Getting started with report writing
When preparing for the writing of your report, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What guidelines have you been given?
Do you have a brief, guidelines, marking criteria, advice or notes about how to write your report?
2. What’s the purpose of the report?
Clarify what your Purpose / Aim / Objective is.
Below are some typical purposes for reports. Which one(s) relate(s) to your report?
- To test theories
- To test hypotheses
- To analyse a problem
- To report on experiment findings
- To observe events in the real world
- To observe events in a controlled environment
- To report findings
- To draw conclusions
- To recommend solutions
3. What type of report is it?
Check with your tutor about the type of report you are expected to write. If it is left for you to decide always keep in mind the purpose of your report, and the context (e.g. is it for a technical subject, social science or business?).
- Technical report - simulates the reporting process required in industry (e.g. engineering). Could analyse a problem (case study);
- Business report - general reporting on the condition of a company or a part of a company. This will often take the form of a case study;
- Case study - a detailed account of a company, industry, person or project over a given amount of time, possibly looking at company objectives, strategies, challenges, results, etc.;
- Field report - reporting and reflecting on experiences observed ‘in the field’, (genuine real life situations). This may be 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.
4. What do I need to show?
Decide what it is that you want your report to show, based on the type of report you are required to write (or which best suits your purpose in writing).
- results of my own research;
- analysis of my own research;
- my analysis of an existing problem or situation;
- my conclusions based on my own analysis;
- my recommendations based on my own conclusions;
- my analysis of existing research and theories;
- synthesis of existing research and theories; my own results and conclusions?
5. What do I need to do?
There are several stages in preparing for and writing your research. Consider the actions below in order to write your report (not all actions are relevant to your report):
- Background reading into existing theories and research;
- Analysis of strengths and weaknesses of existing theory and research;
- Identifying the ‘gap’ in existing theory that your research may fill;
- Analysis of the case or problem you are studying;
- Study of similar cases or problems to the one you are examining in your report;
- Conduct research activities;
- Write up your notes on your research results;
- Analysis of your research results;
- Comparison of your results with existing theory and research to draw conclusions;
- Comparison of your conclusions with existing conditions or activities in order to make recommendations.
If you are clear on the purpose of your report, the type of report you are going to write, what you need to show and what you need to do in your report, then it should not be too difficult to plan it.
Each section of a good report must be written in a clear, concise, complete and correct way.
- Write with the reader in mind – what can I do to make it easy for the reader to understand?
- Don’t over complicate – state things as simply as possible.
- Keep the report as short as possible - don't be too wordy.
- Be objective – report precisely and evaluate as fairly as you can.
- Generally, write in the third person – avoid using ‘I’ (check with your tutor for guidance).
- Use the correct diagram, table or illustration in the correct place for the reader, with the correct label.
You can download a summary of this section here:
|Report summary (PDF opens in new window)|
|Report writing entry quiz (Opens in new window)|