There are different types of reports and different ways of structuring them. Report writing can be very technical, but here we will show you a model for structuring a formal business report.

How many sections?

Most reports include the following sections:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendices

What goes in each section?

1. Title

  • This should be short and precise. It should tell the reader of the nature of your research.
  • Omit any unnecessary detail e.g. ‘A study of….’ is not necessary.

2. Abstract

The abstract is a self-contained summary of the whole of your report. It will therefore be written last and is usually limited to one paragraph. It should contain:

  • An outline of what you investigated (as stated in your title)
  • Why you chose to look at that particular area with brief reference to prior research done in the field
  • Your hypothesis (prediction of what the results will show)
  • A brief summary of your method
  • Your main findings and how these relate to your hypothesis
  • A conclusion which may include a suggestion for further research

3. Introduction

The introduction ‘sets the scene’ for your report; it does this in two ways:

  • By introducing the reader in more detail to the subject area you are looking at
  • Through presenting your objectives and hypotheses

Explain the background to the problem with reference to previous work conducted in the area.

Briefly discuss the findings and how these connect with your research.

Finally, state your aims or hypothesis.

4. Method

The method section should describe every step of how you carried out your research in sufficient detail so that the reader understands what you did. Information on your experimental design, sampling methods, participants, and the overall procedure employed should be clearly specified.

This information is usually presented under the following sub-headings:

  • Objective
  • Design
  • Participants
  • Procedure(s)

5. Results

Your results section should clearly convey your findings. These are what you will base your commentary on in the discussion section, so the reader needs to be certain of what you found.

  • Present data in a summarised form
  • Raw data

Do not over-complicate the presentation and description of your results. Be clear and concise.

  • Describe what the results were, don’t offer interpretations of them
  • Present them in a logical order
  • Those that link most directly to your hypothesis should be given first

Presenting Data in Tables and Graphs

  • Do not present the same data in two or more ways i.e. use either a table or a graph, or just text.
  • Remember that a graph should be understandable independently of any text, but you may accompany each with a description if necessary.
  • Use clear and concise titles for each figure. Say which variables the graph or table compares.
  • Describe what the graph or table shows, then check that this really is what it shows! If it isn’t, you need to amend your figure, or your description.

6. Discussion

The discussion section is the most important part of your report. It relates the findings of your study to the research that you talked about in your introduction, thereby placing your work in the wider context. The discussion helps the reader understand the relevance of your research. This is your chance to discuss, analyse and interpret your results in relation to all the information you have collected.

The Discussion will probably be the longest section of your report and should contain the following:

  • A summary of the main results of your study
  • An interpretation of these results in relation to your aims, predictions or hypothesis, e.g. if your hypothesis is supported or rejected, and in relation to the findings of other research in the area
  • Consideration of the broader implications of your findings.

7. Conclusions

The conclusion section briefly summarises the main issues arising from your report

8. References

  • Give details of work by all other authors which you have referred to in your report
  • Check a style handbook or journal articles for variations in referencing styles

9. Appendices

The appendices contain material that is relevant to your report but would disrupt its flow if it was contained within the main body. For example: raw data and calculations; interview questions; and a glossary of terms, or other information that the reader may find useful to refer to. All appendices should be clearly labelled and referred to where appropriate in the main text (e.g. ‘See Appendix A for an example questionnaire’).

 
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