Introductions and Conclusions

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INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

Adapted from A Beginner's Guide to Technical Communication
by Anne Eisenberg.1

Many engineering students find these two sections to be the most difficult part of any report to write. That is because they approach these parts without a plan (or a clue). However, these sections are critical to the success of your document. One provides context and the other steps back to answer the question you posed in your abstract.

Data without analysis is of little value. Therefore, we must consider successful ways to master the preparation of these two crucial sections of your reports.

Your introduction provides the background for your experimental work. It is not the part of your report you have to make up. A case can be made that it is the most important section of your report. Information presented out of context has very little relevance.

Think of the introduction as setting the stage for the procedure section that follows. Discuss the significance of what you are doing. Why are you doing it? Describe any theories that support your objective. Include all necessary equations and explain them. Describe any special equipment you are using and why it is necessary. Remember, in this section you must step back from the abstract and provide context.

Consider ending your introduction by describing what is coming next. This is called a roadmap and tells the reader how the rest of the report will be organized. It allows your reader to understand your report's strategy from the outset, and provides a good segue or transition into the next section.

Material failure depends on the properties of specific materials and the way they are

used. The most common and significant mode of failure is breakage under load. The effects of stress and strain contribute to material failure. When a force is applied to an object, internal forces in the material resist the tendency for the material to pull apart. Stress is a measure of this internal force. Strain measures the deformation, elongation, or compression of the object. Engineers must take into account the properties and limits of each material when designing a product. Engineers also try to use the concept of

minimal design, which means meeting the project specifications as economically as possible.

Many young writers run out of gas at the end of their reports and just stop; however, conclusions provide an important opportunity for you to analyze and discuss your results. Conclusions try to answer the question of whether you accomplished what you set out to do. What do your findings mean?

First, draw a conclusion. Many writers new to report preparation forget to conclude anything in this section. Here is an example:

Our design successfully protected the egg at a reasonable cost. Or, The robot designed was accurate but imprecise

Then, explain your success (or failure) like this:

The materials we chose provided significant protection at a low cost.Or, This was because the rubber bands used in the robot's gear trains had been stretched.

Finally, make a recommendation (if appropriate) for future work. To do this, follow the evidence you presented in your Data/Observations section and offer a reasoned suggestion for future work:

The rubber band snapped because the fracture stress point of the rubber band was reached. The

design could be improved with the use of a stronger rubber band. Or, It was observed that the holes in the sides of the box, designed to reduce the effect of the impact on the egg, may have resulted in added

risk.

Following these simple suggestions should make writing these sections of your reports a less intimidating task. Remember, why did you do it? What do the results mean?

Footnotes

1 Eisenberg, Anne, A Beginner's Guide to Technical Communications. Boston: Mcgraw-Hill, 1998

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