A report is a distinctive format. it requires good design and a strong recognisable structure. this leads on to a certain, economical and clear method of writing, needing with short introductions and using relevant evidence to produce a strong summary and likely implicit or explicit recommendations. information sources for the report need collating first and writing up in the report last.
Reports exist to display specific information and analysis to particular clients so that they can facilitate decision making (based on its recommendations). Think of government reports. These people have very little time, so the report should be written so that the summaries come first! The readers go from short broad-scale summaries to the detailed argument (when they have more time).
The research and the writing should be planned ahead to fit the report. Obviously findings may go either way (usually the results are intelligently predicted) but the manner of their presentation should be known. This means getting relevant information, knowing what to make of it and how to analyse it, and putting this material and discussion into clear sentences. Sources or material are gathered and their references should be kept on an ongoing basis. The report is a single entity from start to finish, with a formal and functional presentation, that is well spaced and clear to follow and read and able to be read in different ways. It may take several drafts.
So the order is:
- illustrations list
- detailed argument
- conclusions/ recommendations
The content should be aimed at the readership, being at the correct “entry level” for the reader (level of existing knowledge). The illustrations should be necessary, self-explanatory, titled and referenced from the text.
Naturally, there is going to be repetition given the summary, detailed argument and conclusions, but there are different levels of presentation of each part.
The title should be neutral and economical. It should include also the writer’s name, the date and the report’s receiver.
The summary, written at the end but placed at the front, should be an abstract or precis that rapidly gives the aims, objectives, methods, the findings and conclusion/ recommendation, whilst allowing for the sections in front to cover these areas properly.
The contents page can be listed and tabbed in alpha-numeric or decimal. The summary is not part of the numbering.
Alpha-numeric is: Summary 1 1 Introduction 2 2 First chapter heading 3 a) Section heading 3 i) Sub-heading 3 ii) Sub-heading 5 b) Section heading 7 i) Sub-heading 7 ii) Sub-heading 9 3 Second chapter heading 11 etc Decimal is: Summary 1 1 Introduction 2 2 First chapter heading 3 2.1 Section heading 3 2.1.1) Sub-heading 3 2.1.2) Sub-heading 5 2.2 Section heading 7 2.2.1) Sub-heading 7 2.2.2) Sub-heading 9 3 Second chapter heading 11 etc
Illustrations need a different presentation of contents
Figure 1 Page 5 Figure 2 Page 7
The introduction, preface or foreword should state briefly:
- the predicament
- aim/s (general intentions) or hypothesis/es (to prove or disprove)
- objectives (specifics to be realised)
- definitions of terms
- methodologies (which may require justifiying)
- literature/ history
To read more see:
Hilton, A. (1998), Report Writing, Leicester: De Montford University Library, Student Learning Development Centre.