I know that in this writing class, I need to focus more on thoroughness. It goes without saying that thoroughness is desirable in writing any material, be it a report, an interview, an essay or a term paper. But whether this quality is achieved depends in many cases on whether the writer uses imagination, There are always some obvious questions that a report must answer. But answering the obvious questions is not always enough. There are many factors to be considered for the sake of thoroughness.
Assuming that one have demonstrated that the action one recommends would definitely produce the result desired, might there be other and possibly better ways of producing that result? Also, is it possivle that the actions one recommends would not only produce the desired result, but would also produce undesired side effects that one has overlooked? If a report is to be thorough, its writing must be preceded by a thorough job of gathering information; but writers who have answers to all the essential questions, the less obvious as well as the obvious, often fail to include them.
They make the mistake of assuming that because they know all the necessary questions have been considered, they need not answer them all. They overlook the fact the readers will not share their confidence unless the readers are told enough to be sure nothing has been overlooked. I also need to focus more on my tone in writing, as contrasted with an impersonal tone, which is largely the result of personal pronouns I (or perhaps we) and you, which make it appear that the writer is addressing the reader personally.
Now I know that I need to focus on the situation, especially in letters and sometimes in memorandums, a personal tone—which incidentally conveys the impression of informality too—is natural and desirable, whereas impersonality would seem stiff and aloof. Indeed, there are times when an effort to avoid referring to oneself may be awkward and even evasive. Much of the time, however, impersonality is better. In a report for instance, it is not always necessary, to be sure, that all parts of a report be personal or impersonal to the same degree.
There is reason that on occasion one should not use I, we, or you, in the preliminary parts of a report, where one is explaining the circumstances and one’s involvement. But it may be advisable to stop using them when one begins to present the real substance. Just how formal one should be in writing a report? As with the question of impersonality, no answer can be given that fits all occasion. One must judge each situation for itself, and choose a language and presentation accordingly.
A major report aimed at a wide readership may require a high degree of formality, whereas a short report in memorandum format aimed at one’s immediate superior or colleagues probably would not. What will be some ongoing challenges? I know that one of the challenges that I continually face is my being free from bias. A person must investigate a subject and report findings often starts work with a strong expectation about the probable outcome. When this expectation is based upon sound previous knowledge and experience, it is entirely natural and unobjectionable.
When it is based on mere prejudice, however—or even worse, on self-interest—the case is different. There is no surer way to forfeit confidence than by letting the reader gather the impression that one has been swayed by an eagerness to reach a preconceived conclusion. To be sure, some so-called reports fail to meet the requirement of impartiality. Protagonists of conflicting interests, in preparing reports to use in a controversy, usually present matters from their own point of view. But these reports are not suitable models for a person entering a technical profession.
A bona fide technical report is not begun with the purpose of proving something. Rather, its purpose is to present all sides with scrupulous fairness. In the long run, no one technical profession will profit by letting reports be or even appear to be prejudiced. Hard though it may be, one should plan an investigation in such a manner that one will not fail to discover evidence and that might run counter to the conclusions one expects and hope to reach, and should present findings in such a manner as to show that one has been impartial.