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How to write a report (with tips and examples)

Delve into our practical guide designed to improve your report writing skills. Explore example reports and discover useful tips for writing clear and effective reports.

Craft Author: Daniel Duke

1. Understand Your Purpose: Always start with a clear understanding of your report's objective. This clarity guides your research, the writing process, and the way you present your findings.

2. Emphasize Clarity and Precision: Your report should be written in clear, simple language. Prioritize precision and avoid unnecessary jargon. Use visuals to represent complex data effectively.

3. Refine Through Revision: Never underestimate the power of editing and proofreading. These steps are critical in enhancing the quality of your report. Additionally, seeking feedback from colleagues or mentors can provide valuable insights.

What is a Report?

Imagine having to comprehend the intricate details of a six-month-long project in a single meeting, or having to make an informed decision based on a sea of raw data. Overwhelming, isn't it? This is where the power of a report comes into play.

A report is a strategic tool that communicates the results of an investigation, a project, or any complex analysis in a clear and concise way. It is the torchlight that cuts through the dense forest of data and information, guiding us toward understanding and action.

At its heart, a report is about simplicity and clarity. It takes the core findings from a more complex investigation and distills them into a simpler, easier-to-follow narrative.

Take, for example, a Financial Analysis Report in a business setting. Such a report takes a mountain of financial data – from revenue to expenses, assets to liabilities – and transforms it into a clear analysis that highlights the company's financial health, trends, and areas that need attention. By distilling complex financial data into a digestible format, the report empowers decision-makers to understand the company's financial state and make informed strategic decisions.

Types of Report

Reports come in all shapes and sizes, each designed to communicate specific types of information to particular audiences. Here are five common types of reports used in a professional setting:

Project Status Report

As its name suggests, a Project Status Report provides an update on a specific project's progress. It typically includes information about completed tasks, ongoing work, any challenges encountered, and next steps. This report is crucial in keeping stakeholders informed and facilitating timely decision-making. For example, a project manager in an IT company might prepare a weekly Project Status Report to update the leadership team about the progress of a new software development project.

Financial Report

A Financial Report is an essential document in the business world. It provides a comprehensive overview of a company's financial health, including details about revenue, expenses, profits, losses, assets, and liabilities. These reports, often prepared quarterly or annually, help stakeholders, investors, and decision-makers understand the company's financial performance and make better-informed strategic decisions.

Research Report

Research Reports are commonly used in both academia and various industries. These reports present the findings from a research study, detailing the research methods, data collected, analysis, and conclusions drawn. For instance, a market research report might reveal consumer behavior trends, helping a company shape its marketing strategy.

Audit Report

An Audit Report is a formal document outlining an auditor's unbiased examination of a company's financial statements. It gives stakeholders confidence in the company's financial integrity and compliance with regulatory standards.

Progress Report

A Progress Report is often used to monitor the advancement of ongoing work or projects. These reports can be on an individual, team, or organizational level. For example, a sales team might produce a monthly progress report showing sales volumes, trends, and areas for improvement.

Each type of report serves its unique purpose and shares a common goal: to transform complex information into an accessible format that drives understanding, decision-making, and progress.

How to Format a Report

Every report requires a structured format for clear communication. The actual format of a report might vary depending on its purpose and formality, but here are the key components of an effective report:

1. Title Page: The Title Page should include the report's title, your name, the date, and often the name of your organization or institution.

2. Executive Summary: A succinct overview of the report's key points, findings, and implications. This section gives the reader a clear idea of what to expect from the report. Sometimes it's easier to compose this section last, once the rest of the report has been completed.

3. Table of Contents: A systematic list of the report's sections and subsections, acting as a navigational tool for your reader.

4. Introduction: The foundational part of the report. It introduces the topic, outlines the report's purpose, and defines its scope, preparing the reader for what's to come.

5. Methodology: An explanation of the methods and tools used for gathering and analyzing data. This section establishes the credibility of your findings and helps the reader comprehend your investigative process. This is perhaps more common in an academic setting: a project status report, for example, is less likely to need a section dedicated to methodology.

6. Findings/Results: The section where you detail your data and the results of your analysis. This is the core of your report, presenting the results of your investigation or research. As well as written data, you should include graphs, images and tables to present your findings, where appropriate.

7. Conclusion: The summary and interpretation of your findings. It reaffirms the insights your report offers and solidifies the report's overall message.

8. Recommendations: Based on the findings, this section proposes future actions or improvements, steering the course for next steps.

The final two sections are perhaps more common in an academic report, but both are worth mentioning here too:

9. Appendices: A place for any supplementary information or data that supports your report but isn't part of the main flow. It serves as a resource for readers interested in delving deeper into the topic.

