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COMP 270: Technical Writing for Engineers

Tips for Writing a Précis?

  • Keep it short. Turn phrases into words and words into shorter words. A good précis should be much shorter than the original (1/4 to 1/6 is the usual guideline.)
  • Stay focused and on point.
  • Make it a miniature summary of the main point, cut out all the fluff without losing any of the important points.
  • Do not include any thoughts of your own. Only include the points the author made in the article.


Suggested writing method:

  1. Read the article once all the way through.
  2. Read the article again, making note of how the information is divided. ( note whether is each point made in one paragraph, over multiple paragraphs, under headings, or in chapters)
  3. Make a section by section outline.
  4. Re-read each section again. Write one or two sentences to summarize the point made in each section.
  5. Combine the sentences you have written into a coherent text. Be sure to retain the order and spirt of the thoughts presented in the original work.
  6. Name the author. (The article doesn't speak, the author does.) 
  7. Edit to ensure that:
    • your opinion has not colored the piece
    • you have been as concise as possible
    • you have not left out any of the author's points
    • your sentences are all in third person


Writing an Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography consists of two parts: the Bibliography and the Annotations.

An annotated bibliography starts out like any other Bibliography, by giving the information that would be needed for someone else to find and read the same article you did. This let's them see the source of your information and decide for themselves if your conclusions are valid and if they follow from the facts. Once you find the information needed to direct your reader to your source, you will simply organize it into a specific arrangement according to the style guide that is used in your field. Style Guides differ in the way that names are recorded (surname first, or only an initial for the given name, maybe an initial for each given name), the order of the information presented (does the publication date come before or after the title), the appearance of the text (it the title in quotation marks or italicized or underlined, are abbreviations allowed), and the punctuation used (are there periods or commas between pieces of information.) The information given in a citation is almost the same and it always serves the same purpose, to ensure that others can find your original source material. A good resource to get an overview of the different styles (and also good in depth information too) is Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Once the citation is completed it is time to begin the second part, the Annotations. Your annotations describe and evaluate each source. This is where subjectivity starts to come in to the process. You will start by giving a summary of the article, this differs from an abstract though because you WILL need to include your opinion in this summary. You will explain if (and give reasons why or why not) this article was useful to you and whether it should be used as a resource by future researchers on this topic. When writing your annotations be sure that you:

Summarize the key points of the source. Try to answer all of the following questions:

  • What was the topic? Was it properly addressed in this article?
  • What was learned through the research that is explained in this source? Was that important? Why?
  • How was the research done? Critique the methods?
  • What did the authors find? Do their conclusions follow from the research?
  • Did the authors discuss implications of the research? 

Critique (evaluate) the source. Try to answer these questions:

  • Quality: Is it a useful source? 
    • Are the question, methodology, results, and conclusions laid out in an comprehensible and logical manner?
    • Is the source readable?
  • Authority: Is the information reliable?
    • Are there major errors in the design of experiment?
    • Are the conclusions sound?
    • Are the authors and/or the research center and/or journal of publication reputable?
  • Importance: Was this source needed?
    • How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography?
    • What did this source offer that others didn't?
    • How does it compare with other articles and theoretical ideas discussed in class? 

Reflect on the usefulness of this source. Attempt to answer the following:

Tips for Writing Persuasively

  • Clearly outline the topic being addressed
  • Clearly state your position. (Either at the beginning or at the end, according to your instructor's directions)
  • Use logic and facts, quotes from experts, and examples from your research.
  • Do NOT ignore the facts that go against your position.
  • Address and refute the points that are contrary to your position.
  • For more see:
    J. Morris and J. Zwart, “Writing Essentials,” Dec. 2018, Accessed: Nov. 11, 2021. [Online]. Available:
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