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on, rather than to be read by people interested in the ideas for their own sake. Because of this, it has a different structure and layout Academic Reports A report written for an academic course can be thought of as a simulation. We can imagine that someone wants the report for a practical purpose, although we are really writing the report as an academic exercise for assessment. Theoretical ideas will be more to the front in an academic report than in a practical one Sometimes a report seems to serve academic and practical purposes. Students on placement with organisations often have to produce a report for the organisation and for assessment on the course. Although the background work for both will be related, in practice, the report the student produces for academic assessment will be different from the report produced for the organisation, because the needs of each are different.
AUDIENCE The answers to these questions will help you to decide what to put in the report and what style to write it in: Who is your audience? Who are you writing for? What do they know already? What do they need to know? What do they want to know?
STAGES OF REPORT PRODUCTION: Because a Report conveys information, we can argue that the stages to producing one should logically be organised around the information gathering stage. 1. 2. 3. 4. Stage one: Framing the issues and planning Stage two: Information gathering (Researching the Project) Stage three: Analysing the information Stage four: Writing the Report.
Briefly, the sources you use will be determined by the aims and scope of your report. You may gather data yourself, for example through carrying out interviews or experiments. You will also be looking for relevant secondary data, information that someone else has gathered or produced and that you will find in, for example, books, journals, newspapers, and other reports. Ensure that the information you use is relevant and that you always reference its source. WRITING THE REPORT "WRITING UP" It is not sensible to leave all your writing until the end. There is always the possibility that it will take much longer than you anticipate and you will not have enough time. There could also be pressure upon available word processors as other students try to complete their own reports. It is wise to begin writing up some aspects of your research as you go along. Remember that you do not have to write your report in the order that it will be read. Often it is easiest to start with the method section. Leave the introduction and the abstract to last. The use of a word processor makes it very straightforward to modify and rearrange what you have written as your research progresses and your ideas change. The very process of writing will help your ideas to develop. Last but by no means least, ask someone to proofread your work. STARTING WRITING CAN BE A PROBLEM ". . . Writers are big procrastinators. They find countless reasons not to get started. Even when they finally get themselves seated at their desks, they always seem to find diversions: make the coffee, sharpen the pencil, go to the bathroom, thumb through more literature . . . Remember that you are never `ready' to write; writing is something you must make a conscious decision to do and then discipline yourself to follow through. . ." (Bogdan, R.C. and Biklen, S.K. 1982) It is easier said than done, but do not keep on waiting until you are "in the mood." It will not happen. Make an early start and write up a section as soon as it is ready. You should not leave all your report writing until after your research is completed. Instead, get into a habit of writing up sections while your research is still in progress. Using a wordprocessor means that it is simple to go back and make changes as your ideas develop or as new data are discovered. Start writing with a section about which you feel reasonably confident. Do not sit and stare at a blank screen or page, just get writing. Remember that this is only a first draft. It does not have to be perfect. Your literature review can be written up early on (and added to if you read more or as you discover more). The methodology section is often reasonably straightforward to write. (Remember, the abstract should be left until the end). SET YOURSELF DEADLINES.
Your timetable for doing your research should include a timetable for writing your report. Within the writing timetable, set yourself deadlines for different pieces of writing. Try to write regularly. As with all studying, "little and often" will bring better results than doing nothing for days and then working flat out through a day and a night. When you stop, try to be clear what you will be writing next and avoid stopping at a place where the next step will be difficult: this could deter you from getting started again. Let your friends, family and flatmates know that you are busy writing and explain that it is important that you are not disturbed. STRUCTURING A REPORT A report has a different structure and layout to an essay A report is used for reference and is often quite a long document. It has to be clearly structured for you and your readers to quickly find the information wanted. Follow guidelines given to you when asked to write the report, but, if not given any, the format below is generally acceptable. If you are not supplied with a required or recommended outline, this one will probably suffice, although not every report will need all the sections. If you do have a recommended outline, you should use that, but the plan below will help to explain what goes into each section.
