Report Writing & Documentation The format required for all your assignments
Important • Please follow these guidelines strictly. • In addition please refer to specific guidelines provided for each of the module’s assignments. • The cover sheet for the report/assignment can be obtained from your lecturer. • If you have any doubts please speak to your lecturer
WHAT IS A REPORT? • A report is a structured written presentation directed to interested readers in response to some specific purpose, aim or request. • Reports generally give an account of something, answer a question, or offer a solution to a problem.
Types of reports • Information only reports • Research reports • Case study analysis reports
Information reports • Provides basic information • Like monthly budgets etc • Management reports • Example : Staff absenteeism reports
Research reports • These are the reports you do in a university • Academic in nature • Academic writing skills required to display understanding of theory/applicability of theory to discuss evidence or real life scenarios • For example to do a report on product development • Its almost real life • Based and rooted in the real world
Case study analysis report • Real life • But in contained and confined environment • The lecturer will give you a case study and you will have to investigate/examine the case in terms of key theoretical concept you learn • Your given all the information in a story/case study but you need to understand the story using the theory
Important • So the first thing you need to determine is what type of report you are going to write
CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE REPORT An effective report is: • appropriate to its purpose and audience; • accurate; • logical; • clear and concise; and • well organised with clear section headings.
PURPOSE To inform: as clearly and, as succinctly, as possible
REPORT Vs. ESSAY Both Need… • formal style • introduction, body and conclusion • analytical thinking • careful proof-reading and neat presentation
REPORT Vs. ESSAY A report differs from an essay in that a report: • Presents information, not an argument • Meant to be scanned quickly by the reader • Uses numbered headings and sub-headings • Uses short, concise paragraphs and dot-points where applicable • Uses graphics wherever possible (tables, graphs, illustrations) • May need an abstract (sometimes called an executive summary) • Does not always need references and bibliography • Is often followed by recommendations and/or appendices
REPORTS Exactly what you include in your report and how you present it will vary according to your discipline and the specific purpose of the report.
4 features of a well written report • Objectivity: go with the facts, keep it impersonal so avoid using the word “I” and “We” • Good research ; when somebody reads your report they should be clear that you know exactly what you are talking about , • Structure of the report is important: it has particular sections which are mandatory and arranged logically • Fact that you have clear writing style
GENERIC STRUCTRE • Title page* • Executive summary/abstract • Table of contents • List of abbreviations and/or glossary • Introduction* • Body* • Conclusion* • Recommendations • References * • Bibliography • Appendices * these are essential; others depending on type, length and purpose of report
Title page • the report title which clearly states the purpose of the report • full details of the person(s) for whom the report was prepared • full details of the person(s) who prepared the report • the date of submission
Executive summary/abstract • An abstract is quite different from an introduction. It is a summary of the report, in which you include one sentence (or so) for every main section of your report. For example, you can include: • Summary of the aims/objectives/purpose of the report • the context of the research • the major findings (you may need several sentences here) • the conclusions • the main recommendations Write the abstract after you have written the report!
Example • The purpose of this report was to analyze management conflict at the southland branch of police headquarters. The specific objectives were to identify key problems and to offer recommendations to regional management. Problems were located at the key branch level and specifically the structure and management communications of the establishment. The report recommends a key restructuring of the branch and clarifications of job descriptions.
Table of Contents • (usually only if the report is longer than, say, ten pages) • What you can expect to be covered in the report • Page number - use decimal numbers • Executive summary and table of contents fall outside the report itself and numbered using roman numerals • The report starts with the introduction and starts with page number 1
Example Table of Contents List of Tables 7 List of Figures 8 1Introduction 9 1.1 Problem Definition 9 1.2 Purpose 10 1.3 Research Methodology 11 1.4 Possible Limitations 13 2Theoretical Framework 15 2.1 Introduction 15 2.2 Assessment of the Financial Health 15 2.2.1 Financial Statements – Ratio Analysis 15 2.2.2 Limitations of Financial Evaluations using Ratios 21 2.2.3 Stock Prices 21 2.3 Additional Factors that can affect the Financial Health 22 2.3.1 Leadership 22 2.3.2 Corporate and Governance Structure 22
Abbreviations and/or glossary • If necessary, you should provide an alphabetical list of the abbreviations you have used in the report, especially if they may not be familiar to all readers of the report. • If you have used a lot of technical terms, you should also provide a glossary (an alphabetical list of the terms, with brief explanations of their meanings).
Acknowledgements (if appropriate) • This is a short paragraph thanking any person or organization which gave you help in collecting data or preparing the report.
