Some academic assignments often ask students to write reports rather than essays. This may seem, as has been found to be the case, confusing to a lot of students.
Basically a report is a short, summarised document, written for a particular purpose or audience. It is used to analyse an idea, a situation, an item or a problem. It must be clear and well structured. The report requirements will vary in form and content and also between organisations, departments, courses, tutors, as well as between subjects, so you must be aware of the guidelines before you start.
Having this report writing skill in your arsenal is really helpful and can make you very valuable in any workplace.
- Decide the objectives and terms of reference
Take time, go over and analyse the purpose of the report. Make notes of what you need to describe, expantiate on, recommend or critique. Be sure to have a clear purpose from the onset, this makes sure that you stay focused. Many forms of reports include a section that clearly outlined the report’s “Terms of reference.” These terms include but are not limited to:
- What the report is about;
- Why it is necessary;
- When it was written;
- What its purpose is;
Making such clear outlines helps the reader and even the writer to have a clear understanding of why the report is important and the objectives it aims to accomplish. It is advisable that these terms of reference are introduced in the first paragraph so that the reader can visualize its relevance without having to read through the entire document. Setting concrete terms early on will help you create the report’s outline and keep your discussions on track throughout the writing process.
- Conduct your research
When writing your research you will need to gather lots of information that is relevant to your topic. If you are given the task of making an in-depth analysis of an issue, an event or a situation you will need to spend some time digging up and organizing information.
It is one thing to acquire data but it’s a different thing entirely to present it in a way that your readers will understand and that, perhaps, is the most important part of writing a report. You may have to represent data in the form of graphs, charts or timelines that make your information easier to understand. You will also need to clearly reference your sources and keep track of where and how you discovered your information in order to present it professionally.
- Structure your report
Like every other academic writing, a report needs a solid structure. So naturally the next thing to do would be to create your report’s outline. This comes in the form of a list of all the different sections in your write-up. Your report’s structure should look like this:
Table of contents
Terms of reference
Summary of procedure
Please be aware that the above structure is not a one size fits all layout and can be adjusted based on the type of report, the length, it’s formality and the area of specialization. But the most important thing to do when structuring your report is to make sure that all the necessary sections are present and also to get rid of anything that is not relevant to the report’s purpose. If you are having trouble with this, services are present to make sure writing your report is hassle-free.
- Draft the first part of your report
Once you have your structure down, begin to write down what you have gathered so far in their appropriate subsections. This will be an initial work and will help you have an idea of what your paper will look like. Make a draft of the terms of reference, procedure and findings, and begin to figure out how you will organise your findings and analysis.
- Analyze your data and draw conclusions
The conclusion is the part where you make a careful analysis of your findings and also break down and make elaborate explanations. Here you show what you have found, it’s significance or importance and what your findings suggest.
For example, your conclusion may also describe how the information you collected explains why a certain situation occurred, what this means for the people concerned, and what will happen if this situation changes, or doesn’t. And a rule of thumb is not to include any new information in the conclusion.
- Make recommendations
Keep in mind that you are writing a report and it will only be wise after examining data and analysis, to present ideas as to what actions should be taken in response to your findings. If you make a good presentation of your data and exhibit some professionalism while doing so, your audience is likely to see reason and trust your judgment.
- Do your edits and final touches
The final stage of writing a report is making sure that it is error proof thoroughly before dispatching it to your intended audience. You will need to check thoroughly for grammar mistakes, spelling errors and typos. You will also need to make sure that your represented data is viable, make sure your citations are correct and then go over the entire report to make sure it is well presented. For better effect you could ask someone else to read it aloud to you, proofread it and give you their thoughts on the content of the report.