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Assignment GuidanceHandout 2Overall Structure
Writing a Report
Business, industry and educational institutions often demand short technical reports. Theymay be proposals, progress reports, trip reports, completion reports, investigation reports,feasibility studies, or evaluation reports. As the names indicate, these reports are diverse infocus and aim, and differ in structure. However, one goal of all reports is the same: tocommunicate to an audience.
Your audience for a report written for a Foundation Degree falls into two main categories.Your colleagues and managers may read your report to extract knowledge, for example if youare creating a report that focuses on the use of technology in your institution, it may highlightfor them some areas of strength to beapplauded and some areas where action isrequired.Your tutors will not usually read your report inorder to extract knowledge; instead, they willlook for evidence that you understand thematerial and ideas your report presents. Your document, then, should not only conveyinformation clearly and coherently (such asnumbers, facts or equations), but should also,where appropriate, detail the logical processesyou relied upon (such as interpretation,analysis, or evaluation).
Typical Components
This document describes a general format for a short report, which you canadapt to the needs of specific assignments. Bear in mind that a format,however helpful, cannot replace clear thinking andstrategic writing. You stillneed to organize your ideas carefully and express them coherently. Beprecise and concise.
Title Page
The essential information here is your name, the title of the project, and thedate. Be aware of any other information your instructor requires. The title of areport can be a statement of the subject. An effective title is informative butreasonably short. Ornamental or misleading titles may annoy readers.
Abstract or Summary
This section states the report inminiature. It summarizes the wholereport in one, concise paragraph of about 100-200 words. It might beuseful to think in terms of writing onesentence to summarize each of thetraditional report divisions: objective,method,discussion,conclusions.Emphasize the objective (which statesthe problem) and the analysis of theresults (including recommendations).Avoid the temptation to copy a wholeparagraph from elsewhere in your report and make it do double duty.Since the abstract condenses andemphasizes the most importantelements of the whole report, youcannot write it until after you havecompleted the report. Remember, theabstract should be a precise andspecific summary -- give details. Atechnical document is not a mysterynovel -- give your conclusion rightaway. Support it later.
Whereas the abstract summarizes the whole report, the introduction of atechnical report identifies the subject, the purpose (or objective), and the planof development of the report.The subject is the "what", the purpose is the "why", and the plan is the "how."Together these acquaint the reader with the problem you are setting out tosolve.State the subject and purpose as clearly and concisely as possible, usually inone sentence called the thesis or purpose statement: For example, “Thisreport explores potential uses of technology by school leaders. Its purpose isto begin to characterise effective practice in e-learning for leadership.”Use the introduction to provide the reader with any background informationwhich the reader will need before you can launch into the body of your paper.You may have to define the terms used in stating the subject and providebackground such as theory or history of the subject.For example, remember that your audience may include colleagues or managers who are not familiar with some of the specialist terms associatedwith e-learning.
Avoid the tendency to use the introduction merely to fill space with sweepingstatements that are unrelated to the specific purpose of your report like,"Throughout the ages, human beings have looked up at the stars andwondered about [your topic here]."
If the introduction requires a large amount of supporting information,such as a review of literature or a description of a process, then thebackground material should form its own section. This section may include areview of previous research, or formulas the reader needs to understand theproblem. In an academic report, it is also the point where you can show your comprehension of the problem.
This section is the most important partof your report. It takes many forms andmay have subheadings of its own.Some basic components that it mightinclude are methods, findings (or results), and evaluation (or analysis). Ina progress report, the methods andfindings may dominate; a final reportshould emphasize evaluation. Mostacademic assignments should alsofocus on your evaluation of the subject.Before you begin writing, ask the journalist's questions: who? when?where? what? why? how? The lastthree in particular will help you focusanalysis. Beyond asking these simplequestions, you also need to makedecisions such as: How do you interpretthe data? What is the significance of your findings?
What knowledge comes out of the report? As you draw a conclusion, youneed to explain it in terms of the preceding discussion. Some repetition of themost important ideas you presented there is expected, but you should avoidcopying.
What actions does the report call for? The recommendations should be clearlyconnected to the results of the rest of the report. You may need to make thoseconnections explicit at this point--your reader should not have to guess atwhat you mean. This section may also include plans for how further research

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