10. References/Bibliography: A list of all the sources you've cited in your report. This section gives due credit to the referenced works and showcases the depth of your research.

How to Write a Report

Writing a compelling report is a skill crucial to various professional roles, no matter what position or industry you’re in. While the subject of each report might differ, there are key steps to creating an impactful document:

1. Understand the Purpose

Before you start writing, make sure you fully understand the purpose of your report. Why is it needed? What questions should it answer? Who will be reading it? Understanding these factors will guide your research, writing style, and the overall structure of your report.

2. Conduct Thorough Research

A strong report is based on accurate and comprehensive data. In a business setting, this research is usually based on your own data, whereas in an academic setting you'll often rely on external data sources. Take the time to research your topic thoroughly, using reliable and relevant sources. Keep track of all the sources you consult—you’ll need them for your bibliography.

3. Plan Your Report

Start with an outline. This step ensures your report has a logical flow and covers all necessary points. Just like a blueprint, an outline helps you structure your thoughts, organize your data, and divide your content into meaningful sections.

4. Write Clearly and Concisely

Your goal is to communicate, not to confuse. Keep your language simple and your sentences short. Make your points clearly, and support them with facts. Avoid jargon unless it's necessary and you're certain your audience understands it.

5. Use Visuals When Helpful

Charts, graphs, tables, and other visual aids can enhance your report by illustrating complex data in a digestible way. Ensure all visuals are relevant, appropriately labelled, and referenced in the text.

6. Draft and Revise

Your first draft won't be perfect, and that's okay. The key is to start writing. Once you have your thoughts on paper, you can refine and reorganize the content. Revising is a critical part of the writing process —never underestimate its power.

7. Proofread

Review your report for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Also, ensure all data and facts are accurate, and all sources are correctly cited (where applicable). An error-free report enhances your credibility and reflects your attention to detail.

8. Get Feedback

If possible, have a colleague or mentor review your report before finalizing it. They can provide fresh perspectives, point out any gaps, and suggest improvements.

9. Distribute the Report

Once your report is finalized, it's time to share your work. Distribute it to the appropriate audience, which may include your team, supervisor, or client. If the report will be discussed in a meeting or presentation , it might be helpful to distribute it in advance to give everyone a chance to review it.

Remember, writing a strong report is a blend of strategic thinking, thorough research, clear communication, and attention to detail.

Tips for Writing Successful Reports

Tips for writing successful reports

While the structure and purpose of reports may vary, certain principles apply universally to create successful documents. Here are five tips to elevate your report writing:

1. Maintain Objectivity

Your report should present data and facts as objectively as possible. Avoid letting personal biases influence the way you present information. Even when you're interpreting results or making recommendations, ensure that your conclusions are driven by the evidence at hand.

2. Stay Focused

Each report should have a single, clear purpose. Avoid going off on tangents or including irrelevant information. While it's important to provide context and background, don't lose sight of your report's main objective.

3. Think About Your Audience

Tailor your language, tone, and level of detail to the needs and understanding of your audience. A report written for experts in your field may use different language than one written for non-specialists. Always explain technical terms or industry jargon that your readers may not be familiar with.

4. Validate Your Points

Support every assertion you make with evidence or data. This adds credibility to your report and allows readers to understand the basis of your conclusions. Wherever possible, use graphics or visuals to illustrate your points—it’s a powerful way to represent data and ideas.

5. Format consistently

Consistency lends your report a professional look and helps readability. Stick to a consistent format in terms of font, spacing, heading styles, and captioning. Ensure your visuals are in sync with the rest of the document in terms of style and color scheme.

Reports are powerful communication tools, vital in various professional settings. The ability to write an effective report is a skill that can significantly enhance your impact in the workplace. From understanding what a report is, knowing the different types of reports, through to formatting and writing your report, the goal of this guide was to provide a comprehensive overview to help you excel in this critical skill.

By keeping the report’s purpose in mind, conducting thorough research, using a clear and concise writing style, and meticulously revising and proofreading your document, you can ensure your report not only communicates its intended information but does so in an engaging, digestible manner. Employing these strategies, combined with the tips offered, will help you create high-quality, impactful reports.

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How to Write a Report

Last Updated: March 15, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Amy Bobinger . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 8,713,079 times.

When you’re assigned to write a report, it can seem like an intimidating process. Fortunately, if you pay close attention to the report prompt, choose a subject you like, and give yourself plenty of time to research your topic, you might actually find that it’s not so bad. After you gather your research and organize it into an outline, all that’s left is to write out your paragraphs and proofread your paper before you hand it in!

Easy Steps to Write a Report

  • Choose an interesting topic and narrow it down to a specific idea.
  • Take notes as you research your topic. Come up with a thesis, or main theme of your report, based on your research.
  • Outline the main ideas you’ll cover in your report. Then, write the first draft.

