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How to Format a Report


Whatever purpose you're writing a report for, and whether it is for school or business, you must give your report a logical structure. When writing your report, think about how you can convey your ideas in a meaningful way that best shows your understanding of your report's topic. The formatting of a report can help demonstrate this to your audience. Proper formatting of an article helps readers to easily follow the contents of the report, and it makes it easy for them to find the particular information they are looking for.

Include a title page that provides the title of the report, the author's name, the date it was written or presented, and the organization or department for which it was written.

Summarize your report. This will be the first main section of your report. It is an executive summary or abstract that highlights the problem and steps to solve it. Summaries are generally about a page in length, and they give the reader a general overview of what is in the report. If you conducted a survey or experiment, include your research questions, methods, and outcomes.

Write an introduction. The introduction demonstrates to your audience why the problem is important. It presents the problem or situation in clear, concise language. The introduction also includes a short statement on how the problem should be solved, or why or how the problem was created. This is the thesis statement, and it quickly conveys the crux of the report in one to two sentences.

Divide the body of the report into sections. The body of the report offers greater detail of the problem, and it provides some background to it. It also gives some in-depth analysis that goes beyond merely describing the problem to identifying different aspects of the problem and drawing connections between them.

Divide the body of the report into headings and subheadings to help the reader understand the flow of the report. Keep the headlines short, capitalizing the first letter of each main word in the headline. For example, you could divide the body into "Problem," "Background," and "Analysis" sections. Any research methods you utilized and the scope of your research should be explained and justified in separate sections.

Draw conclusions at the end of the report. Your conclusion section is where you will offer suggestions of how to solve the problem or answer the questions posed in the report. You can create a separate "Action Steps" or "Suggestions" section. Provide ideas of how to move forward with the problem, and help the reader understand why it is important in a broader sense. Make your audience members care about the problem on a wider scale by telling them how this problem relates to them personally and why your solutions are the best way to solve it. If there are broader implications of your research, identify them, and suggest how your research could be built upon in the future.

Cite your sources. Outside references used to support ideas should be cited at the end of your report in a bibliography section. There are different styles of formatting for works cited pages, so be sure you are using the appropriate style for your type of report. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) style is used most offen in social science reports. Visit Pudue University's Online Writing Lab (owl.english.purdue.edu) for more information on the different types of citation styles, including Modern Language Association (MLA) and Chicago style.

Create a table of contents that gives page numbers for the different sections of your report. Include page numbers for subheadings of main sections as well.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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