How to Write in Report Format

Good reports are formatted in sections that keep your ideas organized and help the reader absorb the information you wish to convey. There are some components every report will have, including a title page and the body content. Other components, such as an abstract, are specific to certain types of reports. Your instructor or supervisor should tell you which citation style to use; if you need it, you can find online style manuals that can help you format your references in AP, APA, MLA or Chicago style.

Create a title page. At a minimum, this should contain the title of your report and your name, each centered on a separate line in the middle of the page. You may also wish to include the date and an instructor or employer's name. Choose a title that clearly tells the reader what your report discusses in 15 words or less.

Prepare the abstract. This summary states the problem or question the report analyzes as well as its findings, all in less than 200 words. Liberal arts reports do not require an abstract, but scientific and industrial research reports generally do.

Write an introduction. This can be as short as a paragraph and as long as a page, depending on the length of your report. It tells the reader what the report is about and why the subject is important. You may also want to briefly summarize what kind of research has been done on the subject before--and how yours is different.

Add the body of your report. This is the "meat" of your report containing your ideas, research, opinions and findings. Scientific reports should talk about the methods used to try to solve the problem and lessons learned from the results. Book reports should describe the plot, characters and themes of the book. History reports should describe what happened, why and how.

List your works cited. Any outside source you mentioned or quoted from must be listed on this page, including books, magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, personal interviews and websites. Your instructor or supervisor can guide you in terms of which citation style to use. In general, the works cited are organized by the author's last name and include information such as the work's title, publisher, edition number and date published.