How To Write Report Format Assignment

Use your concept map or plan

Write your assignment using your map or plan to guide you.  As you write, you may well get new ideas or think about ideas in slightly different ways.  This is fine, but check back to your map or plan to evaluate whether that idea fits well into the plan or the paragraph that you are writing at the time. Consider:  In which paragraph does it best fit?  How does it link to the ideas you have already discussed?

Paragraph planning

For every paragraph, think about the main idea that you want to communicate in that paragraph and write a clear topic sentence which tells the reader what you are going to talk about. A main idea is more than a piece of content that you found while you were researching, it is often a point that you want to make about the information that you are discussing.  Consider how you are going to discuss that idea (what is the paragraph plan). For example, are you: listing a number of ideas, comparing and contrasting the views of different authors, describing problems and solutions, or describing causes and effects?

Use linking words throughout the paragraph. For example:

  • List paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally, and so on.
  • Cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated, and so on.
  • Compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, in a similar way, conversely, alternatively, and so on.
  • Problem solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by, and so on.

Note:
Some paragraphs can include two plans, for example a list of problems and solutions.  While this is fine, it is often clearer to include one plan per paragraph.  

Linking paragraphs:

Look at your plan or map and decide on the key concepts that link the different sections of your work.  Is there an idea that keeps recurring in different sections?  This could be a theme that you can use to link ideas between paragraphs.  Try using linking words (outlined above) to signal to your reader whether you are talking about similar ideas, whether you are comparing and contrasting, and so on.  The direction that your thinking is taking in the essay should be very clear to your reader.  Linking words will help you to make this direction obvious.

Different parts of the essay:

While different types of essays have different requirements for different parts of the essay, it is probably worth thinking about some general principles for writing introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions.  Always check the type of assignment that you are being asked to produce and consider what would be the most appropriate way to structure that type of writing. 

Remember that in most (not all) writing tasks, especially short tasks (1,000 to 2,000 words), you will not write headings such as introduction and conclusion.  Never use the heading ‘body’.

Writing an introduction:

Introductions need to provide general information about the topic. Typically they include:

  • Background, context or a general orientation to the topic so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing.
  • An outline of issues that will and will not be discussed in the essay (this does not have to be a detailed list of the ideas that you will discuss).  An outline should be a general overview of the areas that you will explore.
  • A thesis or main idea which is your response to the question.  

Here is an example of an introduction:

It is often a good idea to use some of the words from the question in the introduction to indicate that you are on track with the topic.  Do not simply recount the question word for word. 

Writing the body:

  • Each paragraph should make a point which should be linked to your outline and thesis statement.
  • The most important consideration in the body paragraphs is the argument that you want to develop in response to the topic. This argument is developed by making and linking points in and between paragraphs.

Try structuring paragraphs like this:

  • Topic sentence: open the paragraph by making a point 
  • Supporting sentences: support the point with references and research
  • Conclusive sentence: close the paragraph by linking back to the point you made to open the paragraph and linking this to your thesis statement.

Here is an example of a body paragraph from the essay about education and globalisation:

As you write the body, make sure that you have strong links between the main ideas in each of the paragraphs.

Writing the conclusion:

This is usually structured as follows:

  • Describe in general terms the most important points made or the most important linkage of ideas
  • Do not include new information, therefore it does not usually contain references
  • End with a comment, a resolution, or a suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research on the topic.

Here is an example conclusion from the essay on education:

'When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.'

Janine di Giovanni

Report writing is an essential skill in many disciplines. Master it now at university and writing reports in the workplace will be easier. A report aims to inform and sometimes to persuade. They should be written as clearly and succinctly as possible, with evidence about a topic, problem or situation.

Here are some general guidelines, but check with your lecturer for more detailed information about what is expected.

What is a report?

Differences between a report and an essay

A report is similar to an essay in that both need:

  • to be written in a formal style
  • an introduction, body and conclusion
  • analytical thinking
  • extensive researching for information and evidence to support a conclusion
  • careful proofreading and neat presentation.

A report is different to an essay in that a report:

  • is a presentation of facts and information, rather than a discussion of various opinions
  • is often written for a very specific audience (e.g. an organisation that has commissioned a report)
  • is structured so that it may be scanned quickly by the reader
  • uses numbered headings and subheadings (e.g. 2.1 Executive summary)
  • uses short, concise paragraphs and dot points, where applicable
  • uses graphics wherever possible (tables, graphs, illustrations)
  • may need an abstract (sometimes called an executive summary)
  • makes recommendations
  • does not always need references and a bibliography
  • often has appendices.

How to write a report

Types of reports for university

For all reports you have to ensure that the conclusions that you draw are supported by the evidence that you find. At university you will mostly be writing business, experimental / laboratory or technical reports.

Business report

A business report aims to:

  • examine how an organisation can achieve an objective
  • highlight a problem and suggest a solution.
  • offer information, interpretation (e.g. product surveys), analysis and recommendations

Experimental/Laboratory report

An experimental report aims to report on:

  • an experiment or research
  • what was achieved during the course of the experiment
  • what was concluded and how this compares with previous published results.

Technical design report

A technical design report aims to:

  • solve a problem
  • recommend a design.

Typical format of a report

Letter or memorandum

Provided to the person or group who commissioned the report, stating the purpose of the report, brief summary and/or recommendations, and acknowledging others who have contributed.

Title page


Clearly describes what the report is about.

Abstract or Executive summary

Approximately 200 words. States the problem, how it was investigated, what was found, and what the findings mean.

Table of contents

A list of the major and minor sections of the report.

Introduction

Sets the scene and gives some background information about the topic. States the aim/purpose of the investigation and outlines of the sections in the body of the report.

Main body

Organised into sections: what was investigated, how it was investigated it, what was found (evidence), and interpretations.

Conclusion

Summary, what the report achieved – did it meet its aims, the significance of the findings and a discussion and interpretation of the findings.

Recommendations

What is recommended as a course of action following the conclusion?

References

A list of all the sources you used.

Appendices

Any information (graphs, charts, tables or other data) referred to in your report but not included in the body.

Layout of the report

Lay out the report for easy reading and comprehension. Many managers will only read the recommendations, but will dip into the report for the details, which they want to find quickly and easily.
Use this checklist:

  • use white space to de-clutter the page/s
  • ensure the separate parts of your report stand out clearly
  • use short informative headings and subheadings
  • allow generous spacing between the elements of your report
  • use dot points/ numbers/ letters to articulate these elements
  • use tables and figures (graphs, illustrations, maps etc) for clarification
  • number each page
  • use consistent and appropriate formatting
  • use formal language
  • proofread to ensure accuracy

Further resources

Plan to write your report

Ask some questions first:

  • Who has requested the report?
  • Why have they asked for a report?
  • What do they need to know?
  • How will the report be used?
  • Who is/are my audience or audiences? (e.g. clients, lecturers, assessors, managers etc.)

Analyse your task

Analysing your task is very important. Here are some questions to explore:

  • What type of report needed? (e.g. experimental report, technical design proposal, business report.)
  • How long does your report need to be?
  • What is required in the report?
  • What is the problem/question to be solved?
  • What is the aim of the report?
  • What key points or issues need to be addressed?
  • What information do you need to collect?

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