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How to Write a Report

Published: 27.01.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Characteristics

A report is a structured, well organized document which defines and analyzes a topic in depth. It is always written with a specific purpose in mind. While an essay may deal with a number of topics such as: academic, literary or personal experience where a subjective point of view is required, a report is always objective and factual. Personal feelings and overly descriptive or emotional words are to be avoided.

Choose Your topic

If the topic of your report is not already assigned  for you, choose a topic that interests you and one that you can understand. When writing a report, it always helps to know your audience. This will help you determine vocabulary, what details to use and what to emphasize.

Research Your Topic

As with an essay, always record your sources and URLS. Collect information and data by using the library, encyclopedia, or online academic data bases when researching your topic for central ideas. Jot down information and quotes. Keep your topic question in mind.

Plagiarism

Mariam-Webster Collegiate Online Dictionary defines plagiarism as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source”.

Copying short texts or passages from an online source with the Ctrl+C function in Word and pasting them into your written text by your (Ctrl+V) function should always be avoided. It is much better to give credit to the writers of the sources you have used. Your readers may also benefit by using them at a later time. Quotations, for example, consist of exact words taken from a source and must be enclosed in quotation marks (“….”).

Analyze

Search for and always evaluate the evidence to support your information. Be critical.

The Thesis

The thesis is your topic idea or objective you want to report on. The thesis should be included both in the introduction to your report and its conclusion. Be clear and specific.

Brainstorming

With your topic question in mind, write down all your ideas on a sheet of paper. Ask yourself the following questions:
-    What is the main problem?
-    What do I want to prove?
-    Does the evidence support the information?
-    Is the evidence biased (ensidig)?

The Writing Process

Outline your Report
Outline your report by using your main ideas from your brainstorming sheet. Make a mind map to visualize what you want to say. Present your information in a logical order: main ideas come first, then the evidence. A report is usually broken up into sections. Use numbers 1,2,3, etc for each Heading (main idea) in each section and 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc. for Sub-headings. Cut out any irrelevant information.

The Parts of a Report

Title Page

Includes the following:
-    Title of Report
-    Name/s of Writer/s
-    Name of teacher or person you are submitting the report to
-    Date of submission

Introduction

The introduction introduces the main topic or thesis of your report. It should also explain the purpose of your report and your reasons for writing it. The questions asked in an introduction not only define a problem, but may make up the basic structure of a report. As with essay writing, the main thesis or topic in your introduction should be summed up in your conclusion. Be very clear and specific.

Main Body

The main body makes up the substance of the report. It is here you present your findings or information. It may be a problematic situation, a sequence of events, historical background, trends etc.. Use supportive evidence such as factual data, tables, graphs, diagrams or charts to support your findings. Begin each section with the main heading from your outline. Each section should focus on one central idea.

Unlike an essay which is subjective, the main body of a report needs analysis and a critical approach. Once you have presented your findings, you need to be able to discuss, analyze and interpret your results. Always try to present a balanced view. For example, in a report on File Sharing, both arguments such as consumers who download music without paying a copyright fee, as well as groups like the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) would be entered into the report.

Conclusion and Recommendations

A conclusion is a summary paragraph which summarizes the main points in your report. It should recapitulate your introduction in an original way and restate the basic thesis of your report. The summary of a report should draw conclusions and answer questions raised in the introduction. Recommendations which can give solutions to problems or suggest courses of actions may be included in your conclusion; although, some may prefer to devote an entire section to recommendations.

Notes

Notes include footnotes placed at the bottom of the page or endnotes on a page by themselves after the conclusion. They are used to explain to the reader where you found your information or data. Place 1,2,3,4    in the correct place in your report and use the same number in a place designated at the end of the page or your endnotes.

Bibliography

Is made of a list of all the sources you have used to write the report. Include the following:
-    Author's name/ Last Name first in alphabetical order
-    Title of book/article/homepage title
-    Where published
-    Copyright date (most recent)

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