Informational reports do not have an argumentative slant. Their goal is to give people the facts so that the reader can make a decision, not the writer. The writer should maintain a neutral attitude when presenting the facts, but spare no energy when it comes to researching in depth and writing clearly. Since a thesis statement presents an argument, an informative paper does not really need one, but it does need a clear focus stated in one sentence.
Find out who wants the report and why. Without performing this audience analysis, it is difficult to start writing. When you talk to the reader, ask what motivated the request for the report, what topic should be covered, and the format that it should be in. A lab report will look very different from a book report, for example, but all informational reports need certain basic things.
Gather data related to the topic. Use authoritative sources like scholarly, peer reviewed articles, scholarly books, web pages associated with governments or universities, scientific studies, or interviews. If you collect the data yourself, explain, near the start of the paper, the methods used to create questionnaires and surveys.
State the focus of your report in the last sentence of the first paragraph, and use the rest of the introduction to capture the audience’s attention. Cite some key statistics, quote an expert, or tell an anecdote related to the focus. By stating the focus, you give the reader and yourself a guide. The reader knows what to expect, and you know what to include in the report and what to exclude. Exclude anything that does not relate to the focus.
List to yourself five to ten main points, depending on the length of the report, that are essential and that relate to the focus. Dedicate one paragraph, or even one section of the report, to each point. Develop each point, using quotations, statistics, examples, summaries and your own analysis and reflection.
Document your sources. If you quote or summarize, use one of the major documentation styles, Modern Language Association, American Psychological Association, or Chicago, to give credit to the source. Save all source information, including titles, names, publishers, page numbers and dates, as they are necessary in most documentation styles. Different editors, teachers or managers prefer different styles, so know which one is required for this particular report.
Conclude by stressing the main point of the report, stating, in different words than in the introduction, why it is important.
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images