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Writing reports

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What is a report?

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Reports can be academic, technical or business related, and feature recommendations for specific actions. Reports are written to present facts about a situation, project or process and will define and analyze the issue at hand.

Reports relay observations to a specific audience in a clear and concise style. First, you should take some time to prepare and plan for your report. Before you start writing, identify the audience. Your report should be written and tailored to the readers' needs and expectations.

When planning, ask yourself several questions to better understand the goal of the report. Some questions to consider include:. Once you identify the basics of your report, you can begin to collect supporting information, then sort and evaluate that information. The next step is to organize your information and begin putting it together in an outline. With proper planning, it will be easier to write your report and stay organized. To keep your report organized and easy to understand, there is a certain format to follow.

The main sections of a standard report are:. This report writing format will make it easier for the reader to find what he is looking for. Remember to write all the sections in plain English, except the body, which can be as technical as you need it to be.

Also remember that the information needs to be organized logically with the most important points coming first. You will want to present your report in a simple and concise style that is easy to read and navigate.

Readers want to be able to look through a report and get to the information they need as quickly as possible. The results Appendix 3 suggest the change is well received by the majority of employees.

Your bibliography should list, in alphabetical order by author, all published sources referred to in your report. There are different styles of using references and bibliographies. Texts which you consulted but did not refer to directly could be grouped under a separate heading such as 'Background Reading' and listed in alphabetical order using the same format as in your bibliography. Where appropriate you may wish to acknowledge the assistance of particular organisations or individuals who provided information, advice or help.

It is useful to provide an alphabetical list of technical terms with a brief, clear description of each term. You can also include in this section explanations of the acronyms, abbreviations or standard units used in your report. All reports need to be clear, concise and well structured. The key to writing an effective report is to allocate time for planning and preparation.

With careful planning, the writing of a report will be made much easier. The essential stages of successful report writing are described below. Consider how long each stage is likely to take and divide the time before the deadline between the different stages. Be sure to leave time for final proof reading and checking.

This first stage is the most important. You need to be confident that you understand the purpose of your report as described in your report brief or instructions. Consider who the report is for and why it is being written. Check that you understand all the instructions or requirements, and ask your tutor if anything is unclear. Once you are clear about the purpose of your report, you need to begin to gather relevant information. Your information may come from a variety of sources, but how much information you will need will depend on how much detail is required in the report.

You may want to begin by reading relevant literature to widen your understanding of the topic or issue before you go on to look at other forms of information such as questionnaires, surveys etc. As you read and gather information you need to assess its relevance to your report and select accordingly. Keep referring to your report brief to help you decide what is relevant information.

Once you have gathered information you need to decide what will be included and in what sequence it should be presented. Begin by grouping together points that are related. These may form sections or chapters. Remember to keep referring to the report brief and be prepared to cut any information that is not directly relevant to the report. Choose an order for your material that is logical and easy to follow. Before you begin to write your first draft of the report, take time to consider and make notes on the points you will make using the facts and evidence you have gathered.

What conclusions can be drawn from the material? What are the limitations or flaws in the evidence? Do certain pieces of evidence conflict with one another?

It is not enough to simply present the information you have gathered; you must relate it to the problem or issue described in the report brief. Having organised your material into appropriate sections and headings you can begin to write the first draft of your report. You may find it easier to write the summary and contents page at the end when you know exactly what will be included.

Aim for a writing style that is direct and precise. Avoid waffle and make your points clearly and concisely. Chapters, sections and even individual paragraphs should be written with a clear structure. The structure described below can be adapted and applied to chapters, sections and even paragraphs. Ideally, you should leave time to take a break before you review your first draft.

Be prepared to rearrange or rewrite sections in the light of your review. Try to read the draft from the perspective of the reader.

Is it easy to follow with a clear structure that makes sense? Are the points concisely but clearly explained and supported by relevant evidence? Writing on a word processor makes it easier to rewrite and rearrange sections or paragraphs in your first draft.

If you write your first draft by hand, try writing each section on a separate piece of paper to make redrafting easier. Once you are satisfied with the content and structure of your redrafted report, you can turn your attention to the presentation. Check that you have adhered to the instructions in your report brief regarding format and presentation. Check for consistency in numbering of chapters, sections and appendices.

Make sure that all your sources are acknowledged and correctly referenced. You will need to proof read your report for errors of spelling or grammar. If time allows, proof read more than once. Errors in presentation or expression create a poor impression and can make the report difficult to read.

Any feedback from tutors on returned work can be used to create a checklist of key points to consider for your next report. Identify priority areas for attention and seek out further information and advice.

Speak to your tutor or an adviser from the Learning Development. Used in this way, feedback from tutors can provide a useful tool for developing and improving your writing skills.

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Some academic assignments ask for a ‘report’, rather than an essay, and students are often confused about what that really means. Likewise, in business, confronted with a request for a ‘report’ to a senior manager, many people struggle to know what to write. Confusion often arises about the.

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Writing reports A report is written for a clear purpose and to a particular audience. An effective report presents and analyses facts and evidence The structure of a report. The main features of a report are described below to provide Writing the report: the essential stages. All reports need to be clear.

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Learn how to write a well-constructed business report. In this course, author and senior Kelley School of Business lecturer Judy Steiner-Williams outlines the different types of business reports. Report writing requires formal writing skills to get done right. Here are some primers and PDF guidelines for all kinds of report writing for school and work.