Recommendations in Technical Documents

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  • 0:01 Seeking Recommendations
  • 1:52 When to Write Recommendations
  • 2:34 Identifying the Problem
  • 5:02 Giving a Recommendation
  • 6:03 Problems with Recommendations
  • 8:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Suzanne Sweat

Suzanne has taught 12 years in the NC Public School System and three years at Campbell University. She has a master's degree in English Education.

Some technical documents require you to tell the reader what actions to take as a result of the information provided. This video explains how to write a recommendation for technical documents.

Seeking Recommendations

What's the first question people ask you when you tell them you tried a new restaurant, recipe, or experience? Chances are, they asked if you liked it! People don't just want to know what you did, they want to know if you enjoyed the experience. Your recommendations help others make judgments about whether or not to participate in the experience themselves.

There are times in technical writing when just providing information is not enough. Your audience may expect you to make a recommendation based on the conclusion you reached through your research. Just as with a new recipe, your readers want to know what worked, what didn't, and what should be the next step.

Recommendations in technical writing are suggested steps or actions to be taken as a result of the conclusion of the document. Recommendations go beyond just making a conclusion based on the data presented. They tell the readers what the author thinks should be done as a result of the conclusions.

Not all technical documents will contain recommendations. You should only write a recommendation if you are an expert on the subject matter being discussed in the document and only if the purpose of the document calls for a recommendation. For example, if you are creating an end-user manual for how to use a trampoline, you may not have a recommendations paragraph. However, if you are creating a report for a toy company and the data you've collected shows that one in every three trampolines created by the company has caused a serious injury, you may want to include a recommendation to the company to discontinue producing the trampoline.

When to Write Recommendations

When considering whether or not to include a recommendation in your document, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the recommendation warranted? In other words, does your expertise and the information you've provided give authority to what you want to recommend?
  • Is the recommendation solicited? Did your boss ask you to make a recommendation? If not, you may want to make sure he or she wants you to offer suggestions before you provide them.
  • Is the recommendation supported by research? If you do not have strong data to support your opinion, then don't make a recommendation.

Identifying the Problem

Once you've decided that you need to write a recommendation, then it's time to construct a paragraph that your readers can quickly and easily understand. Your first step is to identify the basic problem for which you are making a recommendation. State the problem clearly in your first sentence. For example, if you're writing a recommendation for a city council on controlling chickens being raised in the city, you might start your recommendation with the following sentence:

Chickens have been disrupting traffic flow on Buffalo Road, which has led to many complaints from drivers.

Notice the sentence clearly states the problem: chickens on the road. Stating the problem allows the readers to understand what you are specifically addressing in your recommendation. If you are addressing several different issues, you will need to address each issue in a separate paragraph.

Next, reiterate the research collected that relates specifically to the issue being addressed. This is especially important if your document contains several different issues or topics. In your recommendation, you want to emphasize the data that you want to use to support your recommendation. To add on to our first sentence, we might include the following sentence:

Data collected from the highway patrol shows that 15 drivers have complained about traffic delays as a result of the chickens in the past month. One fender-bender was also reported to be a result of the chickens on the road.

Including this sentence explains the problem and sets up the need for a recommendation.

After you've presented the data, draw a conclusion about the data that will help set the stage for your recommendation. You may already have an entire paragraph devoted to a conclusion, so this sentence will simply make a concluding statement that will relate to your recommendation. For example:

As a result of the continual traffic problems these chickens are causing, steps need to be taken to create limitations on where the chickens are kept.

Notice that the conclusion begins to lead into the recommendation - that there needs to be limitations on the location of the chickens.

Giving a Recommendation

Now it's time to provide your recommendation. Your recommendation should be focused on the specific problem you've presented at the beginning of your paragraph. Do not try to provide recommendations on several different problems in the same paragraph. This will only confuse your reader. The recommendation should be written in clear, easy to understand language, and lay out a plan for what you think should be done to fix the problem. Use specific language in your recommendation so that there can be no debate about what you suggest. For example:

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