (grams-pounds).
  • Provide a brief overview or “roadmap” of the report contents.

Results and Discussion

In a Lab Memo, the “results” and “discussion” are combined under a single heading, but it is helpful to distinguish between them during the writing process. Follow the guidelines for each section below as you draft the memo, but know that they will be combined under the single “Results and Discussion” heading in the final document.

[Results]

The Results section should be a concise report of all significant results—describe observations and data that were critical to the experiment’s purpose and outcomes. Ask, what information does my reader need so they can understand the final conclusions of the memo?

  • Provide objective observations from the lab. What was noticed throughout the course of the experiment? Example: As the AEV traveled along the track, it was noticed that the speed decreased on the sloped portion of the track. On trials 2 and 3, the AEV stopped forward motion near the top of the slope and began to roll backward.
    • This is the only section, besides the appendix, in which results should be introduced.
    • In general, a combination of text, figures, tables, and equations is most effective to present the data as clearly as possible. Not all are necessary in a lab memo, but consider carefully what is required to convey your results most clearly.
    • Equations should be used to show how key parameters were derived from the data.
    • There should be enough descriptive text to guide the reader through the results and explain any assumptions or analysis performed in order to reach the results.
    • NOTE: Raw data can become overwhelming quickly and make it difficult to read the results. Some data, particularly large tables of values, can be placed in an appendix and referenced as needed to increase the readability of your report. If you are not discussing the contents of a table or figure, it may belong in an appendix.

Note on using figures, tables, and equations

Figures are used to better describe something that is difficult to convey in text or in a table. Graphs are used to present data visually. Diagrams or images can be used to show results that would be difficult to describe in words. See Using Graphics & Visuals Effectively for more information.

Tables are typically used to display various data values that are not appropriate for a figure or for which a numerical value is important. A good indication that a table may be necessary is if a paragraph contains many data values.

Equations are needed whenever a calculation is part of the analysis unless it is a calculation where there is a universal understanding of the associated equation, such as the average of a set of numbers.

[Discussion]

The Discussion should analyze the data presented in Results, compare it to expected values based on existing theory, and address potential error.

  • Discuss what trends, or lack thereof, are present in the results that are relevant to the lab objectives. This section should answer the question, “What do the results clearly show?”
    • This section requires the most comprehension of the theory behind the experiment in order to give context to the results. Example: The stress was greater when the knee was subjected to dynamic loads than when it was subjected to static loads.
    • If needed, reference figures from the Results section by name; figures are not typically introduced in the Discussion.
  • Address whether the trends you observed were expected based on theory.
    • This section should discuss whether the results “make sense.” You would expect that running a motor at a higher speed would use more energy than at a lower speed. Is that what you saw in your results?
    • The results should be compared to theory quantitatively. Do relevant equations and the existing knowledge in this area support the results of the experiment?
  • Disclose the limitations and delimitations of the experiment or sources of error. Why would your data not exactly match the theory? Potential errors should be mentioned whether or not it is believed that they affected the data.
    • Both systematic and random error should be discussed. What errors could have occurred and how would they affect the data? See “Addressing errors in lab documentation” in (Chapter 3).
    • If it is obvious that an error did affect the data, this should be acknowledged and the estimated effects reported.
    • The suggested modifications to the experiment that would reduce or eliminate these errors should not be presented in the discussion.

Conclusions & Recommendations

This section should summarize the findings of the experiment and offer recommendations for the scenario, including methods for decreasing the effect of error.

  • Summarize the experiment and results, and highlight key points from the discussion. This 1-2 paragraph section should contain no new data that is not already part of the other sections in the report, but should pull together ideas from the entire document.
  • State your conclusions. Provide quantified, high level support from data where applicable. How do these ideas compare to the lab objectives and results? How do your conclusions relate to the objective of the lab? Example: The synthetic material’s tensile strength was higher than that of the natural material, requiring 5% more stress to cause failure.
  • Discuss potential solutions for all errors mentioned in the Discussion. Example: Timing error could be minimized by using multiple timers for each run or adding an automatic sensor-based timer that does not rely on human reaction time.
  • Provide recommendations for the scenario posed at the beginning of the lab procedure based on your conclusions.

References

A list of references cited in the memo.

  • Reference any sources used in creating or following the lab procedure. Ex. lab documents or guides for data interpretation.
  • Include any resources used to write the background or discussion. These might be more theoretical sources like textbooks or journal articles.

See Citations and Citation Styles for more information.

Appendices

Create a new appendix for each category of content.

