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Key points on how to write a report:

How to write a report

Reports are probably the most common form of assignment, at least in business management and related studies and yet how to write a report is often not discussed. Reports may have a variety of purposes, but, whatever that purpose, there will be some similarities in report design.

A common feature of reports is that they have a clear structure that has been outlined more clearly than in an essay. By this, I mean that a report usually makes use of headings, subheadings and numbering. Reports often have a contents page (if you include a contents page do not forget to add page numbers - easily done). Appendices are common. These should contain additional information for the interested reader but should not contain crucial information – this should be in the main report itself. A common way for students to get around tight word counts is to include excessive appendices. Sometimes this is also done to make the work look more substantial.

Often reports, particularly business reports, include executive summaries, so-called because they aim to provide a succinct summary of the key points in the report thereby saving the busy executive time from having to read the entire report. An abstract fulfils a similar purpose but is more academic in nature and does not focus solely on outcomes as executive summaries often do, but might also discuss the nature of the evidence provided, a rationale why the report was written etc.

Other items often included in reports include:

When you write your report keep your audience in mind. Only make it technical if it has to be. Do not over-complicate your sentences. Do draw out the main findings and provide some useful recommendations that follow from what you have said (unless of course recommendations are not required). Finally, take pride in the layout of the report. Even when people say that they only judge content, a sloppily prepared and ill-structured report will make an impression, consciously or subconsciously.