Format for a Report

Format for a Report

A format for a report refers to a plan for report organization. It is the way of structuring material or a framework that is used in arranging information- A report on the other hand refers to an account of informational work that is made with the intention of conveying information or recounting specific events in a form that is widely presentable-

Using a specific format in writing a report enables you to present it or information as concisely and as clearly as possible to the target reader or different audiences. It also enables you to signal readers the kind of information that you will present in the report while enhancing its presentation.

The major elements of the format for a report

Although there is no specifically set format for writing a report, there are elements that should be used in dividing the report into sections. These are the sections or elements of any standard report. Having these sections in a report makes it well structured, clear, concise and accurate.

Knowing these elements is very important because most college and university courses require students to write reports especially for technical, scientific and business subjects. It is important to note that a report format can differ depending on what the report includes. There are also variations in the interpretation of the format of a report or how a report ought to look like-

Here are the major sections or elements of any standard format for a report:

  1. Title section

For short reports, any necessary information including the date of preparation and the name of the author is included in this section However, if your report is long, include terms definitions in this section. The title page can also include the name of the lecturer or tutor who you are submitting the report to as well as the course department. Alternatively, include the name of the organization or/and the person who commissioned you to write the report.

  1. Acknowledgement

This is usually included in a long report immediately after the title page or section. It includes a list of organizations and people who could be within your learning institution or outside who in one way or another helped you in writing the report.

  1. Table of contents

This provides a well-formatted, clear list of the sections as well as the sub-sections of a report. The list includes the numbers of the pages of the report. The headings that are included in the list should correspond with the numbers of the main body of the report. Although it comes at the first pages of the report, table of contents should be prepared after writing the report to ensure accuracy. This section can also include figures, boxes, annexes and tables with their page references.

  1. List of abbreviations and acronyms

In this section, you list every abbreviation or acronym that you think readers may find difficult to understand if you do not provide their definitions or explanation.

  1. Executive summary

In this section, the report provides a summary of the main points, recommendations and conclusions. The summary should be short because it is generally an overview of the most important information of the report. Just like the table of contents, summary of a report should be written after writing the report to ensure that it includes everything. However, it should indicate the major points in a report because most people read this section of a report while skimming other parts. Note that the information provided in this section can vary depending on the kind of a report that you will be writing.

  1. Introduction

The introduction ought to explain to the reader the problem that led to or necessitated the study and subsequently writing the report. It should orient readers by providing adequate background information regarding the problem that the report will address in the body. Additionally, the introduction section should state what will be covered by the topic and possible limitations. The introduction section should map the entire report for the readers.

  1. Methods

This section should describe the methodological approaches or simply the methods that were used while conducting research. It should also explain the rationale behind their selection as well as the extent of their effectiveness or success. This description should enable readers of the report to determine the merit of the employed methods and credibility of the report findings, recommendations and conclusions. Some of the methodological approaches that can be discussed in this section include:

  • Data sources: These are the information sources and the rationale of selecting them as well as the information that was obtained.
  • Sampling and sample frame: If the study used a sample, its characteristics and size should be discussed. For instance, if the study used women in a specific age bracket, the section should describe the selection criteria.
  • Procedures of data collection and instruments: This section of the format for a report should include the discussion of the procedures or methods that were used in collecting data. Such procedures or methods include the collection instruments such as interview protocols as well as their appropriateness in collecting data from specific sources and prove of their validity and reliability-
  • Stakeholder engagement: This is the evaluation of the way involvement level contributed to the credibility of the research.
  • Performance standards: This is the measure of the performance of the study.
  • Ethical considerations: This refers to the measures that were taken during the study to ensure that confidentiality and rights of the informants are protected.
  • Major methodology limitations: This sub-section discusses the limitations of the used methodologies.
  1. Results/Findings

In this section, the results of the study for which the report is being written are presented. There are different ways of presenting the results of the study including using pointers and tables. The tables should be presented in a way that readers can follow. As such, their numbering and naming should correspond with their numbering and naming in the appendix. Additionally, tables and figures should appear after the paragraphs in this section since they act as illustrations-

  1. Analysis/Data Analysis

The procedures that were used in analyzing the collected data or information in order to answer the study question or respond to the study problem should be described or explained in this section. This includes different stages and steps of the analysis including what was done to ensure accuracy of the results and data. Potential limitations, gaps and weaknesses of the analysis should also be discussed such as the possible influence on the interpretation of the findings and how the conclusions were drawn. The findings of the analysis are interpreted or explained in this section.

  1. Conclusions

This section sums up everything that was found by the study and its interpretation or analysis. This section should have no jargon because after reading the summary, most people skim through the body of the report and then read the conclusion.

  1. Recommendations

In this section, the report provides recommendations on the basis of the findings and analysis of the results. The recommendations are explained in their priority order.

  1. Appendices

This section includes the information that is read by the field experts. This is because the information provides all technical details for supporting the conclusion of the report-

  1. References

In this section, all sources that were used in conducting research for which the report is being written are included. How they are included in the report depends on the specified style for writing the report.

Having a format for a report makes finding what readers want in a report easy. It also enables you as a writer to present all information in a logically organized manner. Note that some reports follow this format but their headlines for each section are not listed with these titles. Here is an example of such a report; A report on the American Airline. The titles and content for each section of this report varies based on the nature of the information that it presents.

Scientific reports

Most scientific reports follow the IMRAD format.

This refers to:

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

However, although these reports have standard headings their details can vary and there are exceptions too. It is therefore important that you consult with the instructor before you start writing the report- Other aspects of the format of a report such as spacing, font size and margin depend on the specified writing style such as the APA or MLA writing style. For academic reports, instructors specify the style or give students the freedom to choose their preferred writing style.

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