Objective, evidence-based writing commonly used in the sciences and some social science subjects.
Reports are found within many subjects, particularly sciences and some social sciences. They present factual-based information for a specified audience, with each academic discipline area having its own report types (many of which are based on real-world reports).
This guide explores what an academic report is as a concept and offers practical advice about the completion of academic reports:
Writing a good report isn't just about the final product - much of the thinking and hard work is done before you start writing.
Before your first report, work through the introductory guide to reports above to get an idea of what's expected of you: Reports: a Conceptual and Practical Guide [interactive tutorial]
Read the assessment instructions carefully. Which type of report is it? Is there an expected structure? Do you need to analyse data? What's the word count? When's the deadline?
Look at the assignment writing process and think about how you'll plan your approach to your report.
Make a schedule: how much time do you need to research, think, plan, draft, write and edit your report? Add in some extra time for a buffer.
Follow the steps in the writing process to prepare and write your report. Try to stick to your schedule.
Check and proofread your report carefully - check your citations and references too!
Submit your report. Maybe celebrate with some cake?
Read your feedback carefully. How can you use it to improve your next report?
For more detail, see our dedicated advice pages:
In many types of academic writing, you need to compare and synthesise information from numerous sources. This process much is quicker and easier using an effective note-taking technique.
Grid notes is a useful note taking technique to synthesise information. You collect information under specific headings in a grid or table, which helps you to:
Find out more:
More advice about other note-taking methods:
Reports are based on factual evidence and data, found in sources such as:
Tips on finding appropriate sources of evidence for your reports:
Writing a report usually requires reading lots of journal papers. This can seem like a massive task, but you usually don't need to read every word of a paper to get the information you need!
Find tips and strategies to read papers effectively:
It's not enough to describe or summarise the evidence - to access higher grades you'll also need to critically analyse it. What does the evidence mean in relation to your overall point or argument?
There are many ways that you could use evidence critically, such as:
For more advice, see our dedicated criticality resources:
Research or experimental reports present and discuss the outcomes of your research: what did you do, what did you find out, and what does it mean?
They're very common in science subjects and sometimes used in Education, Management or other subjects.
Research reports usually follow a set structure:
This tutorial introduces what's expected in each section, with advice and examples:
Many dissertations also follow this structure, so these tips also apply to research reports:
Example research reports may be available on your module VLE sites or from your tutors.
Research-based journal papers are also usually based on the same principles, so reading papers from your field is also a good way to see what's expected. Note that the referencing style used by the journal might be different to your department's referencing style!
This ecology paper is a well-structured example of a research paper:
The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reports. Also check your department guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.
Other useful resources for report writing:
As well as advice within your department, you can access central writing and skills support:
Have questions about planning or interpreting quantitative data analysis? You can book a statistics appointment with the Maths Skills Centre or explore the workshops and online resources: