Explanation of How to Write a Report
An essay sets out and then defends a writer’s personal point of view about a specific topic, however, it does not include headings. Unlike an essay, a report discusses in great detail a specific topic in a structured, but easy to follow format. Reports are often grouped into sections with headings and subheadings.
A report might be academic, or it might be technical or even business related. Most often, it will feature specific recommendations. Reports are created to deliver facts about a project, process or a situation and will typically define and analyze a particular issue. The best reports convey or deliver educated observations to their intended audience in a very clear and concise manner.
How to Write a Report Correctly?
Prior to starting to write your report, you must invest time into planning and preparation. It is important to clearly determine who your intended audience will be. The report needs to be written with them in mind. You must tailor your writing to meet the unique needs and expectations of your audience.
As you are planning your report, consider the following to help best determine the goals or objective of your paper from the viewpoint of a report writer:
- Who is your audience?
- Why are you writing this report? What is its purpose?
- What important or relevant information must be included in the paper?
After you’ve clearly identified the basics of the report, you should be ready to start collecting your supporting research or compiling information. After you’ve gathered that information, the next step is to sort is and carefully analyze and evaluate it. After you’ve organized your material, you can start putting together an outline. With a bit of planning, it should be easier to understand how to write a report and keep your material organized.
Getting to Know Report Formats
Many students find that, in order to keep their report well organized and easy to understand, they should follow a standard format. The main headings and sections in a typical report include:
The Title Section: If your report is only a few pages in length, you can include all of the relevant details (like the name of the author, the date the report was prepared, etc.) on the front over. Longer reports should have a table of contents and a glossary of terms – the latter being crucial for highly specialized reports or those with a lot of technical lingo.
The Summary: This section contains the key points, conclusions and recommendations. It should be short, but still detailed enough to provide a comprehensive overview of the report. Often times, people who read the summary might only skim through the report, so it is important to remember to include all of the relevant details. It is best to wait until after you’ve concluded the entire report before writing the summary so that you don’t miss important information.
The Introduction: The very first page of your report must have a well written introduction. This is where you will clearly explain the problem and advise your audience why you are writing this particular report. You should provide a definition of terms, if you’ve not included a glossary, and then explain how the report is organized.
The Body: This is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the report. The previous sections are to be written in basic English. Depending on the report topic, the body will be more detailed, and include technical terminology from your industry. The body needs to have several sections, each labelled with proper subheadings. Arrange the information in the body in decreasing levels of importance. You might choose to add a ‘discussion’ section as the end of the body section. This is where you will review your findings and determine their significance.
The Conclusion: This is where you will tie everything together. This section should not use technical wording or jargon, but rather be in plain English.
The Recommendations: In this section, you will share any actions that should occur. You should explain your recommendations and list them in level of importance.
The Appendices: Here is where you will place any information that subject matter experts, or leaders in the field, will read. It will house all of the technical details that can be used to support your findings or conclusions.
Following this format will not only keep your report organized, but it will also make it easier for anyone who happens to read your report to find the information that they are looking for. All of the sections, with the exception of the body, need to be written in clear English. Most importantly, all information needs to be arranged in a logical manner, with the strongest points being mentioned first.
Writing and Formatting the Report Cover Page
A certain amount of care needs to be given to create a proper title page, table of contents and abstract (or summary.)
You might choose to use a word processor or a template to design these pages for you.
You should include a short, clear title that clearly defines what the report is about. Your title page should also include the date the report was written, and also who it is being written for.
Table of Contents
Unless your report is only a few pages in length, it is in good practice to always include a table of contents. Always number the pages, this is not optional.
Abstract (or Summary)
Include a brief, 200 word, summary of the contents in the report. This will provide readers with a quick synopsis of the information that is being reported, including what research was done, how it was done, and what the results or finding where. Writing a summary is not as easy as it sounds.
Here are three guidelines to follow:
- Always write in past tense, in third person narrative
- Your summary needs to make sense. Think of it as a standalone document. Researchers will typically read over an abstract before determining if it makes sense to read the report more thoroughly.
- Your summary is NOT an introduction to your report. It is more than that. It needs to mention your findings and the outcome. It allows your teacher to see what you are attempting to do and what you might have accomplished.
Preparing a Report Outline
Think of a report outline as being a roadmap or blueprint for your paper. It serves the purpose of helping you to better organize your thoughts and material. Following a structured outline also makes report writing easier and more efficient.
Your outline must include:
- The title page
- The thesis statement
- The body
- Your conclusions
- Your recommendations
You could also include to add supplementary pages like the table of contents, a report summary, a works cited or reference page, and a glossary of terms.
Report Examples For Your Convenience
Here are a few sample reports that you can use to get a better look into what is expected of a high quality report.