Sample Reports

written report are

Selecting Your Topic

Step 1 Read the report prompt or guidelines carefully.

  • The guidelines will also typically tell you the requirements for the structure and format of your report.
  • If you have any questions about the assignment, speak up as soon as possible. That way, you don’t start working on the report, only to find out you have to start over because you misunderstood the report prompt.

Step 2 Choose a topic

  • For instance, if your report is supposed to be on a historical figure, you might choose someone you find really interesting, like the first woman to be governor of a state in the U.S., or the man who invented Silly Putty.
  • If your report is about information technology , you could gather information about the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data or information.
  • Even if you don’t have the option to choose your topic, you can often find something in your research that you find interesting. If your assignment is to give a report on the historical events of the 1960s in America, for example, you could focus your report on the way popular music reflected the events that occurred during that time.

Tip: Always get approval from your teacher or boss on the topic you choose before you start working on the report!

Step 3 Try to pick a topic that is as specific as possible.

  • If you’re not sure what to write about at first, pick a larger topic, then narrow it down as you start researching.
  • For instance, if you wanted to do your report on World Fairs, then you realize that there are way too many of them to talk about, you might choose one specific world fair, such as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, to focus on.
  • However, you wouldn’t necessarily want to narrow it down to something too specific, like “Food at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition,” since it could be hard to find sources on the subject without just listing a lot of recipes.

Researching the Report

Step 1 Include a variety...

  • If you don’t have guidelines on how many sources to use, try to find 1-2 reputable sources for each page of the report.
  • Sources can be divided into primary sources, like original written works, court records, and interviews, and secondary sources, like reference books and reviews.
  • Databases, abstracts, and indexes are considered tertiary sources, and can be used to help you find primary and secondary sources for your report. [5] X Research source
  • If you’re writing a business report , you may be given some supplementary materials, such as market research or sales reports, or you may need to compile this information yourself. [6] X Research source

Step 2 Visit the library first if you’re writing a report for school.

  • Librarians are an excellent resource when you're working on a report. They can help you find books, articles, and other credible sources.
  • Often, a teacher will limit how many online sources you can use. If you find most of the information you need in the library, you can then use your online sources for details that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

Tip: Writing a report can take longer than you think! Don't put off your research until the last minute , or it will be obvious that you didn't put much effort into the assignment.

Step 3 Use only scholarly sources if you do online research.

  • Examples of authoritative online sources include government websites, articles written by known experts, and publications in peer-reviewed journals that have been published online.

Step 4 Cross-reference your sources to find new material.

  • If you’re using a book as one of your sources, check the very back few pages. That’s often where an author will list the sources they used for their book.

Step 5 Keep thorough notes...

  • Remember to number each page of your notes, so you don’t get confused later about what information came from which source!
  • Remember, you’ll need to cite any information that you use in your report; however, exactly how you do this will depend on the format that was assigned to you.

Step 6 Use your research...

  • For most reports, your thesis statement should not contain your own opinions. However, if you're writing a persuasive report, the thesis should contain an argument that you will have to prove in the body of the essay.
  • An example of a straightforward report thesis (Thesis 1) would be: “The three main halls of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition were filled with modern creations of the day and were an excellent representation of the innovative spirit of the Progressive era.”
  • A thesis for a persuasive report (Thesis 2) might say: “The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was intended as a celebration of the Progressive spirit, but actually harbored a deep racism and principle of white supremacy that most visitors chose to ignore or celebrate.”

Step 7 Organize your notes...

  • The purpose of an outline is to help you to visualize how your essay will look. You can create a straightforward list or make a concept map , depending on what makes the most sense to you.
  • Try to organize the information from your notes so it flows together logically. For instance, it can be helpful to try to group together related items, like important events from a person’s childhood, education, and career, if you’re writing a biographical report.
  • Example main ideas for Thesis 1: Exhibits at the Court of the Universe, Exhibits at the Court of the Four Seasons, Exhibits at the Court of Abundance.

Tip: It can help to create your outline on a computer in case you change your mind as you’re moving information around.

Writing the First Draft

Step 1 Format the report according to the guidelines you were given.

  • Try to follow any formatting instructions to the letter. If there aren't any, opt for something classic, like 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font, double-spaced lines, and 1 in (2.5 cm) margins all around.
  • You'll usually need to include a bibliography at the end of the report that lists any sources you used. You may also need a title page , which should include the title of the report, your name, the date, and the person who requested the report.
  • For some types of reports, you may also need to include a table of contents and an abstract or summary that briefly sums up what you’ve written. It’s typically easier to write these after you’ve finished your first draft. [14] X Research source

Step 2 State your thesis...

