Academic Skills

Writing a report

Reports are different from essays. Individual subject requirements will vary but even within each discipline you will often find differences in what is required. For instance, you may be required to include a review of literature or you may not, depending on the scope and depth of your report. The important thing about writing a report is to know exactly what is required and who it is for.

LearnHigher is an organisation where several universities have come together to provide good resources for students. This is their list of differences between essay and report writing:

Reports are...
Formally structured
Informative and fact-based
Written with a specific purpose and reader in mind
Written in style appropriate to each section
Always include section headings
Sometimes use bullet points
Often includes tables or graphs
Offer recommendations for action
Essays are...
Semi-structured
Argumentative and idea-based
Not written with a specific reader in mind
Written in single narrative style throughout
Usually do not include sub-headings
Usually do not include bullet points
Rarely include tables or graphs
Offer conclusions about question

Your research strategies can be the same as for an essay and you need to plan your report but the structure and style will be different. The main differences will be the inclusion of sections with headings. Reports often follow headings which allow you to give the background as to what you are doing and why in an introduction, a methodology section where you say how you have done the research, a results section where you say what you have found, analysis in this section or following it, and a conclusion.

If you have a major report to write, you will be given specific advice on how to write it.

ASTs are often asked to do presentations where a number of students are being asked to write a report, but you can always make an individual appointment if you are not sure about something.

In the meantime, you can visit the Learn Higher website - better report writing to get general guidance on writing reports.

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