Start by using the standard report writing format and then adapt it to meet your Unlike an essay, which sets out to defend a writer's view about a topic and does not For example: "Bad customer service decreases repeat business" is more.
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- Reports and essays: key differences
Confusion often arises about the writing style, what to include, the language to use, the length of the document and other factors. This page aims to disentangle some of these elements, and provide you with some advice designed to help you to write a good report. In academia there is some overlap between reports and essays, and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but reports are more likely to be needed for business, scientific and technical subjects, and in the workplace.
Essentially, a report is a short, sharp, concise document which is written for a particular purpose and audience. It generally sets outs and analyses a situation or problem, often making recommendations for future action.
It is a factual paper, and needs to be clear and well-structured. For example, in the UK many government departments have outline structures for reports to ministers that must be followed exactly. A report is designed to lead people through the information in a structured way, but also to enable them to find the information that they want quickly and easily. Reports usually, therefore, have numbered sections and subsections, and a clear and full contents page listing each heading. It follows that page numbering is important. Modern word processors have features to add tables of contents ToC and page numbers as well as styled headings; you should take advantage of these as they update automatically as you edit your report, moving, adding or deleting sections.
You will usually receive a clear brief for a report, including what you are studying and for whom the report should be prepared. First of all, consider your brief very carefully and make sure that you are clear who the report is for if you're a student then not just your tutor, but who it is supposed to be written for , and why you are writing it, as well as what you want the reader to do at the end of reading: make a decision or agree a recommendation, perhaps. During your planning and writing, make sure that you keep your brief in mind: who are you writing for, and why are you writing?
All your thinking needs to be focused on that, which may require you to be ruthless in your reading and thinking. Anything irrelevant should be discarded. As you read and research, try to organise your work into sections by theme, a bit like writing a Literature Review. Make sure that you keep track of your references, especially for academic work. However, as a rough guide, you should plan to include at the very least an executive summary, introduction, the main body of your report, and a section containing your conclusions and any recommendations.
The executive summary or abstract , for a scientific report, is a brief summary of the contents. It should be no more than half a page to a page in length. Remember the executive summary is designed to give busy 'executives' a quick summary of the contents of the report. The introduction sets out what you plan to say and provides a brief summary of the problem under discussion.
It should also touch briefly on your conclusions. Reading these is just as important as interpreting the assignment title as they will explain the conventions that you are expected to abide by in shaping your piece of writing. For instance: if it asks for words in continuous prose, it would not be a good idea to write words and use sub-headings. A useful way of converting your plan into a first draft of your assignment is to number each of the areas you want to include you may have already linked them with arrows. This confirms the order in which you want to present ideas and ensures a logical flow.
Academic Paper Examples
Then, cross off each area once you have written about it, so there is no danger of repeating yourself. This can be encouraging by showing you how much progress you are making. If you would like some practice in this, try using Figure 2 as a model to work on. As you may remember from Activity 3 , the three general principles of a report whether it is of a social sciences investigation or a scientific experiment are:.
You will need to make some decisions, not only about what to leave out because it isn't particularly relevant but also about how to present what you are including to best effect:. Diagrams, tables and graphs may help to present your results with greater clarity.
Reports And Essays: Key Differences | Help and Advice | University of Portsmouth
Headings or sub-headings, numbered paragraphs and bullet points can also help to emphasise the main issues. Here is a plan on how to lay out the report of a social sciences investigation, though there are common elements with reports produced for other purposes. The language used in a report is usually straightforward and to the point. The report's structure and organisation make it easy to identify the various parts, and to find specific items of information quite quickly.
As you may remember from Activity 4 , the main elements of an essay are:. Now that you are beginning to draft, keep the assignment's title in front of you. Refer back to it regularly in ordering your material. Are you doing what you are asked to do, or are you writing about what you want to write about? The introduction of a report has a very specific role, and the range of approaches you may take is fairly limited.
The function of such an introduction is to:. It may not do all of these things. A fuller introduction, which may be preferable if you are still developing confidence in your writing, could include any or all of the following points:. Look back at Section 1. It is longer than the introduction that will be required for one of your assignments: our constraint was the number of pages, not the number of words. But does it fulfil any of the above criteria? We have certainly outlined our aims and objectives; we have indicated the limits to the course — our writing assignment; but we haven't provided much background information or context.
A group of students attending a writing workshop were asked to identify the first task in preparing an assignment. Do you agree that writing the introduction should be your first priority when working on your first draft?
If you disagree, why? People vary in whether they prefer to write the introduction at an early stage or when they have almost completed your assignment. Is this how you feel? Though an assignment is an exploration of a topic, it requires a sense of direction, of building a case or argument in a logical manner.
Imagine you need to ask your tutor for an extension to the cut-off date for an assignment. You need to persuade him or her that you have a good case. In practice, of course, you would not be under so much pressure to explain.
📝 Types of Academic Papers
We have chosen this as an example because the situation may be familiar to you. If you were the tutor, would you consider all of these to be good reasons for the request?
Would you agree that some reasons are stronger than others? Maybe those students whose circumstances have changed unexpectedly have a better case than others who could have foreseen problems and should have been able to plan around their difficulties. Maybe you would look less favourably on b because you would feel that the student need not have got him or herself into that situation and in any case has got his or her priorities wrong.
But look at c and e again. On the face of it, these reasons may not be as strong as, say, d but if you were to enquire further with your student, you might discover there were other things underlying the lack of time and concentration. Perhaps the student with reason c is caring for an elderly relative for whom respite care had fallen through.
Maybe the student with reason e is depressed and on medication.
Reports and essays: key differences
These two students would both have a good case but have not presented it very well. Even the student with reason b may have an acceptable explanation for the sudden influx of visitors. What lies behind the suddenness? What extra demands did this place on the student? The more questions that are asked, the stronger the case could become.
There is another aspect here. How do you know that what these students are telling you is true? What pieces of evidence help to verify their reasons? What status would you accord a medical certificate or a statement from the student's employer? Making your argument usually occurs in the main body of the assignment, whether it is an essay or a report.
This is where you outline your point of view while demonstrating awareness of other perspectives or interpretations. To be convincing, you need to show your reasoning as to why you favour a particular perspective, and to provide supporting evidence. You will recall from the planning activities, how important it is to group your ideas together.