What is a report?
A report is a specific form of writing that is organised around concisely identifying and examining issues, events, or findings that have happened in a physical sense, such as events that have occurred within an organisation, or findings from a research investigation.
These events can also pertain to events or issues identified within a body of literature. A report informs the reader simply and objectively about all relevant issues. There are three features that characterise report writing at a very basic level: a pre-defined structure, independent sections, and reaching unbiased conclusions.
Report structures vary widely. So, check your guidelines to ensure that you are following the structure that has been specified.
At a very basic level, a report can be distinguished from an essay by headings which are used to organise information.
Headings typically indicate sections within a report, such as an introduction, discussion, and conclusion.
Within the discussion section, which usually makes up the main body of a report, you can often add sub-sections according to the literature you have sourced, your development of ideas, and the assigned task. The difference between main sections and sub-sections may be indicated through numbering and/or heading font style. You will need to check the assignment instructions to see whether this is appropriate.
2.1 Technological benefits
2.1.2 Access to monitoring
2.2 Technological weaknesses
2.2.2 Lack of face-to-face support
You may find that you do not need linking sentences as the headings provide a link between sections, although including a linking sentence from time-to-time may assist the reader's understanding.
Overall, a report is a highly structured piece of work and typically, the course co-ordinator or lecturer identifies the main sections required or indicates that you should follow a standard structure (such as a business report structure). You are often given more guidance on how to write the assignment, with respect to its structure and section, compared to an essay where you decide the order of information in the essay body.
While you may have more freedom in structuring an essay, it may be more difficult to decide how to order information within your essay. In contrast, a report provides you with that structure before you begin to answer the question, while still allowing you some flexibility and freedom in deciding on the organisation of sub-sections.
Another element of report writing (in fact, all academic writing) is that it is an unbiased and objective form of writing.
However, while essays put forward a particular position or argument at the very beginning, summarised in the thesis statement and then backed up in the body, a report's focus is slightly different.
A report sways more towards the process of identifying and reviewing the range of issues in the body of the report, and then reaching an objective conclusion or position at the end, sometimes with recommendations based on the discussion and conclusions.
Of course, you can always have in mind a particular point of view when you begin your report, but try to give the impression that you have come to your conclusion via an objective and methodical review of the issues involved.
Sometimes you will need to briefly summarise the report's findings in your introduction. Alternatively, sometimes you might need to provide an overview of your report in an executive summary or abstract. Report structures vary so this is something you need to check with your assignment instructions or course coordinator. Nevertheless, try to ensure that the conclusion is where you give emphasis to your findings and the recommendations or decisions you have arrived at after a careful analysis of all the issues. It should be clear to the reader that your conclusion is reasoned logically from the discussion of the issues and the evidence you have presented in the body of the report.