Report writing is common in a number of disciplines. A report is a specific form of writing, written concisely and clearly and typically organised around identifying and examining issues, events, or findings from a research investigation.
Reports often involve investigating and analysing a problem and coming up with a solution. This means that you need to take a position or provide a solution and you need clear reasons for your solution.
A key, central message is a vital part of the report and will help to make it clear and persuasive.
A report might involve
- an analysis of existing data and literature
- conducting analysis and problem solving
- results of an investigation
Whatever the type of report, they are expected to be well written, clearly structured and expressed in a way that suits the particular audience. Results and analysis should be accurate, clear and objective. Report structures can vary between disciplines and audiences but the structure needs to support the key message.
Reports differ from essays in a number of ways. Consider the following:
|Convey specific information about an issue, event or project.||Show how you understood a question or topic & were able to draw on research to support your understanding.|
|Contains a key message, a concise description and analysis of research and results.||Develop an argument to support a particular thesis.|
|Contain conclusions and recommendations based on findings.||Draw a conclusion but recommendations are rare.|
Report writing process
It can be helpful to think of writing your report as a process and to break it down into the various tasks that you need to complete.
What goes on when you are writing a report? What are the various tasks you need to do to complete it?
There are three main phases:
The preparation phase where you analyse exactly what you are being asked to do and if you are working in a group, agree on the group communication plan.
The analysis phase where you gather all your evidence, conduct research, undertake investigations, complete coding, calculations etc
The analysis phase will enable you to come up with your key message - your answer to the question/solution to the problem. This key message will then determine the structure of your report and enable you to complete the writing phase of the report.
A note on group work
Reports are often written in groups, which present both rewards and challenges. The key to effective group work is effective communication and good planning. See our advice on group work for useful strategies to ensure a productive and fair group project.