A Report is a form of academic writing which is distinct from an essay. The primary purpose of a Report is not to mount an argument but rather to define, relay and analyse information (though, a Report may express a particular point of view or make suggestions for action). A Report is a technically-minded and systematic document written with a specific objective and for a precise readership – sometimes one with specialist knowledge of the field in question.
Reports are most common in subjects like science, business and other technically oriented domains. As a result, Reports are generally written in line with a specific brief provided by the teacher. So, it is important to read the instructions carefully and follow them diligently. When doing the write-up, always keep the brief in mind.
Different disciplines have different compositional conventions, so there is no set template for a Report. Your department will prescribe its own requirements.
Usually, though, Reports are set out in a very methodical and logical way, made up numerous headings and subheadings which clearly telegraph and classify key points. The intention of this is to make the document easily navigable. A Report is there to convey information in the quickest way possible.
While the situation is somewhat different in university work, in the professional wold, Reports are composed so that the reader will be swiftly able to locate the information they need. In other words, generally speaking, Reports are not read in their entirety. Thus a Report is a practical document which emphasises indexing for ease of identifying relevant data.
With the above in mind, we can identify certain broad consistencies in Reports across the board.
You will usually have a title page and then a list of contents. As stated, Reports are much divided by headings and subheadings. These are normally numbered, then referenced in the contents section. This lets the reader quickly find what they are seeking.
Your Introduction will briefly outline the purpose of the Report, stating what it does, how and why. You do not need to include much detail here, as that is the purpose of the main body. However, you should make some mention of the conclusions, so that the reader understands where the document is going.
This is where you establish expectations for the reader. Having read the Introduction, they will have a destination in mind. Your Report now must fulfil those expectations and ensure that the reader arrives at their expected destination. Hence there really should not be any suspense or surprises in a Report. One should receive exactly what is expected.
This is where the substance is and your central point of focus. A precise and cogent structure needs to be the guiding principle in composition. Having broken your topic down into its most important components, you want to order these in a logical way that takes the reader through the issue or idea in a useful fashion.
For example, if you were writing a report on a laboratory experiment you would want to state what the experiment was trying to find out before presenting the results. Basically, make sure that the reader is equipped with all the information they need in order to understand the next section.
Whatever the topic you are discussing, there will certainly be some kind of chronology which logically suggests itself. This might be according to theme or areas of consideration or another category altogether. The objective is to afford the reader some direction that aids in understanding. One subheading should flow naturally into the next.
The conclusion suggests the significance of the information presented in the main body, looking at what it means for the broader issue, perhaps making some limited recommendations for future practice.
Where extensive recommendations are in order, one might opt to include a separate Recommendations section. This is not unusual in a Report – especially in fields (politics, medicine, business, et cetera) where, for a good deal of the time, action is geared toward change, solving a problem of some kind.
Ease of comprehension is the goal. You want to be using very precise language that leaves no room for misunderstanding. Ambiguity has no place in a Report. Every sentence needs to be as clear and to the point as possible, so that the text could be read very quickly without difficulty.
The kind of language used will depend upon the readership of course; but it is a good rule of thumb to steer clear of jargon, unless such is absolutely necessary. In such cases, explain the specialist term on first usage in parenthesis (that is, in brackets).
Usually, one is expected to write as if for an inexpert reader. For this reason, you will want to keep language use as simple as possible. The presumed reader is already in new territory with a novel subject matter. We do not need to add extra layers of difficulty with complex wording.
On some occasions your tutor will provide a brief stipulating a very specific reader, a political minister or shareholder or the like. On such occasions you can presume a degree of familiarity with the subject matter. All the same, you want to keep the text as clear and concise as you can. Do not but barriers to understanding in front of the reader.
This is a practical document, written very much with the reader in mind. So be sure to keep your readership in constant perspective, asking: what do they need to know; what is the best way to get this information across?
Seeing as Reports are all about quickly delivering key information, you need to establish early on what that information is. You need to prioritise the content according to necessity. Before beginning, make a list of headings and subheadings. This will serve as a rough outline for the final write up. Moreover, it will help you get a clearer idea of what is it you are trying to say, thus enabling you better to organise your thoughts.
It will certainly help to make copious notes. This will work as a filtration process, helping to identify what is most relevant. You should always be asking yourself what the core objective of the work is. Every piece of content you include should be an extra step toward achieving this objective.
Certain kinds of Reports may require references, particularly in the socio-political arena. For instance, if you were tasked with composing a Report on child poverty for a particular council borough, you would definitely need to include some kind of factual data. You might cite statistical information from a census perhaps, or allude to other research on the subject. Anything that requires additional evidential confirmation tends to demand a level of corroboration as well.
You need to tailor your references to the particular style advised by the tutor. Usually, though, Reports deal in footnotes. This helps keep from clogging up the main body of the text, allowing the reader quickly to locate a source if needed.
You should be very discriminating with the sources you use. They must be reputable and relevant. Do not include anything that is not absolutely vital to understanding the issue. This is not like in an essay, where one wants to prove a breadth of reading. We are, instead, seeking maximal efficiency of communication at all times.
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