A report is a formal document prepared by one person or a group of people who have been studying a particular subject. There are two basic kinds of reports:
- The first simply provides information on a topic and gives a brief conclusion or summary at the end. Example: a report on the educational system in a particular country, written to help someone research the subject.
- The second sets out to identify strengths and weaknesses in a particular situation and make recommendations for improvement. Example: a report on the library facilities in a college written at the request of the principal.
Language and register
Reports are the most impersonal kind of writing and it is usually best to avoid expressing personal opinions or feelings, except, perhaps, in the conclusion. Instead of I think that … or I found that… for example, you can use the impersonal “It” construction and a passive, eg It seems that… It was found that …
It is also advisable to avoid making very definite statements unless you’re absolutely sure they’re true. Instead of saying It is for example, you can use a modal verb eg It could/may/might be or a more tentative expression such as It seems to be or It tends to be.
Layout and organisation
Reports should have a clear factual heading and may also have subheadingswhich divide the writing into shorter sections. The information should be organised and presented as clearly and logically as possible, with a short introductionexplaining the aims of the report and how the information was obtained and a suitable conclusion, summing up the information and making recommendations if necessary.
Introduction: The aim of this report is to.. It is based on…
This report is intended to.. It draws on
This report looks at / describes.. It uses..
observation: It seems/appears that.. It was found that..
The majority / minority of … It was felt that ..
Quoting: According to … As X said… In the words of …
Speculating: It may / could / might (well) be that ..
Generalising: In general On the whole In the main
Commenting: Interestingly Curiously Oddly Strangely
As might be (have been) expected It is interesting that
Making a recommendation: It is recommended that ..
(Perhaps) it would be advisable for X to (do)
(Perhaps) X might /should consider
Summing up: To sum up / To summarise On balance In short