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Reports Tool Kit: Home

The reports section of the ASK toolkit

The Steps

Step 1 - Where do I start?

Identify the purpose and audience for your report

  1. What is the length of your report? Max? Min?
  2. Who will be reading your report? Audience?
  3. What are the contents of your report?

You Will Need To Report

  1. What you did
  2. How you did it
  3. What you found out
  4. Why your findings are important 

What is the difference between a report and an essay?​

A report is the write up of an investigation, it sets out:

  • Why an investigation took place
  • How it was carried out
  • What the findings were 
  • What action is recommended as a result

As a student you will probably need to write one at the end of a practical or research project. In employment a report is used for the same purpose. It is:

'a communication... from a person who has collected and studied the facts, to a person who has asked for the report because they need it for a specific purpose'. (Stanton, 1990)

How is a report different from an essay?

In Purpose

A report need to finish with clear recommendations about what action is suggested as a result of the findings

An essay is unlikely to need such an important and emphatic conclusion, (depending on its title)

In Structure  

A report has headed and numbered sections so that any item in it may be found quickly, and read separately. Information which is not vital to an understanding of the report is included in an appendix at the end

An essay is written in continuous prose, and is meant to read from beginning to end because that is the way its theme develops.

In Style

A report is written in the third person (avoiding 'i', 'we' and 'you'). Its style is direct and brief because it needs to be read quickly.

It is written in the passive voice, e.g.

  • 'The survey was carried out' not
  • 'I carried out the survey'

An essay, too, is formal and usually written in the third person, but there might be times when a more personal approach is needed.

Step 2 - How Do I Plan My Report?

How do I structure my report?

Report Formats

Analytical - e.g. research reports

  1. Title page
  2. Contents
  3. Executive Summary/Abstract
  4. Introduction
  5. Main Section (Findings)
  6. Conclusion and Recommendations
  7. List of References
  8. Appendices

Scientific/Practical (E.g.Lab reports)

  1. Title page
  2. Contents
  3. Executive Summary
  4. Introduction
  5. Method(ology)
  6. Results
  7. Analysis and Discussion
  8. Conclusion and Recommendations
  9. List of References
  10. Appendices


A brief (one paragraph) explanation of:

  • Terms of reference
  • Aims and objectives
  • Methods used in the investigation
  • Necessary background information
  • Definitions of abbreviations
  • Acknowledgements (You will probably find it easiest to do this page at the end.)

Main Body

  • Logical sections with clear headings
  • Section numbers next to headings
  • Figures/diagrams/charts
  • Essentials only – background information can go in the appendices.
  • Written in a clear, brief and direct style.
  • Written without using “I”, “we”. For example, “The survey was carried out” not “I carried out the survey.”

Discussion / Conclusion

  • Draws together your findings
  • Tells the reader which findings you consider to be most important
  • Explains what you believe to be the significance of your findings.
  • Shows whether your hypothesis (if you had one) was correct.
  • You may wish to suggest areas for further research.
  • May be as one section, or as Discussion, followed by a Conclusion with a summary of key points (no new information)

Where can I find information?

Step 3 - How do I write a report?

Writing style for reports

Step 4 - How do I finalise my report?

How to edit and proofread your writing

What’s the difference between editing and proof reading?

  • Editing and proof reading are not the same! Editing happens as you write your assignment while proof reading is the last part of the writing process. Aim for 3 drafts of your writing:
  • First draft: Focus on getting your main ideas and information down.
  • Second draft: Take a cold hard look at your first draft and edit it for content, structure, style, evidence and referencing
  • Third draft: This is the proof reading stage when you check carefully for errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is the final refinement of your writing

Editing your first draft

Now’s the time to take a good hard look at your first draft

  • What’s your main point? Is it clear to someone reading the assignment? Could you write it in one sentence?
  • Have you provided convincing evidence to support your main point? Have you acknowledged opposing views?
  • Will your structure make sense to a reader? Does it follow the conventions for academic essays or reports?
  • Check that all your information and ideas relate clearly to the assignment title and your main point.

Proofreading your second draft

Now check for misspellings, mistakes in grammar and punctuation

  • Read for only one error at a time, separating the text into individual sentences eg. check for spelling first, then grammar, then punctuation. Find out the sort of errors you make and learn how to correct them.
  • Read every word slowly and out loud. This lets you hear how the words sound together.
  • Read the paper backwards, working from the end to the beginning. The focus then is entirely on spelling. Note: You might need to do more than two drafts!