What is a report?
Reports can be academic, technical, or business-oriented and feature recommendations for specific actions. They are written to present facts about a situation, project, or process and will define and analyze the issue at hand. The ultimate purpose of a report is to relay observations to a specific audience in a clear and concise style. When you are asked to write a report you are usually given a report brief that provides you with instructions and guidelines. The report brief may outline the purpose, audience, and problem or issue that your report must address, together with any specific requirements for format or structure. Some important questions to consider and to ask yourself when planning on your report include; Who are the readers? What is the purpose of the report? Why is the report needed? And, what information should be included in the report?
A good report should;
- Understand the purpose of the report brief and adhere to its specifications;
- Gather, evaluate and analyze relevant information;
- Structure material in a logical and coherent order;
- Present your report in a consistent manner according to the instructions of the report brief;
- Make appropriate conclusions that are supported by the evidence and analysis of the report;
- Make thoughtful and practical recommendations where required.
The following are the sections of a standard report
- Title section. For a short report, the front cover may include information you feel necessary like the name of the author and the date presented. However, for longer reports, you may consider including a table of content and definition of terms.
- Summary. Usually a summary of the main points, conclusion, and recommendations. In writing your report, write this as the last part so you include everything. Remember some people will read the summary and only skim the report, so make sure you include all of the relevant information.
- Introduction. Here you will explain the problem and inform the reader why the report is being made. You need to give a definition of terms if you did not include these in the title section and explain how the details of the report are arranged.
- Body. This is the main section of the report. There need to be several sections, with each having a subtitle. Information is usually arranged in order of importance with the most important information coming first.
- Conclusion. This is where everything comes together. Keep this section free of jargon as many people will just read the summary and conclusion.
- Recommendations. In this section, explain your recommendations putting them in order of priority.
- Appendices. This includes information that the experts in the field will read. It has all the technical details that support your conclusions.
5 tips on how to write your report
- Identify your audience
- Decide which information you will include
- Structure your report
- Use concise and professional language
- Proofread and edit your report
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