Developing a troubleshooting guide

Subject: Developing a troubleshooting guide
From: "Glen Blair" <glen -dot- blair -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2006 11:21:35 -0800

Hello all,

I'm a relatively new tech writer at an engineering company that builds
a specialized type of machine. One of the newer machines has caused
some problems for our customers. A malfunctioning machine typically
exhibits one of five or six general symptoms, but the cause of the
same symptom can differ from machine to machine. Diagnosing the
problem is often complex and regularly requires our field service
engineers and customer support engineers (manning the phones) to refer
customers directly to engineers working in research and development.

I've been asked to develop a troubleshooting guide to help the field
service and customer support people better diagnose and solve the
problems they encounter with this particular type of machine.
Unfortunately, there's very little in the way of "official"
documentation for dealing with and fixing properly-diagnosed problems.
Much of the information I need is in the heads of individual
technicians and engineers, and in "unofficial" emails exchanged by
those emails (which I'm currently compiling).

In a nutshell, I need to develop a troubleshooting guide that will
allow its reader to work from a general problem to one of myriad
possible causes (which could be hardware- or software-based) and
appropriate solutions. I'm having some trouble figuring out they best
way to structure this without sacrificing its usefulness. Can any of
you share the approach you took in a similar situation? Or are there
any good articles or books out there you can recommend?


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