HVAC Systems Design Handbook part 15

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HVAC Systems Design Handbook part 15

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An HVAC designer is almost certain to be faced with the need to write reports. The ability to produce an organized, understandable, and succinct report will go far toward establishing credibility with both superiors and clients. Writing a good report requires the same attributes needed for success in any other area: understanding of basic principles, planning and organization, and careful investigation.

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  1. Source: HVAC Systems Design Handbook Chapter Technical Report Writing 15 15.1 Introduction An HVAC designer is almost certain to be faced with the need to write reports. The ability to produce an organized, understandable, and suc- cinct report will go far toward establishing credibility with both su- periors and clients. Writing a good report requires the same attributes needed for suc- cess in any other area: understanding of basic principles, planning and organization, and careful investigation. Most reports are written in response to a problem, and describe the results of a study of that problem and its possible solutions. Thus, the problem-solving pattern outlined in Sec. 1.2 applies. 15.2 Organization of a Report Figure 15.1 shows a typical report outline. There may be additional topics, but these are the essential items in any report. Section 1 is sometimes called an executive summary because it is written for the executive who is not concerned with details but needs a synopsis. The authorization describes the purchase order, letter, or other legal basis which led to the production of the report. The scope is usually a part of the authorization and describes the objective and problems to be addressed. It is really a specification, and often provides the basis by which the report is judged for completeness and payment is authorized. Definition of the scope is the first step in the problem-solving process, and the value of the final report will re- late strongly to the clarity of this definition. 439 Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  2. Technical Report Writing 440 Chapter Fifteen Figure 15.1 Typical report outline and table of contents. The acknowledgments provide recognition for those in the owner’s organization who provided information for the report and assisted the report writer. The summary is a synopsis of the material contained in the rest of the report and follows the same sequence. The recommendations are based on the summary and represent the report writer’s professional opinion. Ideally, the recommendations should be completely objective. In practice, they are always influenced to some degree by subjective considerations. The true professional will recognize and allow for some subjectivity. Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  3. Technical Report Writing Technical Report Writing 441 The whole of Section 1 should not exceed two or three pages, one or two figures, and a summary table. The rest of the report is composed of detail, as complete as possible but not verbose. Note that the summary follows the same sequence as the body of the report. Lengthy data summaries and calculations should be placed in an appendix. This material exists only to prove the conclusions of the report. 15.3 Writing with Clarity Technical writing deals with factual data in objective, nonemotional ways for the purpose of presenting information on which to base de- cisions. Most technical reports are written not only for technical people but also for management and financial people, who may understand very little about the technical aspects. It is therefore necessary to use technical detail but to express it in simple terms, so that the audience can at least understand the principles involved. The following suggestions should be helpful: 1. Technical terms should be defined or made clear in context. 2. Proceed stepwise, from the known to the unknown. The use of syl- logisms, as employed in logical proof, is sometimes helpful. A syl- logism consists of two premises or facts which, taken together, lead to a conclusion. When the steps become very detailed, complex, and lengthy, it may be desirable to simply say, ‘‘It can be shown.’’ The proof can be included in the appendix, if needed. 3. Make sentences as simple and direct as possible. Avoid overly com- plex sentences with many phrases or clauses. 4. Writing should be factual. Any opinions expressed should be based on the writer’s proven expertise and should be identified as opin- ions. Avoid subjective and emotive adjectives. These have no place in technical writing. Also avoid phrases like it is clear that or it is apparent. Do not use cliches. ´ 5. Follow accepted grammatical rules concerning punctuation, syntax, agreement, and case. Grammatical errors reduce credibility. 15.4 Use of Tables and Figures Figures and tables are useful in clarifying and summarizing a report. Often they can be used to capsule the report, with the text serving as an explanation of the data. Figures can include any appropriate material, but usually consist of schematics, bar and line graphs, or pie charts. Tables can be used to Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  4. Technical Report Writing 442 Chapter Fifteen summarize data that may take several pages of text to describe. Pho- tographs are very useful in describing existing conditions. These are the basic rules in preparing figures and tables: 1. Neatness counts. Good line work and lettering are required. The best written report may suffer from poor graphics. 