4. How to write a report
This section features a series of specific steps for writing a report, based on the process introduced in "2. Reports."
- - Understanding the topic
- Read up on the topic to learn a bit about it, focusing on new books and text books. New books provide a basic outline for various fields, and are very convenient for acquiring surface knowledge on your topic. Encyclopedias and introductory books are also useful means of acquiring surface knowledge on the topic at hand. Encyclopedias are books of facts that can provide a good topic summary. Instead of only reading a specific entry in the encyclopedia, it is more effective to read a series of related entries.
- - Deciding on a theme
- Once you have a report topic, you'll have to narrow it down to a specific theme. For example, this is especially necessary if you are assigned to an ambiguous topic such as "Discuss the Internet society" or "What is history?" First of all, read the materials, and once you have acquired some background knowledge on the topic, write out what kind of problems the topic poses. Instead of thinking about it initially, just jot down some points on paper. This will help you discover some new problems and find out how each of them are related, which will ultimately make it easier to organize your thoughts.
Next eliminate some of the problems you jotted down until you've narrowed it down to one, which can be the theme of your report. When narrowing down your list to one problem, ask yourself if it is a theme you are interested in, something you have some kind of background knowledge of, something you have an opinion on, and whether or not it is something you can apply your original touch to. If your theme concept is too large when writing a report, it will end up as a superficial argument instead of a report. So make sure to limit it to something that you can discuss within your realm of capability, since it is important to focus deeply on a single problem.
- - Clarify the issues
- Your report should be composed of three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. Create your outline along those lines. The outline should serve as your report's framework. Use keywords and simple phrases to strengthen the framework of your report. When writing your outline, write out points which you deal with, while thinking about a persuasive way to present your claim, which materials you should refer to, and what kind of examples would be most effective.
At this point, it is important to realize that you can rewrite your outline numerous times until you are satisfied with it. Read the materials, repeatedly ask yourself questions, and revise your outline accordingly for a better overall report.
- - Creating an outline
- Once you have clarified the issues to write about, estimate which keywords you need to use to discuss them. That will give you an idea of what sort of books and materials you need to read. At this stage, think about how you should develop the introduction, body, and conclusion of your report while going through the materials, and then create the outline. When creating the outline, it is important to keep in mind which problem to focus on, and what you want to make clear (or what you want to convey) to the reader from those you jotted down. Also think about what examples and grounds you should use to convey your claim to the reader. Doing this will help you to polish your outline, making it easier to expand its content to cover introduction, body, and conclusion.
- - Write logically
- - Expand the body
Once you have completed the report's outline, flesh out the details of your body text. Your goal in writing a report is to logically convey your own thoughts to the reader, so what is needed here is an objective explanation of your basis using practical examples from the sources you collected. When expanding the body text, the main issue and your outline may start to veer off subject, so it is important to still keep in mind what the problem is, and what you are trying to make clear (or convey to) the reader. Make sure to read through your report periodically while writing, to confirm that each sentence is accurately conveying the intended message, and that there are no contradictions.
- - Add graphs and charts
Adding graphs and charts to your report will often times illustrate points in a way that is easier to understand than written words. When adding graphs and charts, it is important to stick to the rules, and to display them in a visually pleasing manner. Here, confirm the following basic rules.
[When inserting a graph]
- - Include a title under the graph
- - Make sure the graph matches the content
(Use bar graphs, line graphs, etc.)
- - Include explanatory notes and axes
- - Generally don't use color. Distinguish content using black and white shading,
patterns, marks, etc.
- - Include a title above the graph
- - Make sure numerals are consistent
- - Use a single font
These methods are nothing more than basic rules. Advanced rules regarding ruled lines and notations will differ by field of study. Check with the professor who assigned your topic, refer to books and papers on your field of research, and then add graphs or charts according to the rules.
Polish and revise
Once you have written your report, read through it several times to make sure the written content will be properly conveyed to the reader, there are no phrases that may cause misunderstanding, and the development of your argument doesn't sound forced. If possible, have others read through it as well to make sure they understand the content without any issues.
Adding cited sources and creating a reference list
Create a list of cited sources and a list of references.
Confirm the style
Create a cover page for your report. The cover page usually includes six main points: the class subject, report title, your school, your grade, your student number, and your name. However, the professor may have other requirements as well.
- - Add cited sources and create a reference list
- Create a list of cited sources and a list of references.
- - Check your format
- Create a cover page for your report. The cover page usually includes six main points: the class subject, report title, your school, your grade, your student number, and your name. However, the professor may have other requirements as well.