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Writing Reports

According to the Handbook of Technical Writing, "a report is an organized presentation of factual information that answers a request by supplying the results of an investigation, a trip, a test, a research project, and the like" (515). Implicit in this definition are a few key and consistent attributes about all reports, be they formal or informal.

  1. Reports follow conventional structural or organizational patterns (sometimes called superstructures)
  2. Reports are grounded in factual, supportable details
  3. Reports address specific readers' needs because they will want to use the information your report provides.

Reports fall into two broad categories: formal and informal. Formal reports generally follow a prescribed format and include some or all of the elements listed below:

Front Matter
Title page
Abstract
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Foreword
Preface
List of abbreviations and symbols

Body
Executive summary
Introduction
Text (including headings)
Conclusions
Recommendations
References

Back Matter
Bibliography
Appendixes
Glossary
Index

Informal reports usually run from a few paragraphs to a few pages and include only the essential elements of a report: introduction, body, conclusions, and recommendations. Because of their brevity, informal reports are customarily written as a letter or as a memorandum.

Listed below are some resources that should help you write reports:

  • Formatting Reports
  • Handbook (password protected)
  • Writing Technical Reports by Dr. L. Ray Johnson