2. Keep figures and tables as simple as possible. Avoid the use of data and detail which are not pertinent. 3. Organize tabular data in the same sequence as that used in the text. A good table can stand alone, through the use of clarifying notes, with little or no text required. 4. While it can be helpful, color is seldom used or required in engi- neering reports. Contrast can be achieved by shading, crosshatch- ing, and variations in line width. The many stick-on halftone pat- terns used by commercial artists are helpful here. 15.5 Printing and Binding The relatively recent developments in word processing capability, through the use of software programs run on a personal computer, have brought near publishing-house-quality document preparation to the engineering office, large or small. The quality of the final-copy reading material still depends on the ability of the typist and artist and on the nature of the software and the printer used, but the char- acter of most material has been advanced by these modern techniques. With word processing software, it is possible to incorporate graphics into the body of the text, to scan previously prepared material includ- ing photographs, and to print in high-quality formats with al- most endless variations of type style and size. Text can be right- and/ or left-justified or can be centered as desired. Many offices use standard formats and forms for report presenta- tion. Figure 15.2 illustrates a report form sheet which may be used to include text, tables, and figures. A design firm may be known to some extent by the quality of its report formatting and presentation. Document quality is further defined by the printer used to make the camera-ready copy. Dot matrix printer technology has evolved to near typeset quality, but so-called laser printers go one step further and make a product almost indistinguishable from set type. Both dot ma- trix and laser printer manufacturers have developed color-capable products. The reproduction method for office reports has evolved to photo- copying or offset printing. Mimeograph and ink stencil work are in the past. The office copy machine has become so economical and conven- ient that it dominates most small-volume copy work. Larger runs or Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  5. Technical Report Writing Technical Report Writing 443 Figure 15.2 Report page format. high-profile reports may be candidates for outside reproduction ser- vices. Many engineering offices have standard report formats and ‘‘report form’’ sheets which include the company logo and borders for report pages. See Fig. 15.2. There are many binding methods available, ranging from three-ring looseleaf styles to mechanical clip systems to standard bound-book Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  6. Technical Report Writing 444 Chapter Fifteen techniques. Almost any binding system which delivers a neat and de- sirable end product may be satisfactory, with cost and client expecta- tion being considerations. Many engineering offices use heavyweight covers, preprinted with the company logo and other data, with the report title overprinted in publication. The organization of the report in printing and binding should follow the outline of Sec. 15.2, as shown in Fig. 15.3. Figures and tables for each section may be embedded with the related paragraphs or grouped at the end of the section. 15.6 Letter Reports Many preliminary and simple reports do not require the full formal report treatment. A letter report is like the summary section of the formal report. It should include all or most of the elements of the formal report and should be arranged in a similar fashion. It may even include one or two simple figures or tables. A letter report should be given the same careful study and planning as a formal report. 15.7 Summary The writing of a good report is not a simple task. Like any other kind of writing, it takes practice, time, and effort. The neophyte writer may Figure 15.3 Report organization. Note that figures and tables for each part of the report go behind the text for that part. Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  7. Technical Report Writing Technical Report Writing 445 read other reports, noting their strengths and weaknesses and thereby learning from them. Technical writing, like all other forms of com- munication, can serve to enhance or inhibit professional advancement and reputation. Recognize that good report writing is an art as well as a science. As art, there can be variations in format, in vocabulary, in artistic presentation. But every report should clearly identify the issues to be addressed and should clearly, succinctly, and accurately lead the reader from the problem to the solution. The writing style and presentation should enhance and give credibility to the report rather than detract from it. Reference 1. R. W. Haines, Roger Haines on Report Writing, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1990. Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
  8. Technical Report Writing Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
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