How to Write a Comparative Report
Sometime, as a school assignment or on the job, you may need to prepare a comparative report. Whether you are demonstrating an understanding of all facets of a particular subject or presenting a set of alternatives to aid a business decision, a quality comparative report requires a fair presentation of all sides of the issue. In addition, a comparative report requires clear organization that guides the reader through the subject.
Determine the purpose of your comparative report and follow it. There are two types of comparative reports: objective and persuasive. An objective report, such as a class assignment, requires the writer to present an overview of the various aspects of a particular subject or issue in an unbiased manner. The purpose of such a report is usually to inform a decision or to demonstrate an understanding of the subject. In a persuasive report, the writer presents comparative information, but for the purpose of recommending a course of action. The purpose of your report will shape your preparation of it.
Establish the criteria for your comparison. Before writing your report, you must determine the standards by which you will compare the issues or alternatives at hand. If, for example, you are comparing different health care systems, you might consider health-related outcomes such as average lifespan and infant mortality rates, as well as such variables as the number of medical care providers, cost of health care coverage and number of uninsured individuals.
Apply your standards of comparison fairly and consistently. Regardless of whether you are trying to demonstrate an understanding, inform a decision or recommend a preferred action, a comparative report must present all sides fairly in order to be perceived as credible.
Organize your report with an outline. One popular approach to organizing a comparative report includes presenting all aspects of one alternative or argument, then presenting all aspects of the other. Another method is to structure your report standard by standard, discussing one argument, then the other, before proceeding to the next standard of comparison.
Write your first draft, keeping in mind your purpose and organization. Save editing and revising for later.
- Technical Writing: A Practical Approach, 2nd ed.; William S. Pfeiffer; 1994
- University of Toronto: The Comparative Essay
Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.