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Writing a report
Transcript of Writing a report
•Make clear exactly what your subject is.
•Do not overlook some essential element of your subject.
•Do not over develop some parts of the analysis at the expense of others that are equally or more important. Report structure
Unlike essays, reports are written in sections with headings and sub-headings, which are usually numbered. Below are the possible components of a report, in the order in which they would appear. Check within your department which of these you should include. Title page (always included)
This should normally include the title, your name and the name of the tutor to whom it is being submitted, date of submission, your course/department, and if applicable, the name of the person and/or organization who has commissioned the report.
Avoid “fancy” fonts and effects and don’t include any clipart. Contents page (always included in reports of 4+ pages)
A clear, well-formatted list of all the sections and sub-sections of the report. Don’t forget to put the page numbers! If applicable, there should be a separate list of tables, figures, illustrations and/or appendices after the main index.
Make sure that the headings in this list correspond exactly with those in your main body. It is best to do your list of contents right at the end. Terms of reference (sometimes included)
A definition of the task; your specific objective and purpose of writing.
Even if you don't include this as a heading, it is a vital process to go through in your planning.
What exactly is your report going to be about?
If it is group work, who exactly is responsible for what? Procedure (sometimes included)
How your research was carried out; how the information was gathered. Materials and methods (included if applicable)
Similar to procedure, but more appropriate to scientific or engineering report writing. The following advice comes from Robert Barra’s' book Scientists Must Write (Chapman & Hall, 1978:135-136):
1 List the equipment used and draws anything that requires description (unless this is very simple).
A list of people and organizations both within and outside Birmingham City University who have helped you. Acknowledgements (usually just in long reports) 2 State the conditions of the experiment and the procedure, with any precautions necessary to ensure accuracy and safety. However, when several experiments are reported, some details may fit better in the appropriate parts of the Results section.
3 Write the stages in any new procedure in the right order and describe in detail any new technique, or modifications of an established technique.
4 If necessary, refer to preliminary experiments and to any consequent changes in technique. Describe your controls adequately.
5 Include information on the purity and structure of the materials used, and on the source of the material and the method of preparation. Materials and methods (included if applicable)
This is a very brief outline of the report to give the potential reader a general idea of what it’s about. A statement of:
overall aims and specific objectives (unless included in terms of reference)
method/procedure used (unless included in separate section)
main conclusions and recommendations Summary (usually included in longer reports; may be called Executive Summary, Abstract or Synopsis)
This should show that you have fully understood the task/brief and that you are going to cover everything required. Indicate the basic structure of the report.
You should include just a little background/context and indicate the reasons for writing the report. You may include your terms of reference and procedure/research methods if not covered elsewhere.
Your introduction will often give an indication of the conclusion to the report. Introduction (always included)
This is the substance of your report. The structure will vary according to the nature of the material being presented, with headings and sub-headings used to clearly indicate the different sections (unlike an essay).
A "situation>problem>solution>evaluation" approach may be appropriate. It is not sufficient to simply describe a situation. Your tutor will be looking for analysis and for a critical approach, when appropriate.
Charts, diagrams and tables can be used to reinforce your arguments, although sometimes it may be better to include these as an appendix (particularly if they are long or complicated).
Do not include opinions, conclusions or recommendations in this section.
Main body/findings (always included)
Main body/findings (always included)
This section records your observations (in the past tense) and would normally include statistics, tables or graphs. Results (possibly included in scientific/engineering reports)
Your conclusion should draw out the implications of your findings, with deductions based on the facts described in your main body. Don’t include any new material here. Conclusion (always included)
These should follow on logically from your conclusion and be specific, measurable and achievable. They should propose how the situation/problem could be improved by suggesting action to be taken. A “statement of cost” should be included if you are recommending changes that have financial implications.
Recommendations can be numbered if you wish. Recommendations (sometimes included) Is detailed documentation of points you outline in your findings, for example, technical data, questionnaires, letters sent, tables, sketches, charts, leaflets etc. It is supplementary information which you consider to be too long or complicated or not quite relevant enough to include in your main body, but which still should be of interest to your reader.
Each appendix should be referred to in your text. You should not include something as an appendix if it is not discussed in the main body. Appendices (sometimes included)
An appendix (plural=appendices)
This is a list giving the full details of all the sources to which you have made reference within your text. By far the most common method in use at Birmingham City University is the Harvard method. References (always included)
This is either a separate list of sources which you have used during your research, but have not actually made reference to in your writing, or this list together with your list of references. Bibliography (sometimes included)
Include a glossary if the report includes a lot of specialized vocabulary or acronyms which may not be familiar to the reader. Glossary