You’ve spent many weeks or months (or years!) on an engineering or other technical project. But how do you communicate your work to others? In the end, all of your hard work will be judged on the quality of your ability to explain it. Now it’s time to write your whitepaper, business brief or report, but where do you begin?
You can start by doing a little groundwork, or “prewriting,” by outlining your ideas. As you create your outline, imagine that you’re building a house with several important elements, including a structural frame, foundation, rooms and a roof.
1. Build a general framework
Begin by creating a loose outline of ideas. Organizing your thoughts before you actually start writing can greatly simplify the process. If you spend half of your writing time giving yourself a framework for what you’re going to say, the actual writing of your document will undoubtedly be easier.
As you start to create your outline, don’t concern yourself with expressing your ideas in full sentences. Instead, capture all themes, relevant details and conclusions in just a few words to begin giving your story structure.
Whether you’re working on a laptop or using old-fashioned index cards or sticky notes, the prewriting stage is where you can identify and prioritize which points you want to cover.
2. Lay the foundation with a strong opening
It’s important to introduce a central theme in your opening paragraph that supports everything else that will be built on top of it. This is where you give your reader the “big idea.”
Again, don’t worry about writing in sentences. Simply jot down the ideas you may include, such as a brief sketch of the reason you are writing this paper in the first place.
What’s the business idea, what problem does it solve and how does it fit into the marketplace?
Or, how would you define your project, what tasks did you complete, and what were your findings upon completion?
3. Start planning out your rooms, or topics
Now you can begin to brainstorm all of the potential “rooms” you may want in your “house.” This is the time to consider all of the topics and findings you may want to discuss.
Think of each room in your house and what details might go in each room, and don’t worry about scaling back on the number of rooms. Editing can come later.
Plan your rooms with your readers in mind. Think about who your ideal readers will be and all the details they will want to know.
You don’t have to include every little piece of research you did or every interview that took place if those elements wouldn’t be key to your story. Focus on educating your readers by providing them with information that’s most meaningful and helpful to them.
4. Make sure you have a solid roof
The “roof” of your paper is the conclusion. It’s the overarching structure that will encompass all of your ideas and support your “big idea” in the opening paragraph. Since this is still part of the prewriting stage, it’s best to simply list the top two or three points you’d like to state again to drive home your main idea.
Prewriting is not just a good idea—it’s mandatory. Starting with an outline will help you see that technical writing is not a mystery when you think of it like a plan for building a house. By giving yourself a blueprint, you are less likely to get stuck when starting to write the actual paper.
After all, the hardest part of your project shouldn’t be producing the written document that tells its story.
Need help with drafting a blueprint for your technical report or whitepaper? Let WordsFresh help. Contact us today.