Voice and Person in the Notebook

In your engineering notebook what person/“point of view” do you usually write in? Do you use passive voice or active voice?

First Person Singular, Active Voice:

I cut the c-channel into 5-hole segments.

First Person Plural, Active Voice:

We cut the c-channel into 5-hole segments.

Third Person(?), Passive Voice:

The c-channel was cut into 5-hole segments.

I switch between these three, but I think it could be better to pick one person and stick with it. Some say it’s better to use both passive and active throughout writing.
What person and voice are used in your notebook?

Our meeting records were mostly third person plural, active voice, so you get entries like “The team met to discuss brainstorming on the drive.”

But anything documenting concrete parts of the robot like the build or the programming was in second person active voice. So a build entry sounds like “1. Mount a bearing in the center of a 5x2x1 C-channel.” and a programming entry sounds like “Create a delay code using the task::sleep method.”


The intent of the engineering notebook is to lead the robot design.

Our plan is for the robot to perform X in a competition before Sept 15. We have decided to build a chassis using four 3.25" Omni wheels driven by 200 RPM, 11w motors. See the drawing and parts list below for details.

The other concept that judges look for is that a notebook should be able to be handed to another team where they can follow it to build an identical robot. You are essentially creating an instruction manual.

The chassis is built from aluminum and requires six 35 x 2 x 1 c-channels. Three c-channels must be cut to a length of 26 holes.

The notebook will still maintain some historical information to explain tests and competition experience.

During our first match we found that the shaft collars were loose on the chassis axles. We need to make note in our Preventative Maintenance page to check them before each match.

The chassis assembly is taking longer than we expected so we have updated our project timeline to add one more week. This will also push out our Autonomous programming session but we think there is enough time before our next competition.


Mine is also similar to @2775Josh . I like thinking that 3rd person POV allows for more “neutral” responses so it shows the team working together better. I personally try to avoid 1st person POV because it really makes progress seem one-sided (if you get what I mean. I like to list the progress of the team as a whole instead of listing what I just did for the team).
Wishing you good luck this season!

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A different point of view.

  1. The TEAM wins. So on strategies, “we”. Winning brainstorm ideas, again “we decided”. On assemblies, it relates to the manufacturing process, so “we/Team” could be acceptable.
  2. Designs of assemblies, Team members are critical. “John and Mary”. Two reasons. 1) The Notebook MUST be a collective effort of the whole team, and just saying “we” may not cut it for the judge. 2) Think Intellectual Property and invention. On patents, each contributor’s name goes on, and your ideas could be witnessed as proof of inventors. Seems silly, but get in the habit now. Later, it will then be natural.
  3. Programming almost always is named, as again that becomes copyright issues. You SHOULD be structuring the program into component functions, and that makes association to person easy.

Our team writes in mostly 1st person plural, this gives a more consistent read no matter who is doing an entry.