A report is a highly structured piece of writing, designed so that it can be read quickly, easily and accurately. Reports have clear structures which make them easy to read; it is important that you ensure that your report is easy to read as reports are not necessarily read in consecutive order. An example of a typical structure is shown below:
- Title page
- Summary (AKA Executive Summary or Abstract)
- Conclusion/ Recommendations
It is important that you consider the intended audience for your report before you write it; the purpose will affect your writing. A report is written for the convenience of the intended reader (whether written at College or in employment), so you must ensure that your writing is fit for purpose. You may be trying to inform decision makers, change public opinion or record the development of a process. You must put yourself in the reader’s position and think about what they need to know.
Reports differ from essays because they contain numbered headings:
- The main sections are given single numbers e.g. 1, 2, 3.
- The subsections are given decimal numbers e.g. 1.1, 2.1., 3.1
- And then the subsections can be divided even further e.g. 1.1.1, 2.1.2, 3.2.1
Reports also have very specific formatting rules that you must ensure you stick to:
- Leave wide margins for your teacher to write in
- Use short sentences and avoid rambling
- Paragraphs should be short and concise
- Avoid unnecessary jargon and unexplained abbreviations
- List standard measurements, units and technical terminology in a glossary at the end
- Headings should be clear – either bold, underlined or highlighted in some way
- Label graphs or drawings as ‘figures’ and number them consecutively e.g. figure 1, figure 2
- Label tables as ‘tables’ and number consecutively e.g. table 1, table 2
You must discuss the way that the report should be formatted with your tutor and stick to it. However, regardless of what structure you end up using, the stages in writing a report remain the same:
- Collecting information
- Organising and structuring the collected information
- Writing a first draft
- Re-drafting and proofreading
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