Report Writing Support

Section 1: Getting started

From the day you walk into university until the day you leave, there are many reports you'll have to write. As a student, these reports might be the bane of your life - but the truth is, you'll have to write them no matter where you go. From a simple work assessment report to the high-flying technical write-up, reports are a common form of workplace communication. You may have to write a report to a 'client' or an assessing manager. Report writing is an essential skill for professionals; master it now and writing reports won't have to be a pain. Here's where to start.

How do I consider the audience?

As you write, ask yourself:

  • Why have they asked for a report?
  • What do they need to know?
  • How will they use the report?

Throughout your study and future career you will write reports for people who have little or no background in the area of work your report covers. If this is your audience, then your report should be easy to understand. Define terms, offer some background knowledge and use relevant examples. For example, an environmental impact statement for a newspaper would be written in a style that best suits the non-technical reader.

On the other hand, if you are writing a technical report intended to be read by a team of engineers, you can assume a level of prior knowledge and use specialised technical language. Someone expert and knowledgeable in your own field will not necessarily look upon your work kindly if you write your report with a layperson in mind.  

How do I analyse my task?

Analysing your task is very important. If you haven't got a clear picture in your mind of where you want to go, planning the report is going to be difficult. So, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you understand the type of report needed? (e.g. experimental report, design proposal, etc.)
  • Do you know how big your report needs to be?
  • Do you know what is required in the report?
  • Who is my audience? (e.g. clients, lecturers, assessors, managers etc.)
  • What is the problem/question?
  • What is the aim of the report?
  • What key points or issues need addressing?
  • What information do you need to collect?

Now that you've got these basic ideas in mind, how and where will you find the relevant information?  

How do I clarify my aim?

The aim of your report should be clear from the type of report needed. In an experimental report the aim is very different to that of a design report. For example:

Experimental Report

An experimental report aims to report on:

  • an experiment or research.
  • what was achieved during the course of the experiment.
  • what was concluded and how this compares with previous published results.

Technical design report

A Technical design report aims to:

  • solve a problem or;
  • recommend a design

See next: Structure of a report

Related tags: Academic skills