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Writing the report

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Structure

Do you know what a report involves?

A typical report investigates, describes, and analyses information in a thorough and logical manner. This information is then presented in a report format.

Some features which typify a report format include: numbered sections with headings, a contents page, data presented in figures, tables, or diagrams, short paragraphs, and objective language.

Before you begin to write your report for Computer Systems, it is important that you are familiar with:

  • the structure of a report
  • the type of information required in each section of a report
  • the style of language used in a report

There are many types of reports, such as technical reports, scientific reports, and business reports. Each type of report has its own structure and conventions, and often these conventions vary between your subjects at university.

Most reports include the following:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Body of report
  • Conclusion
  • Reference List
  • Appendices

Do you know what type of information is required in each of the report sections? Click on a section heading to find out.

Do you know how to write an abstract, introduction, or conclusion? Click on a section heading to find out.

Style

The style of language you use in a report is also important. Your ideas need to be expressed in an objective manner. To do this, most reports are written in third person. For example,

The purpose of this study was to…
rather than
I did this study…
It was found…
rather than
I found…

Using this writing style the pronouns 'I', 'you', and 'we' are replaced by 'it', 'she/he', and 'they', making your position as a writer an impartial observer. An alternative to using the third person is to rephrase the sentences, for example,

This study was conducted for the purposes of…
instead of
The purpose of this study was to…
The findings indicate…
instead of
It was found…

When writing a report, also remember to avoid using contractions such as 'don't': you should write 'do not', 'should not', and 'has not' instead of 'don't', 'shouldn't', 'and hasn't'. Avoid using slang.

Title page

The title page is presented on a separate page and includes the subject name and code, assignment number, topic selected, due date, student name, student number, tutor name, and tutorial time.

Abstract

An abstract is a 100-200 word summary of your report. It provides a brief overview of the report by stating the purpose, defining the topic, summarising the main sections of the report, and stating the conclusion or outcomes. An abstract is usually written when you have completed the report.

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents lists the sections and subsections of a report and their corresponding page numbers. The organisation of your report is indicated in the Table of Contents and your interpretation of the topic is initially communicated to the reader through your choice of headings and subheadings.

Introduction

An introduction usually commences with the purpose of the report; that is, the reason for conducting the study and preparing the report. An introduction may also include the following information. (Most of these areas would be relevant to the report your are writing for Computer Systems.)

  • Background information on the topic such as a brief history, the context of the topic, or a description of the problem
  • The scope of the report; that is, the extent to which the topic is covered in the report - what factors were studied and to what level. For example the scope of Student 1's report on scanners would include the types of scanners discussed.
  • The methodology used; that is, the kind of data used in the report. In the case of the Computer Systems assignment this would be the type of material referred to in the report. There is no need to list all the books or reports you have consulted and referred to in the report (this is the role of the reference list) but there should be an indication of how widely you have read. Other sources such as personal investigation, interviews, statistics, and questionnaires are also mentioned when used in a report.
  • Assumptions and limitations - if any assumptions were made in researching and writing the report these need to be described. Similarly any limitations of the report should be identified.
  • A brief description of the plan or structure of the report so that the reader knows what to expect when reading the report.

Body of report

This is the largest section of a report. It consists of information which is supported by examples and evidence obtained from your readings. This information is presented under appropriate headings and subheadings and is ordered in a logical manner to facilitate the readers' understanding of the report.

Conclusion

The conclusion section briefly summarises the main ideas that have been established in the body of the report. It is written in a concise manner and should not include any new information or ideas.

Reference List

A list of the publication details of all source materials referred to in the report. It does not include sources which have not been referred to in the report. The list should be arranged in alphabetical order by author surname.

Appendices

An appendix consists of any supporting evidence which is not possible to include in the body of the report, for example the three photocopies of your most frequently used references.

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