Writing academically

Assignment Basics

What is the Difference between an Essay and a Report?

A report is a piece of informative writing that describes a set of actions and analyses any results in response to a specific brief. A quick definition might be: “This is what I did and this is what it means.”

You may also have assignments which are not called reports but which are still pieces of informative writing; for instance, some dissertations and project write-ups fall into this category.

A good way to understand the key features of reports is to see how they differ from essays as a type of academic writing. 

Reports are…

Essays are…

Formally structured

Informative and fact-based

Written with a specific purpose and reader in mind

Written in a style appropriate to each section

Always include section headings

Sometimes use bullet points

Often include tables or graphs

Offer recommendations for action


Argumentative and idea-based

Not written with a specific reader in mind

Written in single narrative style throughout

Usually do not include sub-headings

Usually do not include bullet points

Rarely include tables or graphs

Offer conclusions about a question

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