Writing academically

Writing Reports

What is a Report?

  • In academia there is some overlap between reports and essays, and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but reports are more likely to be needed for business, scientific and technical subjects, and in the workplace.
  • Whereas an essay presents arguments and reasoning, a report concentrates on facts.
  • Essentially, a report is a short, sharp, concise document which is written for a particular purpose and audience. It generally sets outs and analyses a situation or problem, often making recommendations for future action. It is a factual paper, and needs to be clear and well-structured.
  • Requirements for the precise form and content of a report will vary between organisation and departments and in study between courses, from tutor to tutor, as well as between subjects, so it’s worth finding out if there are any specific guidelines before you start.

Reports may contain some or all of the following elements:

  • A description of a sequence of events or a situation;
  • Some interpretation of the significance of these events or situation, whether solely your own analysis or informed by the views of others,-carefully referenced of course
  • An evaluation of the facts or the results of your research;
  • Discussion of the likely outcomes of future courses of action;
  • Your recommendations as to a course of action.
  • Conclusions.

Not all of these elements will be essential in every report.

Sections and Numbering

  • A report is designed to lead people through the information in a structured way, but also to enable them to find the information that they want quickly and easily.
  • Reports usually, therefore, have numbered sections and subsections, and a clear and full contents page listing each heading. It follows that page numbering is important.
  • Modern word processors have features to add tables of contents (ToC) and page numbers as well as styled headings; you should take advantage of these as they update automatically as you edit your report, moving, adding or deleting sections.
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