Guidelines for Technical Reports

Each report must meet minimum standards of professionalism. Unprofessional reports will be severely downgraded even if the technical contents are correct. The following items explain some of the features of a professional report.

  1. All reports must be prepared with a word processor.
  2. Organize reports using a decimal numbering system. The chapters, Sections, Sub-Sections should be indicated as follows:

    4.    Title of Chapter

    4.1        Title of Section

    4.1.1      Title of Sub-Section   Title of sub-sub-section

  3. Technical reports typically include calculations. At least one "hand" calculation must be performed and documented for each case in a separate sub-section. These hand-calculations do not have to be typed but should be clearly written and well organized. If they are lengthy (i.e. more than 2 pages), they should be placed in a separate appendix but the results should be discussed in the main body of the report.
  4. All pages must be numbered. Start the introduction at page 1. Pages in the main body of the report are numbered: 1, 2, 3, etc. Preliminary pages such as Table of Contents, List of Symbols etc. are numbered sequentially : i, ii, iii, iv, etc.
  5. A minimum margin of one inch must be observed on all pages including graphs, figures, tables, computer print-outs, etc.
  6. The report must be written in good English. All words must be properly spelled. You are expected to proofread your reports before handing them in.
  7. Avoid using sentences longer than 2 lines. If you do not, your report will have a high "Fog Index" (i.e. it will be difficult to read).
  8. Do not use I, You, We, They, etc. in a technical report. Also, do not treat an airplane nor airplane components as persons, i.e., do not write:

    "...the airplane's landing gear is of the retractable type."
    Instead, write
    "The landing gear of the Cessna 182 is retractable."
    "The airplane has a retractable landing gear."

  9. Never use the words: 'in order to ...'. Remember, the words 'in order' are nearly always out of order. Simply use "to" instead.
  10. Make use of the technique called "bulletizing".

    Instead of: "In this chapter, the results of calculations of wing-loading, maximum lift coefficients, thrust-to-weight ratio, lift-to-drag ratio and cruise lift coefficients are presented." Write: "In this chapter the following characteristics of the Spartan Jet are presented:

    • Wing loading
    • Maximum lift coefficients
    • Thrust-to-weight ratio
    • Lift-to-drag ratio
    • Cruise lift coefficients"
  11. Make sure that no symbols are omitted from your equations. Again, it is important to proofread your reports before handing them in.
  12. All equations must be typed using an equation editor. Equations must also be numbered and numbered sequentially. Within a chapter use a decimal numbering system. For example:

    X = Y + Z (4.17)

  13. You must use AIAA format for your references and must be consistent througoughout your report. All references must be numbered sequentially as they appear in your report. See examples below, following AIAA format (1 is a book, 2 is a technical report, 3 is a journal article, 4 is a conference paper, 5 is an internet reference). In the report refer to each of them with a number in a bracket. For example: "The vortex increases the lift of the flat plate [2]." Or, Mourtos [2] found that the existence of the vortex increased the lift of the flat plate at any given angle-of-attack."
    1. Nickel, K., Wohlfahrt, M., Tailless Aircraft in Theory and Practice, AIAA Education Series, 1994.
    2. Mourtos, N.J., Couillaud, S., Carter, D., Hange, C., Wardwell, D., Margason, R.J., Flow Visualization Studies of Jet VTOL models during Hover in Ground Effect, NASA TM 108860, January 1995.
    3. Mourtos, N.J., Flow past a Flat Plate with a Vortex / Sink Combination, ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics, June 1996.
    4. Papadopoulos, P., Subrahmanyam, P.,Airbreathing Engine Analysis and Simulation Tool for Space Vehicle Design, Proceedings, AIAA/CIRA 13th International Space Planes and Hypersonics Systems and Technologies Conference, Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali (CIRA), Capua, Italy, 16-20 May 2005.
    5. UAV, Wikipedia, URL: < >, retrieved Dec. 5, 2007.
  14. All figures and graphs must be numbered and numbered sequentially. They must also have descriptive titles, not X vs. Y. Titles must appear below the figure. All axes must have scale and descriptive labels (not just symbols) including units whenever appropriate. Symbols, when appropriate, should be included in parethesis, after the description of an axis. Curves must also have descriptive labels. All lettering must be at least 3 mm high to be legible. For example:

    Coffee temp v Time

    Figure 3.1 - Coffee temperature decline in various cups.

  15. All tables must be numbered and numbered sequentially. They must also have descriptive titles. Titles must appear above the table. Again, all lettering must be at least 3 mm high to be legible.

    Table 5.1 - The heaviest ten airplanes

    MTOW = Maximum take-off weight, MLW = Maximum landing weight, TOR = Take-off run (SL,ISA+15,MTOW), LR = Landing run (SL, ISA+15°, MLW)

    Type MTOW [tons] MLW [tons] TOR [m] LR [m]
    Antonov An-225 640      
    Airbus A380-800F 590 427    
    Boeing 747-8I 439.985 306.175    
    Antonov An-124 405      
    Airbus A340-500 368 240 3050 2010
    Boeing 777-300ER 351.535 251.29    
    MD-11 273.314 195.04 3115 2118
    Ilyushin IL-96M 270 175    
    Boeing 787-9 244.94      
    L-1011-500 231.54 166.92 2636  
  16. When presenting aerodynamic data in a table, graph or figure it is mandatory that you include the following information:
    • Reference geometries: S, c and b in ft (or inches) and m (or cm).
    • Moment center information in fractions of the m.g.c.
    • Airplane weight consistent with the presentation of the data.
    • Airplane configuration information, such as:
      • Clean
      • Flaps down, gear up
      • Flaps down, gear down
      • Thrust or power setting
      • Speed brake deployment
      • Flight condition
      • C.g. location in fractions of mgc (mean geometric chord).  Remember: tables, graphs and figures are much easier to understand than prose, so use them as much as possible.
  17. Do not put lengthy derivations in the main body of the report. Put such material in an appendix (or appendices) and summarize the result in the main part of the report.
  18. Plagiarism will result in total loss of credit for the entire report. If you decide to use material which was not generated by you, clearly identify the source of such material. Give credit where credit is due.
  19. A list of symbols must be included in your report. This list must define all symbols used anywhere in the report (including figures, appendices, etc.). Do not include symbols which are not used in your report. Do not copy a list of symbols from another reference. The list of symbols must be presented in the following manner, although the use of a table is optional:
    Symbol Definition Units (SI)
    W Weight lbs (N)
    Greek Symbols    
    α Angle of attack deg or rad
    ( )TO Takeoff -------
    APU Auxiliary Power Unit -------

  20. Never make an unsubstantiated claim. Example: if you claim that you have optimized airplane weight, you are expected to prove it. If you cannot, do not make the claim.
  21. Avoid the use of superlatives. Example: "This is the best airplane ever designed."Or, "The wing area selected is the smallest possible for this type of airplane."
  22. If you extrapolate data or if you extrapolate existing technology, discuss the consequences to your design of not being able to achieve the extrapolated characteristics.
  23. Include units (both systems) with all your results.
  24. Appendices must be sequenced using capital letters and must have specific titles. For example:

Appendix A - Hand Calculations
Appendix B - Design Parameters of Comparable Aircraft