Types of engineering publications

Many engineering publications are common to other disciplines, such as journal articles, theses, guidelines and manuals and grant applications.

Professional engineers will also be involved in producing 2 common types of documents for clients: proposals and technical reports.


An engineering proposal is the main way that engineering companies and professionals secure new work. The proposal is usually written in response to an advertisement or request from a client, and is a description of how you propose to tackle a specific project.

Proposals are both a technical document and a marketing pitch. They must be technically accurate, but should also present your ideas in a positive way to show the client why you should be given the work.

Proposals can be written in various formats, and your company is likely to have a specific template to follow; however, an engineering proposal usually includes the following sections:

  • Project scope. This sets out the project aim, brief description of the task and a list of deliverables. It sets the boundaries of what is included in the project, and will be important in case additional work is later required or requested by the client.
  • Project work and schedule. This is the main body of the proposal. It describes your proposed approach and stages of work, along with a general timeline. It should also include any assumptions you have made in developing the proposal.
  • Project team. This describes the key personnel who will be working on the project, and the skills and experience they have that are relevant to the work.
  • Previous projects. This describes similar projects completed by your company or proposed team. If possible, these should include contact details of past clients who are willing to be referees.
  • Project budget. This is usually presented as the costs for various categories of work or deliverables.
  • Administrative and legal material. This includes proposed contract terms and proof of your relevant insurances.

Proposals can also include a summary section, which can help clients to see the key elements of your proposal at a glance.

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Technical reports

Technical reports are provided to a client during or at the end of a project. They include the results of your research, along with your analysis and conclusions. They usually present a solution to a problem, and recommend action.

Because they are likely to be read by people who may not have a technical understanding of the topic, technical reports should be as clear as possible. Make sure you spell out what your findings mean and why you are recommending a particular course of action.

Again, reports can be written in various formats and your company is likely to have a specific template to follow. The main sections of a technical report are as follows:

  • Summary. This should include a brief overview of your investigation, outcomes and recommendations. It must include all the key information your reader needs to make a decision, without them having to read your full report. Don’t treat your summary as an introduction; it should act as a standalone document.
  • Background or introduction. This provides context for the report. It should describe the problem being addressed, the aim of the project or situation that is being evaluated, the current state of research or technology, and any other elements that were taken into account during the analysis.
  • Body. This will present the results of your work. It should be structured in logical sections, and can include figures and tables to convey data. However, if you have lengthy data tables or other research product, they should be included in an appendix.
  • Conclusion. This brings together the various parts of the report to present a clear decision for the client. Summarise your key findings, state your major outcomes and highlight their significance. Be sure to include any limitations to your findings.
  • Recommendations. These can be part of your conclusion or pulled out separately. Your recommendations can be presented in 2 ways
    • clear action statements (eg Ventilation fans should be installed in the main warehouse.)
    • conditional statements (eg If ventilation fans are installed in the main warehouse, it is likely that …).
  • Appendixes. If you have data that are too detailed or lengthy to include in the report itself, include them in an appendix. It is also a good idea to include lengthy descriptions of research methods in an appendix rather than in the body of the report.
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