The purposes of Reports differ so much that any instructions for your particular report are very important. Click here for an example of a report based on a learning agreement and a reflective diary. This differs considerably from the report outlined below.
You need to plan carefully to make sure that the information which you have gathered gets put under the correct headings. Decide on your headings and subheadings. Example The headings and subheading you need will be determined by the aims of your report and the requirements of your course. Make a list of the main parts (as shown under Parts of a Report) that you will need for your report. Then add your own headings and subheadings as appropriate. Go through the material you have gathered and list all your points and any supporting information under the appropriate headings. [Now take a break and come back later, refreshed.]
Go through the points under each heading and underline the most important. Cross through any that seem irrelevant, or put them under another heading if they are out of place. Leave the points which you are unsure about. You can decide whether to include or reject them later. Arrange the headings into a logical sequence. Read through what you have planned and decide whether or not to include the points about which you were unsure. Decide what supporting information should go into the appendices and what should remain in the main body. Draft some interim conclusions by summarising, analysing and evaluating your findings. Consider what recommendations (if required) should be made. Write a full draft, taking account of the points on structure outlined above, and the points on layout outlined below. REVISE, REDRAFT, REVISE, REDRAFT... "No one, however gifted, can produce a passable first draft. Writing means rewriting." (Barzun, J. and Graff, H.E. 1977) Read through the draft, checking for errors and making revisions. Use the spellchecker on your computer and also a grammar check if available.
PARTS OF A REPORT Cover Sheet This should contain some or all of the following: full title of the report; your name; the name of the unit of which the project is a part; the name of the institution; the date. Title Page Full title of the report. Your name. Acknowledgements A thank you to the people who helped you. Contents or Table of Contents Headings and subheadings used in the report with their page numbers. Remember that each new chapter should begin on a new page. Use a consistent system in dividing the report into parts. The simplest may be to use chapters for each major part and subdivide these into sections and subsections. 1, 2, 3, etc, can be used as the numbers for each chapter. The sections for chapter 3 (for example) would be 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and so on. For a further subdivision of a subsection you can use 3.2.1, 3.2.2, and so on. Example Abstract or Summary or Executive Summary or Introduction This is the overview of the whole report. It should let the reader see, in advance, what is in it. This includes what you set out to do, how reviewing literature focused and narrowed your research, the relation of the methodology you chose to your aims, a summary of your findings and of your analysis of the findings. Example BODY Aims and Purpose or Aims and Objectives Why did you do the work? What was the problem you were investigating? If you are not including a literature review, mention here the other research which is relevant to your work. Literature Review: This should help to put your research into a background context and to explain its importance. Include only the books and articles which relate directly to your topic. Remember that you need to be analytical and critical and not just describe the works that you have read. Example Methodology Methodology deals with the methods and principles used in an activity, in this case research. In the methodology chapter you explain the method/s you used for the research and why you thought they were the appropriate ones. You may, for example, be doing mostly documentary research or you may have collected you own data. You should explain the methods of data collection, materials used, subjects interviewed, or places you visited. Give a detailed account of how and when you carried out your research and explain why you used the particular methods which you did use, rather than other
What is a report?
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assessment of a situation or results from data analysis precise, concise and succinct tightly focused
Key stages in report preparation
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Background reading Clear statement of aims or hypothesis Establishing appropriate methodology
Organisation of data collection o what kind of data? o where from? o how much? o how will it be analysed? o how will it be presented?
