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Report Writing for Science
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Wed, 01-Nov-2006
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Report Writing for Science. Article by Student Learning Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Reports are a common means of communicating research and other information in disciplines such as science, engineering, architecture and planning, and are therefore often required as course work in undergraduate papers within these disciplines.

The following steps outline the process of report writing and offer you some useful tips along the way.

Setting the Objective

A few minutes of sound structured thinking can save hours of unproductive work. A clear objective in the form of a single sentence, which expresses exactly what you intend the report to achieve, will keep your mind focused and a touchstone against which you can measure your research.

Think of your intended audience when setting the objective. Ask yourself why the report is required, what the recipients need to know about the proposal, and what you can assume that they already know.

Your objective should be specific and clear in its emphasis. Having written your objective, you can then check with the person who requested the report that you have indeed outlined the requested information. Failure to achieve an objective can be the direct result of an unsatisfactory report in terms of structure, presentation and language use.

Setting the Objective

There are basically two types of report, each requiring a different structure: Research reports and Information-Only reports.
A research report investigates a subject and reports on the findings. For example, sediment transport rates in a river, or the impact of the Resource Management Act on land use in South Auckland. The structure of a research report is the same as the structure used to write up scientific experiments.
• The aim is the objective, and is expressed in a single sentence at the beginning.
• The method explains how you researched your subject and the sources used.
• The results present your findings in an objective and neutral fashion. Any unnecessary constructive detail should be included in an appendix.
• The conclusion is where you express a subjective view drawn from the results of your research.

Format and Form

A report should include some or all of the following:

• covering letter or memo
• title page
• abstract or summary
• table of contents
• introduction
• theory or literature review
• method (subjects, apparatus, procedure or data collection and data analysis)
• results
• discussion
• conclusion
• recommendations
• bibliography/references
• appendices
• glossary
• index

Please note that in some situations the method, results and discussion sections of a report may be replaced with alternative appropriately named sections according to the type of report that you are required to write, particularly if you are writing an information-only type report. Remember to consult your course book or assignment guidelines for more information regarding the specific report writing format that is required.

Writing Style

Write for the reader not for yourself. A report may need to be particularly formal, or very informal according to the circumstances. Keep your language simple, but avoid slang, jargon and clichιs.

• Use gender-neutral language.
• Use examples and analogies. Your reader can't interrupt or ask you to explain a point.
• Use short sentences and paragraphs rather than long-winded constructions.
• Choose your words with care. A misused word can cast doubt on your credibility.


• Use plenty of headings and subheadings as signposts for your reader.
• Use bullet points or numbers where possible, rather than continuous text.
• Use relevant tables, figures and appendices to support your text, but remember to adequately refer to these in your text.

Useful Reference

Silyn-Roberts, H. (1996). Writing for Science: A practical handbook for science, engineering and theology students. Auckland: Addison Wesley Longman.

Useful Web-sites


© Copyright for this article belongs to Student Learning Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand

This document was re-printed with the kind permission of Dr Emmanuel Manalo. Original Source of the article is located here: http://www.slc.auckland.ac.nz/resources/for_undergraduates/report_writing_for_science.php

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