The Quick and Easy Guide to
Reports & Studies
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research (data and analysis from published sources and unpublished notes,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.
Examples of Reports & Studies:
Major Elements of a Formal Report
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
Letter of Transmittal
Table of Contents
List of Figures & Tables
Definition of Problem (including Scope)
Project Details (Data, Methodology Review, Comparison to Other Studies)
Conclusion (Analysis of Findings)
*Informal reports often do not include Front and Back Matter. In these
cases, the introduction also serves as a summary.
Appendices (Samples, Maps, Formulas, etc.)
Bibliography ("References", "Works Cited", etc.)
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 on-line 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
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.
Written By: George Knox © 1999