How to Write a Report to Surprise Your Instructor
If you want to provide your readers with information on a particular topic in a concise and understandable manner, report writing is the perfect genre for you! Check out our guide and you’ll be able to compose a high-quality report on any subject.
How to Write a Report: Definition
It is rather difficult to define the term “report” as its structure, length, characteristics, and purpose depend on the report type. However, we have attempted to summarize the traits that are common for all types, and this is what we’ve got:
A report is a factual document written in a concise and self-explanatory manner that provides a specific audience with information about certain subjects, events, or occurrences in an understandable and clear way.
That doesn’t sound very specific, right? Don’t worry – we will tell you more about the research report later. Its characteristics differ a lot from progress, formal, and lab reports. Progress reports inform a supervisor or customer about the progress of the particular project over a certain period of time. Formal reports provide readers with detailed information and analyses which facilitate planning and decision making. Lab reports describe and analyze laboratory experiments. As you see, different types of reports have different purposes: information, control, analysis, motivation, decision making, etc.
In our guide on how to write a report, we will talk about a research (academic) report. Learn more about the report’s special traits, structure, and writing process! You are also welcome to use our helpful tips to make your report as professional as possible.
10 Characteristics of a Perfect Report
These traits are common for all report types, so you are welcome to use this list each time you write a report. Be attentive and you’ll create a brilliant piece of writing!
1. Systematic presentation
Any report requires a strict order of presentation. All facts should be presented systematically so readers can easily find the necessary information. A good report is not a proper place for a word salad or fancy meaningless phrases. Leave all literary devices for your creative writing!
2. Factual basis
Facts are everything for report writing. No suggestions, no theories, only bare facts! Of course, in the concluding section of your report, you may include some recommendations, but only in this section.
3. Formal writing style
No matter what kind of report you prepare – academic or business – you have to use a formal writing style. We hope that you remember all the requirements. Anyway, we’ll remind you of a few main rules:
- No contractions
- No jargon
- No metaphors
- No figurative meanings
- No texting-style words
- No first-person narration
- No redundancy
- No clichés
- No second person pronouns
- Although our list is short, it is useful for those who don’t want to read extremely long guidelines.
4. Comprehensive information
Imagine that your reader doesn’t know anything about the subject of your report. Of course, you don’t have to include well-known general facts. Put background information in your introductory section in order to make your report understandable for everyone. However, don’t turn your text into an encyclopedia.
5. Self-explanatory character
A perfect report is a complete piece of writing, as readers don’t have to use any additional sources to figure out any details about the topic. Consequently, the report is an appropriate genre for those who want to learn more about a particular subject as quickly as possible.
6. Written form
As a rule, you present reports in written form. You can also provide an oral presentation of the report’s summary along with prepared visual materials (slides, photos, diagrams, etc.).
7. Specific audience and purpose
As we’ve mentioned above, the purpose of reports may vary according to its type. However, you have to remember that you always write reports for a particular audience, so you’d take into account the level of awareness, qualifications, and interests.
8. Clear and understandable writing language
Avoid specific vocabulary and complex words when you draft a report. Readers shouldn’t be confused by your writing language. In contrast, they should get all necessary information from your report easily and effortlessly. Leave metaphors, figures of speech, and literary devices for your creative essays and poetry!
9. Logical structure
Having a logical structure is the key to mutual understanding between writer and reader. The audience should easily follow your thoughts and not get confused by your writing. Don’t switch topics and sections of your report without a proper connection. Put all parts of your report in a logical order.
Leave your emotions behind. A report is a factual document. You shouldn’t include your personal opinion in the text of the report. The only personal opinion that can become a part of your text is the opinion of the licensed invited expert who has helped you to do the report.
You have learned more about the report’s special traits. It is now the right moment to talk more about proper research report structure.
How to Format a Report: Proper Structure
A research report is a particular type of writing with a fixed structure. Of course, it may vary a bit, but the main parts remain the same.
Title and title page. We can’t promise that the title page is the easiest part of your report to write, but this is probably the truth. There is nothing difficult: you put the title, your name, affiliation, date, and the origin of your report (for example, if your report is a part of your capstone project, you’d mention that on the cover page). When you formulate your title, follow three simple rules: a title has to be short, concise, and include keywords. You may also include acknowledgments and a table of contents on the second and third pages of your report if necessary.
