How to Write a Background Report
Background reports are technical accounts that provide specially adapted background information for a specific audience. Write these reports to give your audience the information they need to carry out a task or make an educated decision. They are generally attached to proposals, instructions, and other reports that need background information for the reader to understand them. Do not confuse them with background checks, which compile criminal, commercial and financial records of an individual.
Consider who your audience is. Ask yourself what they already know about this subject, and what they need to know. Background reports are specific to the needs of the reader, and should not simply provide general information.
Define the key terms you use in the report. Remember you are writing about information your audience is not familiar with. Write longer definitions and explanations for difficult terms.
Explain how your subject relates to other relevant topics your readers are familiar with. Background reports are often written for professionals who need more details on a subject related to their area of expertise. Link the fields your readers are knowledgeable in with the topic you are reviewing.
Describe the effects of the subject you are reviewing. For instance, if you are writing a background report on solar energy, describe its effects on the environment and the economy.
List the types or categories related to the topic. Explain the different stages and procedures relevant to the subject. Do not provide unnecessary information, but include enough to give the reader a well-rounded understanding of the matter.
Put yourself in the reader's shoes. Think about what you would want to learn about the subject if you were reading about it for the first time. Be precise. Technical reports need to be accurate and leave no doubt about what is being described, and what steps must be taken.
Avoid using jargon or specialized language that might confuse your audience. Using words your reader does not understand will weaken, not strengthen, your report.
- Textbook: Online technical writing guides
- "Processes in Technical Writing"; David A. McMurrey. Macmillan, 1988
- Put yourself in the reader's shoes. Think about what you would want to learn about the subject if you were reading about it for the first time.
- Be precise. Technical reports need to be accurate and leave no doubt about what is being described, and what steps must be taken.
- Avoid using jargon or specialized language that might confuse your audience. Using words your reader does not understand will weaken, not strengthen, your report.
Andrew Latham is a seasoned copywriter for both print and online publishers. He has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in English, a diploma in linguistics and a special interest in finance, science, languages and travel. He is the owner of LanguageVox.com, a company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, which provides writing, interpreting and translating services for English and Spanish audiences.