One of the important considerations in preparing technical reports is the audience. Technical reports likely have a variety of readers. In this video, learn how to first consider the primary audience, then the secondary audience, and finally tertiary readers. Judy explains how to evaluate general audience’s needs, concerns, and expectations before the writing begins.
- [Instructor] One of the difficulties of technical report writing is that you will likely have a variety of readers, each with a different knowledge set, different expectations, and different purposes for reading the report. You may have to translate technical information to be understood by non technical readers. You may have to have legal experts analyze your conclusions from a legal perspective. You may have to revise based on reviewer's input. One of the important things to consider in preparing technical reports is the audience.
Is there a primary reader, secondary readers? Maybe the CEO has authorized the report, but the Board of Directors will also need to understand the report's contents. Maybe engineers will expect technical jargon. But they laypeople associated with the project need more common language. How both primary and secondary readers will use the information also needs to be analyzed. What are they expecting to find in it? What will they do with the information? Forward it, apply it, or file it? Think about the primary readers, the ones to whom your technical report is actually addressed.
They are sometimes referred to as the action takers, because the information you're providing in your technical report will give them the information and analysis to do something, to make an important decision. Generally only one or two readers are in this category. On the other hand, your technical report may have a variety of secondary readers, sometimes referred to as advisors. They are called advisors because they advise the primary readers. They may be experts in specific areas such as technicians or accountants who have a more specialized background, and are able to add more specialized, practical knowledge to the primary reader's general knowledge.
Additionally, you need to consider the possibility that your technical report may have tertiary readers, thought of as evaluators. This third category of readers, although not decision makers, or those who may be asked for specialized advice, may have some vested interest in the report's information. Examples could include news reporters, environmentalists, or even your company's competitors. These are not readers to whom you would give the report, but being cognizant that these outside readers may get access to the technical report can help you decide what specifics to include, or not to include.
Another reading group that should have access to your technical report before it's sent is the reviewer group. These are people who should examine your document before it is sent to the intended readers. Maybe your immediate supervisor, maybe your company's lawyers. As an effective technical report writer, you will need to anticipate who is in each of these groups, and their specific needs. Once you have a clear idea of who will be reading the report, you can better analyze how each will use the report, and what should be included.
Because your technical report will almost certainly have a variety of readers, first, consider the primary audience, and then decide what to add or delete, or how to guide your different readers through the report. Maybe refer the non technical reader to an appendix with technical words defined or illustrated. Your general audience's needs, concerns, and expectations must be considered before the actual writing begins.
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- Identify the purpose and main point of a report.
- Determine which questions should be asked before writing a technical report.
- Recall the six ethical principles identified by the Society of Technical Writers.
- List three groups of readers that could be the audience for a technical report.
- Examine the technical audience.
- Explain when it is appropriate to use generic headings.
- Recognize the best approach for writing a first draft.
- Name three areas of a report that should be assessed during the revision process.
- Review the best strategies for keeping your writing concise.