How to write a report

Report writing is an essential skill in many disciplines. You should develop effective report writing skills at university because it’s highly likely you’ll be writing reports in the workplace.

A report is formal written document used to provide concise information on a specific subject. It can be used to communicate the results of an experiment, inform on the progress of a project or to make recommendations.

An effective report is an accurate presentation of information. It should be objective, concise and structured to guide the reader through the main points.

The sections contained in a report will depend on the report type and specific task requirements. It’s your responsibility to find out what to include in your report. A basic report could include the following sections:

1. Preliminary parts

Title page and Acknowledgements
The Title page should include the title of the report, who it was commissioned by (or for the purposes of university - your lecturer, course code, and student number) and the date.

Executive Summary or Abstract
The Abstract (or Executive Summary) provides a summary of the main points of the report. It briefly covers the aims, objectives, research methods, and the findings of the report. It also identifies what action is required. Although the Abstract is located at the beginning of the report, it is usually written last as it is a summary of the whole report.

Table of Contents
The Table of Contents shows the structure of the report.

2. Body of the report

Introduction 
Capture the reader’s attention! State the aims and objectives of the report, the problem or situation that prompted the report and identify what the report intends to achieve. You should also include definitions, research methods and background history (if relevant).

Methodology 
The Methodology explains what you did and how you did it. It could be the materials used in an experiment, the subjects involved in a survey, or the steps you took in a project.

Results or Findings 
This is where you present the findings from your experiment, survey, or research project.

Discussion
This is where the facts or evidence are presented and discussed.

Conclusions
Provide implications from the content of the report.

Recommendations
Describe a clear course of action. The recommendations should demonstrate your professional competence in a specific situation and be clearly aligned with your conclusions.

3. Supplementary parts

References
This is where you acknowledge all the sources used in the report. For further information, see the Referencing module.

Appendices
The Appendices contains additional graphical, statistical or other supplementary material. Each item should be clearly labelled (e.g. Appendix 1) and referred to in the report.