Abstract. Although an abstract or summary is an optional part of your report, we highly recommend you to include one in your text. An abstract reflects the content and main findings of your report in a brief manner. Readers should understand if they need to continue reading when they look through your abstract, so include essential keywords. This section is the shortest, as it doesn’t usually exceed the limit of 200-250 words. You put an abstract next to your cover page (if you don’t include acknowledgments or a table of contents), but it’s better to write an abstract last. In such a manner, it will accurately reflect all the crucial points of your report.
Introduction. The report introduction is an utterly important part of your report. It serves three main functions: provides readers with background information related to the topic, states the problem, and proves its significance. In a few words, you have to answer three questions: what, why, and how you are going to research. You should also mention how your report and previous studies on the subject are connected and why your work is important for the development of the chosen topic. If you don’t know how to write an introduction for a report in the proper way, don’t worry. Below, you’ll find a report example that will help you to learn more about the introduction and other parts of the report.
Literature review. This section provides readers with information about previous investigations related to your topic. A literature review has one more task: it affirms the credibility of your report. It shows that you’ve analyzed the works of other researchers and your report has a scientific basis. As a rule, in this section you refer to multiple sources, so don’t forget about the rules of proper citation. Usually, research reports have broader topics than research papers. If your subject has several aspects, examine and present the sources for each one.
Design of the study. In this part of your report, you describe what exactly you’ve done to prepare this work. This section consists of smaller subsections such as sources of data, methodology, procedures, tools, and instruments. You depict all aspects of the working process, so readers will be able to understand from where and how you received the data. The design of the study is the most laconic part of your report, as you don’t have to explain anything and simply present concrete numbers, facts, and statistics.
Analysis of data. In a previous section of the report, you told your readers how you received the information for your report. Now, it is time to show what you actually have. Describe briefly your findings, but don’t come up with any conclusions. You will conclude your report a bit later. In this section, you simply analyze all data related to your topic that you have gathered from various sources. Mention if the information has proven useful for your report, or if the analyzed source would be more appropriate for another kind of research.
Conclusion. Finally, it’s time to talk about how to conclude a report properly. You may divide your concluding section into two parts – results and discussion – or present your conclusions as a whole. Results are a summary of all your observations and findings. Try to present them in the most concise and clear way as possible. You may use charts, diagrams, tables, or any other methods to show the results of your work. In the discussion section, you interpret the achieved results. How do they correlate with the objectives of your research? Are they helpful for further investigations, and in which way? Don’t forget to add a few recommendations on how to use your report for other researchers.
How to Write a Report Step by Step
It doesn’t matter whether you write a report for primary school, high school, or university; the process will be pretty much the same. The easiest way to explain how to write a good report is to compose a step-by-step instruction. Follow our lead, and you will get a perfect report sample quickly!
Step 1: Choose a topic.
Sometimes, your instructor doesn’t specify a particular topic and just determines a certain field of study. In such a case, you should narrow the theme suggested by your professor. Although research reports deal with broader topics than research papers, you can’t write a report entitled “World Economy Issues” or “Child Development.” That’s a good (and banal) title for a book, not for a research report. Remember that you should be personally interested in the chosen topic. You don’t have to force yourself, but instead feel inspiration while writing the report!
Step 2: Find reliable sources.
Being a pioneer is an honorable but challenging task, especially for a student who doesn’t have enough experience in the world of science. You have to find many reliable sources for your report in order not to start from scratch. Maybe you will find out that the chosen topic is not acute or developed enough. However, it’s better to discover this sad nuance before you start the writing process.
Step 3: Compose a work plan.
A research report is not an assignment that you can compose in a few hours. You will need more time; just face it. Plan the whole working process and try not to get distracted too much on Twitter or Facebook. Take into account that you have to gather and analyze data, then write, proofread, and edit your report. All these steps require time and energy.
Step 4: Provide research.
Analyze all available websites, books, scientific articles, and journals related to your topic. Choose only trustworthy sources: online encyclopedias, educational and governmental websites, reputable journals, records of scientific conferences, etc. Avoid personal blogs, commercial websites, Wikipedia articles, and glossy magazines. Remember that if your report is based on unreliable sources, nobody will take it seriously.
Step 5: Make an outline.
Tons of information gets combined in your mind. Now, it is time to give it a written form. Compose a list, make notes, or draw a pyramid – do whatever you prefer to keep all the details of your findings together. Write down keywords and phrases, draw little arrows, and highlight crucial points with color. Organized material is much easier to use for report writing than a chaotic word salad.
