Reports are common in both science and business subjects.  A report is a formal write up of an experiment, evaluation, piece of research or investigation.  The format helps the reader to scan the report to find a particular piece of information, and as there are fairly standard headings used in report writing, this means that part of your organisation is already done.

A ReportAn Essay

Presents information and findings from a task.

Presents an argument to answer a question.

Is meant to be scanned quickly by the reader to pick out particular information.

Is meant to be read carefully

Uses headings and sub-headings and is structured into sections.

May or may not have headings for the main sections.

May not need citations and a bibliography/reference list but in academia it is safer to provide these.

Always needs citations and a bibliography/reference list.

Some subject areas use short, concise paragraphs and bullet-points where applicable.

Links ideas using cohesive paragraphs, rather than breaking them down into a list of points.

Uses graphics wherever possible (tables, graphs, illustrations) especially when describing research. These should be referenced where appropriate.

Rarely uses graphics, pictures or graphs.

Most disciplines require an abstract or executive summary at the beginning.

Only dissertations or papers to be published have an abstract.

Is likely to conclude with recommendations and/or appendices.

Does not usually have recommendations but may have appendices.

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A typical report format is:

Title: The title is a guide to the reader on what the report is about.

Executive Summary or Abstract is like a mini report: It summarises the whole report in one concise paragraph of about 100-200 words. It tells the reader what was carried out and what the results of this investigation were. For this reason, you should not write the abstract until after you have completed the whole of the report.

Introduction: The job of the introduction outlines the purpose of the report and explains what the experiment or research is about. Usually, the introduction states the problem to be solved or the research or task to be performed and explains its purpose and significance. It also provides whatever background theory, previous research or studies the research is based on.

Methodology: This section provides details of how the research was carried out and may include a list of materials or equipment used.

Results: This section reports the results of the investigation or experiment. Results can be presented as figures or perhaps visually in tables or graphs.

Discussion: This section briefly describes the results or research findings again but then, at greater length, interprets them with regards to what was expected, also mentioning problems or elements of the research that did not work out. The discussion is a crucial part of your report since it is here that you show your understanding of what you have done, and its context in the broader subject area. You give your interpretation of the results and show that you understand the significance of your research and results.

Conclusion: The conclusion may be part of the discussion above or it may come after the discussion and simply sum up the main points in a short paragraph. In some report styles the results, discussion, and conclusion sections can be combined in various ways. Some report guidelines will ask for a recommendation section at the end of the report where you sum up by suggesting the best way forward.

References: Academic reports require references at the end

Appendices: Appendices usually contain raw data, calculations, graphs, and other quantitative materials that were part of the experiment but were not appropriate for inclusion in the main report. You must, however, refer to each appendix at the appropriate point in your report, for example, ‘A Likert scale questionnaire was used (see Appendix 1)’.

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