Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing reports

Do you need to write a report this semester?  Before you start, you should know about the structure and format of an academic report.  They tend to require a structured and formal approach.  Objective and impersonal language is used, and it is important to include the appropriate terminology.

Here are 7 tips for successful report writing:

1 – Know the reason for the report
Before you do anything else, clearly define what your report should accomplish. Are you writing this report to persuade or inform? Will you be writing about possible future events or reviewing events that have already happened?

2 – Think about your reader
In order to communicate effectively, we must both consider both what we are saying and what our audience is hearing.  What is your reader's experience?  Will they understand jargon or will you need to explain some of the more technical terms you used?  Keep your audience in mind as you write.

3 – Have a structure
Most academic reports require a particular structure.  Your lecturer will usually give you a style guide outlining exactly how to structure your report (see here for other examples).  It's important to follow this closely.

4 – Length matters
Your lecturer will probably give you a word count.  Word counts help us to refine our writing and edit out the unnecessary bits.  Stick to the word count!

5 – Think about the story
It is important that the content of your report flows.  It must start with an introduction so that the reader knows what to expect and end with a conclusion that summarizes the main points of your argument.  Within the body, it is important that the content flows easily from point-to-point. Your reader needs to follow a logical progression that will help them to understand your arguments.

6 – Appearance matters
Using headings, subheadings, summaries, graphs, tables etc. can help your reader to absorb the information more easily (although check the style guide to ensure you can include these elements). Allow your reader to understand the kind of information in your report by scanning it.

7 – Review and revise
Proof-reading is a very important part of your writing.  After you have finished your draft, leave it aside and re-read it later with fresh eyes.  Read it through to ensure the argument is logical and that you haven't left out any references.  Re-read it to check your spelling and grammar.  Then, if possible, ask someone else to read it to try to catch any mistakes you might have missed!

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