How to Write a Report?

To succeed as a report writer, you need to appreciate the mindset of your readers. Report writing is very specific. It’s there to help people make decisions. When you understand this, your approach to writing repots becomes much simpler. Instead of writing reams and reams of pages, you focus on the reader’s needs.

Report writing in a nutshell:

  • Start with a specific purpose.
  • Describe the problem.
  • Provide facts, figures and data that relate to the topic.
  • Draw conclusions.
  • Recommend a course of action.
  • Reports are highly-structured. They rely on headings, and sub-headings, to introduce topics while also providing direction to readers. Tables, charts, and diagrams also enhance the findings. 

7 Step Plan On How To Write A Report

  1. Consider the aim of the report and its intended audience.
  2. Planning – Decide how you will gather information, for example, interviews, surveys, and questionnaires. 
  3. Information – Gather the information, then organize it and start analyzing it. 
  4. Conclusions – Decide your conclusions based on the information you have read.  
  5. Recommendations – Decide your recommendations and, where appropriate, the best course of action for the readers to take.
  6. Start the writing phase. Refine the report through a series of drafts. 
  7. Edit and publish the final copy. 

As you write your report, keep an eye on the following areas:

  • Check the accuracy of the facts, figures, and other research data.
  • Check cross-references and links to other sources of data.
  • Check that links to websites are ‘live’ as broken links will reflect poorly on your report.
  • Check that your conclusion and recommendations align with the data you have presented.
  • Avoid using industry terms or jargon. Provide a glossary where necessary.
  • Put charts, diagrams and statistics in context by providing some supporting text.
  • Use a consistent writing style throughout the document. Choose a positive language, write in the present tense, and prefer simple rather than complex words. 

Basic report format:

  • Title Page
    Give prominence to the official name of the report. Underneath this enter the name of the author, the publication date and copyright notices.
  • Table of Contents
    Enter the table of contents, using heading 1 only. In some cases you can also use headings 2 entries, though it’s best to avoid going any deeper than this level for most reports. Keep the reader focused on the main points.
  • Executive Summary
    In the opening paragraph introduce the main topic or issue that you’re about to discuss. If relevant, explain why this report has been commissioned. Avoid clichés, jargon or archaic words at all costs. It sets the wrong tone and you’ll lose all credibility with the reader.
  • Next, put the report in context by informing the reader of the methodologies you used when gathering data, research you performed, interviews and surveys carried out and so forth. 

    Your ability to demonstrate a commitment to the topic in question may significantly influence the reader’s opinion. Alternately, if the reader feels that you lack interest in the subject matter they will hardly be encouraged to turn the next page. Would you?

  • Finally, summarize your main findings and outline the key recommendations. Keep this succinct. Providing too much detail will discourage the reader from continuing. Stimulate their interest.  

    Keep this to one page!

    Tip: the Executive Summary is like a standalone document. People should be able to read this as it stands and understand the essence of your report.  

  1. Introduction
    You’re now into the document proper.
    Outline what you’re going to cover in this report. For larger reports, you may want to list the main chapters and describe what each one will cover. However, for most reports you can stick to:
    -Background. Does this follow from previous reports? It this part of a larger project? Will additional reports follow?
    -Role. Outline its value to the reader and why they should study its findings. What does this report discuss that other reports have overlooked? Does it break new ground? Are its authors uniquely qualified?
    -Objectives. Describe your objectives in writing this report, for example, to investigate the success of online banking in Asia. Describe how successful you were to achieving this and obstacles you encountered, such as data protection, legislation, or language issues.
    -Scope. Clarify the boundaries of this report by defining what’s within scope and also, most critically, areas that are out of scope. This is important to address as the reader may have expectations or assumptions that could color their thinking. By defining the scope, you reduce the likelihood that your report will be mis-interpreted and remove any ambiguity that may exist in the reader’s mind.
    -Limitations. Similar to the point above only. Highlight areas that were not covered, or not covered in sufficient depth, due to restrictions placed on the report’s authors. Examples of this could include financial restrictions, lack of technical resources, time constraints, access to data sources, or legal issues.
  2. Heading
    This is where you start the main discussion. In the following chapters, use headings and subheadings to organize your data. Provide data in tabular format (tables) where appropriate. Label and number all tables, figures, diagrams, charts, and other such pieces of information. 

    2.1 Subheading
    2.2 Subheading
    2.3 Subheading 

  3. Heading 

    3.1 Subheading
    3.2 Subheading
    3.3 Subheading 

  4. Conclusion
    After presenting your case to the reader in the previous chapters, draw your own conclusions by interpreting the data as you see fit. Explain to the reader why you have come to these conclusions while also acknowledging any limitations or concerns you may have with the research findings, sources of data, or validity of information.
    But, don’t mince your words. The reader has made the effort to get this far. They deserve to know where you stand on the matter.
  5. Recommendations
    This chapter dovetails from your conclusions. Recommendations outline the course of action based on data you’ve analyzed. When making recommendations, give consideration to the following areas:
    Actions that are required
    Individuals who will perform these actions
    Guidelines to quantify the success or failure of the proposed actions
    Warnings, threats, or dangers that may arise if these recommendations are not implemented.
    Provide a list of all resources, (individuals, companies, books, websites etc) mentioned in the document.
    Attach supporting documentation to the report where appropriate. This could range from datasheets, technical specifications, to surveys, statistics, market research, or charts, diagrams, and other types of illustrations.