Step 6: Write the first draft.
As you’ve already analyzed the necessary sources, to start with a literature review would be a logical step, right? You can regulate the writing process the way you want. Anyway, we highly recommend you to write your report in the best possible way from the very beginning. In such a manner, you won’t have to edit it many times before bringing it to perfection. On the other hand, don’t try to compose it perfectly on the first try, as you will waste much time.
Step 7: Structure your report.
We’ve already told you about having a proper structure for your report above. Just do it! Put together a puzzle of your ideas and findings. Don’t forget about all sections that are crucial for any research report – the design of the study and analysis of data.
Step 8: Write an introduction.
At first sight, it doesn’t make sense. Why should you write the introduction second to last if you put it at the beginning of your report? The answer is simple: it is much easier to write it afterward than to compose the report according to the introductory section. You can never tell where the research process will lead you. Your introduction should perfectly reflect your whole report, so leave it for last.
Step 9: Write an abstract.
That’s the final part of the writing process. As we’ve mentioned above, an abstract is an optional part of the research report. Anyway, don’t neglect the opportunity to present your report in a brief manner for the comfort of your readers. It’s much easier to decide whether you want to continue reading if you can get an overall impression from a short and clear abstract.
Step 10: Proofread and edit your report.
Proofreading and editing is not the most interesting part of your work, but they require a high level of concentration and accuracy, so you’d better have some rest before looking for grammar mistakes and misspelled names. Plus, you’d probably reread your report two or three times in order to bring it to perfection. You may even show your work to one of your classmates to get feedback before submitting your assignment.
Now, you have a good and simple instruction about report writing. Don’t hesitate to take a closer look at helpful tips that we’ve prepared for our readers!
How to Prepare a Report: Helpful Tips
We’ve already told you a lot about how to write a report. Now, we’ll share with you some secrets that will help you bring your report to perfection and make it more informative and useful to your audience.
- Keep the balance
As a rule, there is no specified word limit for research reports, so you have to control the length of your writing by yourself. Keep the balance between informativeness and shortness. Although your report should inform about all aspects of the topic and have a self-explanatory character, you should avoid unnecessary details that are not related to your subject. Readers should have the opportunity to learn more about the subject of your report and not get overloaded with useless data at the same time.
- Focus on purpose
Every research report has a particular goal, or a few goals. Keep it in mind while drafting your report. Stay on the topic, and don’t turn your report into an encyclopedic article. Your report doesn’t have to be exciting or intriguing. In the first place, it should be useful! Everything else is minor.
- Take care of appearance
A research report is not a design project. Do not use too many fonts and colors, and stick to one formatting style. Visual materials will add attractiveness to your text and will make it more understandable. One diagram can replace a hundred words.
- Cut unnecessary information
As a rule, there is no specified word count for research reports, so you have no excuse to overload your text with extra details. Sure, you shouldn’t do that in any type of writing, but all of us break rules from time to time.
- Remain unbiased
Facts and numbers are your only tools when it comes to report writing. Put aside your imagination, creativity, and emotions! Imagine for an instant that you’ve become a robot, and that would be a perfect condition to start your work. Objectivity and accuracy are crucial for a good report.
- Use headings and subheadings
Readability and proper structure will make your report more attractive to readers. Moreover, with help of headings and subheadings, they will easily find all necessary information as quickly as possible.
- Avoid rhetorical questions
A good research report should answer questions, not pose them. Rhetorical questions are appropriate for essays when you try to apply to readers’ emotions. When you write a report, focus on your readers’ minds, which need information and reliable data. The only questions you should include in your text are research questions. Of course, they are not rhetorical; you have to find the answers by yourself while providing research.
These tips will help you a lot, but what can be better than a good example? Our well-educated writers have prepared a report sample with informative comments. You are welcome to use it as a template for your own research report.
How to Write a Report: Writing Example Analyzed
Below, we have placed a report sample provided by one of our experienced authors. We can assure you that they know exactly how to write a report template and get an ‘A.’ Don’t hesitate to use this example to do a report for your personal use. You can borrow a few general ideas and learn more about proper report structure and writing style. Please, don’t copy this text in order to avoid plagiarism.
Click the images to see their full size.
We hope that now you’ve learned how to start a report and how to complete it in an appropriate manner. You are always welcome at our website when you need some help with academic, creative, or business writing. Check out our other guides and samples to become a guru in the world of writing!