Writing a coherent technical report is a critically undervalued skill
Report writing requires understanding of important data points and relationships being analyzed
Writing skills and doing useful reports are very different things. You can have a beautifully written report that doesn’t convey any useful information.
1) Always remember that deeply technical content is inappropriate 90% of the time.
2) You are the expert. It is your job to explain what happened based on FACTS, not leaving determination up to the reader.
3) If your client expects hypothesis, make sure to back it up with research and reasoning based on facts. Don't pull anything from your posterior.
4) Unless it is an ongoing matter, everything occurred in past-tense.
5) Appendixes are your friend, within reason.
6) Your report should begin with an executive summary and a summary of findings. Everything that follows should backup the summary.
7) Make sure multiple sets of eyes review the findings.
8) Can you hand it to a non-technical person and it mostly makes sense?
9) Whether you are in-house staff or a consultant, the final report is your work product/proof of work, and its quality is paramount. This is what your reader expects. You will be judged by what you present and how you present it.
10 Tips for Report Writing Success.
Reports can be defined as documents that convey information to the user who is the reader and expect the reader to do something or follow a set of recommendations in that document; this makes this document an essential and significant text. Reports encompass different types of report writing, for example, casework reports, feasibility studies, system analysis reports, business reports, and lab reports. This type of writing is fundamental, and you need to get that A, and once you comprehend these simple tips, and then you are guaranteed to achieve the grade you deserve on that report you’ve been assigned.
A report follows a straight-forward writing process, and almost all reports you will come across follow the same format, whether it’s a business report, reports written by students, or even agencies. The key issue is to provide detailed signs, or let’s say “indications” throughout the report for the reader. Here I will provide you with a simple format that anyone can grasp, and it has all the vital sections which are in all reports that I’ve come across, although to note, ‘content lists and abstracts’ are ONLY used in the long reports that you’ve also come across.
- Title or title page
- Content list
- Appendices or references when you are dealing with academic reports
Learn how to organize reports to make writing them easier and less time consuming.
1. Clarify Purpose & Expectations
Make sure that you are clear regarding the purpose, resources to support your report, the roles, and also the responsibilities. Make sure that you share the same level of understanding with other key people involved in the making of your report. For educational reports regarding a specific topic you’ve been assigned to write a report on, make the purpose clear, and state the expectations of what you are writing about. Don’t leave anything for the person reading your report/committee to guess or find meaning. Put everything clear for the reader.
2. Decide on the appropriate structure for the report
Before starting to write your report, decide on the most appropriate structure to follow when writing. If you are writing a business or formal report, then you must have been provided with a pro forma. The pro forma indeed makes things much simple and straightforward since you have already been given a structure and you can never go wrong, and you simply need to have your information right and the right evidence with you which may be in the form of statistical data, video presentations, etc. as long as it aids the committee or in case of academic reports, it aids your professor to know how the evidence is connected to the report you’ve just submitted.
3. Write Your Title or Title Page
Make sure you have included the name of the authors and the date the report was written
4. Content Lists
Normally used in bulk reports. It’s an aid to help the reader to navigate easily through all the pages you’ve written, the page numbers should be written in a precise and accurate way to avoid any slight confusion. Use simple pagination methods like 1,2,3,4 not 1.1, 1.2. 2.3., and so on. Personally, I do not like such paginations in documents, and they kill my morale and psyche to continue reading that document.
Should be brief and to the point. Concerning the length? Totally your decision, you can decide to write one paragraph or the whole chapter, but it should relay this vital information to the reader:
- About the topic (state only)
- Who asked for the report
- Reason for writing the report
- Limitations to the report, terms, and references
- Background of the report (brief outline)
- Method of working (should be part of the appendix as well)
- Sources used (should be part of the appendix as well)
- The important issues which will be addressed (part of a signboard)
6 Produce 1st Draft Discussion
Write it all down and do not have to worry about editing, the length of the report, the style used, and the extras involved -deal with these later. Cut and paste from previous progress reports and evaluation plans etc. Leave gaps for others to fill in if necessary.
Now it’s time to put your report down on paper. You already have evaluations and report plans ready. Therefore, simply use them and leave gaps for others to fill who you are working on the same report and if it’s an academic report, the discussion part of the main body is the longest and should be arranged in such a manner that it is logical and in a series of chapters. The use of headings and subheadings should not be taken lightly since they are of much importance to the reader since they help in navigation around the report. Report writing differs from other types of writing since it’s recommended that you start with the most critical information, and at the end of your report, you can discuss the least important. This ensures that the reader finds the most relevant information first, especially it’s a college assignment.
The conclusion should be the main findings from the research work that went to the report. This should include what you set out to find out, and this is the primary purpose of the report. The next thing you should include should be “what you found out during the research, what was eye-catching about whatever you discovered and how it does answer the question set by the person who instructed the report to be written. What you have already done is what is included in the conclusion part, and at this stage, no new information is supposed to be added. Simply use the information you have collected in the form of lessons, advice, and recommendations that you wish to provide to your readers.
Summarizing the most important points is generally done in bullet points when writing a report. These points are derived from the report itself and should just be a list of summaries, and by this, I mean, do not go on to discuss the points once again since it’s a summary, and only short points are allowed. The main purpose of summarizing a report is that any person reading the summaries can immediately know what the whole report covers, and you do not necessarily have to read the entire report once you have read the summary. A summary is like a trailer of a movie, and it comes before a movie hits the box office; the same way summaries are placed before anything else in long reports, and this is to aid the reader to read the summary if they do not have time to read the entire report.
In this section, your manager or professor expects to find specific recommendations for each problem listed in the case study. He or she expects the recommendations to be listed and stated and can follow this structure:
An overall heading
A sub-heading which summarizes the recommendation in a very vivid way that is self-explanatory.
A theory used to reinforce the recommendation given.
10. The Appendix (References)
Here is where you have to dock all vital information in the form of a questionnaire, Q&A questions; you can opt to insert documents from other reports, for example, summaries, maps, statistical data, photos, and any additional relevant information to the reader. To construct an effective ending to any type of report, you should not forget to include a signboard to the appendix that is relevant to the information provided for example (Proceed to Appendix 3, refer to appendix 1)