A report is written for a clear purpose and to a particular audience. Information and evidence are presented, analysed and applied to a particular problem or issue. The information is presented in a clearly structured format, making use of sections and headings so the information is easy to locate and follow.
When you are asked to write a report you will usually be given a report brief that provides you with instructions and guidelines. The brief may outline the purpose, audience, problem/issue, format, structure and any other specific requirements.
Reasons why reports are used include:
- To find out what you have learned from your reading, research or trial.
- To give your experience of something eg a skill that is widely used or needed in the workplace
A good report presents and analyses facts and evidence that are directly relevant to the problem/issue. All sources of information should be acknowledged and referenced. The style of reports should be less ‘wordy’ than an assignment or essay. Reports should be more direct. A good report will show your ability to:
- Understand the purpose of the report brief and to stick to it.
- Gather, evaluate and analyse relevant information.
- Structure material in a logical and coherent order.
- Make appropriate conclusions that are supported by the evidence and analysis in your report.
- Make thoughtful and practical recommendations.
The structure of a report can be:
- Summary or abstract
- Appendices – where you include all of your supporting information that you have used but not published.
Stages of report writing
The stages of writing a report are:
- Understand the report brief. You need to be sure about the purpose of the report, who the report is for and why it is being written.
- Gather and select information. You may use a variety of sources depending on the level of detail your report includes.
- Organise your material. Decide what information to include and in what sequence it will be presented. The sequence needs to be logical and easy to follow.
- Analyse your material. Take time to consider and make notes on the points you will make and the conclusions you will draw. What are the limitations of the evidence? Do pieces of evidence contradict each other? You don’t simply present the information, you must relate it to the problem/issue at hand.
- Write the report. You may find it easier to write the summary last so you can be direct and precise. The structure may include sections and paragraphs where you introduce an idea, explain or expand it, present evidence, comment on the evidence and conclude the section by showing its significance to the whole report or linking it to the next section.
- Reviewing and redrafting. Take a break and then read your report from the perspective of your reader. Be prepared to change sections.
- Presentation. Make sure the formatting is consistent and proofread for spelling and grammar errors.
Use the feedback from your teachers to create a check list of points to consider when writing your next report. Feedback is useful because it helps you to develop and improve your writing skills.
[The text above is based on that provided by the University of Leicester]