Knowing how to write and interpret reports is an essential skill in many professional contexts. A report is a selection, description and often an analysis of information, with a specific aim and audience in mind. You might report on a project or research you carried out, or synthesise information from existing sources. A report will often make recommendations based on its findings. As you prepare and write your report, you may develop understanding oftechnical language or data analysis methods. Report writing can also introduce you to using new software, frameworks or systems.
How can I get started on my report?
Think about the audience and the purpose of your report, then decide which information to include and where that information belongs in the report. Use a clear, professional style to communicate your message.
Step 1: Review your assignment brief and look at examples
Your assignment brief should explain the aim of your report, the audience and the structure or sections to include. Looking at appropriate examples will give you an idea of the type of content and language.
Step 2: Establish the purpose of the report and what you need to do to produce it.
Reports can do many different things: test theories and hypotheses, analyse problems, describe experiments or observations, draw conclusions and make recommendations.
Establish the type of report you are writing:
Technical report: A simulation of professional industry reports (e.g. engineering).
Business report: Examining a business problem and seeking solutions, or reporting on the condition of a company or a part of a company.
Case study: An account of a company, industry, person or project over a given time.
Field report: Reporting and reflecting on experiences observed in real life situations, e.g. observing a court session, teaching practice, work experience, etc.
Scientific report: Reporting and reflecting on results observed in controlled, scientific conditions, e.g. lab tests, controlled experiments, etc.
There are other types of report. Consult your assignment documents and tutor to make sure you fully understand the purpose of your report.
Step 3: Conduct background research on your subject
Start with your reading list and look for existing theories or information on the subject, strengths and weaknesses of theories, and any gaps which you could address.
Step 4: Complete the project or task you will be reporting on
As you complete your project, keep notes which you can refer back to when writing the report. You may need to analyse a case or problem, carry out surveys, interviews or focus groups, produce a product or item, or analyse and interpret data. You may need to improve your skills or develop new ones, for example statistical analysis. Be prepared for this and allow time to do it.
Step 5: Plan each section of your report and organise your information
Your report will be divided into section which each present an aspect of your project.
You might include:
Check your assignment brief or talk to your tutor to clarify which sections to include.
This page outlines the sections above in more detail.
Step 6: Draft, redraft and review your content
You may want to start writing the main sections first, leaving introductions and conclusions to the end. If you include an abstract, it should be the last thing you write. As you write, think carefully about your audience. Decide which information to include and in how much detail. Keep the language appropriate to your target audience.
What should my report look like?
Report writing usually involves objective and factual language, and avoids personal or opinionated vocabulary.
This extract illustrates the impersonal style of language typical in a report. Compare this extract to examples from your course for a clearer understanding of the type of language expected for your assignment.
Below, the abstract from the sample has been annotated.
Move the slider at the bottom to see the features of the abstract.
Infographic: Keep on track when writing a report
Click on the infographic to see a full-screen version.