Report Writing
Adapted from ‘Report Writing’,
The Sydney Campus of Curtin University of
Technology CRICOS Provider Code 02637B
What is a report?
 A report is a structured written
presentation directed to interested
readers in response to some specific
purpose, aim or request.
 There are many varieties of reports,
but generally their function is to give
an account of something, to answer a
question, or to offer a solution to a
Characteristics of an effective
An effective report is:
 appropriate to its purpose and
 accurate;
 logical;
 clear and concise; and
 well organised with clear section
Report structure
 One important advantage that a
report has over other written
communication is that it follows a
standardised format. This enables
readers to find and focus on specific
pieces of information. Most reports
are modeled on the following
structure (modified where necessary).
Report structure continued
Transmittal document (not common)
Title page
Table of contents
Abstract/Executive Summary
Procedure for report writing
The following is a suggestion as to how
you might proceed in compiling and
presenting a report. There are three
 Planning – including brainstorming
 Writing
 Formatting, revising and proofreading
Stage One: Planning
Defining the purpose.
Read the brief carefully
 identify key words
 make sure you know what's really
being asked
Stage One: Planning continued
2. Defining the audience
 determine your audience's level of
determine what your audience needs
to know
Stage One: Planning continued
3. Establishing parameters
determine the scope and level of detail
determine the length of the report and
what can be covered in that length
Stage One: Planning continued
4. Gathering information
make sure the information you
gather is relevant, contemporary and
factually correct
make sure that you transcribe facts
and figures correctly
Stage Two: Writing
Write the report in three stages:
 Write the body
 Write the abstract/executive
 Write/compile the supplementary
1. Writing the body
There are four components of the body of the report: the
introduction, the discussion, the conclusion and the
The introduction leads into the main subject matter by giving
the necessary background of the report, its aims, premises,
scope, limitations, approach intended audience, possible
benefits and any instructions that may be useful for the
reader. If specialist terms are used in the report, define them
It puts the discussion in perspective, explains why the report is
necessary and gives background information on the subject
1. Writing the body continued
The discussion is the main body of the report.
Use headings and sub-headings. It describes,
analyses, interprets and evaluates the
procedures, data, findings, relationships,
visual material, methodology and results in
the report. This material should be presented
in an order that leads logically towards the
conclusions and recommendations.
1. Writing the body continued
In writing the discussion section of the
body, you should:
 pitch at appropriate level
 organise material logically
 use clear, concise language
 give concrete examples
1. Writing the body continued
Conclusions are drawn from evidence, analysis,
interpretation and evaluation presented in the
discussion. No new material should be
introduced; the conclusions should follow
logically from the Discussion.
The Conclusions section should give:
Key points
Main findings
1. Writing the body continued
The Recommendation section (when used - not
all reports give recommendations) should
present your informed opinions, suggestions,
possible actions to be taken, applications and
recommendations arising from a rational
consideration of the discussion and conclusions.
Be definite
Be perceptive
Be imaginative
Be rational
2. Abstract/executive summary
Once the body of the report is written, write the abstract.
The abstract (also known as the Executive Summary) is a
concise summary presentation of the essential elements of
the report, from the introduction through to and including
the recommendations. It should be independent (can be
read on its own), comprehensive (covers all the main
points), clear and concise. As a general rule it should be
short, only 10-15% of the length of the report, and should
be written in full sentences and paragraphs. It should
include a summary of the following:
Main points
3. Writing the supplementary
Transmittal document
The transmittal document is not part of
the report, but accompanies the report.
In letter, memo, or minute form, it
personalises the report for a specific
reader and calls attention to those items
or sections in the report which are of
particular interest to that person.
3. Writing the supplementary
material continued
Title page identifies the report with the
following information:
 Title
 Author's name, position and
 Authority for report
 Place of origin
 Date
3. Writing the supplementary
material continued
Table of contents
The table of contents shows the section
titles and major headings listed in order
of appearance and indicates page
locations. Standard page numbering
begins with the Introduction. The
Abstract or Executive Summary is
usually numbered with lower case
Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.)
3. Writing the supplementary
material continued
The bibliography lists all publications
either cited or referred to in preparing
the report. Use the Referencing System
recommended by your Hospitality which
is the Harvard System.
Stage Three: Formatting,
revising and proof-reading
Apply the following "report checklist"
Have I fulfilled the purpose of the report?
Is it written at a level appropriate to its audience?
Are its facts correct?
Is it comprehensive?
Is all the included information relevant?
Are the layout and presentation well thought out?
