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Reports generally involve presenting your investigation and analysis of information or an issue, recommending actions and making proposals.
There are many different types of reports, including business, scientific and research reports, but the basic steps for writing them are the same. These are outlined below.
To decide on the terms of reference for your report, read your instructions and any other information you've been given about the report, and think about the purpose of the report:
This will help you draft your Terms of reference.
This means planning your investigation or research, and how you'll write the report. Ask yourself:
Answering these questions will help you draft the procedure section of your report, which outlines the steps you've taken to carry out the investigation.
The next step is to find the information you need for your report. To do this you may need to read written material, observe people or activities, and/or talk to people.
Make sure the information you find is relevant and appropriate. Check the assessment requirements and guidelines and the marking schedule to make sure you're on the right track. If you're not sure how the marks will be assigned contact your lecturer.
What you find out will form the basis, or main body, of your report – the findings.
Reports generally have a similar structure, but some details may differ. How they differ usually depends on:
Depending on the type of report, the structure can include:
The basic structure of a report (PDF 262 KB; opens in a new window)
Once you have your structure, write down the headings and start to fill these in with the information you have gathered so far. By now you should be able to draft the terms of reference, procedure and findings, and start to work out what will go in the report’s appendix.
The findings are result of your reading, observations, interviews and investigation. They form the basis of your report. Depending on the type of report you are writing, you may also wish to include photos, tables or graphs to make your report more readable and/or easier to follow.
Graphs - BBC Skillwise website (opens in a new window)
As you are writing your draft decide what information will go in the appendix. These are used for information that:
The conclusion is where you analyse your findings and interpret what you have found. To do this, read through your findings and ask yourself:
For example, your conclusion may describe how the information you collected explains why the situation occurred, what this means for the organisation, and what will happen if the situation continues (or doesn't continue).
Don’t include any new information in the conclusion.
Recommendations are what you think the solution to the problem is and/or what you think should happen next. To help you decide what to recommend:
Your recommendations should be written as a numbered list, and ordered from most to least important.
Some reports require an executive summary and/or list of contents. Even though these two sections come near the beginning of the report you won't be able to do them until you have finished it, and have your structure and recommendations finalised.
An executive summary is usually about 100 words long. It tells the readers what the report is about, and summarise the recommendations.
It is always important to revise your work. Things you need to check include:
You might need to prepare several drafts before you are satisfied. If possible, get someone else to check your report.
Sample report (PDF 278 KB; opens in a new window)