Writing a report
1. Set a structure which deals with the material logically e.g. Title page This should include a title which indicates the central theme of the report. Contents All sections of report listed in sequence with page references Executive summary
The purpose of an executive summary is to provide the briefest possible statement of the subject matter of a longer document. It must cover all the essential points. It must be fully comprehensible when read independently of the full document. It is NOT a list of extracts, highlights or notes on the original. The executive summary must: a) introduce the subject of the full report, its objectives, methods, findings and/or recommendations b) help the reader to determine whether the report is of any interest Introduction The introduction is where the reader is acquainted with the purpose of the report and guided through the structure of the report. This may therefore include the statement of aims and objectives unless these are dealt with in a separate section. Aims and objectives Clear statement of what the report is trying to achieve. This may involve a statement of the research question, issue, hypothesis, or problem being investigated. Note, it is sometimes artificial to pose an hypothesis in human geography. Care should be taken to express the research aims in the most appropriate form. Background to study Background to the location of the study area and to the issue/problem. This could also include reference to the theoretical context of the study. Methodology Sources of evidence used. Description of how evidence was collected and analysed. Discussion of the limitations of the sources and methods of collection and analysis. Presentation of results A complete description of the results presented in the form of words, tables, diagrams, graphs and maps. Analysis and discussion of results
The analysis of the results allows patterns or relationships to be identified. It may involve basic statistical description. This can be followed by an interpretation and explanation of the results. This is often the most difficult part to write as it requires creative thought and an ability to relate the results to general theory. Evaluation and conclusion This section is a summary of all the major findings made at stages throughout the report. No new evidence should appear here. The conclusion considers the evidence presented in the main body, draws out the implications and brings it to one overall conclusion or an ordered series of final conclusions. Bibliography All books and other sources used in the research should be listed giving details of author, date of publication, title of document and publisher. The list should be arranged in alphabetical order of authors. Appendices This section is set aside for supplementary evidence not essential to the main findings, but which provides useful back-up support for the main arguments. . Set an order for writing The main body of the report should be tackled first. The introduction, appendices, contents page, title page and bibliography should be written when this has been completed. The executive summary should be written last of all. 3. How to write an executive summary a) read the whole document b) isolate and summarise its central theme c) read each section to identify and summarise the main findings or points d) combine (b) and (c) into a set of major points because your aim is to convey the overall impression of the full document in as brief and as clear a way as possible.
e) read through the summary to check that it will make sense to the reader as a separate document from the full report. 4. Make the reading of the report an easy and pleasant task for the examiner: a) correct use of grammar, punctuation, spelling and vocabulary b) not using jargon, slang or colloquialisms c) writing in the third person and/or passive tense rather than using "I", "we", "you", etc. d) writing clearly and coherently to communicate, not to perplex or impress e.g. by keeping sentences short and simple e) writing precisely and avoiding ambiguity These are best achieved by a thorough understanding of the material to be conveyed. Initial reading Reading the report critically from start to finish will give a feel of the overall structure and impact of the document. It is best not to stop to make corrections but to note pages that need attention and return to them later. 2. Subsequent readings The report should be checked in detail for:
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grammar and spelling errors whether the expression is appropriate and whether improvements could be made whether the structure of the report is the most suitable for the material, ideas and arguments being presented sentence and paragraph structure integration of maps and diagrams into text comprehensive bibliography does the report fulfil the stated aims and assessment objectives? is the argument watertight and easy to follow? does the conclusion make the argument all the more convincing? does the executive summary convey the key points of the report?
3. Layout and general appearance
Adequate headings, sub-headings and paragraph numbering make it easier to comprehend the report. Over-ambitious or complicated numbering systems should
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be avoided. Too many sub-headings will fragment the text and reduce the fluency of the argument. Layout is important i.e. the relationship between the print (whether typed or hand written) and space on the page. A crowded page with dense blocks of print or writing and little space looks unattractive. Adequate margins Double or 1.5 spaced lines Headings that stand out clearly from the page Consistency with the use of: o upper case letters o a) b) c) o i) ii) iii) o underlining Check page numbering
The five major stages of report preparation are 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Gathering the data (or developing the theory) Analyzing and sorting the results Outlining the report Writing the rough draft Revising the rough draft
Overview: Engineering Technical Reports
Technical reports include various types of "technical" information. For example, if you need to report why a design or piece of equipment failed, you'd write a forensic report. Or, you might have to write about a design you created. Then, you'd produce a design report or, you may need to combine these two. Many report types are classified as technical reports. You should always determine what information you need to convey and who your audience is before you start writing. To learn more about technical reports, choose any of the items below:
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Definition of a Technical Report Audience General Format Perspectives on Technical Reports Additional Resources Example Technical Report
Definition of a Technical Report
Technical reports present facts and conclusions about your designs and other projects. Typically, a technical report includes research about technical concepts as well as graphical depictions of designs and data. A technical
report also follows a strict organization. This way, when other engineers read what you write, they can quickly locate the information that interests them the most.
