Overall Structure of an Academic Report

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Today, we’re going to look at the structure of a good academic report. This can be tricky, especially if you’ve never written a report before. So let’s start with the basics. The first thing to look at when writing report is the structure.

The structure is very important, because it will help us to organize our thoughts and make it easier for our tutors to read our work, which will make them happier. A good way to do this is to use;

  1. clear headings
  2. subheadings and
  3. numbering

You should also underline your headings so that they’re easier to see, and therefore easier to read. Now, the first part of the report is the introduction.

  1. Introduction: This is where we tell the reader what the report will cover, i.e. the scope. What is the purpose of our report?

“The recycling attitudes and behavior of university students and staff members, and suggests ways to improve environmental policies and recycling facilities at a university campus”

For example, this report above examines the recycling attitudes and behavior of university students and staff members, and suggests ways to improve environmental policies and recycling facilities at a university campus. This tells us exactly what the report is about — purpose.

We should include any background information, the reader will need to understand our report. We should also include any key terms the report will use. That’s the introduction sorted.

Now let’s move on to the next section.

  • Procedure: The procedure is sort of like an extension of the introduction. If we’re writing a short report, we can include this section in the introduction to save space. Otherwise, though, we should give it its own section.

The procedure shows our reader exactly how we gathered the data – Data collection. This might help; The framework of a Literature Review.

  • Did we use a questionnaire?
  • How did we find the respondents?
  • What groups of people were targeted?
  • How many people were surveyed?
  • Did we perhaps perform some sort of scientific experiment?
  • Or did we observe something as it happened in the real world?    

Here’s an article we discussed how to develop a good research question, you might want to check it out.

Whatever it is, this is the part of our report where we tell the reader exactly how the data was gathered. Once we have gathered our data, we will include it in our findings.

Sidenote:

In case you are having writers block, I’ve got recommendations, check out this article; 9 simple ways to overcome writer’s block.

  • Findings: This is the part of our report, where we tell the reader exactly what we have found out. What did our respondents say? Reports often use lots of tables and graphs to display information quickly and clearly.

The finding section is also a good place to outline anything that went wrong when we were collecting our data. A lot of the time, problems can be useful for our research. In fact, sometimes we can learn more when things go wrong.

The important thing is to say what happened, and why we need to discuss the causes and implications of the problems we encountered.

The next part is the conclusion.

  • Conclusion: This is where we summarize what we have concluded from the successes and from the failures. What did the data tell us about our topic? What did this mean?

Now remember, the conclusion should discuss the information in the report. But we shouldn’t introduce any new information here. The main purpose of the conclusion is to summarize the rest of the report briefly and succinctly.

The conclusion should also provide the link between our findings and our recommendations. The final part of our report is the recommendations.

  • Recommendation: What are the logical next steps from what we have found out? If something went wrong? How could we fix it next time? What have we learned? And what does this suggest we could look further into? How can someone else use our report to guide their own research? There’s always more to learn. And this is where we show our lecturer that we understand how a report can fit into the body of academic knowledge. And that’s it.

That’s the basic framework of an academic report. Now there are a number of other resources on the modish project blog to help with each part in more detail, including a look at the findings, conclusion and recommendation sections as well as how to use references to back up everything we wrote.