What is the purpose?
As a report is a piece of informative writing, it not only has an audience who wants to be informed, it also has a purpose – a reason for wanting the information.
- What do your readers want to find out from your report?
- How will they be reading your report?
- Why will they be reading what you are reporting?
Often, the information in reports will be acted upon by your readers in some way. The information in different reports may have the purpose of advising, persuading or recommending the readers to do something.
You are asked to analyse whether regular exercise helps people manage their depression, and present the report to an audience of counsellors and doctors.
The purpose of the report is to inform the audience about whether this potential aid in the management of depression is supported by sufficient evidence.
The counsellors and doctors will want to know whether they should be recommending more regular exercise to their clients and patients based on your analysis of the evidence.
So your report needs to give clear guidance on whether the evidence suggests there are benefits to people with depression, and to what extent counsellors and doctors should act on this information.
But part of persuading an audience is being able to anticipate any scepticism they may have about the evidence you present. For example, the doctors and counsellors may raise the objection, how do we encourage our depressed patients to start exercising? You have to take this into account – just a brief acknowledgement of their concerns may make them more receptive to your message.
You may be thinking that the concept of ‘purpose’ doesn’t apply in the same way to reports on scientific experiences, but the principles of audience and purpose still apply. As a scientist, your audience is your tutor (and fellow scientists in your field) and your purpose may be to test your hypotheses. Based on the analysis of your findings, you may make recommendations for further research to fill gaps in your findings or to make them more robust.
If your brief asks you to make recommendations based on the information in your report, it is important that you make these clearly, and that they don’t get lost in the body of your conclusion. Recommendations serve a different purpose to a conclusion: a conclusion summarises why your findings are important, and recommendations say what your readers should do about this.