Is the style clear, concise and professional?
Does the abstract summarise?
Does the introduction adequately introduce the discussion?
Is the discussion organised logically?
Does the conclusions section interpret, analyse and evaluate?
Are the recommendations reasonable?
Does the table of contents correspond with the actual contents? Are
page numbers correct?
Have I acknowledged all sources of information through correct
Have I checked spelling, grammar and punctuation?
Have I carefully proof-read the final draft
Writing a research report
 A research report uses similar
structure to that of any other report
however the planning stages must
involve research.
 To assist in directing the research an
action plan should be prepared
Action plan
A description of what needs to be done,
when and by whom to achieve the
results called for by one or more
It contains task assignments, schedules,
resource allocations and ...
Action plan continued
....steps that must be taken, or activities that
must be performed well, for a strategy to
An action plan has three major elements:
 (1) Specific tasks : what will be done and
by whom.
 (2) Time horizon: when will it be done.
 (3) Resource allocation: what specific funds
are available for specific activities. Also
called action program.
report on research findings
Determine the structure of your report
You have spent a great deal of time
conducting the research project. Although you
might be tempted to rush through the process
of completing your report, this might result in
a less than satisfactory outcome that does not
meet the needs of the project. You can have
comprehensive, relevant and accurate research
results but if you do not structure the report
appropriately you will not be able to prove or
disprove your research hypothesis.
The structure of your report
You must create guidelines as to what
information is needed and the desired
layout or format of your report.
You must make a decision as to how the
information in the report is to be presented.
The information must be ‘packaged’ as a
report so that the purpose of conducting the
research is met. For example if the research
project was conducted to determine how a
park was used, then the report needs to
answer that question.
Reports need to be planned before
detailed writing starts. This may involve
deciding what the main headings will
be, the sub-headings wanted and the
key points to be included under each
heading and sub-heading. The content
should flow in a logical way, starting
with the background to the research
design, then reporting the main findings
and ending with conclusions and
Drafting and editing
Good layout and editing is important in
both report writing and in making
presentations. A starting point in
doing this is to decide on the layout
to be used, that is, the way material
will be presented in terms of
headings, sub-headings, use of dot
points, footnotes and so on.
You should ensure that the report you
provide is professional. This means reports
must be free of typographical, grammatical
and spelling errors. To achieve this it may
be necessary to employ the services of a
proof reader and editor. This person’s role
is to eliminate these types of errors. Also
they are expected to recommend changes
that will eliminate ambiguity in the text to
ensure that nothing is misunderstood or
Ensuring accuracy of the report
 Another requirement of presenting
and writing a professional report is
ensuring that your report is accurate.
Any references to information or
sources of information need to be
checked by you. This will be much
easier if you have kept a careful
record of information you have used
and where it has come from when
you (or someone else) comes to
check the sources.
An important note about
-make sure that you correctly attribute
an author. To claim words or an idea
from someone else is not only
inaccurate, it is unethical and falls far
short of the professional standards you
must follow in your report. You cannot
claim the words and ideas of other
writers and researchers as your own.
You can usually use the words of others
as long as you acknowledge the source.
Reporting on the findings
You may have to make various decisions about
how text and tables will be presented. This
may involve decisions as to what will be
included and what will be dropped as
superfluous or redundant. What you should
include in the report is all the information
needed to make well-informed decisions in
relation to the research hypothesis. The text
should be cross-referenced to tables, charts
and graphs so that the reader can read them
in conjunction with one another.
Readers should be able to link
recommendations with the facts found
in the text. They should never be left
wondering why a particular
recommendation has been made. In
some cases it may be advisable to
support the argument given in the text
with other sources. For example:
For example:
 appendices—documents, reports,
tables, etc, found at the end of a
 footnotes and endnotes—added
comments providing further
information to readers wanting more
 bibliographies—books and articles
relevant to a fuller understanding of
the subject matter.
Your report needs to clearly link
recommendations with facts
The structure of the report
A short report may consist only of:
 purpose
 introduction
 discussion
 conclusion
 recommendations.
longer reports may contain:
front matter such as cover page, table
of contents, list of tables, graphs and
 definitions and terminology
 scope
 method and technique used
 statement of the issue
 findings
 end matter such as bibliography,
appendices, index.
In some cases...
a reader may want to be led through all
the facts before reading a discussion,
conclusions and then
recommendations. If a reader is an
expert in a field they may only want
to see the recommendations and do
not need convincing. Here are two
different orders and an explanation of
why they were chosen.
