A report is a written account that provides information about a particular event, topic, or issue. The purpose of a report is to give people who are not familiar with the subject a comprehensive overview of what they need to know.
While reading a report can be a helpful way to learn about a new topic, creating a report can be a challenging task. In this article, we will provide some tips and guidance on how to write a successful report
Define a report?
A report is a written or spoken account of information related to a particular topic. While the term can technically refer to any type of account, it is typically used to describe official documents that present the facts about a subject.
Reports are often written by experts on the topic or by individuals who have been assigned to investigate it. There are different types of reports, which we will discuss further in the following section.
Reports typically include the following types of information:
~ Detailed descriptions of an event or situation
~ The impact or ongoing effects of an event or situation
~ Analysis of statistical data or analytics
~ Interpretations of the information presented in the report
~ Predictions or recommendations based on the information
~ Connections between the information in the report and other events or reports.
Reports are similar to college essays in that they both present factual information, but there are some key differences between the two. Reports do not typically include the personal opinions or arguments of the author, although they may include some interpretation of the facts in the conclusion.
In contrast, essays often include the personal opinions and arguments of the author. Reports are also highly organized, with tables of contents and numerous headings and subheadings, making it easier for readers to find specific information. Essays, on the other hand, are meant to be read from beginning to end rather than being searched for specific insights.
Types of reports
There are various types of reports, depending on the purpose of the report and the intended audience. These include:
Academic reports: These assess a student’s understanding of a subject, such as book reports, reports on historical events, and biographies.
Business reports: These provide information that is relevant to business strategy, such as marketing reports, internal memos, SWOT analyses, and feasibility reports.
Scientific reports: These present research findings, such as research papers and case studies, which are typically published in scientific journals.
Reports can be classified based on various aspects of their writing style, such as formality, length, and intended audience. For example, in a business setting, a vertical report is intended for people at different levels of the organizational hierarchy, while a lateral report is for people on the same level but in different departments.
There are many types of reports, but in this guide, we will focus on academic reports, which are typically formal and informational.
What is the structure of a report?
The structure of a report varies depending on the type of report and the specific requirements of the assignment. Most reports follow this general template:
Executive summary: This is a standalone section that provides a summary of the key findings in the report, similar to an abstract in an academic paper. This is often included in official reports, but less so in school reports.
Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for the rest of the report, explaining the overall topic and providing any necessary background information. It may also include the thesis statement.
Body: The body of the report presents the main findings of the report, organized into headings and subheadings. This section makes up the majority of the report.
Conclusion: The conclusion brings together all the information in the report and presents a final interpretation or judgment. This is often where the author includes their own personal opinions or inferences.
If you know how to write a research paper, then you will recognize that report writing follows a similar structure, which includes an introduction, main body, and conclusion, and may also include an executive summary. In addition to these components, reports often require additional elements, such as a title page and a table of contents, which will be explained in the following section.
What should be included in a report?
There are no strict guidelines for what must be included in a report. Different organizations and individuals may have their own preferred formats based on their specific needs. However, some elements are commonly found in reports, such as a title page, table of contents, page numbering, headings and subheadings, citations, and a works cited page.
Title page: A title page is often used in official reports to keep the document organized and make it easier to locate specific reports when reading multiple documents.
Table of contents: Like in books, a table of contents in a report allows readers to quickly find the section they are interested in.
Page numbering: In longer reports, page numbering is a common practice to ensure that the pages are in the correct order and to help locate specific pages.
Headings and subheadings: Reports are often divided into sections using headings and subheadings to make the document easier to browse and scan.
Citations: When citing information from other sources in a report, the citation guidelines provide the recommended format for crediting these sources.
Works cited page: A works cited page, also known as a bibliography, lists the legal information and credits for the sources used in the report.
It is important to check the specific guidelines for each element listed in the assignment. The readers of the report will usually specify the style guides or formatting requirements for the document.
Here are the 7 steps to follow to write a report:
1. Selecting a topic for your report
Before you start writing, you need to choose a topic for your report. This may be assigned to you, as is often the case with business reports, or may be determined by the nature of your work, such as in scientific reports. If the topic has already been chosen for you, you can skip this step.
