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How to Write a Report for College


As students make the transition from high school to college, they often struggle with college-level composition. A college report requires the student to present an account of an event or report the facts in a book, article or other source. Some research may be required when writing a report, but a report is primarily a paper that requires you to interpret the data on which you report rather than gather the data on your own. It is an exercise in critical thinking.

Gather the facts. This can involve performing additional research or reporting on the facts that you may have gathered from a laboratory experiment. Write down the facts in a list to read when you can come back to them later. If reporting on a book or article, list the main characters, plots, themes and any other information pertinent to the work.

Construct an outline or chart of the facts. The purpose of making outlines and charts is to help you organize the information so that your thought is coherent and can be used to write the report. Charts and mind maps help you see the relationship between different sets of data in the report. Outlines organize your thought and help you starting the writing process. An outline consists of three parts, which your paper will also have: an introduction, body and conclusion.

Write your thesis based on what the data tells you. If you are writing a science lab report, you may be interpreting mathematical data and measurements, whereas literary reports may involve discerning a plot and sub-themes. Write a thesis appropriate to the type of report you are writing. The thesis is a clear and concise statement of the main theme of your report. In a single sentence, it provides a summary of the the rest of the paper.

Compose the body of the report. The body of the report provides the facts in a narrative form that connects them to the main thesis. Each of the items included in the body of the report support the main thesis as evidence that the conclusion reached is, in fact, correct. Including additional corroborating evidence or opinions from other scholars will also add substance to the paper.

Conclude the report by summarizing your findings. By the time you finish your report, you will have told the reader the results of your research in three different ways: the thesis statement, the body and the conclusion. The conclusion will reiterate the main thesis by tying it together with the evidence provided in the paper's body.

About the Author

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.

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