Sections of Reports
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 12:02:57
In different companies, in different schools, and in different courses, you will find that different formats are preferred for specific kinds of reports. Who your audience is greatly affects how your report should be designed. Thinking about your readers, who they are, what they want to accomplish, and what you want to accomplish will help you determine how to write and format your report to best bring about your purposes.
Thus, the suggestions you will find here are for typical ways to proceed. Before using these suggestions, check first to see if there are specific requirements for your specific situation, and also consider for whom you are writing, their situation, and what you are trying to achieve. It is also important to consider the HATS methodology available on the Purdue OWL in report design: headings, access, typography, and space, which will help the design elements of your document. Also see the OWL resource, Effective Workplace Writing for suggestions on rhetorical strategies.
You will find that it is easier to write the body of your report first (the procedures, results, discussion, and so on). When that’s done, you will be able to write the abstract much more easily. As a final step, what then remains to be done are the mechanical elements, the cover page, table of contents, references, and so on.
Therefore, this section discusses the parts of a report in the order in which you will usually proceed: first, the body; second, the abstract; finally, the mechanical elements. When you assemble the parts, consider putting them in the following standard order, remembering always to adjust to your reader and situation:
- Title or cover page
- Letter of transmittal
- Table of contents
- Lists of figures and tables
- Summary or Background
- Discussion of results
Attachments or Appendices