Archived (reports)

Getting started with report writing

Get the content right


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The content of a report is dictated by the structure of your paper, unlike an essay where you make decisions about structure and argument. Each section of the report has a distinct purpose in the overall paper. The way it is written is clearly defined.

1. Questions to ask yourself

To ensure that you are planning and writing the correct content for your report:

  • Is the format of the report pre-defined?
  • What are the departmental requirements?
  • Has your tutor told you the type of report you are expected to write?
  • How much ‘freedom’ do you have to decide on the content?
  • Can you get examples of previous reports?
  • Are there industry standards for reports in your subject?

Available and useful sources to you could be:

  • Your own tutor
  • Other lecturers
  • Classmates
  • Your own reflection
  • Source material in the library
  • Source material on the Internet

2. Do the ground work

The work for a report is mostly done in advance. You are reporting on the work you have done. The work will be determined by:

a) the subject you are studying;
b) the purpose of the research activity.

Consider which of the activities below apply to your current project:

  • Analyse an existing case or problem
  • Create a set of test conditions to examine
  • Observe conditions or behaviour in a natural environment
  • Conduct surveys
  • Conduct interviews
  • Conduct experiments

Remember:

All analysis, evaluation, discussion, comparison to theory, conclusions and recommendations arise from the work that you carry out in advance of the report writing process.

Can you now state clearly whether the work you have done (and its results) proves your hypothesis or not; fulfils your aims or not?

3. Keep accurate records of research activities and results

4. How to write well

  • 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.

Remember:

The Writing Strategies chapter also covers:

  • Writing clearly and concisely;
  • How to construct paragraphs and sentences;
  • Using a clear structure;
  • Linking ideas (‘signposting’);
  • Academic style.