In my experience many young writers seem to struggle with writing detailed technical or lab reports. The structure of the report is usually held to a strict format and the language sometimes requires a passive voice.  In order for me to properly write a report (and to tutor a student as well) I take a structured outline approach. I use the same approach in reverse to check my reports for accuracy and content. Since reports are broken down into sections each needing its own specific content, my outline shows all of the needed content within each section. I then use this outline as a check list to make sure all content is accounted for in its proper place. Once this is completed I then reread each section for grammar, voice, etc.

My strategy for a tutoring session regarding a lab report would be similar as follows:

Me: What are we working on today?

Student: I have lab report due this week and I’m not sure if the format or content is correct.

Me: How did you start the writing process?

Student: Well, I gather all of the data and using the lab instructions I just started writing.

Me: Did you do an outline first?

Student: No. Should I have?

Me: It’s not required, but I prefer to use one. Let’s do one now and we can check your paper against it.

Student: Ok, let’s get started.

By using a reverse outline approach to reviewing technical reports each section can be seen as its own text. Each section has its own main topic and can be verified for grammar and such.

This method works great for me and I hope that it will help others as well.