The ChE Technical Memorandum is used primarily for simple experiments in which the methods (apparatus, procedure, and theory) are familiar to your readers. Imagine your primary reader as a busy manager who reads very quickly. This memo highlights the elements distinctive to your team’s experience with a particular lab. It focuses on results, your conclusions, and recommendations. The methods section gives context to your experiment, but it does not contain enough detail for the experiment to be duplicated.
Reminder: Write the bulk of your technical memo in the 3rd person. Also, use the past tense, except to describe equipment or to express facts that are always true. See FAQs for more guidelines on technical writing.
Note: This format is designed to cover different experiments in courses taught by different instructors. Depending on the course, experiment, and instructor, the contents of each section will vary in depth, detail, and emphasis.
The technical memo has seven sections:
The most important section of your technical memo is the summary. A well-prepared summary enables your reader to identify the contents of the memo quickly and accurately. There are two options for the summary. Check with your instructor about which one to use.
a. Enumerated summary. This summary concisely states the purpose, conclusions, and recommendations in an enumerated list.
b. Abstract (attached to the memo). The abstract is a condensation of the subject matter. It gives a quantitative summary of your procedure, results, and conclusions. Read more on the abstract.
The introduction answers the questions: What were your goals?Why is this experiment important?
The introduction states your purpose or objectives. It also summarizes your basic approach to the problem, giving an overview of the procedures. If you had a design problem, the introduction restates the problem and its significance. The introduction may also include background on previous work.
The methods section answers the questions: What was measured? How was it measured? What was the theoretical basis of the experiment?
This section briefly describes the apparatus and procedures and specifies any modifications. A concise discussion of the theory (1-2 equations) is also included.
Note that this Methods section condenses three parts of the Research Report (the theory, apparatus, and procedures) because your readers do not need to duplicate the experiment.
However, your instructor may require that you refer to fuller descriptions of the apparatus, procedures, and theory in the appendix.
The results section answers the questions: What data were collected? How were the data analyzed? What conclusions were drawn from the analysis?
The results section is a discussion that links your data analysis to your conclusions. It develops conclusions with reference to the figures, graphs, and tables of your analysis. Its depth and detail will vary according to your experiment and your instructor’s preferences.
The conclusions and recommendations section answers the questions: What were the tasks? What were the most important conclusions and recommendations developed from each task?
Your results section has already stated your conclusions, but they are buried in the discussion. This final section re-presents them so they are accessible to someone reading quickly.
The appendices of the technical memo generally include raw data and sample calculations. Some instructors may also require a discussion of safety issues, fuller descriptions of the apparatus, fuller descriptions of the procedure, derivatives of theory, an effort report, and other assignments specified by your instructor.
Your text should cite all sources used, including the lab handout. References should be listed at the end of the appendix using APA documentation style. NoodleBiB (UT Library) will generate the reference list for you. For example, you may cite a source like this in the text (Henry, 1998). The reference would look like this:
Henry, J. (1998, Summer). Liquid-Liquid Extraction. Lab Handout ChE 264, The University of Texas at Austin.
The body of the technical memo (from the Introduction through the Conclusion) should be no longer than four single-spaced pages, including figures and tables. The four pages should include approximately two pages of text.
Template for the Technical Memo Download
Follow the Technical Memo template in preparing your assignment. Instructions are in square brackets [like this]. If you cut-and-paste your writing onto a template, it helps if you (1) save a copy of your work as “text only.” and (2) transfer the “text only” version to the template. That way, you avoid importing new formatting.