A report may be used for various purposes. It can be for academics, businesses, technical, or other reasons. Now, whatever purpose it may serve, a report has one goal. It needs to deliver accurate and credible information to its target audience.
The report must be factual and unbiased, meaning that an author cannot give opinions regarding the topic. And since it is formal writing, the tone and word choice must also be formal. Furthermore, it is written for a specific audience, implying that the report was created specifically for them. A report is also well-structured; it contains numbers, headings, and subheadings that guide and inform the audience about the report’s flow. It also employs graphs, charts, and illustrations to help explain a point or piece of information. Lastly, it includes appendices that will assist the audience if they wish to conduct additional research on the subject.
Now that you have learned what a report is, it is also essential to learn how to write a report and its basics. Who knows when will you be asked to make one? So, it is better to learn how to write a report that will stand out from the rest. Continue reading and learn more about how to write a report.
I. Report Writing Basics
Planning is the first step in writing a report. As mentioned earlier, a report is intended for a specific audience. Thus, it is necessary to determine who they are, their interests, and their needs. It is better to identify them so the writer will be aware of the report’s purpose.
Consider these questions before writing your report:
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the report’s purpose?
- What information should the report contain?
After determining the basics of the report, which are the audience and the purpose, it is time to proceed with the following steps. Collect, sort, and evaluate the data needed for the report. After deciding which information should be included in the report, organize your thoughts using an outline. An outline will help you when you write your report. Remember, if you plan and prepare well for your report, you will find the task simple and easy.
A. Report Writing Format
After all the planning and preparation, you are ready to write your report.
There are available report formats or report writing templates online; however, here are some of the essential parts that your report should contain:
1. Executive summary
A summary is necessary for all writing. It summarizes the main points of a text. The summary must include the report’s purpose, analysis, results, and recommendations. A summary’s length depends on the full report’s length. It means that it can be written in one to two paragraphs, or it can also be written in several pages. It does not matter how long it is; what matters is its content and capability to provide an overview of the entire report.
A summary will be especially beneficial for people with a hectic schedule and who cannot find time to read a lengthy report. That is why it is essential to write a summary well since it will serve as a starting point.
Remember that even if a summary is found at the beginning of the report, the writers must craft it after accomplishing the entire report so that the writer can include all the necessary details.
2. Table of Contents
The table of contents is also found at the beginning of the report. It includes the report’s contents, which are listed chronologically, including the divisions. At times, the table contents also elaborate on who the audience is, who the author is, and what the report’s purpose is.
3. Definition of Terms
At times, even though the audience is already specified and their needs and expectations are considered, there will still be instances wherein they will be unfamiliar with words or terms. That is the purpose of this section, to provide meaning to the technical terms used in the report, though this is optional. It includes a list of the technical terminologies used in the report, with their meaning. Through this, the audience can better understand the report since there will be no unclear terms or concepts.
The introduction is the beginning of the report. It provides an overview of the topics to be discussed. Furthermore, it states the report’s importance, significance, and purpose. The scope and the limitations of the report are also mentioned.
The body of the report contains all the points to be discussed. It also states the problem, collected data, and the methods used. The body is usually thematically arranged. This structure will allow the readers to follow the logical flow of the report. In this part, graphs and charts may also be incorporated to help the audience better understand the information.
This section contains the interpretation and conclusions that may be drawn from the information presented in the body. This section also includes recommendations for further improvement or additional research.
This section lists all the references used for the report. It is just right to cite the sources of the ideas used in your report. In addition, the reference list will allow the readers to locate specific works and authors that they would want to look up.
The appendix part is also optional. This section may include tables, graphs, questionnaires, or surveys that provide the audience with supplemental knowledge.
Reports should be well-organized and easy to follow. To achieve this, following a structured format will keep your writing on track. A report’s presentation makes a lasting impression and makes the writer seem more credible and reliable.
II. How to Write a Report
After learning the essential parts of a report, you should also learn how to write a report. Here is a guide from the University of Leicester:
- Introduce the main idea of the chapter/section/paragraph
- Explain and expand the idea, defining any key terms.
- Present relevant evidence to support your point(s).
- Comment on each evidence showing how it relates to your point(s).
