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Informal Lab Reports, Short Memo or Letter Reports

Summary:

This resource is an updated version of Muriel Harris’s handbook Report Formats: a Self-instruction Module on Writing Skills for Engineers, written in 1981. The primary resources for the editing process were Paul Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (6th ed.) and the existing OWL PowerPoint presentation, HATS: A Design Procedure for Routine Business Documents.

Contributors:Elizabeth Cember, Alisha Heavilon, Mike Seip, Lei Shi, and Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 12:08:47

This resource provides guidance on reporting tests and experiments conducted in a variety of lab settings.

In Academic Settings

Short reports are written for teachers who want to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of your work. You may be asked to include some or all of these parts or others not included here:

In Industry and Government

Short reports are written for readers who need to know the results of your work so that they can make a decision. Include your conclusions and recommendations only if they are specifically asked for. Be as brief as possible, preferably one page or less.

Short Memo or Letter Reports

Heading:

Use either stationery with the company letterhead or printed forms with standard headings such as To, From, Subject, Date, and other information that a company may wish to include, for example, reference numbers, names of people who receive carbon copies (cc:), and so on. State the subject clearly and concisely, and put the most important words at the beginning of the subject line in the heading.

Introductory statement:

State the general problem first to give the reader a context or “big picture.” Then explain the specific question or task arising from that problem that you will be dealing with. Finally, explain why the report is being submitted or what it is intended to do. This brief, but crucially important overview should usually be no longer than two or three sentences.

Findings or results:

Present your findings clearly and concisely, in whatever method is most appropriate (a list, a table, and so on, with adequate explanation). Arrange your results so that the ones most important to the project or the reader are placed first. Present the rest of your results in descending order of importance. Since your findings are usually the major reason for the memo, this section may be the longest part of the report.

Conclusions and recommendations:

Determine and present the most significant implications or recommendations for action. You may need to put this section before the findings, or you may not need to include this section at all unless it is requested. Company policy dictates whether or not this section is included.

Format considerations:

Evaluating a Short Memo Report

When evaluating a short memo, the writer should follow a very specific format to keep their document standard. This format includes questions that the writer should ask themselves, the different parts of the memo, headings that should be used as wells as arguments to add. These aspects allow the creation of a short memo to be easy as the formatting will eventually become second nature.

Listed below are the basic questions every report writer should ask himself or herself before writing the report:

Heading: Lists information such as To, From, Subject, Date, and so on, and states the subject clearly and concisely with the most important words at the beginning of the subject line.

Introductory Statement: States the general problem first, then explains the specific question or task being dealt with in the memo, and then explains why the report is being submitted or what it is intended to do.

Findings or Results: Presents the findings clearly and concisely with the most important results first. Tables and other information not needed by all readers are, of course, attached separately.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Presents the significant implications and recommendations for action (if—and only if—conclusions and recommendations have been asked for).

Format Considerations: Make headings and to mark your key points so that your readers can quickly survey the contents and find what they want.

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