Content of this article
- How to write a good report
- Difference from essay
- Tips for good writing
1. How To Write A Good Report
A report is a form of writing that is systematic, organized, and often tries to define or analyze a problem or an event. The problem or event analyzed can also be within a body of literature belonging to either a single document or several documents. The sole purpose of a report is to objectively present readers with all the relevant information in relation to a particular issue. Writers are expected to shelve their personal feelings or shield themselves from issues which might render the report subjective because the use of reports is at times beyond aiming to impress the author’s readership. A report has three distinct attributes which help to distinguish it from other forms of writing.
- Pre-defined structure.
- The existence of Independent sections.
- Reaching impartial and balanced conclusions.
The above make report writing a different endeavor, but it is still a significant part of academic writing.
A report should always be:
- Accurate (be filled with reliable information)
- Concise (direct and to the point)
- Clear (writers must maintain consistency and avoid being ambiguous)
- Well-structured (writers must follow the standard structure)
Straying from the above disqualifies an author’s piece or article from being a report.
2. Report vs Essay. What is the difference
A report differs greatly from a conventional essay.
- First of all, reports have a specific structure and writers are always asked to adhere to it while essays follow the conventional introduction, body, and conclusion structure.
- Reports also use different sections and these should always have subheadings. These sections serve a certain purpose within a report and cannot be left out.
- Essays, on the other hand, do not have sections and while writers may need to have subheadings within their essays, they are not conventional.
- The purpose of each form of writing also differs. In reports, writers aim at conveying a particular piece of information to their audience while in essays the main goal is to showcase the writer’s comprehension of the teacher’s instructions.
The above exquisitely and explicitly show the differences between essays and reports. Understanding these differences is the first step to learning how to write a report.
3. Topic selection for a report
Topic selection separates bad report writers from good report writers as well as from excellent report writers. In many instances, readers are attracted to certain documents because of their topics. Getting the right report topic is of the essence if writers are to maintain their readership. Many writers forget the issue of scope when selecting a topic. Scope is indeed an important consideration which calls for patience and careful consideration of the general subject suggested before settling on a specific report topic. Exceptional report writers understand the significance of scope and thus focus on specific aspects of a subject or topic before they decide on a topic. Writers are often advised to focus on the vitalities of a subject and only present that to their readers.
It is essential for authors to ask themselves the following questions to help in narrowing the scope of a subject:
- What are the specific aspects of a topic that appear interesting to the writer?
- What do you think will interest your audience/readers?
- What information can you find regarding the selected subject?
The above questions are indeed essential and help a writer to find or settle on a topic they are familiar with and also feel strongly about. Knowing what interests the readers is of course of the essence because it gifts the writer with a sense of direction and purpose. Finally, report writing needs to be factual and well cited. It is thus important to ensure the selected topic is adequately referenced for purposes of building a credible and reliable argument.
Below are some good topics for a report:
- Global Warming
- Nuclear Fusion
- The Shift to Solar Energy
- Breast Cancer
- Cold War
- US-Japan Relations since the 1945 atomic bombing
- The Big Bang Theory
- The History of Christianity
- History of Buddhism
- History of Foot Binding in China
- The Power Struggle in the East
- Causes of the 2007/2009 Recession
- History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
4. Typical structure of a report
As already said, a report structure is formal and must be strictly adhered to by all writers. Deviating from this structure only leads to reduced marks or a bored and angry audience.
Below are the elements that form the structure of a report:
An executive summary or an abstract mainly provides a summary of the entire report. While some writers write it immediately after commencing their report, it is always advisable to write it last. This section is of great importance and makes it easier for the readers to quickly understand the main points or the focus of the report.
Table of Contents
A table of contents is simply a list of all the sections the writer decided to include in their report. Its sole purpose is to prepare readers of what to expect when reading the report and also to make it easier for them to access some of the sections directly.
Like other introductions, a report introduction ushers in the readers by providing them with a brief but accurate summary of the topic or issue under study. From the introduction, readers should be able to understand the writer’s focus or perspective.
The body mainly contains the bulk of information which builds on or supports the thesis statement from the introduction. Unlike the body of essays, the body of a report can be divided into sections depending on the topic being reviewed. Some of the sections include a literature review, a methods section, findings section, and finally a discussion of the findings section.
Conclusion and Recommendations
A report conclusion must be included, and it contains the inferences or the points the writer withdrew from the report. How to conclude a report is indeed essential because it provides writers with the opportunity of restating and insisting on their main point.
Recommendations are always included, and here the writer is expected to include their suggestions of how, for example, the investigation can be improved in the future or how a problem can be averted in the future. If in case the writer’s recommendations have financial associations, then he/she must provide estimations or the projected costs of whatever issue they were discussing in their report.
Exceptional report writers consult journals and articles which are relevant to their topic. Later, these articles and journals need to be included under the reference list section. A reference list, therefore, contains all the materials the writer used to conduct their research.
While this is not a mandatory inclusion, it adds onto one’s analysis and should hence be included whenever necessary.
Once the writer has completed the report, it is important first to review it before submitting or printing it. Proofreading the finished report is indeed essential because it helps the writer to identify some of the mistakes they could have made. For example, one could have gotten some statistical facts wrong, and it is only through proofreading that such mistakes can be identified and corrected. Grammatical errors should also be avoided, and while currently there are software varieties which can help with this, the human mind is still miles ahead, and one should identify and correct such mistakes while proofreading. Reading the report to an audience can also help a writer to avoid some mistakes while also maintaining the focus and purpose of the report. Two heads will always be better than one and consulting one’s friends or co-workers could help a writer avoid re-writing the entire report in case it is found defective later.
5. Some good tips for a report writing
Report writing tips are readily available on the Internet.
Below are some of those tips:
- Avoid ambiguity when writing a report.
- Use of simple language is also of great importance.
- Clarity and accuracy are also essential.
- Avoid guessing or using including information that cannot be confirmed.
- Use recent material as sources of one’s information.
- Always start with a report outline and draft.
Like the tips above, report writing help can be readily found on the Internet. However, it is essential to be involved in the entire process lest one gets what they did not ask for.
Accounting Communication Matters
Writing an Essay or Report
Why are good written communication skills so important?
Good communication skills are an important skill in any profession including accounting. The Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs [DEETYA] report on employer satisfaction of graduate skills noted that there was "little complaint about the content of university courses, despite the [students'] claim that much that is taught is not used" and that the most common complaint about new graduates was that they couldn't communicate in writing in a manner appropriate for business (1998, p. 22). The DEETYA report reflected that:
[a]ccording to anecdotal evidence here, up to half of graduates who are achieving adequate academic results, can be rejected by employers after testing for literacy and numeracy.
Why do accounting students need to learn to write?
- The role of accounting has changed Computers now do much of the bookkeeping work that we used to think of as 'accounting'.
- Although accountants do not have to write essays, essays teach the skills they will need in all their writing – information selection, synthesis (putting together information from several sources), summary, description, explanation and argument, answering a question, formal style, structure etc.
- Future assessment in accounting subjects will require appropriate written communication skills.
- The accounting professional bodies [CPA and ICAA] and employer bodies stress communication skills and criticise graduates' skill levels.
Five steps for making academic writing easier from CQ University
In this section we will be offering students a range of advice and activities to improve their written communication skills.
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