- Conclude your chapter/section/paragraph by either showing its significance to the report or making a link to the next chapter/section/paragraph.
A. Report Presentation
The report presentation should also be considered. It should be neat and readable. Some reports are lengthy and may be tedious to read; this is why presentation is important. It will also assist readers in following the flow of the report.
Here are some things to consider to make your report neat and presentable:
- Font: Using a readable font in your report is essential. It is also advisable to use just one font. Specifically, you can choose from Times New Roman or Arial. These fonts are the basic fonts that are suitable for formal reports.
- Lists: A list may come in numbers or bullets. Do not include chunks of information in your report. Aside from it is not readable, the audience may also be overwhelmed with the amount of information if it is presented in a block or chunk. Thus, it is necessary to break down the concepts into a list.
- Headings and Subheadings: Headings and subheadings signal that there will be a change in the topics being discussed in a report. These labels help the report to be organized thematically and guide the readers.
- Tables, Figures, Graphs, and Charts: Use tables, figures, graphs, and charts to explain further or synthesize information. Remember that a report jampacked with text may be dull and overwhelming for the readers; thus, it is essential to add figures to the report.
III. Five Tips for Making a Report According to Experts
Aarushi Singh wrote on Visme, “When you create a report, the goal is to document information in a compelling, engaging, and actionable way. You want to share your findings in a professional and well-thought-out manner that conveys the most important information in a short period.” Aside from the credible information you have presented in your report, it is also essential to think outside the box. Think like a reader and consider what they want to see in a report. And in this situation, the report’s design comes in. A report filled with pure text, giving information in blocks or big chunks, may overwhelm readers. Readers would still want to see visuals to help them absorb information more. Thus, there is a need to plan for the report’s design. Here are five tips for making a report, according to experts.
- Define the Layout and Flow – It is essential to define the layout and flow of your report. You have to determine what report writing format you will use to ensure the quality of your report. You may use ready-made formats, or you may reuse formats that you have created or used before. Firstly, consider your title and ensure it will stand out from the rest. You also must consider the elements, theme, and tag lines you will add to make your report distinct. You can also determine the parts of your report. Placing the information in defining the layout and flow will be easy.
Check this website: https://www.visme.co/templates/reports/. They offer free report templates that you may use for work or school. You may use the templates as a guide in your entire report.
- Keep It Simple – Instead of trying to impress, try communicating. A report is formal and does not aim to impress or entertain the readers. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Unless necessary, avoid going into excessive detail. Also, do not add any opinion; ensure all information is factual and comes from reliable sources. Lastly, ensure that every word is necessary and contributes to the report’s purpose.
About its design, it is also better to keep it simple. Use visual elements moderately not to overpower the text and the information you want to convey. Do not use too many elements, themes, fonts, and colors.
Remember: Keep your report simple but comprehensive. The content will still be more important.
- Proofread carefully – Always proofread your work. There will be instances wherein there will be minor lapses in the report; make sure to proofread it repeatedly until it is flawless and perfect. The report’s credibility will also increase because there are no errors in the text.
There are proofreading tools available online that can assist you in improving your word choice or identifying errors in your work. You may want to check www.grammarly.com
- Visualize Data – Aarushi Singh also said, “Photos, illustrations, or other design elements can add warmth and visual interest to your report. Choose visuals that are clear, uncluttered, and culturally appropriate visuals your intended audience.”
The elements are not merely for decoration. Their purpose is to support the information that is presented through texts. The visual elements will also bring convenience to the readers, especially if the data is overwhelming if put into text.
To know more about data visualization and its importance, check this page: What Is Data Visualization? Definition, Examples, And Learning Resources
- Maintain Style Continuity – A consistent and single design throughout the report avoids confusion. Be consistent in your font styles. As much as possible, stick to one or two font styles throughout the report. The styles may only differ for headings and subheadings. Also, be consistent in your design. Choose a pattern or a design that you will use for the entire report. You also have to be consistent in the colors that you will use. Be sure that they are pleasing to the eyes. Style consistency is essential since it helps the readers to understand the report better. It also builds the report’s identity through the use of consistent styles. The report may also consistently brand itself by using logos or the institution’s name. Remember: Consistency is the key!