As a student, you might assume that your technical report's audience is your instructor, however, this may not always be the case. Your instructor may ask you to produce a report for your peers or for other engineers. However, you shouldn't always assume that your audience has a strong engineering background or is familiar with the engineering terminology you use. Always check with your instructor to know who your audience is. As an engineer in the field, the most likely audience for the technical reports you produce is other engineers with a background similar to yours. This audience is more likely to understand the terminology you use. However, you should always evaluate who your readers will be before assuming they will understand your jargon. Consider how your readers will use your report. For instance, you might submit a technical report to a publication or your technical report may present a specific design. The audiences in each situation have different needs. Audiences may read the publication for information and insight while audiences reading about your specific design may critique your design or make decisions based on its content.
Technical Reports have an organized format because a majority of your audience may not read the entire report in one reading. This specific format allows readers to quickly locate the information they need. Most technical reports include the parts listed below. However, you may be required to include or exclude specific sections. Be sure to check with your instructor before using the format outlined here.
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Transmittal Letter Title Page Abstract Executive Summary Table of Contents List of Figures & List of Tables Report Body References Appendices
Transmittal letters often accompany reports and inform readers of a report's context. Typically, the letter includes information not found in the report. For example, the letter contains information about the particular project and/or due dates. A Transmittal Letter is a business letter and should be formatted accordingly; that is, you should include the recipient's address, your address, a salutation and closing. Depending on the project, you may also need to include contact information. Always check with your instructor to determine whether or not you should attach a transmittal letter to your report.
Example Transmittal Letter
December 12, 1996 Dr. Tom Siller Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80524 Dear Mr. Siller: We are submitting to you the report, due December 13, 1996, that you requested. The report is entitled CSU Performing Arts Center. The purpose of the report is to inform you of our design decisions for the center. The content of this report concentrates on the structural and acoustical aspects of the CSU Performing Arts Center. This report also discusses cable-stayed technology. If you should have any questions concerning our project and paper please fell free to contact Mike Bridge at 491-5048. Sincerely, Mike Bridge Lead Engineer
The Abstract is extremely important because it helps readers decide what to read and what to pass over. The idea of the Abstract is to give readers an honest evaluation of the report's content, so they can quickly judge whether they should spend their valuable time reading the entire report. This section should give a true, brief description of the report's content. The most important purpose of the Abstract is to allow somebody to get a quick picture of the report's content and make a judgment. Since an Abstract is a brief summary of your report, its length corresponds with the report's length. So, for example, if your report is eight pages long, you shouldn't use more than 150 words in the Abstract. Generally, Abstracts define the report's purpose and content.
Abstract MASK Engineering has designed a performing arts center for the CSU campus in order to provide a complex that will better serve the campus and the community. This facility will not only improve the performing arts programs on campus, but will encourage students and community members to attend more cultural events in Fort Collins. The capacity of the new facility will exceed that of existing structures on campus, and the quality of sound and aesthetics will be improved. Some of the features included are a large performing hall, a coffee shop, a banquet hall, and a recording studio. The total area of the complex is 56,500 square feet split into three levels.
Typically, Executive Summaries are written for readers who do not have time to read the entire technical report. An executive summary is usually no longer than 10% of the report. It can be anywhere from 1-10 pages long, depending on the report's length. In the executive summary, you should summarize the key points and conclusions from your report. You might include anexecutive summary with your report, or the summary can be a separate document. Some reports only include an abstract while others include an executive summary. Always check with your instructor to determine which to include or if you should include both.
