Purposes and Types of Report Formats
This resource is an updated version of Muriel Harris’s handbook Report Formats: a Self-instruction Module on Writing Skills for Engineers, written in 1981. The primary resources for the editing process were Paul Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (6th ed.) and the existing OWL PowerPoint presentation, HATS: A Design Procedure for Routine Business Documents.
Contributors:Elizabeth Cember, Alisha Heavilon, Mike Seip, Lei Shi, and Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 11:53:58
What kinds of reports are written?
- Informal lab reports
- Memo and letter reports
- Formal reports
How is the report organized?
This format should be flexible enough to adjust to your purpose and audience)
- WHAT was done (the problem being worked)
- HOW it was done (the procedures used)
- WHAT the results were
- WHAT conclusions can be drawn
- WHAT recommendations can be made
Where are reports written?
- In academic settings
- In industry and government
More recently, reports and proposals cross the lines between academia, industry, and government, especially in the area of engagement and not-for-profit organizations relying on grants and other types of support.
For whom are reports written? Who are your stakeholders?
- Who know the field
- Who know more than the writer
- Who can give a critical evaluation
For diverse audiences (decision makers: experts and technicians, executives, and laypeople)
- Some are known and some are unknown to the writer
- Some know something about the field, but less than the writer
- Some know very little about the field
Why is the report written?
- To transmit information to teachers: to show that the writer is thoroughly acquainted with the material, the information, and/or the procedures; thereofre, be thorogh and complete; be concise
- To transmit information to decision makers: experts and technicians, executives, and laypeople
- To help them make decisions and act on the results presented; therefore: be concise; be thorough and complete
Before you write, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who will read the report?
- In what context will they be reading?
- What do they want to know?
- How should the report be structured?
- What questions will your readers want your communication to answer?
- What additional information do your readers need?
- What information do you need to gather through research?
- There is no universally agreed-upon format.
- You should follow the format for your course or your company.
- You may construct your own format. If you do, adapt the suggestions in this module to your needs, your audience, and your situation.
- You can follow the guidelines and examples provided on the OWL to help you.