Indirect order
discussion and analysis
In the indirect order
You save the conclusion and
recommendations until last because the
 might resist your conclusions because
they either contain bad news or are
contrary to the receiver’s opinion
 will not understand your conclusions
until he or she reads the rest of the
Direct order arrangement
Choice 1
 introduction
 recommendations
 conclusions
 findings
 discussion and
Choice 2
 recommendations
 introduction
 findings
 discussion and
 conclusion
In these structures you present
your recommendations early in the
report Reasons for this may be:
 that the report contains good news
for the receiver and you want to focus
the reader’s attention
 the receiver has enough background
to understand the recommendations
without having to necessarily read
the rest of the report
 the report may be easier to read
because the recommendations
provide a framework around which to
interpret the detailed information in
the body.
How to present numerical
Information for your research.
You have gone to a lot of trouble to collect
information in your research project. How do
you present this information if it is numerical?
To answer this question you need to
understand different presentation methods
and how they can be used. We will look at the
two most common methods for presenting
numerical information: the pie chart and the
There are many other different ways in
which you can present numerical
information. Have a look in Additional
resources in this learning topic for more
Pie chart
This is used when you want to show
what proportion of the total a
particular result forms part of.
A histogram is a representation of the
results in a graphical form. You have
probably seen many histograms.
Histograms show the distribution of
Producing the final report
Remember that you must write with
your audience in mind. The grammar,
style and use of words should reflect
well on the authors. Despite the fact
that the text should already have
been edited, the writers may wish to
further polish up the text.
The analytical report
 How do you present information that
is analytical as opposed to numerical?
There is a sample analytical report in
the appendix to this learning topic.
 So far we have written only what is
called the body of the report. Now we
need to add other parts to our report,
before and after the body.
What comes before the body is called
the front matter or prelims. It
identifies the report and gives the
reader a means of gaining access to
the information.
What comes after the body is called the
end matter. It provides extra
information that the reader may want
to know.
See duplicated list of details for the font
page and the end page
Presenting the report
The final report can be presented in
written form, or as a verbal
presentation, or both. The written
report should be as good as it
possibly can be, given constraints
such as time and money.
An effective presentation is more than the
reading of key parts of a report. It has to
describe the main points in the written report,
‘sell’ listeners on the merits of the report and
keep their interest for the duration of the
presentation. A presentation has to be written
for the ear—words written for the eye can
sound stilted when read to an audience. There
is a need for skilful editing, taking into
consideration the type of people who will
make up the audience.
The following points will help you deliver
an effective presentation:
 Body language
You must look credible and confident. Of
course confidence comes from being
well prepared and knowledgeable.
Maintaining eye contact with your
audience is important as it helps you to
engage with the audience. Also, this
contact provides feedback on how
successfully you are holding the
attention of your audience.
 Good posture
A public speaker should stand up
straight but not to attention. Good
posture leads to easier breathing and
better voice projection. A speaker
should never stand rigidly. You should
move for effect. It helps in holding the
attention of the audience, as do
gestures such as smiling.
A good posture when you are presenting
your report will help you hold the attention
of your audience
Practise using your voice to maximum
Be aware of how loud and fast you
speak and listen to your intonation. It’s
usually better to speak a little louder
that normal. However, speaking too
loudly is usually seen as an indicator
that the presenter is nervous. So is
speaking too fast. Racing through a
presentation does not make a good
impression on listeners.
Your voice should convey enthusiasm
for the subject matter
Observe the style of experienced
speakers such as politicians and business
executives. You can practise your
speaking skills with a tape recorder or
video camera. Listening to yourself speak
gives you valuable feedback on what you
sound like and whether or not you
need to speed up or slow down, speak
louder or softer or vary your intonation.
Good speakers know that practice improves
a presentation while reducing the speaker’s
nervousness. There are a number of other
techniques for reducing nervous tension in
speakers. For example, you can visualise
yourself presenting a winning presentation
in a similar way to athletes visualising
brilliant wins as a motivation technique.
Deep breathing is another technique of
keeping calm as is muscle tightening and
Visual aids
These can be used to highlight the key
points in the presentation. They help the
audience to remain focused on what is
being said. Delivery should be practiced
until the presenter is satisfied that the
words will flow smoothly and engage the
audience. Decisions will have to be
made on how to incorporate comments
and questions from the audience.
Be prepared
Experienced presenters, in addition to
practising until satisfied that they will
effectively communicate with their
audience, do other practical things.
They check their venue, the
equipment they will be using, seating
arrangements, lighting and the
number of copies of the report they
need for distribution to the audience.