First, it is essential to establish: What is a report, and what distinguishes it from other written pieces?
A report is a structure of writing that is commonly used in businesses and other organisations to explore a particular subject. It is different from an essay that you will have written at school or college, or an article that you would find in a newspaper or magazine, in that it has its own particular format.
The format is:
- a descriptive title
- begins with an introduction giving the reason or purpose of the report
- has a main body of text which discusses the relevant points.
This information is grouped into sections, each with its own heading, and finishes with a conclusion and/or some recommendations.
The title explains briefly what the report will cover. They contain facts such as:
- who is reporting
- what the subject of the report is
- when (if relevant) they are reporting.
The introduction to a report gives more detail on what the report covers. It might also say why the report is necessary, and who is the target reader. By reading the title and introduction, the reader should be able to anticipate what the report covers.
As a general rule, you start with the more important issues and sequence them in a logical order. You can then finish off with the more minor issues.
Writing the conclusion
Reports are often written for busy people who may not have the time to read (or need to read) all of the report. They may read the title and introduction and then turn straight to the conclusion and read little of the rest. So the conclusion to a report needs to:
- refer to the purpose of the report, which should be covered in the introduction
- state the main points which are made in the report
- be brief. It is often more difficult to write concisely than to write lengthier pieces.
The constraints of structure will actually help you to organise the information and should keep you strictly to the subject. Another point to remember is that you don’t need to be creative or witty in a report – just stick to the objective facts. You may need to use illustrations in your report writing such as bar charts, graphs etc. if this helps to illustrate the facts. Keep in mind that if your purpose is only to inform your readers; you should not put your own opinion into your report or add any persuasive elements.
Finally, ensure that your online sources are reliable. If you use the internet to find information about your topic, stick with information gathered by known experts in the field you are researching, government agency websites, and scholarly journals. Try to avoid forums and other publicly-edited sources that have no credible backing. Cite your sources of reference at the end of your report. If you are writing a report about a specific person, company or place, try to find their own website to inform your writing. You can learn more about writing from any of our writing courses.