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About this book

Practical and concise, this is the essential guide to writing effective reports. It shows students how to tailor report structures and conventions to different audiences and purposes and how to manage changes in format and requirements, so that they have the tools and understanding to write reports with confidence. It includes real-life examples of student reports to illustrate the features of good report writing, and a comprehensive checklist to keep students on track.
This is an invaluable resource for students of all levels who are required to write reports as part of their course.

Table of Contents

1. The purpose of reports

Abstract
Reports are formally structured and communicate the findings of investigations in a clear, logical way. Your investigation may be a scientific experiment, a site visit, a series of observations, research into a process or procedure … but whatever different types of investigation you do as part of your course, you will need to report:. The content and structure of your report are determined by the needs of your audience and the purpose of your report … but how do you know who your audience are and what they want?.
Michelle Reid

2. Gathering your information

Abstract
Sometimes your investigation calls for you to establish your ‘aims and objectives’ – particularly for longer reports or dissertations. People often get ‘aims’ and ‘objectives’ confused and find it hard to distinguish between them. This is not surprising as major dictionaries usually define them as meaning the same thing. However, in the context of a report:. The aims are the overarching things you want to achieve. The objectives describe in more detail how you are going to achieve them.
Michelle Reid

3. Structuring your report

Abstract
A report gives a logical and ordered structure to an investigative process. The sections help readers to know what to expect and where to find the information they need. As each section of a report does a different job, each has a different writing style to suit. This chapter looks at the main sections of a report in turn, explaining their purpose in the overall report, what they should contain and how they should be written. For each report section, the diagram on the left shows where the section comes in the report structure and the other sections that are related to it. It is likely that your report will contain some, if not all, of the following sections, but these are just a guide. You should follow the specific instructions given to you by your tutors, as different academic subjects and professions have their own variations on this structure. (For an example of one variation, for a business report, see ‘Types of reports’ in Chapter 1: p. 20.)
Michelle Reid

4. Business plans, reflective placement reports, project proposals and dissertations

Abstract
Business plans, reflective placement reports, project proposals and dissertations share many of the features of reports, such as a formal structure divided by headings. However, since they have different purposes to fulfil, there are some differences between these assignment formats and reports. Like other types of reports, business plans have a target audience and purpose; they are persuasive documents, designed to attract investors or collaborators. If you are being asked to write a business plan for an assignment, you need to convince your imaginary (or real) investors that you have a clear, realistic, financially workable idea.
Michelle Reid

5. Presenting your findings

Abstract
Reports are as much about visual communication as they are about written communication. Much of the meaning in a report is conveyed through its formal structure, including headings, lists and bullet points, and through the presentation of findings in tables, graphs and diagrams. When presenting your results, you need to choose the most appropriate way to represent them so that your readers can see the key trends, patterns or themes. Imagine you are presenting the findings for the following report.
Michelle Reid

6. Demonstrating critical thinking in reports

Abstract
In feedback on previous reports you may have got comments like ‘Be more critical’ or ‘Needs more critical analysis’. This may be frustrating, as comments such as these tell you what is missing, but not necessarily what critical thinking actually is or how to go about including more of it in your reports. Given this kind of feedback, it’s understandable to see ‘critical thinking’ as some mysterious, secret process that you need to access in order to gain better marks. However, thinking critically is something we do every day, not just in an academic context.
Michelle Reid

7. Writing concisely

Abstract
Reports are informative and they have a purpose, so if the writing is unclear or irrelevant, the effectiveness of the information is lost and the purpose is not achieved. This is especially true in a work environment where clear, incisive communication is a powerful tool for persuasion and achieving change. A poorly written report will be ignored or dismissed – both you and your message will lose authority. At university, a poorly written report will also lose you marks! Write concisely – it’s easy to say, but how can you achieve this? We tend to be more focused when we have a target to meet. So as well as keeping in mind the overall word count for your report, it’s also a good idea to set yourself mini-word counts for each section in the planning stage, especially if you have a habit of writing a lot. Realising you need to trim 100 words from the introduction is far less disheartening than having to cut 1,500 words at the end!.
Michelle Reid

8. Report writing at work

Abstract
The good news is that once you have left university you’ll probably never have to write an essay again! However, reports are a universal form of presenting information, so it is likely you will be writing reports in your chosen career. The skills you develop while conducting investigations and writing reports at university are highly valued by employers.
Michelle Reid
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