If you are asked to write a report, the process differs to producing an essay so it’s important to understand the distinction. It is still a formulaic approach – especially if you want to achieve top marks.
Step 1: What are your ‘Terms of reference’?
Read your instructions and other information on the report.
Consider the following questions:
What is the point of the report?
What is it about?
What is required, and why?
Who will be reading the report, and what will it do for them?
Step 2: Decide on the procedure
Decide how you will investigate or research the topic, and how you’ll write your report. Ask these questions:
What information do I need to write the report?
What background reading should I do?
What texts do I need?
Do I need to interview anyone?
Should I record data?
How should I approach this?
Step 3: Find relevant information
This could involve reading texts, observing people, or interviewing them.
All information should be both relevant and appropriate. Use this information for the body of your report.
Step 4: Decide on the structure
Most reports will follow a similar structure, with small variations according to the type of report you are compiling. Consider:
The type of report. Is it a research report, lab, or for a business audience?
Does it need to be formal?
The length of the report.
Some typical contents in a report:
Terms of reference.
Each sections of a report should contain numbered headings and subheadings.
Step 5: First draft
Take the headings and use the information you have collected so far to provide the substance of the report. Draft the terms of reference, procedure and findings, and decide what belongs in the appendix.
This should comprise the result of the reading, observations, interviews and investigations you have done, which form the basis of your report. Photos, tables or graphs can also be used to illustrate your points and make your report more readable.
Appendices are used to provide information that is too long to add to the body of the report, or provides additional information.
Step 6: Analysis and conclusions
Use the conclusion to analyse your findings and draw conclusions from them. Ask yourself:
What have I discovered from my reading?
What stands out from my findings?
What conclusions can I draw from my findings?
Your findings may suggest an explanation for a situation, or provide suggestions as to how to proceed in the future. Do not use the conclusion to add new information; it is a place to summarise your findings and make suggestions.
Step 7: Make recommendations
Read through your findings and conclusions.
What should the report suggest to its audience? What should they do next?
Are your recommendations logical, sensible and practical?
Write your recommendations in the form of a numbered list.
Give sufficient ideas for the reader to follow.
Step 8: Draft the executive summary and table of contents
Although the executive summary and list of contents belong near the beginning of the report, you will need to complete the report first, with your structure and recommendations finished. It should explain what the report is about, and give a summary of the recommendations. Keep it to a maximum of 100 words.
Step 9: Create a reference list
This should give a list of your sources referred to in the report. Use APA referencing.
Step 10: Revise the draft
Check the following:
Have you followed instructions?
Are all sections included in the correct order?
Is your information accurate?
Is your argument logical? Have you provided the correct information to support your conclusions and recommendations?
Are all terms and abbreviations explained?
Are diagrams, tables, and illustrations correctly labelled?
Is formatting correct and consistent?
Is the report clear and well-written?
After you have gone through this whole process, don’t forget to edit and proofread it. It is best if this is done a day or two after you wrote it, if your deadline allows. Proofread it carefully. Remember spell checkers don’t pick up every possible error. Look for words that are commonly mis-spelt or mis-used (their, they’re, there for example) and check syntax. Break down sentences that are too long. Make sure it is well formatted with sub headers and paragraphs.
Now submit and get the top marks you deserve for your effort.