Creating a Report


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:

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

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


Illustrations need a different presentation of contents


Figure 1				Page 5

Figure 2				Page 7


The introduction, preface or foreword should state briefly:



The detailed argument should be arranged where similar discussions and findings come together in sections. One section should follow the next in some relevant logical order. Analysis follows on from description within each section.


The conclusions and recommendations can be combined. The conclusions should never introduce new material. They should not be a direct repeat of the summary. Whilst the summary summaries the report, the conclusions are part of the narrative to which the detailed argument leads and should be written as such. The conclusions lead on to the recommendations as well, although they are likely to be read directly after the summary. Clarity and being concise is therefore all important.


The appendices consist of extra and over-detailed information that would slow the reading of the detailed argument. This is the raw primary data, the redundant but back-up data, letters and other original matter. However, data can be put here which is consistently referred to throughout the text. In this case there should be appendices, where the heavily used data should be in its own numbered appendix, with other kinds of raw data in another appendix or appendices. . It is usually the primary data which readers can follow up or use to critically examine the detailed argument


The bibliography should contain all material used in support of data and analysis, and should be linked from the text. It is the secondary data which readers can follow up or use to critically examine the detailed argument.


To read more see:

Hilton, A. (1998), Report Writing, Leicester: De Montford University Library, Student Learning Development Centre.