This page will support you in satisfying Writing Learning Objective:

INTRODUCTION - Address technical audience expectations by providing the purpose, context, and background information, incorporating secondary sources as appropriate.

Learning Objectives

After reviewing this page, you should be able to:

What does an effective introduction include?

An effective lab report introduction satisfies the reader's expectations by outlining the reason for the report. It provides the purpose, context, and background information, incorporating secondary sources as appropriate. An effective introduction will also summarize the format and contents of the rest of the document so a reader knows what to expect if they continue reading. 

Example Introductions

1.This report is a response to the request made January 17, 2023 for hardness testing of a 17-4 stainless steel coupon provided to our company by Dr. Smithers. The specimen had a hardness of 30 HRC. I will describe the experimental methods, results of the testing, and discuss sources of error and uncertainty in the result, which are minimal.

2. The development of microstructures within ferrous alloys, such as ferrite, pearlite, austenite, martensite, bainite, and more, can be influenced by heat treatment processes [1]. The purpose of this lab was to explore the engineering principles described by time-temperature-transition diagrams through physical analysis of three common steel alloys, AISI 1018, AISI 1045, and AISI 4140, that underwent various heat treatments, including normalizing, annealing, quenching, and tempering. The analysis included measurements of hardness values and microstructure, which were then compared to credible secondary sources to corroborate the results.

Who is the audience of engineering lab writing? What are their typical characteristics?

Readers can be the report graders, including lab instructors and/or teaching assistants. However, the reports can also be read by other engineering students, engineers, and/or technicians. In general, the readers of lab writing can be classified as a “technical audience” that is familiar with the technical material and language. The technical audience (e.g., engineering faculty, engineers, industry professionals) can often be decision makers, problem solvers, team members, and communicators in a team setting who work with budget and time constraints and therefore value clear, concise communication from a writer. If a lab writing assignment does not include a specific professional or industry audience for the writing, writing for the technical audience described here is a good approach. 

In some cases, an instructor will provide a specific technical audience for you: a client or likely user of your experimental results (for example). In these cases, writing for that audience is an important part of the exercise and provides valuable experience as you prepare to work in industry. 

What are the technical audience’s expectations for lab reports in the context of engineering lab courses?

The technical audience expects to acquire “technical information” from lab reports so that they can use them for engineering work like design and manufacturing. In the context of engineering lab courses, they want to learn technical knowledge through your lab data presentation, analysis, and interpretation, as well as the lab’s background information such as engineering principles and processes. They also expect clear, concise, error-free, and logically structured reports with appropriate use of high-quality summary graphics, plots, and tables.

What are the genre expectations for engineering lab reports, and how they are distinct from other college writing?

The way you have written in prior courses is related to how you should write in engineering. Table 1 shows the similarities and differences in the rhetorical expectations (defines the relationship of the audience, writer, and purpose) for typical college writing genres.

Table 1. Rhetorical expectations for writing in typical engineering, science, and composition courses. 

You may have been exposed to the Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle in prior writing courses (Figure 1). It applies in all writing and has useful applications in engineering lab writing where your message is technical, your audience is often knowledgeable about your subject, and you are attempting to demonstrate your technical capability. For these reasons, writing your first lab reports in engineering can be difficult, because you are in the process of becoming an expert. 

Figure 1. Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle. 

What other resources are available to help you write effective report introductions?