There are many different kinds of reports that you might have to write. Most professions have their own kinds of reports such as business reports … lab reports … research reports … academic reports and so on. Knowing how to write them well is valuable at the workplace or at university and beyond. This is because the report format is a useful and widely accepted way of structuring information.
Knowing how to structure a report and get the information in the right place can cause concerns relating to:
- Which section should this go in?
- How do I lay out my report?
- What goes in the discussion?
- What headings does a business report have?
This new series of posts on report writing answer these questions by showing you how a report structure can be a communication tool as opposed to an imprisoning set of rules. If you consider the purpose of your report and the needs of your readers, you can be confident that your structure will fulfil these needs, and each section of your report will do the correct job.
Reports are formally structured and communicate the findings of an investigation in a clear, logical way.
Your investigation may be a scientific experiment, a site visit, a series of observations, research into a process or procedure … but whatever different types of investigation you do as part of your job/assignment/contract/project, you will need to report
- what you did
- how you did it
- what you found out
- why your findings are important.
The content and structure of your report are determined by the needs of your audience and the purpose of your report … but how do you know who your audience is and what they want?
Read the brief!
Reports normally have a brief, or a set of instructions, telling you the requirements of your investigation.
In a work situation the brief may be set by your clients in which case is the clients’ request or by your manager, and they expect you to follow it! At university your brief is most likely set by your tutor … and they also expect you to follow it!
You will get the crucial information you need from reading your brief carefully. Even a short brief contains a lot of information about what you are expected to do. Your brief tells you about the investigation you are carrying out, but you also need to know the essential requirements of your assignment, such as:
- word count
- referencing style
- deadline for handing in.
In addition to this, read your assessment criteria or client’s request perimeter – these will give you valuable information about what you need to demonstrate in your report and what you are expected to fulfil with respect to the ‘learning outcomes’ or ‘work quality’ as the case may be.
The next couple of posts will further demonstrate the purpose and readership of reports, how to find the information your readers need, the role that each section plays in communicating this information, how to present your information visually … and how to communicate all this concisely!