  • Title each appendix using the format Appendix A: Descriptive Title. For example, a report might contain the appendices:
    • Appendix A: Experimental Data
    • Appendix B: Equations and Sample Calculations
  • Arrange appendices in the order in which they are referenced within your memo—each appendix should start on a new page. Every appendix must be referenced within the document.
  • Start figure and table labels at 1 in each appendix. Each numeric label will be preceded by the appendix letter and a period with no spaces (e.g., A.1, or B.3) . Labels should be formatted as described in Using Graphics and Visuals Effectively.
  • Organize and format each appendix neatly. Appendices should not be storage for messy or extraneous information.
  • Do not repeat figures and tables between appendix and main text. Each item should appear only once in the report.

Testing Log

When a testing log is required as part of a project, each team must track the exact amount of testing time and other relevant details about the test. Testing logs should be promptly updated and maintained in chronological order. Testing logs do not require specific formatting, but maintain a consistent format that includes all required elements.

Testing logs should include the following:

  • When the test was run and how long (day/time, duration)
  • Who ran the test (who conducted the test, who observed)
  • Where the test was performed (location)
  • What specifically was being tested (methodology)
  • Why the test was performed (purpose)
  • What resulted

Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science: Laboratory Reports
USC Research Guides: Appendices

Technical Memo

Description

The ChE Technical Memorandum is used primarily for simple experiments in which the methods (apparatus, procedure, and theory) are familiar to your readers. Imagine your primary reader as a busy manager who reads very quickly. This memo highlights the elements distinctive to your team’s experience with a particular lab. It focuses on results, your conclusions, and recommendations. The methods section gives context to your experiment, but it does not contain enough detail for the experiment to be duplicated.

Reminder: Write the bulk of your technical memo in the 3rd person. Also, use the past tense, except to describe equipment or to express facts that are always true. See FAQs for more guidelines on technical writing.

Note: This format is designed to cover different experiments in courses taught by different instructors. Depending on the course, experiment, and instructor, the contents of each section will vary in depth, detail, and emphasis.

Format

The technical memo has seven sections:

1. Summary

The most important section of your technical memo is the summary. A well-prepared summary enables your reader to identify the contents of the memo quickly and accurately. There are two options for the summary. Check with your instructor about which one to use.

a. Enumerated summary. This summary concisely states the purpose, conclusions, and recommendations in an enumerated list.

b. Abstract (attached to the memo). The abstract is a condensation of the subject matter. It gives a quantitative summary of your procedure, results, and conclusions. Read more on the abstract.

2. Introduction

The introduction answers the questions: What were your goals?Why is this experiment important?

The introduction states your purpose or objectives. It also summarizes your basic approach to the problem, giving an overview of the procedures. If you had a design problem, the introduction restates the problem and its significance. The introduction may also include background on previous work.

3. Methods

The methods section answers the questions: What was measured? How was it measured? What was the theoretical basis of the experiment?
This section briefly describes the apparatus and procedures and specifies any modifications. A concise discussion of the theory (1-2 equations) is also included.
Note that this Methods section condenses three parts of the Research Report (the theory, apparatus, and procedures) because your readers do not need to duplicate the experiment.
However, your instructor may require that you refer to fuller descriptions of the apparatus, procedures, and theory in the appendix.

4. Results

The results section answers the questions: What data were collected? How were the data analyzed? What conclusions were drawn from the analysis?

The results section is a discussion that links your data analysis to your conclusions. It develops conclusions with reference to the figures, graphs, and tables of your analysis. Its depth and detail will vary according to your experiment and your instructor’s preferences.

5. Conclusions/Recommendations

Engineering memo example

The conclusions and recommendations section answers the questions: What were the tasks? What were the most important conclusions and recommendations developed from each task?

Engineering Memo

Your results section has already stated your conclusions, but they are buried in the discussion. This final section re-presents them so they are accessible to someone reading quickly.

6. Appendices

The appendices of the technical memo generally include raw data and sample calculations. Some instructors may also require a discussion of safety issues, fuller descriptions of the apparatus, fuller descriptions of the procedure, derivatives of theory, an effort report, and other assignments specified by your instructor.

7. References

Your text should cite all sources used, including the lab handout. References should be listed at the end of the appendix using APA documentation style. NoodleBiB (UT Library) will generate the reference list for you. For example, you may cite a source like this in the text (Henry, 1998). The reference would look like this:

Henry, J. (1998, Summer). Liquid-Liquid Extraction. Lab Handout ChE 264, The University of Texas at Austin.

Engineering Memorandum Example

Length
The body of the technical memo (from the Introduction through the Conclusion) should be no longer than four single-spaced pages, including figures and tables. The four pages should include approximately two pages of text.

Template for the Technical MemoDownload

Follow the Technical Memo template in preparing your assignment. Instructions are in square brackets [like this]. If you cut-and-paste your writing onto a template, it helps if you (1) save a copy of your work as “text only.” and (2) transfer the “text only” version to the template. That way, you avoid importing new formatting.

Engineering Memo Cover Page

Example Download