A report is written document for a specific purpose and for a specific audience. Factual information and findings are tabled, analyzed and used to solve a problem or issue. This information is presented in a particular format using sections and headings to make it easily accessible and readable. Before you write your report you are usually given a report brief which includes the instructions and guidelines. The report brief defines the purpose, the audience and the problem and issue that you will be addressing, together with any specific requirements and structure.
Different Types of Reports
There are 3 main types of reports, academic, business and technical report. Although the basics are the same there is some slight adjustments: The academic report is very formal and it usually written in the third person. The business report is also formal and the aim is to present new initiatives therefore contradictions are allowed with a lot of graphs and data. Finally, a technical report is quite descriptive. It contains lots of facts and statistics to make its case, but technical reports usually follow a logical approach, step-by-step.
Structure of a Report
The title page includes the name of the author, to whom it’s meant for and the date it was prepared.
The Executive summary is a brief description of the report. It should entail the purpose of the report, the findings and any recommendations and how it should be implemented. Your summary should be around ½ a page and you should not go into the details. Remember, first impressions is everything therefore try to capture your reader. Prompt them to want to read more.
Table of Contents
The following page contains the table of contents. This page lists all the chapters and headings together with their page numbers. It should be presented in a way that the reader can glance at the list of headings and chapters to locate a certain part of the report. It’s a good idea to have a numbering system in your heading and make sure it’s clearly understood.
Here is where the rubber hits the road. The introduction sets the tone for the report. You should provide a detailed description of what the research is about. All problems and limitations should be identified, and you should inform your audience about the method use in research. This is the place where you will also write your background history. You will also need to write a definition of the terms used.
The body is where you discuss you findings in details. All the facts and evidence that you have collected should be analyzed and processed in a manner that tries to solve the problem or issue. It is usually better to divide your research into heading and sub-headings. The information is usually arranged with the most important first and then the least important points last. Remember, your points should be grouped using numbers or bullets as they are easy to follow and displays only relevant short points. You should always cite any work that is not yours. Give credit back to the original writer.
In this section you will be wrapping up everything. You will summarize some of your main points and your thoughts on this research paper. You aren’t to include anything new. Highlight what you consider as critical issues that require solving.
Depending on the nature of the report you might want to include you recommendations on this page or on its own. In this paragraph you should state what needs to be done in terms of urgency or importance.
References and bibliography
In this section you will cite all the work that you have used for your research, you will list them by author and in alphabetical order.
Pointers for an awesome report
- Use pronouns and people’s names (I, He, She)
- One idea per paragraph
- Be clear and precise
- Stick to the facts
- Use the active voice
- Use bullets and numbers