How to Write a Report for College Classes

Most college-level reports require library research for outside references.
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Writing reports creates stress for many college students, but the assignments have several important purposes. They demonstrate that you know how to research, and they introduce the group of specialized sources used in your field of study. If you take the time to select an interesting report topic for your college class, you might even find that you enjoy the report-writing experience.

1 Assignment Deconstruction

The most important step in creating a college report includes breaking the assignment into the separate steps required to write the essay. The easiest method to do this involves evaluating the report instructions. Assignments typically include details about required research, report length, requirements for citing sources and the necessary formatting for the paper and any references.

2 Research

Some course assignments ask you to use only course textbooks as sources, while others demand library research to collect outside references. Select authors with experience and training in the class field as report references. Limit your research to books and materials published by college and university presses, if possible, to ensure that your report includes quality references. Write down full citations for references, including the author, title, publisher and date to use in the required footnotes and bibliography. College reports typically require you to use a formal format to write your paper and a system to quote from your reference sources. Most college classes follow the style manuals of the American Psychological Association or the Modern Language Association, or they use the Chicago Manual of Style.

3 Brainstorming

The brainstorming process asks you to browse through your course notes and textbooks to select some interesting ideas for potential report topics. Brainstorming is a time for the free flow of ideas, so avoid self-editing during this time. Once you have a group of potential topics, take a trip to the library or search online to make sure you have enough research materials for the report.

4 Organization and Composition

Reports require you to develop a thesis. This statement (usually a single sentence) presents the main idea for your report. Some assignments ask you to select a controversial topic to explore in your report, while other report topics make a broad factual statement that allows you to simply provide information on a topic.

The most effective reports follow an outline to organize the ideas. Once you have your topic or thesis, group your notes and information into two or three main points for the report body and start writing.

5 Feedback

Formal feedback isn't always required for a college report, but most teachers encourage students to use the resources on campus for writing assignments. Most colleges have a writing or tutoring center where you can ask for suggestions to improve your report. Ask other students in your class for an honest opinion. Fellow students offer a valuable resource to provide feedback. Your peers heard the same classroom lectures, completed the same course readings and sometimes have insights from this material that you may have missed.

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.