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Planning a report

First, plan your time. As well as planning the time you need for your project, you'll need to allow enough time for writing the report. For help, visit the Skills Hub pages on Planning your time.

Sections

If you have been given a detailed brief and structure for your report, make it the basis of your plan.

If you haven't been given instructions on how to structure your report, look at examples of other reports in your discipline. For some reports (such as business or management reports) it isn't appropriate to use the ‘introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion' model. Instead, you should create sub-headings, depending on the brief.

Reports aim to inform the reader about a specific investigation, so select the best headings to lead the reader through the different stages. To do this:

1. Read your brief carefully
2. Brainstorm what you need to include
3. Group similar ideas together
4. See if these groups would make logical sub-headings.

If your sub-headings seem logical, use them to structure your report. If you are unsure about your sub-headings, re-read your brief. Could you organise your ideas differently? If you are completely stuck, talk to your tutor.

 

What order should I write my report in?

It can be helpful to write up sections as you go along. This means that you write about what you've done while it's still fresh in your mind and you can see more easily if there are any gaps that might need additional research to fill them. In addition, you don't end up with a large piece of writing to do in one go - that can be overwhelming.

Here is a suggested order for writing the main sections:

 

Methods and Data/Results:

As a rough guide, the more factual the section, the earlier you should write it. So sections describing what you did and what you found are likely to be written first.

Introduction and Literature Survey:

Sections that explain or expand on the purpose of the research should be next.
These sections should explain:

  • What questions are you seeking to answer,
  • how did they arise,
  • why are they worth investigating?

Completing these sections will help you to see how to interpret and analyse your findings.

Discussion:

Once you've established the questions your research is seeking to answer, you will be able to see how your results contribute to the answers and what kind of answers they point to. Write this early enough that you still have time to fill any gaps you find.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

These should follow logically from your Discussion. They should state your conclusions and recommendations clearly and simply.

Abstract/Executive Summary:

Once the main body is finished you can write a succinct and accurate summary of the main features.

Activity

Try creating a plan for a report you are currently working on. How easy did you find it to decide on your structure? Try asking yourself these questions as you develop your plan:

  • Are there any gaps in your information?
  • Do you need to do any more research?
  • Is the content relevant to the brief?
  • Is the content in the correct section of the report?

Next page - Using graphs, diagrams and images