  • Example Intro for Thesis 1: “The Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915 was intended to celebrate both the creation of the Panama Canal, and the technological advancements achieved at the turn of the century. The three main halls of the PPIE were filled with modern creations of the day and were an excellent representation of the innovative spirit of the Progressive era.”

Step 3 Start each paragraph in the body of the report with a topic sentence.

  • Typically, you should present the most important or compelling information first.
  • Example topic sentence for Thesis 1: At the PPIE, the Court of the Universe was the heart of the exposition and represented the greatest achievements of man, as well as the meeting of the East and the West.

Tip: Assume that your reader knows little to nothing about the subject. Support your facts with plenty of details and include definitions if you use technical terms or jargon in the paper.

Step 4 Support each topic sentence with evidence from your research.

  • Paraphrasing means restating the original author's ideas in your own words. On the other hand, a direct quote means using the exact words from the original source in quotation marks, with the author cited.
  • For the topic sentence listed above about the Court of the Universe, the body paragraph should go on to list the different exhibits found at the exhibit, as well as proving how the Court represented the meeting of the East and West.
  • Use your sources to support your topic, but don't plagiarize . Always restate the information in your own words. In most cases, you'll get in serious trouble if you just copy from your sources word-for-word. Also, be sure to cite each source as you use it, according to the formatting guidelines you were given. [18] X Research source

Step 5 Follow your evidence with commentary explaining why it links to your thesis.

  • Your commentary needs to be at least 1-2 sentences long. For a longer report, you may write more sentences for each piece of commentary.

Step 6 Summarize your research...

  • Avoid presenting any new information in the conclusion. You don’t want this to be a “Gotcha!” moment. Instead, it should be a strong summary of everything you’ve already told the reader.

Revising Your Report

Step 1 Scan the report to make sure everything is included and makes sense.

  • A good question to ask yourself is, “If I were someone reading this report for the first time, would I feel like I understood the topic after I finished reading?

Tip: If you have time before the deadline, set the report aside for a few days . Then, come back and read it again. This can help you catch errors you might otherwise have missed.

Step 2 Check carefully for proofreading errors.

  • Try reading the report to yourself out loud. Hearing the words can help you catch awkward language or run-on sentences you might not catch by reading it silently.

Step 3 Read each sentence from the end to the beginning.

  • This is a great trick to find spelling errors or grammatical mistakes that your eye would otherwise just scan over.

Step 4 Have someone else proofread it for you.

  • Ask your helper questions like, “Do you understand what I am saying in my report?” “Is there anything you think I should take out or add?” And “Is there anything you would change?”

Step 5 Compare your report to the assignment requirements to ensure it meets expectations.

  • If you have any questions about the assignment requirements, ask your instructor. It's important to know how they'll be grading your assignment.

Expert Q&A

Emily Listmann, MA

You Might Also Like

Write a Financial Report

  • ↑ https://libguides.reading.ac.uk/reports/writing-up
  • ↑ https://emory.libanswers.com/faq/44525
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-7-sources-choosing-the-right-ones/
  • ↑ https://libguides.merrimack.edu/research_help/Sources
  • ↑ https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/1779625/VBS-Report-Writing-Guide-2017.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.library.illinois.edu/hpnl/tutorials/primary-sources/
  • ↑ https://libguides.scu.edu.au/harvard/secondary-sources
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/taking-notes-while-reading/
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/outline
  • ↑ https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/engl250oer/chapter/10-4-table-of-contents/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://www.yourdictionary.com/articles/report-writing-format
  • ↑ https://www.monash.edu/rlo/assignment-samples/assignment-types/writing-an-essay/writing-body-paragraphs
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/5-most-effective-methods-for-avoiding-plagiarism/
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/using-evidence.html
  • ↑ https://www.student.unsw.edu.au/writing-report
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/grammarpunct/proofreading/
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-12-peer-review-and-final-revisions/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

It can seem really hard to write a report, but it will be easier if you choose an original topic that you're passionate about. Once you've got your topic, do some research on it at the library and online, using reputable sources like encyclopedias, scholarly journals, and government websites. Use your research write a thesis statement that sums up the focus of your paper, then organize your notes into an outline that supports that thesis statement. Finally, expand that outline into paragraph form. Read on for tips from our Education co-author on how to format your report! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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COMMENTS

  1. How to write a report (with tips and examples)

    1. Understand Your Purpose: Always start with a clear understanding of your report's objective. This clarity guides your research, the writing process, and the way you present your findings. 2. Emphasize Clarity and Precision: Your report should be written in clear, simple language.

  2. How to Write a Report (with Pictures)

    Easy Steps to Write a Report. Choose an interesting topic and narrow it down to a specific idea. Take notes as you research your topic. Come up with a thesis, or main theme of your report, based on your research. Outline the main ideas you’ll cover in your report. Then, write the first draft.