However, if you have the freedom to choose your own topic, as is often the case in academic reports, it is important to choose a topic that meets the following criteria:
There’s adequate information: When selecting a topic for your report, aim for a balance between having enough information to fill the report without adding unnecessary filler material and not having so much information that you cannot cover everything thoroughly.
It’s something you’re interested in: It can also be helpful to choose a topic that you are personally interested in, as this can enhance the quality of the report. However, it is not strictly necessary to be interested in the topic.
Be sure to consider the guidelines and instructions of the assignment, including the required length, when selecting a topic for your report.
2. Conducting research for your report
In business and scientific reports, the research is often your own or provided by the company, although you may still need to find additional external sources. For academic papers, you are typically responsible for conducting your own research, unless you are required to use specific class materials. This is why it is important to choose a topic that has enough available research.
When conducting research, it is important to use reputable sources, such as official documents, other reports, research papers, case studies, and books from respected authors. You can also find a lot of information online through search engines, or by visiting a library. It is also acceptable to use research that has been cited in other similar reports.
3. Developing a thesis statement
To help you conceptualize the main theme of your report, you should write a thesis statement. Similar to the topic sentence of a paragraph, the thesis statement summarizes the main point of your report. After you have collected enough research, you may notice trends and patterns in the information. If these patterns all lead to a larger, overarching point, that point can be your thesis statement.
For example, if you are writing a report on the wages of fast-food employees, your thesis might be something like, “Despite being initially adequate to cover living expenses, wages for fast-food employees have become inadequate due to stagnation.” The rest of your report will then elaborate on this thesis with evidence and supporting arguments. It is usually a good idea to include your thesis statement in both the executive summary and introduction of your report. However, you should also determine your thesis statement early in the writing process so that you know which direction to go when creating your outline.
4. Creating an outline for your report
It is generally recommended to create an outline for all types of writing, but it is especially helpful for reports that need to be organized in a specific way. As reports often use headings and subheadings to divide the document into sections, a clear outline can help you stay on track and ensure that you do not forget any important information.
You should begin thinking about your outline during the research phase, when you start to notice patterns and trends in the information you have gathered. If you are having trouble creating an outline, try making a list of all the key points, details, and evidence you want to include in the report. Then, try organizing these items into broader categories, which can become headings, and more specific categories, which can become subheadings.
5. Writing a rough draft
The process of writing the rough draft, or first draft, of your report is often the most time-consuming step. During this stage, you will take the information from your research and put it into words. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, you can follow your outline step by step to ensure that you do not accidentally leave out any important information.
It is important to remember that the rough draft is not expected to be perfect. Trying to achieve perfection in the first draft can add unnecessary pressure. Instead, focus on writing in a natural and relaxed way and worry about the specific details, such as word choice and correcting mistakes, during the later stages of the writing process.
6. Revising and editing your report
After you have completed the rough draft of your report, it is time to go back and address any mistakes that you may have ignored while writing. (It can be helpful to take a break or sleep on the draft before starting this process to ensure that you are fresh and well-rested when editing.)
We recommend first reviewing the report for any major issues, such as cutting or rearranging entire sentences and paragraphs. You may also find that some of your data does not align or that you have misinterpreted a key piece of evidence. This is the time to make any necessary changes to the “big picture” of the report and rewrite any longer sections as needed.
If you are unsure of what to look for when editing your report, you can refer to our previous guide for more advanced self-editing tips.
7. Proofreading and checking for mistakes
Finally, it is a good idea to review your report one last time to optimize your wording and check for any grammatical or spelling errors. In the previous step, you checked for “big picture” mistakes, but now you should look for specific, even minor issues.
A writing assistant tool or editing and proofreading services can help you identify and fix these mistakes. The free version of highlights spelling and grammatical errors and provides suggestions for improvement as you write. The Premium version offers additional features, such as recommendations for adjusting tone and word choice to enhance your writing.