Virtually all people will have to write a report at some point in their education or career, whether it's a research report, a sales report, a yearly progress report or another kind. Regardless of the type of report you’re writing, there are several qualities common to all reports that are essential to its success.
The purpose of your report must be clear from the opening paragraph. Stating the report's goal clearly and succinctly lets your reader know why you have written the report and what kind of information they can expect to find within it. It also gives the writer a road map to follow when researching and creating the report, keeping the information on track and relevant to the subject.
It is crucial that your report flows logically through its subject matter. Good organization allows the reader to move through the information in a way that feels natural and progressive. You do not want your readers to feel as if they are “jumping around” from topic to topic. Depending on the type of report you’re writing, some good organizational options include chronological order, cause and effect, comparison and general to specific ordering.
A good report covers all relevant areas of its topic using accurate information from trustworthy sources. Include as much pertinent information as possible within the guidelines of your assignment and the confines of your thesis. Always double-check facts before including them in your report -- look for the same piece of information in more than one reliable source. Use caution when including Internet sources, as content can be added and modified with little accountability. Look for hallmarks of authorial credibility such as association with professional organizations, academic degrees or demonstrated expertise in the subject.
Most reports, whether in academia or the corporate world, use information that did not originate with the report writer. This includes elements like quotes, statistics and definitions as well as broader information on the topic. It is imperative that all non-original information be clearly attributed to its source to avoid accusations of plagiarism and to lend credibility to the information. There are several ways to cite sources in a report, including in-text citation, footnotes and endnotes. Make sure to consult any formatting guidelines for the report, as some citation styles require specific information and formatting.
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