Coursework Writing Guide

A report can be termed as a document that is well organised and systematic. It normally involves the analysis of a problem or a subject and has the following sequence: (a) recording series of facts or events, (b) explaining the importance of these facts or events, (c) evaluating the presented facts or outcomes of research, (d) discussing the decision outcomes, (e) conclusion and (f) recommendations. There are various interpretations as to how a report must appear; it must be noted that the format of your report must be in line with the course documentation. No matter what the format of the report is, ultimately it has to be: (a) clear, (b) concise, (c) accurate and (d) well structured.

Points to be pondered

  1. Understanding aim
  2. Knowing the purpose of report writing is the main aim because it only decides what kind of report you write. This is important as this is usually neglected.

    Reports can be:

    • Instructional report: this aims to explain
    • Factual report: this aims to inform
    • Leading report: this aims to persuade

    It should be noted that once you define your main aim this way, the rest of your aims will automatically fall into place.

  3. Understanding readers
  4. Before starting on with the report, you must consider the audience. The main focus of a report is the “Reader”. Your report must give the readers what they expect from your report, in a format they comply with. You can get a good picture of your reader by delving upon three questions:

    • What does the reader want?
    • What are the attitudes of the reader?
    • What is the knowledge level of the reader?

    However, it must be considered that answering these questions is sometimes difficult and more specifically when a wide readership is involved. In that case it is advisable to focus on the primary reader.

  5. Understanding the objective
  6. By aligning purpose with the reader, the next task is setting the objective. It points to what you expect your reader to think and do after your report is read by the reader.

    Example of an objective:
    To convince my CEO sanction a proposed method of flexible working hours

  7. Choosing an approach
  8. While writing a report, a top-down approach is highly recommended. It can be broken down into three stages:

    1. Defining scope of the investigation: this aids in clear communication of your information and to be selective when gathering your information.
    2. Gathering information: the points to be focussed at this stage are: (a) the type of information needed, (b) the amount of information needed, (c) source of information and (d) method of information gathering.
    3. Refinement: the sub-stages under this stage are: (a) writing the outline of section level, (b) writing the outline of subsection level and (c) writing the outline of paragraph level.
  9. Deciding on structure
  10. Following is a list of 11 primary elements of a standard report; though this structure need not be strictly adhered to. You can bring in your own creative mixes. This list just gives an idea about the basic structure.

    1. Title page
    2. Table of Contents
    3. Abstract
    4. Introduction
    5. Background
    6. Procedure
    7. Implications
    8. Recommendations
    9. Conclusion
    10. Appendices
    11. Bibliography (or References)
  11. Using the appropriate style
  12. Use solid figures and facts, evidence and justification. Use good language – it is highly appalling to have big reports with high amount of words. Simple and quickly readable reports are the best reports as there is clear interpretation and development of feasible recommendations from the writer.

  13. Considering layout
    • Visuals
    • Pictures are important, so try including some. The connection between the pictures and the text must be clear to the reader and must not leave them in figuring out the relationship between the two; so, try to explain all the facets of a visual. You must be careful while choosing the type of visual and also write good captions.

    • Fonts
    • Reports are normally formal documents, so you have to be careful about your font choices. For the headings, you can choose a sans serif font such as Calibri or Arial. For the document body, you can use a serif font such as Cambria or Times New Roman with a font size or 11 or 12. However, you must refer to your course documentation for specific requirements of the font.

  14. Refinement
  15. First draft of a report can never be a well-written report. A well-written report is the one that has been gone through scrutiny a couple of times. Find time to double check the report and then see whether it meets the following points: (a) the report accomplishes its purpose, (b) it does what you were supposed to do, (c) it does what you were supposed to do in the Introduction, and (d) bottom line: you are pleased with the way your report has turned out.

    Final word

    For a reader it is a pleasure reading a well-written report. Your report is well-written if it is easily recognizable, and has an informative and precise title. It must also have an organised layout, reveals both visuals and text and easy to handle. It must be written in a smooth and succinct style with headings clearly indicating the matter of each section, and graphs, tables and diagrams must be clear and properly labelled.

    Following is the list summarising the main points covered above:
    1. The READER is the vital component of a report.
    2. The report must be kept as short as possible.
    3. Systematize the report according to reader's convenience.
    4. Ensure proper referencing with completeness and correctness.
    5. The report must be in a fluent and concise style.The figures must be at the right place with appropriate titles.
    6. The figures must be at the right place with appropriate titles.
    7. In summary, provide the entire picture in a miniature form.
    8. The report must be thoroughly checked for any inconsistencies, typing and technical errors.
    9. Finally, the report must appear as good as it definitely is.