REPORT WRITING TECHNIQUES
WHAT IS A REPORT?
A Report may be defined as a document in which a given problem is examined for the purpose of conveying information, reporting findings, putting forward ideas and, sometimes, making recommendations.
Report writing is a specialised form of written communication. Many of the rules which must be observed when writing a report are therefore, equally applicable to written communications in general.
There are three Cardinal Rules of Report Writing:-
These are not easily mastered. "Hard writing makes easy reading". A Report writer must constantly strive to make his/her reader's task as easy as the subject matter permits.
THE FOUR STAGE METHOD IN REPORT WRITING
Stage I : Preparation of report
Stage II : Arrangement of report
Stage III: Writing of Report
Stage IV: Revision of Report
STAGE I: PREPARATION OF A REPORT
1. Your Purpose
a) Find out exactly what you have been asked to do. In other words; try to get concise "Terms of Reference."
b) Establish clearly in your mind the subject , scope and purpose of your report. The purpose will generally
- To give information, either general or detailed
- To report findings;
- To put forward ideas;
- To recommend a course of action.
2. Your Reader
a) What does my reader want to know ?
b) What does he know already ?
c) How can I graft new knowledge on to his existing knowledge ?
d) What kind of terminology will he understand ?
e) How will he /she use my report ?
Remember that you have to meet the needs of a specific
reader(s). Is his (or their) outlook
3. Your Material
a) Collect facts and ideas about your subject by
observation, reading, conversation,
b) Check the facts for accuracy.
NOTE: Jot Down All Your Facts and Ideas.
Record them in note form. Any order may be
STAGE II: ARRANGEMENT OF A REPORT
Observance of the following ten points will help you to construct a concise, logical and well arranged report:-
1. Write down your purpose in one terse sentence.
This will test your understanding of your task and deter you from including unnecessary points.
Then choose a
2. Consider your collected Facts and Ideas.
Reject any which on second thoughts are neither helpful nor necessary to your purpose. Add notes of
any others which
3. Review any main division critically, and revise them if necessary.
If you could not make groupings earlier,
consider now what the main divisions should be.
Choose a section heading for
4. Decide the order in which you will present the main divisions.
They will form sections of your report. Number
your section headings so that they can be easily referred to in
5. Within each division, arrange your material in an order which your reader will easily follow.
Lead the reader step by step from the known to the unknown. If there are few items in any one group, you can
6. Make sure your Conclusion or Recommendations square with your facts.
Decide whether to group them in a section of their own which will form a natural
Conclusion to your report, or distribute
7. Review your Title and Section Headings critically.
They should identify,
and not merely describe,
the subject matter under them. Brevity is
desirable, but three or four
8. Consider what use you can make of Illustrations to supplement or replace words.
"A good diagram is often worth more than a page of writing."
9. Consider the Advisability of using Footnotes.
If used with discretion they may help the
unimpeded flow of narrative or argument. However,
Footnotes should be as brief
Footnotes may be used to:-
a) Give sources of quotations or references mentioned in the text;
b) Indicate authorities or sources of additional information;
c) Explain passages in the text which may be clear to some readers but not to others.
10. Consider whether you can lift any
Factual details out of the
Divisions and place them
Appendices perform functions similar to
those of footnotes by removing distracting
details and thus enabling the reader to
STAGE III: WRITING THE REPORT
1. Report Style
Decide what the tone of your text should be. A lucid,
business-like and balanced exposition is usually desired in
Consider whether you can help your reader by numbering or lettering paragraphs or items within the sections. Any
Think of your illustrations as you write, so that
reading mater and visual items may be closely linked. Every
Your report will need an introduction- which may be
written last of all. The introduction is the place for a
In your introduction:-
a) State the name and appointment of the recipient.
b) Date your report;
c) Use Classifications,
Such as "Secret", "Confidential" and "Private" only where they genuinely apply.
d) Define your subject and indicate broadly its extent, composition and significance.
e) State your purpose and Terms of Reference, and indicate how far you are able to carry them out.
f) Provide background information,
g) State fully, or summarize, your Results, Conclusions and Recommendations.
h) Announce the arrangement of your Main sections.
i) Define Technical terms and words (Jargons) that you intend to use in a special sense.
Make your Introduction as interesting as you can, for instance by singling out points of immediate practical or financial significance, but beware of sensationalism or distortion of the fact.
