Reports and studies document either primary research (data and analysis from observations, experiments, surveys, interviews, etc.) or secondary research (data and analysis from published sources and unpublished notes, lectures, etc.) This documentation is used to aid decisions, qualify sources and record (often for legal or financial purposes) work or activities.
Reports may be formal, following a prescribed format and style, or may be informal. Informal reports are usually shorter and often take the form of letters, memos or other internal communications. Most reports include a summary of findings. Many reports also include conclusions or recommendations.
Most reports have similar organization, altered primarily by acceptable length and amount of detail required by the audience. Because reports and studies are often submitted for publication, you must closely follow style and submission guidelines. Even internally, a writer often must follow a style guide used by his/her company or organization. A typical format includes:
Informal reports often do not include Front and Back Matter. In these cases, the introduction also serves as a summary.
Because the quality of a report depends on the quality of the research, readers will need verification of your sources. In secondary research, the writer must document sources clearly and in a style known to the audience. In-text citation, bibliographies and other reference material must use an appropriate citation style. If not provided, the writer should ask for style and submission guidelines. If none are available, use the citation style common to your field. A good online list of citation style guides is available at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center Most professional associations also have reference material available for publications within the field.
For primary research, the reader will be looking for a clear discription of methodology and cross-references with other research. While the focus is on the primary research, referencing secondary research adds credibility. Often, these secondary sources are used in the "Background" section of the report or study.
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Written By: George Knox © 1999