A report is a well-organised assignment which defines and analyses a subject, problem or hypothesis. Its purpose is to communicate the results or findings of a project. A report generally has a set structure with headings and sub-headings, and each section has a specific focus. In comparison to an essay, a report usually has shorter paragraphs and does not require linking sentences and phrases because it has headings to guide the reader through the writing.
1) Understand your audience
It’s important to think about whom you are informing and what information they need. This will help you have a clear focus. Make sure to ask yourself “Who is going to read my report?” Try not to think of your lecturer as the reader but instead the CEO of a large company or an expert in the field.
2) Plan your work
Make sure you use time management techniques to help make a clear plan and timeline for your report. Use mind maps to help in the initial planning stages, group together key points and start to plan your headings and sub-headings for your report. Think about the order in which you want to introduce your various topics. Keep it relevant to your topic and take out anything that you think may be off topic or irrelevant.
Headings and sub-headings will help guide your reader through the contents of the report. Information should gradually develop and cascade from one section to the next.
4) Information gathering
There are many places you can use to find information for your report. You can search library books, scholarly journals which can be found via Google or through MIT Library search, newspaper articles, and interviews with experts, observations, experiments and surveys. If you need any help, you can also book in an appointment with one of our librarians here at MIT.
5) Critical reading of sources
Use critical reading to find out what relevant information is needed for your report. Ask yourself these questions:
Questions to ask yourself when taking notes from these readings are:
Make sure your report has clear sections with headings and sub-headings which are numbered. Also check your marking rubric to see if your lecturer has any set guidelines or specific structure you need to follow.
A basic structural format for a report is as follows: