A report is a systematic, well organised document which defines and analyses a subject or problem, and which may include:
the record of a sequence of events
interpretation of the significance of these events or facts
evaluation of the facts or results of research presented
discussion of the outcomes of a decision or course of action
Reports must always be:
Various courses require you to write reports (as opposed to essays), notably business and scientific or technical subjects. There are, however, different interpretations of what a report should look like, so it is important that you check with your course tutors and course documentation as to the report format and content expected. In addition, there is at times some blurring between what “essays”, “reports” and “assignments” are, so again check within your department. Much of the advice given in Guide 1.01, How to write an essay, also applies to reports.
Always analyse your brief carefully, making sure that you fully understand the topic, question or case, that you know what the purpose of the report is, and who it is being written for. The clearer these things are in your mind, the easier the report will be to write and the more effective it will be.
When you are researching, planning and eventually writing, continually ask yourself what the main purpose of the report is, what your objective is in writing it: is it to inform; to argue; to persuade; to evaluate? What does your reader want to see in the report and what will they do with it?
Planning and research
You first need to decide your basic framework. With your main topic or question as a central focus, jot down your initial thoughts and start to group these together. You may find the Mind Mapping technique useful: see Guide 2.11. Start to divide key ideas from subsidiary information, and continually ask yourself if everything is...