"The writing that engineers and scientists do can be legally crucial, ... . Your writing constitutes part of the legal record of a project and might end up as evidence in litigation. Thus, part of your job responsibility as an engineer or scientist is to make your writing precise and to keep accurate records of what you've written."Above quote from Woolston, D. C., P. A. Robinson, and G. Kutzback, Effective Writing Strategies for Engineers and Scientists, Lewis Publishers, Inc., 1988, p. 151.
Mathes and Stevenson in their Designing Technical Reports: Writing for Audiences in Organizations, Second Edition, Macmillian, 1991, pp. 455-469, present six basic precepts that engineers and scientists need to observe in order to protect their readers, their company, and themselves in the legal context. These precepts are as follows:
These basic precepts apply to all your written documents - letters, memoranda, laboratory notebooks, Project Notebook as well as technical reports. You never know what might be used in litigation.
A Project Notebook is a three-ring binder of bound pages in which your team can keep their daily technical and rhetorical work. It allows your team to keep precise and accurate records of what each member is doing. Because no one can remember everything precisely, a written record at the time something happens is the only way to insure accuracy of the event. Obviously, computer scientists have an ethical responsibility to keep written records that are precise and clear in their Project Notebook.
In order to develop good documentation habits, you must maintain the team's Project Notebook. The Project Notebook Standards describes the procedures for the daily keeping of your team's Project Notebook. You will record such information as literature reviews, bibliographical information, ideas, design notes, team meetings, drafts of reports, critiques of reports and reports.
Provided you develop a daily habit of placing information in the Project Notebook, you will be able to write precise and clear technical reports because all the necessary information will be at the team's disposal.
Your Project Notebook is a large three-ring binder of bound pages which includes five dividers with labels in this order:
The contents of each section of the Project Notebook is specified below. Each page should be dated and initialized by the individual who placed the item in the Notebook.
The Administration section includes a cover page on the Project, the names of all the team members, their telephone numbers, campus address, email addresses and name and location of all computer files.
After the first few pages, this section contains all the minutes of the team's meetings in chronological order.
This section contains all the team's correspondence including memoranda, team assignments and reports in chronological order.
This section contains reviews of articles, xerox copies of articles and bibliographic information.
This section includes notes copied from individual journals, for example, design ideas. Also, this is where material should be placed if it does not fit in the other sections.
This section includes design documents associated with a program, program listings, test suites, and any assessment of the program, e. g., performance data.