Report writing

  • Reports are informative writing that present the results of an experiment or investigation to a specific audience in a structured way. Reports are broken up into sections using headings, and can often include diagrams, pictures, and bullet-point lists. They are used widely in science, social science, and business contexts.  

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    Difference between reports and essays

    Essays and reports are both common types of university assignments. Whilst an essay is usually a continuous piece of writing, a report is divided into sections. See this overview for more on the differences between reports and essays: 

    Structure

    Reports have an expected structure with set sections so information is easy to find. Science reports may have methods and results sections, but business reports may only have a discussion and recommendations section. Always check what type of structure is needed for each report assignment as they may change. See this overview of different types of report structures: 

    Finding your own headings

    Sometimes you are given the choice of how to name your sub-headings and structure the main body of your report. This is common in business where the structure has to fit the needs of the information and the client. See this short video on how to find meaningful sub-headings: 

    Purpose of each section

    Each section of a report has a different role to play and contains different types of information. See this brief overview of what goes where and how to number the sections: 

    Writing style

    As well as having a different purpose, each report section is written in a different way and they don’t have to be written in order. See these guides on the style and order for writing a report and on the features of scientific writing:

    Tables and figures

    Reports commonly use graphs and tables to show data more effectively. Always ensure any visual information in your report has a purpose and is referred to in the text. See this introductory guide to presenting data:

    Further resources

    If you’d like to read more about the structure and style of reports, see this resource and book list created by Brookes Library: