Academic Writing Complete Guide

Purpose and Audience of this Guide
Why read academic articles?
Essay Writing
Report Writing
Oral Presentations
Finding Sources
Good Academic Scholarship
Understanding Feedback
Exam preparation and Techniques

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Report Writing Guide

3.1 Defining a report

This is a structured document that provides crucial information concerning an investigation of events, organizations, situations, issues, as well as processes. The objective is to give the audience information that will enable them to make a decision to take further action. The structure of a report allows for easy tracking of specific parts of that information by the audience.

report writing guide

3.2 Report writing Tips and stages

Report writing involves sequential stages. They are as follows:

  • Giving a clear purpose of the report
  • Undertaking necessary research
  • Planning the report’s contents and structure
  • Drafting the report
  • Reviewing, revising and finishing the report

3.2.1 Giving a clear purpose of the report

Before you start writing your reports, you have to consider the requirements of your audience. Therefore, reports must have a definite purpose for the fulfillment of a specific brief. The audience may require information, analysis of the findings, and the evidence that is relevant to your ideas as well as your recommendations.

Meeting the requirements of your audience demands you to:

  • Adhere to the brief – a specific brief provides the author with a clear indication of the scope, breadth, and depth of the report.
  • Use appropriate vocabulary and some level of technical detail
  • Provide the evidence that supports your analysis. Conclusions and recommendations
  • Present your report meeting the appropriate standards and conventions

3.3 Undertaking necessary research

The areas of your research will be indicated by the purpose of your report. The extent of your research will also hinge on the following factors:

  • Time and other physical resources available for your research
  • The number of sources required
  • The author’s experience and expertise in research
  • Potential outcomes of the report

Your information can come from interviews, collection, and collation of unpublished material. In other words, published materials in books or journals as well as the internet support this primary research. The latter is referred to as the secondary research and it the basis of t the bigger chunk of what you will write for coursework assignments.

When your research hinges on a specific brief, you can consider the following;

  • Using relevant information
  • Differentiate facts from opinions
  • Evidentially support and substantiate your opinion with the evidence
  • Prove facts by showing their source and status of the information

If you are in management school, you will get better grades if your assignments use information from textbooks, academic journal articles, articles in the business press as well as papers and reports from reputable internet sources like the IMF or the World Bank. Refrain from copying and pasting materials from the internet because that is plagiarism, and it carries heavy penalties.

3.4 Planning the report’s contents and structure

It is an important stage of the writing process that requires ample time to plan how you are going to complete your report, research, and writing. You get to plan and organize your information, the remaining research, and the preferred structure in which the report will be written.

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3.5 Drafting, reviewing, revising and report finishing your report

Report writing is the same as essay writing. Once you complete the first draft, take some time off before you can come back to read it, review and revise it according to:

  • The content
    Ascertain that the content is relevant to the purpose of the report and appropriate skills and needs of the audience.
  • Structure
    Identify if the information flows logically, in the right sequence and clearly.
  • Presentation
    Establish if it follows the appropriate presentation that is within the conventions of report wrong as well as the particular demands of your audience.

3.6 The structure of a report

Your report should follow this structure:

  • Title page
  • List of contents
  • Executive summary/abstract (usually does not exceed one page)
  • Terms of reference
  • Introduction
  • The main body of information or findings
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations (optional or if required)
  • References to sources
  • Appendices (optional or if required)

The title page

It states the subject of the report and may include a subtitle. These titles and subtitles must be full sentences. Your title page should also have the following information:

  • Names and titles of a principal audience of the report In professional reports, these are the names of the people who have commissioned the report.
  • The name of the author as well as his title
  • The date of submission publishing of the report

List of Contents

It enumerates all the sections of the reports including the appendices

Executive summary/abstract

This contains all the important points of the entire report. It assists the reader by clarifying some of the following aspects what the report is all about, the author, the issue under examination, the major findings, and conclusions.

However, the executive summary should not be confused with the statement of intent but a genuine summary of all the major findings of the actual report. The executive summary is better written once you have finished the body of your report, but it should be placed at the beginning of the report. This allows for easy and immediate access to the audience. It should not exceed one page, but if it is only a few lines, it will give an effective report summary.

Terms of Reference

Before you even start writing, the report ascertains its terms of reference. You have what is needed in the report and by whom. They expand on the brief by enumerating the confines of the report as well as any specific requirement. The terms of reference in a report must specify:

  • The scopes and the limits of the report
  • The area to be covered and the reasons behind it
  • The length of the report and date of submission

The introduction

This is where you acknowledge the subject under investigation or the question that need answers. It should explain the scope and limitations of the report and provide the specified terms of reference.

The main body of informations/findings

This is the platform for the presentation of your information and analysis of your investigations. You will be seeking to fulfill one, a combination, or all the following functions depending on the brief:

  • Providing the required information
  • Evidence analysis
  • Building up your argument
  • Providing ideas
  • Suggestions for possible solutions to problems
  • Providing a range of available options
  • Recommendations for a particular course of action

Every point must be supported by relevant evidence that illustrates and justifies your findings. It should also be corroborated by appropriately referenced authoritative and published sources.

The sequence of your materials ought to be in a logical sequence with the structure of the report being explicit to the audience. This is achieved by the use of headings and subheadings, appropriate use of instructions and directions as a guide to the information presented. Reports, as opposed to essays, use bullet points to present information. They also use graphics to present the material clearly and quickly.


It restates the purpose and specific objectives of the report followed by a summary of the major points discussed in the body of the report. This is where you bring the answer to the question into clear focus. The conclusion of your report or any other writing should not be used to present new information. The idea is to summarize the information of the main body of the report, reiterate the importance and implications of the information and where appropriate, provide a recommendation in the report.


These are part of the most significant elements of the report’s value and purpose. They should be brief and clear. If you have several recommendations to give, separate each one of them and preferably number them. They should be seen to follow directly from the analysis that has produced them.


In every academic paper, references are used to corroborate and add authority to the investigation and the findings. It also enables the reader to check the information from the sources used in the paper and possibly use the sources for further research and analysis. References are used to acknowledge other authors. It makes the work credible.


This can appear at the beginning of the report or the end of it. They are more general than references, and they acknowledge the help rendered by different individuals and organizations.


They provide lengthy and detailed information which would otherwise break the flow of the report if it is included in the main body of the report. The materials that are incorporated in the appendices include;

  • Statistical data tables
  • Detailed experiment results
  • Graphs
  • Relevant information inferred from writing the main body of the report

Appendices are referenced at the relevant point in the text. You are not supposed to include any information that is not in the main body of the report.

report writing tips for students

3.7 Presentation

Reports follow a specific formal structure with the presentation of information in individual section divided and subdivided by:

  • Chapter or section headings that identify the major areas of the report
  • Subheadings that break down the major areas into subsections

3.8 Format

Reports usually take shorter paragraphs as opposed to essays. They still follow the rules of syntax, grammar, and punctuation bust compared with essays; they employ stylistic and functional devices like:

  • Key Points
    These are also known as bullet points and are used when there is a list of facts of a series of factors. It provides emphasis to the audience and saves on the number of words that are needed in your report.

  • Signposts
    These assist the audience in reading and understanding the report. They are like stage directions in a script or play. They are supposed to appear at the beginning of the report. For instance, “This report will examine the role of strategic analysis…” they are written to provide introduction and conclusion to different report sections. For instance, “In summary the key weaknesses…”Signposts not only help the audience but also ensure that the writer is able to remember the purpose, functions, and directions of the different parts of the report he is writing.

    Headings use a maximum of three levels, that is, one for major heading, the second one for a subheading, and the third one for the further subheading. All of them use different font sizes.

    Numbering in a report takes decimal numbering system with single numerals, for instance, 1, 2 3, and so on for the major headings. One decimal for the second level heading, for instance, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and so on. The third level heading takes two decimals, for instance 1.1.1, 2.2.2, 3.3.3, and so on.

  • Charts and tables
    They present data more effectively and use fewer words than a descriptive paragraph. They make the report easier to read and follow.

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