Unlike a personal or an expository essay, technical essays are intended to educate and inform about a technical topic. They tend to have a more regimented format than other types of essays. They naturally include an introduction, a body and a conclusion, but they also include elements that make them more like research documentation, including references and an abstract. Thus, writing one requires a sense of organization and credibility.
The technical essay is intended to explore a technical or scientific subject, to explain how to carry out a particular technical task, or to argue for a particular method of doing something. Essays could involve subjects in mathematics, computer science, physics or any other topic that could benefit from a written explanation of the processes required to complete a task or the reasons a researcher chose a particular method.
In general, these types of essays follow a similar format as research or other academic papers. If you're writing the technical essay for a specific journal or a college course, check whether there are any specific requirements for formatting your essay. You may be required to use a specific font in a specific size, for example, or justify the paragraphs to the left-hand side of the page without paragraph indentations. In addition, you may have specific requirements for how to format the section titles and reference materials or works cited. Research papers often employ the American Psychological Association, or APA, citation style. In an academic setting, not getting these elements perfect could cause you to lose points; in a business setting, poor formatting could make you look like an amateur.
A technical essay typically presents a question, details the methods explored to answer the question, and then presents a conclusion. Like with academic research papers, start off with a compelling title that describes the question you seek to answer or the methods you're going to describe, then begin with a section titled "Abstract" that details your question or method, your process of inquiry and your conclusion, all in a brief paragraph of a few sentences. Following that, create headings such as "Introduction" -- sometimes also called a "Thesis" -- and then "Methodology" and "Conclusion." Create this structure first, and then make a few notes about what you plan to include in each section. Creating this structure first can help you start to organize your thoughts and make the task of filling in the details less overwhelming.
Filling in the Sections
In the "Introduction" section, describe why you decided to explore this particular topic and why it might matter to the readers; the Writing Center at Harvard University also suggests to provide the background historical context that precipitated your inquiry. Follow this up with a description of what you're going to explore in the subsequent paragraphs, then dive into the details of your exploration in the "Methodology" section. If you carried out several experiments or explored several questions in your research, you might need to break this section down further and create subheads that describe your practices. Throughout the section, stick to tight, declarative sentences that describe the methodology as clearly and simply as possible. If you're explaining a complicated process, use bullet points to visually break up each step and make it easier for the reader to digest. In the "Conclusion" section, briefly review your question and methodology again, and describe what result you've come to through this process. At the very end, include your references.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.