1.02 How to write a report
What is a report? : Initial preparation : Planning and research : Report structure : Style : Checking
What is a report?
A report is a systematic, well organised document which defines and analyses a subject or problem, and which may include:
the record of a sequence of events
interpretation of the significance of these events or facts evaluation of the facts or results of research presented
discussion of the outcomes of a decision or course of action conclusions
Reports must always be:
Various courses require you to write reports (as opposed to essays), notably business and scientific or technical subjects. There are, however, different interpretations of what a report should look like, so it is important that you check with your course tutors and course documentation as to the report format and content expected. In addition, there is at times some blurring between what “essays”, “reports” and “assignments” are, so again check within your department. Much of the advice given in Guide 1.01, How to write an essay, also applies to reports.
Always analyse your brief carefully, making sure that you fully understand the topic, question or case, that you know what the purpose of the report is, and who it is being written for. The clearer these things are in your mind, the easier the report will be to write and the more effective it will be.
When you are researching, planning and eventually writing, continually ask yourself what the main purpose of the report is, what your objective is in writing it: is it to inform; to argue; to persuade; to evaluate? What does your reader want to see in the report and what will they do with it?
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Planning and research
You first need to decide your basic framework. With your main topic or question as a central focus, jot down your initial thoughts and start to group these together. You may find the Mind Mapping technique useful: see Guide 2.11. Start to divide key ideas from subsidiary information, and continually ask yourself if everything is relevant; if it isn’t, then delete it.
From your prior knowledge (from reading and lectures), you should be able to put together a fairly basic structure.
You will now be able to plan your research. Ask yourself what you need to find out, maybe in the form of questions that need to be answered, then approach your reading from this starting point. If you have specific information to look for, it will make your reading easier and less time consuming. (See Guide 2.02 Reading techniques).
Try not to gather too much information. Again, keeping your topic or question in mind, reject anything which is not 100% relevant. When you’re making notes, always try to summarise the main points as concisely as possible. Remember to make a comprehensive record of any sources consulted in order to be able to correctly reference these.
Make a record of the research methods you used.
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Title page : Acknowledgements : Contents page : Terms of reference : Procedure : Materials and methods : Summary : Introduction : Main body : Results : Conclusion : Recommendations : Appendices : References : Bibliography : Glossary
Unlike essays, reports are written in sections with headings and sub-headings, which are usually numbered. Below are the possible components of a report, in the order in which they would appear. Check within your department which of these you should include.
Title page (always included)
This should normally include the title, your name and the name of the tutor to whom it is being submitted, date of submission, your course/department, and if applicable, the name of the person and/or organisation who has commissioned the report. Avoid “fancy” fonts and effects and don’t include any clipart.
See Guide 1.24....
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