Tips for Efficient Documentation
Properly documenting a project is a valuable skill to have to help you give better presentations as well as for filling up your portfolio. Here are some tips to help you build a better record of your project.
- Plan ahead
Documenting is easiest done from the beginning and takes less time. Don’t wait until you’ve finished a project. You’ll be left with more work than you expect and will lose efficiency as you take time recalling forgotten details.
- Take pictures!
Pictures are exciting and make project documentation much more engaging. Many things can be easily explained with a simple picture, or diagram. Remember to take pictures from the beginning. You won’t get a change to go back and take one!
- Take notes
“If you did not write it down, it did not happen.” Document everything. It’s difficult to prove that something happened if you didn’t document it at the time. It’s tough to remember too. This is important not just to show off a finished/in-progress project, but to better help your current project development as well.
- Give examples
Don’t just state something, show it. This is where the pictures you’ve taken since the beginning come in handy. A before and after comparison is an easy way to show an example. Putting something into human scale makes for a great example. ( e.g. If you’re implementing a device to help save water usage, present how much water per person per day it saves rather than total water per month.)
- Know your audience
Are you presenting to a general or specific audience? Don’t use specific jargon and acronyms, or assume that everyone understands a certain concept. Even if your audience is more knowledgeable in the field of topic, everyone has a different level of competency, and you don’t want to leave people behind. If necessary, provide a legend or key to ensure everyone is on the same page as you.
- Mention the expected, emphasize the unique
Mention the expected parts of your project, but briefly. You did it, and you wrote it down, so let your audience know, shortly. Pick out the juicy, fun, unique aspects of your project and put them on display. Through whatever medium you use to document your presentation, make sure you highlight the captivating parts.
- Support your claims
Make sure you support your claim with sufficient evidence. If you are claiming you’ve improved something, do you have the data to back that up? Again, this is where pictures are very helpful.
- Format group work
It’s great to have different team members help document different parts of a project but make sure the formatting is consistent when it is compiled. A unified format will greatly increase the professionalism of your documentation
- Use collaborative documenting tools
If working in a group, use a tool that allows easy input from multiple individuals. This way you can all input into the same document and have access to each other’s work. Google Docs, Buzzword, and Etherpad are helpful tools for this.
- If possible, use slides
Slides are an easy and engaging way to display your documentation. Whether giving a presentation or sending in a digital document, slides are easily viewed and can often be a more engaging way to view your documents. Though often more documentation needs to be given than can be shown in a slide presentation, slides are great for project summaries. PowerPoint, OpenOffice, and Prezi are helpful tools for this.