Writing Engineering Design Reports

This module explains the organisation and presentation of engineering design reports and provides advice on clear communication in design reports.

Reports are often written in response to a request for information, a decision, or advice. Reports usually give an account of a problem, the investigations and findings, the interpretations of the findings, and if required, recommend change or action. In particular, a design report documents the operating principles, design specifications, and the evaluation of a design solution.

A 'solution' can be a working prototype (e.g. a prosthetic leg) or a concept (e.g.: A new bridge design for The Spit; A two year haulage operation plan for a coal mine).

Think of the "solution" as anything that meets the specified requirements posed in the task. If that is design-and-build, then there is a physical manifestation (artefact/system) to be tested. If building is not in the brief, then the solution remains only an idea whose plausibility depends on supporting evidence of various forms.
What the report should do is show the reader why and how the preferred "solution" meets the requirements. Ultimately a solution answers the question: "How can I meet these specifications?"[IS 2011]

The writer should strive to communicate useful and relevant information in a manner so the reader can easily locate and extract information. Reports are particularly suitable for this purpose as they contain distinct sections marked by headings; use a combination of paragraph, bullet points and visual / graphical data for clarity; and, have a clear and concise writing style for brevity. Reports also follow standard academic practise with regard to formatting, layout and referencing sources of information.

Who will read an engineering design report?

Many of the reports you prepare for university assignments are similar to the types of writing you will produce as an engineer. Some reports are produced for internal viewing only, and so the report audience may be your supervisor, senior management, other engineers, or even another department in your organisation. Other reports are prepared for an external audience and so the audience may be a client, another organisation, or even the general public. Depending on the intended audience, your design report may or may not contain all the sections that are detailed in this module.

To avoid confusion, if a section or example is usually only included in internal reports, we will include the following symbol:

internal report

Click here to enter the module on writing an engineering design report.

[Design Report Overview]


The project team thank Dr Julien Epps, Dr David Taubman, and Dr Alex von-Brasch for providing resources and advice on engineering design reports.