Often report writing at university is presented as deceptively simple – all you need to do is ensure you follow the required report structure, and write clearly and concisely. But we know this isn’t as straightforward as it seems; although reports have to be easy to read, this doesn’t necessarily make them easy to write.
Reports are formally structured but you’ve probably discovered that what is needed for a report in one discipline is likely to be different from a report in another discipline. Also expectations can be different from one report to the next, even within the same subject.
Writing concisely and clearly takes time. You have to work out exactly what your audience wants to know in order to make sure you are writing relevant information.
So, the truth is there is no set formula for writing a report – every report is different. Each one depends on what the purpose is, who you are writing for and the kind of research that you are reporting.
So if every report is different, how can you tell what makes a good report? The key is to understand the purpose of report writing rather than just what goes in each section.
The keys to writing good reports are:
- Understanding the types of writing a report involves
- Being able to identify the audience and purpose of your report
- Knowing how reports are read by your audience
- Knowing the purpose of each section in a report (not just where the information goes)
- Understanding how good organisation of your report helps the reader find the information they want
- Being able to communicate well both in writing and using graphical data