To write a report for school or work, the key is good organization of your time, your research material and your thoughts. Before you begin, make sure you understand the assignment completely; ask your teacher or professor for clarification if there is anything you don’t understand. Know when your report is due, and give yourself plenty of time for both the reading and the writing process. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the time you think you will need, and then double it. This will give you plenty of time to write a report that is well-researched, clear and concise.
The first step to write a report of any type is research. If you are writing a book report, your research phase includes reading the required book and making notes about the main characters and ideas that are presented. For essays and research papers, you will need to consult reputable sources for information on your topic, gather any quotes you will use, and note the source information you will need to cite later. Check with your professor if you are unsure of which sources are acceptable; there may be specific sources you must use for your particular assignment and others that are not allowed. If you are writing a report on your own research, be sure that your notes are clear and well organized, and your research is complete.
The next phase of writing a report is to organize your information. Many people find an outline helpful, and some teachers and professors require one. An outline is a good way to clarify exactly what you want your report to say, and in what order to present the information. If you are having trouble with this phase, writing each fact on an index card can be helpful. This way, you can easily reorganize and rearrange your data until you find the clearest way to present your information.
When you write a report, the first paragraph will set the tone for the rest of your writing. It should include a thesis statement, which is a single sentence that sums up the main point of your report, or the focus of your research. The beginning paragraph may also include introductory information about the research methods you used or the sources you consulted to back up your points. Remember to keep your first paragraph brief and concise. You are simply introducing your main ideas; you will elaborate on each of them later in the report.
The body of your report will include all of your supporting information. Limit each paragraph to one idea or concept, and fully develop the concept with several well-written support sentences. For many school essays, three to five main ideas are enough to support your thesis, but always check the requirements of your assignment. If you use information word-for-word from another source, make sure to enclose the information in quotation marks and cite your source as required by your teacher. Charts and graphs may be used in this section, but make sure the information is relevant and enhances your main points.
The final paragraph of your report should sum up your main points once again. This paragraph will contain your final thoughts and conclusions as well. It should, again, be brief and concise, covering the basic facts you want your reader to understand after reading your report.
Finally, don’t forget the editing phase of writing a report. This will include running the spell check feature of your word processor as well as a manual reading of your text to catch any errors the spell check missed. Read your report out loud a time or two; this will help you hear any sentences that are awkward or that are not relevant to your main ideas. If you are unsure of your editing skills, having someone else read the paper out loud will help you identify anything in your report that is unclear. Developing these skills will help you to write a report that is polished, high-quality and concise.