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Reports, like essays, are a common way of assessing students at university. While essays generally require a discussion of a particular issue/theoretical statement or quote, reports generally focus on a specific problem or case study. Business reports, for example, are often addressed to a client (e.g. manager) and make recommendations. Reports always use section headings and take an objective perspective.
There is a logical development expected in any report. The sections that are required in a report can vary depending on what type of report it is. It is important to check in your particular unit guide or with your unit chair to find out exactly which sections are required.
In the title page, you would usually be expected to include:
Other details you might be required to include are assignment number and tutorial group.
Think about and organise the layout of the table of contents so that it reflects the order and structure of the report. Make sure that the numbering system you use in the table of contents is the same as that used in the report, and that it is not too complex.
The executive summary/abstract is a half to one page summary of the entire report outlining:
The introduction explains to the reader in more detail some or all of the following points:
The literature review is a critical review of published literature that is relevant to your specific study. How many texts you include in your literature review depends on the word length and time frame for your assignment. Be guided by what your lecturer suggests and limit your review to relevant (and possibly recent) works.
In the methodology section you should describe the procedure you followed in your investigation. In analytical reports, like business reports, this might include a description of survey methods, participants, focus groups and use of secondary sources. In scientific reports it might include a description of participants, materials, equipment, design and procedure. The methodology section is important because it provides details that others can use to replicate your study.
The results section presents a factual outline of what was found in the study. Raw data should not be included in this section; if raw data must be included, it should be presented in an appendix. Often a statement is included which describes how the raw data were processed into summary data, e.g. 'Survey responses were analysed using SPSS' or 'Results were collated and a two-factor ANOVA carried out'.
Summary data are generally presented in the form of tables or graphs, which must have titles. It is important that you do not leave it to the reader to interpret your data. Explanations of tables and figures must be included, e.g.'Table 3 shows the proportion of first year students who attended Open Day'. Finally, do not discuss the significance of the results here. This is done in the discussion section.
The discussion section is a very important part of your report and presents an interpretation of your results. Typically, you might include:
The conclusion is a summary of your study - its overall purpose, the steps in the process, its overall findings. This should lead to the recommendations, if your report requires these.
If the purpose of the report is to suggest actions that should be taken, these recommendations should be listed here, usually numbered in a logical sequence.
Note that in business reports the recommendations usually follow the executive summary, as it is assumed the reader wants to know this information at the start.
In this section list all of the references referred to in the report. Check your unit guide and use the referencing system recommended.
The appendices section is where to place extra information, raw data, etc. Such information is removed from the main body of the report so that it does not interrupt the flow of the report. Appendices need to be labelled, e.g. Appendix 1, Appendix 2 and so on, and referred to in the main report.