5. THE MAIN SECTION AND APPENDICES
Concentrate on writing one of your sections or Appendices at a time. You may need to do some or all of the
a) State facts obtained and indicate source;
b) Analyses these facts;
c) State the conclusions or recommendations based on them;
d) Describe the procedure followed in your investigations or experiments;
e) Refer to, or summarize, matters fully presented in an Appendix.
Once you have overcome the first inertia, forge ahead from point to point in the sequence you planned when
6. THE CONCLUSION
Your conclusion should do some or all of the following:-
a) summarize the discussion in the main sections;
b) summarize findings and inferences;
c) Make recommendations based on your findings and inferences;
d) State clearly what action should be taken as a result of your Recommendations, and by whom;
e) Emphasise finally the significance of your subject matter;
f) Refer briefly to any wider considerations, outside your terms of reference, on which your report may have a bearing.
"Conclusion and Introduction are closely interdependent"
The Conclusion should have a section heading of its own, to mark it off clearly from the last main section.
You may decide to make a radical change in the Introduction - Main Section - Conclusion sequence of the report
This re-arrangement is often suitable when you have to cater for two classes of reader:-
The General Reader, who wants to reach
quickly without studying your facts
b) The Specialist readers, who wishes to examine your subject matter in full detail.
7. LIST OF REFERENCES
If your report contains numerous references to other publications it may be useful to compile a separate
Each reference should contain full information in the
- Place of Publication
- Date of Publication
8. THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some people may wish to read your main headings without going right through your report. You should, therefore,
The Tables Of Content may be compiled as follows:-
a) Copy the numbered section and sub-section headings.
b) Indicate the relationship between headings and sub-headings by indentation.
c) Add separate lists of tables and illustrations, if necessary.
d) Leave space for page numbering to be filled in by the typist (if you are not typing the report yourself).
9. THE SYNOPSIS (Summary or Outline)
You may think it helpful, or it may be the practice
of your organisation, to present a Synopsis of the whole Report
STAGE IV: REVISION
When you have completed your Draft report, lay it aside for a day or two, if time permits. Then try to criticise it objectively as though it were the work of another author.
1. Make a Cursory Examination of your Draft as a whole.
with your purpose?
2. Consider The Title, Table of Contents,
in relation to one
- Have you stated your subject, purpose and plan clearly in Introduction ?
- Do your headings agree with the Table Of Contents and with the plan announced in the Introduction section
- Have you carried out your plan from start to finish of your report ?
- Have you placed emphasis on the correct points ?
- Are the parts in agreement with, and in proportion to, one another ?
3. Examine the Text In Detail.
Weigh every statement critically, especially if you think
it is liable to be quoted out of its context. Check
4. Read the Text aloud to yourself, or preferably to somebody else.
- Does it read easily and smoothly ?
- Can your listener follow you ?
- Are there any tiresome repetitions ?
- Have you omitted any essential points or failed to mention them early enough to ensure understanding ?
5. Check Your Illustrations
- Does each convey its message clearly ?
- Have you eliminated unnecessary detail ?
- Have you included everything helpful to your purpose ?
- Is the association between and Illustrations as clear and as close as possible ?
- Have you fully exploited your Illustrations as a means of avoiding longwinded explanations in the text ?
- Are the captions precise and informative ?
6. If Possible, Submit your Draft Report to a Person Qualified to give constructive criticism.
LENGTH OF A WRITTEN REPORT
Unfortunately the written report is the most abused method used by
Analyst to communicate with end-users. The
Report size is an important issue, after many bad experience, we have
learned to use the following guidelines to restrict
o To Executive-level managers - One or two pages
o To Middle-level managers - Three to five pages
o To Supervisory-level managers- Less than 10 pages
o To Operational - level personnel - less than 50 pages.
It is possible to organize a larger report to include sub-reports for
managers who are at different levels.
A LAST WORD ON THE REPORT WRITING TECHNIQUES
As you are entering in the field of Systems Analysis do avail yourselves
of every opportunity to improve your writing
Four-stage methods covered under this topic.
o A Paragraph should convey a single idea. They should flow
nicely, one to the next. Proper
o Sentences should not be too long. The average sentence length
should not exceed 20 words. Studies
o Write in Active Voice (Direct Speech). The passive voice becomes wordy and boring when used consistently.
o Eliminate Jargon.
*** Always Remember - HARD WRITING MAKES EASY READING !!!"