Assignment 10 - Technical writing

- Technical report formats -

This week's assignment covers the character of technical reports, specifically technical geology reports. A geological report, or geotechnical report, typically describes project objectives, field work and tests performed, field conditions or site character, findings and recommendations for "action" (further work, if needed), and references cited. Most professional geologists will prepare a geological report at some point in their career; some geologists do so regularly. In fact, for most geologists, compiling geological reports is a major part of their job, so knowing what is involved early in your career is probably worth some extra effort. Some students who have been to field camp may already have prepared a geological report.

During the early years of this course, the final project involved preparing a geotechnical report (e.g. a Phase I environmental site assessment) using environmental data provided by your instructor. More recently, however, MTSU geology students have begun entering M.S. (graduate) programs in increasing numbers; therefore, a research project seems more apropos. Nonetheless, in my opinion, no geology major should graduate without some familiarity with the format of a geotechnical report. This assignment is intended to provide you with that knowledge. It requires a bit of reading on your part, but you will not be preparing a geological report. Rather,.you only have to submit the answers to a short question set (see #1 below) concerning their format and purpose.

Once you've reviewed the examples provided below, you'll note that a geologic report really bears little resemblance to the kinds of papers -- journal articles -- that you've been reading for this course. This is not surprising as the goals and intended audience of the two are substantially different. Nonetheless, the skills that you've developed in this course should help you in preparing either type of document.

I should also emphasize two other important differences between geotechnical reports and journal articles. First, geotechnical reports rarely go through a formal evaluation process (editorial peer review) nor are they typically subject to public peer review (i.e. available in published form). One exception would be government documents that go out for "public review and comment" and are then published as government reports. These are widely read and critiqued. Few other geotechnical reports ever see the light of day outside of the clients' organization -- with one exception.

Secondly, few journal articles are used in legal battles, whereas geotechncial reports commonly are (this is the exception referred to just above). For that reason, great attention should be paid to the format and wording of geological reports. In fact, large environmental and engineering firms quite often have their more important reports vetted (i.e. okayed) by legal counsel.

I have provided several web documents below -- for you to review if you wish. These consist of suggestions for technical report formats and examples of actual geological reports.

Report formats:

Specific examples of geologic site assessments: Once you have satisfied your curiosity concerning what a geologic report is, and the typical content of such a report, you can proceed to the assignment below.

In the interest of keeping the pages comparatively short, I've broken the remainder of Assignment 10 into separate documents.
  1. Confirm/Deny question set (today's assignment) - ten questions to be printed out, completed, and submitted for credit

  3. Outline of the geologic report format referred to in the question set - this is the source of answers to most questions in #1 above

  4. (Attention: again please note that you are not going to be preparing a geotechnical report for this class, only answering questions about their form and function)