Example Executive Summary
Reports have several purposes; • • • • • Presenting data Describing and analyzing data Recording events and happenings Analyzing a situation of condition Giving feedback, suggestion, or recommendations
Students might be called to write project reports, seminar reports, progress reports, research reports, dissertations or theses Types of reports; • Informational or analytical reports
Informational -Informational reports present facts of a case, problem, condition, or a situation without any analysis, interpretations or recommendations. -the function of the writer is to collect, compile, and organize facts for the readers – presenting data as factually and objectively as possible. -conference reports, seminar reports, trip reports and so on. Analytical -presents data with interpretation and analysis. -writer analyses the facts of a case, problem, condition or situation objectively and puts his/her conclusions, inferences and recommendations. -project reports, feasibility reports, market research reports etc
Routine or special reports
Routine -prepared on periodic basis, daily, weekly, monthly , quarterly , annually etc. -may be informational or analytical -production report, monthly sales report, and so on.
Special -specific circumstances -inquiry reports, research reports, dissertation, thesis, etc • • Communicative form; oral and written Nature , scope and length ; formal and non-formal
Format of reports • • Printed forms; forms prepared to record for repetitive and routine data trip reports, conference reports, laboratory reports, inspection reports, confidential performance reports etc Simple, easy to fill in, fill in the blanks or tick agt listed items. No detail information asked Letter format; short informal reports to be communicated to someone outside an organization
-an accident on the shop floor in a company and report has to be sent to the insurance company -evaluation report, feasibility report, survey report, legal reports • • Memo format; short informal reports to be communicated to someone within an organization Manuscript format; formal reports printed on plain paper
-used for long and formal reports. Divided into sections, sub-sections each with a clear heading, structured.
PARTS OF REPORT 1. Title page 2. preface An optional element in a formal report. It introduces the report by mentioning its salient features and scope. 3. letter of transmittal Brief covering letter from the report writer explaining the causes for writing the report. It may contain the objectives, scope and other highlights of the report. May contain acknowledgement if the report does not include one separately Date Dear …
4. acknowledgment Names of the persons who contributed to the production of the report and made the report possible. A thank you note 5. table of contents 6. list of illustrations List of illustrations Table 1 _______________________________ Table 2 _______________________________ Figure 1 ______________________________ ….. 1 14 7
7. abstract/executive summary summarises the essential infor in the report, focusing on key findings, observations, results, conclusions and recommendations How to write an executive summary a) read the whole document b) isolate and summarise its central theme c) read each section to identify and summarise the main findings or points d) combine (b) and (c) into a set of major points because your aim is to convey the overall impression of the full document in as brief and as clear a way as possible. e) read through the summary to check that it will make sense to the reader as a separate document from the full report. 8. introduction Introduces the reader to the report and prepares them for the discussion that follows by providing backgrd info, defining its aims and objectives and discussing the scope and limitations of the report. It helps the readers in understanding the discussion and analysis that follow. 9. methodology Sources of evidence used. Description of how evidence was collected and analysed.Discussion of the limitations of the sources and methods of collection and analysis. 10. discussion/findings/analysis The analysis of the results allows patterns or relationships to be identified. It may involve basic statistical description.This can be followed by an interpretation and explanation of the results. This is often the most difficult part to write as it requires creative thought and an ability to relate the results to general theory. 11. conclusion
This section is a summary of all the major findings made at stages throughout the report. No new evidence should appear here. The conclusion considers the evidence presented in the main body, draws out the implications and brings it to one overall conclusion or an ordered series of final conclusions. 12. recommendations 13. appendices This section is set aside for supplementary evidence not essential to the main findings, but which provides useful back-up support for the main arguments.
14. Reference and bibliography
Steps for organizing and presenting reports 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. analyze the problem and purpose determine the scope of the report determine the needs of the audience gather all the information analyze and organize the information write the first draft revise, review and edit write the final draft
Questions - Define reports, what are the kinds of reports? Draft the progress report of a construction project As the marketing manager of a company draft the product launch report for the marketing director of the company Draft a office memo describing the stringent measures to be taken against employee absenteeism
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