Skills Hub

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.


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.


Order of writing

It can be helpful to write up sections as you go along. You can write about what you've done while it is fresh in your mind and spot any gaps that require additional research. And you won't have to do all the writing in one go.

Here is a suggested order for writing:

1. Methods and Data/Results
In general, the more factual the section, the earlier you should write it. First, write the sections describing what you did and what you found.

2. Introduction and Literature Survey
Sections that explain or expand on the purpose of the research should be next. Completing these sections will help you to see how to interpret and analyse your findings.

3. Discussion
Now you can see how your results contribute to the answers to your question and what kind of answers they point to. Write this section early enough that you still have time to fill any gaps. 

4. Conclusions and Recommendations
These should follow on logically from your Discussion.

5. Abstract/Executive Summary
Write a summary of the main features of your report.


Practise making a plan

Try creating a plan for a report you are working on. Ask yourself these questions:

• 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?

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