Introduction • Give enough background information to provide a context for the report. • State the purpose of the report. • Clarify key terms and indicate the scope of the report (i.e. what the report will cover). • Describe the problem(usually a report is written to solve a problem) • Identify general subject matter
Define the specific objectives/aims of the report • Indicate the methodology adopted • Provide a preview to the report/guide to the structure of the report • You can also outline the limitations of the report
Body • The content of the body depends on the purpose of the report, and whether it is a report of primary or secondary research.
Body – Primary Research A report of primary research (based on your own observations and experiments) would include: • Literature review (what other people have written about this topic). The literature review should lead towards your research question. • Method (summarizes what you did and why). Use the past tense. • Findings or results (describes what you discovered, observed, etc, in your observations and experiments). Use the past tense. • Discussion (discusses and explains your findings and relates them to previous research). Use the present tense to make generalizations.
Body – Secondary Research A report of secondary research (based on reading only) would include: • Information organized under appropriate topics with sub-headings. It is unlikely that your report will discuss each source separately. You need to synthesize material from different sources under topic headings. • Analysis/discussion of the sources you are reporting.
Its usually three quarters of the report • It is sub divided into logical subunits • Each section has a heading and is numbered • Fully explain the conclusions you come to • Justifies any recommendations you come to • It must explain why a particular solutions preferred • You have to give evidence and examples • Importantly link theory to examples • All your tables and diagrams to support your examples and theory goes in the discussion
Conclusion • It must summarize the key findings • Say how the findings relate to the objectives • Follow logically from the discussion • Don’t introduce new material • It should be clear and short you can even use bullet points • Arrange it in a manner that the major conclusions come first • Identify the major issues relating to the investigation …
Recommendations (if appropriate) • After the conclusion you may be required to give recommendations • It focuses on the future: we have a problem now but what do you recommend for the future to solve this problem • You can become subjective • You can now give your take on the problem and how it can be solved. • When you are making recommendations take into account cost, location, practicality and acceptability • It must follow logically from the discussion • Is your recommendations feasible and related to the discussion and conclusion • It can be numbered or bullet pointed.
References • Very important section of the report • Harvard style to be used • If you draw upon other people’s ideas or words you must cite and reference • Only cited work to be in the reference list (for example you may have read 20 books but you only spoke about 5 books then only those 5 books appear in the reference list) • If you want your lecturer to see that you have read other books then create a bibliography which comes immediately after the reference list.
Appendices • An appendix contains material which is too detailed, technical, or complex to include in the body of the report (for example, specifications, a questionnaire, or a long complex table of figures), but which is referred to in the report. • Appendices are put at the very end of the report, after everything else. • Each appendix should contain different material. Number each appendix clearly.
Optional sections in the report • Acknowledgment (immediately after the executive summary) • List of tables and list of figures • Glossary/abbreviation • Appendices • Bibliography
Presentation of the report • The content and structure of your report is important; so is the presentation and style. First impressions count, so consider these simple tips to ensure your report is reader-friendly: • use plenty of white space • ensure the separate parts of your report stand out clearly • use subheadings • allow generous spacing between the elements of your report • use dot points/ numbers/ letters to articulate these elements
Presentation of the report • use tables and figures (graphs, illustrations, maps etc) for clarification. Label them clearly and cite the source. These graphics should relate to the text of your report; for example, Figure 1 shows that the population of Bandung has increased dramatically since 1890, or The population of Bandung has increased dramatically since 1890 (see Figure 1). • number each page (a neat header and/or footer makes your work look more professional) • use consistent and appropriate formatting (you may like to follow the report format supplied with your word processing package) • use formal language. It would be worth having a look at the language which is used in other, similar reports to check out useful expressions and terms.
Common problems Some common problems with research report writing that you should take care to avoid are: • the inclusion of careless, inaccurate, or conflicting data • the inclusion of outdated or irrelevant data • facts and opinions that are not separated • unsupported conclusions and recommendations • careless presentation and proof-reading • too much emphasis on appearance and not enough attention to solid content.
Report Writing Laws! • The reader is the most important person 2. Keep the report as short as possible 3. Organise for the convenience of the report user 4. All references should be correct in all details 5. The writing should be accurate, concise and unobtrusive
Report Writing Laws! 6. The right diagram with the right labels should be in the right place for the reader 7. Summaries give the whole picture, in miniature 8. Reports should be checked for technical errors, typing errors and inconsistency. 9. The report should look as good as it is. 10. The reader is the most important person.
Next Topic • Referencing