Report writing comes in different shapes and styles, depending on your topic and your supervisor’s requirements. Some reports contain all of the common report writing components, while others contain only a few.
Here, we’ll give you the full list of requirements for successful report writing, as well as some professional help on writing a report.
A report is a relatively simple type of assignment with an easy and understandable structure. But to avoid any misunderstandings, we’re still going to break it down for you step by step.
So, here we go – let’s dive into the ultimate guide to successful report writing:
A letter of transmittal is a separate, usually brief, document that accompanies your report. By sending a transmittal letter, you’re letting your recipient know that you are sending a report, and you’re also providing an idea of what is being sent and what the basic requirements were.
Our advice on writing the letter of transmittal:
- This document has to be written in accordance with business letter etiquette. Be sure to include the name and address of your recipient. End your transmittal letter with a one-sentence paragraph that establishes goodwill by thanking or complimenting the recipient.
- Do not include a transmittal letter unless specifically requested to do so.
There are four main pieces of information that must be present on the title page:
- The report title
- The name of the person, company, or organization for whom the report has been prepared
- The name of the author and the company or university that originated the report
- Report completion date
A title page might also include a contact number, a security classification, or a copy number depending on the nature of the report you are writing.
Our advice on writing the title page:
- Title page requirements have a lot of variation. Ask your tutor for more specific requirements for your title page.
A good report includes a page of gratitude to those who helped the writer in the process: supervisors, teachers, professors, librarians, family members, etc.
Our advice on writing acknowledgments:
- Make your acknowledgments sincere. Don’t just say, “Thank you…” and then give a list of names—instead, refer to each person separately and thank him or her for something specific.
The abstract communicates to your reader the scope of your paper and the topics discussed. By doing so, the abstract plays an important role in facilitating future research. When writing a summary of your report, go over its main parts (introduction, body, etc.), and summarize each one in a single sentence.
Our advice on writing the summary abstract:
- It’s better to write the summary abstract at the end. By that time, you will know the content of your report and will be able to outline its most important features.
- To make a good outline, ask yourself why another researcher would be interested in this research or what a potentially interested reader should know about the research.
The table of contents is a reflection of the report writing structure. Sections and subsections should be numbered and titled properly and logically to help the reader find his or her way through your report.
Here are simple guidelines to follow for your table of contents:
- List all headings and subheadings (excluding the title page, table of contents, and other preliminary materials), giving page numbers for the first page of each section.
- Reproduce the headings and numbering exactly from the body of the report.
- Include the full titles of the appendices.
Our advice on writing the table of contents:
- Make a draft table first to help you organize your materials and thoughts. Remember that it can be altered during the writing process.
- Dot leaders from the heading to its page number make navigation around the table of contents easier for you and your readers.
All figures, tables, and illustrations should be numbered in accordance with the chapter number and the figure, table, or illustration position within that chapter. If you have six or more figures, tables, and illustrations, list them on a separate page with their corresponding page numbers. If you have fewer than six, you can just list them in the table of contents.
Our advice on writing the list of figures, tables, illustrations:
- In some reports, having the correct sequence is essential:
1) List of figures
2) List of tables
3) List of illustrations
Don’t place a page break between them.
This part of a report is usually no more than one page in length, and it includes:
- The purpose of the report
- The background of the report
- Sources of information
- Main findings
- Conclusions and recommendations
Our advice on writing the executive summary:
- While abstracts are brief summaries that address a technical audience, executive summaries represent report writing in such a way that it could stand on its own and would make sense to a non-technical audience.
The introduction should be a brief but thorough discussion of the problem’s context. A typical introduction is about 1½ to 2 pages long, and it includes:
- The purpose or objective of the report
- Background information (e.g., a brief history of the organization, context of the topic or the problem)
- A literature review (what research has already been done in this field)
- The scope of the study, which may include the size or extent of study, amount of data collected, time frames, the focus of data collection or discussion (e.g., a single department or a whole organization)
- Methodology, including the kind of data used (e.g., who was interviewed, what types of materials were referred to)
- Assumptions and limitations
- A plan that briefly overviews the argument, framework, or logical structure of the report
Our advice on writing the introduction:
- Don’t begin your introduction with a sentence that is too broad or too narrow. Be specific.
- If possible, include illustrations in your introduction to help readers get a better understanding of the context.
- Before writing about the purpose, make sure you understand it clearly. If you don’t, your reader won’t either.
- For a literature review, try to make comparisons. Introduce two different opinions on a particular topic, and lead up to your point of view or conclusion by using those arguments.
The body of the formal report is the main part that includes all the facts and materials essential for understanding the problem. It usually has three sections:
- Theories, models, and hypotheses: This section is optional, but by providing it, you introduce the theoretical basis for your project.
- Materials and methods: This section is where you describe (and illustrate) the materials used and give a step-by-step report on how you completed your task.
- Results: This section summarizes your efforts and gives information about what you discovered, invented, or confirmed through your research.
Our advice on writing the body of the report:
- If you made a mistake during any of your steps, write about it, too. Doing so will show the depth of your research and demonstrate how you corrected the errors.
- Results should be presented in a straightforward manner.
- Tables and illustrations are the best way to display your materials and results and secure your reader’s understanding of the problem.
- To make the parts of your body paragraphs fit together, give a short summary of every sub-section, leading with a smooth transition from one part to another.
The conclusion is the last part of your report writing. Sum up the main points and refer to any underlying theme. If any questions or issues remain unresolved, mention them in the conclusion. Write in a brief, concise manner because your readers are already familiar with your points.
Our advice on how to write the report conclusion:
- Don’t introduce any new information.
- Before writing your conclusion, make a draft. Go over your research report, and underline all the important information to be repeated. Your conclusion has to stress the importance of the research.
- Write a smooth transition from the body to the conclusion.
Give directions or suggestions as to how the problem you’ve investigated can be solved. List them clearly, and rely on the materials that you’ve used and explained in your report.
Our advice on writing the report recommendations:
- A numbered list is always a good idea. It gives quick access to your recommendations and doesn’t send your readers wandering around the section.
List all of the sources of information that you used during your research report writing. Use alphabetical order.
Our advice on writing the report references:
- To keep track of numerous sources, begin writing them down at the very beginning of working on your research report. There is nothing worse than having to go back to look desperately for a certain piece of information.
In your appendices, include data tables, background calculations, specification lists for equipment used, details of experimental configuration, and any other information that is necessary for completeness but would bog down discussion in the body of the report. Your appendices must each have a footer with a page number.
Our advice on writing the report appendices:
- In the appendices, include any supporting pieces of evidence, such as tables or figures, that do not easily fit in the main body of the report.
We hope that you found these report writing tips to be useful! Even though there are many variations of report writing, these tips form a solid foundation for you to start writing any report.
Good luck with your report writing, and be sure to check out our blog for other writing tips and ideas for your next assignments!