Technical Writing A–Z: A Commonsense Guide to Engineering Reports and Theses (U.S. Edition)
2 Getting Started
For most engineers, report writing is as appealing as a visit to the dentist—and the process can be equally painful. The best approach is to break up the work into manageable chunks and get going as early as possible. It does not matter which section you start with—pick any section that you feel comfortable with.
Set out a rough order of the chapters, and expect to revise it several times as the report develops. Write rough notes for individual chapters, and sketch out as much of the report as you can, without spending too much time on the details. Do not agonize over the exact wording of every sentence—just keep on writing. When you come back to it later, fresh ideas will emerge on how to rephrase sentences and re-organize the material. Focus on the primary objectives of the work and describe the most important elements first; this will aid in getting the report structure correct (see Structure of reports and thesis). Most authors maintain that it gets easier with practice; this may be true, but it is never going to be fun.
Develop the reference list as you go along—never leave it to the last moment. Keeping track of cited references when using the numeric method is time-consuming and it is easy to make a mistake—so consider using appropriate software for this purpose. For a large report with lots of references, it is relatively easy to use the author-date referencing method and keep updating an alphabetical list of references (with complete details). If you do not have a software referencing program and plan on using the numeric method, consider writing the report with the author-date method and then changing over later when you are nearly finished (see Citing references (basic rules)).