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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.


Purposes and Types of Report Formats

Summary:

This resource is an updated version of Muriel Harris’s handbook Report Formats: A Self-instruction Module on Writing Skills for Engineers, written in 1981. The primary resources for the editing process were Paul Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (6th ed.) and the existing OWL PowerPoint presentation, HATS: A Design Procedure for Routine Business Documents.

What kinds of reports are written?

  • Informal lab reports
  • Memo and letter reports
  • Formal reports

How is the report organized?

This format should be flexible enough to adjust to your purpose and audience

  • WHAT was done (the problem being worked)
  • HOW was it done (the procedures used)
  • WHAT the results were
  • WHAT conclusions can be drawn
  • WHAT recommendations can be made

Where are reports written?

  • In academic settings
  • In industry and government

More recently, reports and proposals cross the lines between academia, industry, and government, especially in areas of engagement and not-for-profit organizations relying on grants and other types of support.

For whom are reports written? Who are your stakeholders?

For teachers

  • Who know the field
  • Who know more than the writer
  • Who can give a critical evaluation

For diverse audiences (decision makers: experts and technicians, executives, and laypeople)

  • Some are known and some are unknown to the writer
  • Some know something about the field, but less than the writer
  • Some know very little about the field

Why is the report written?

  • To transmit information to teachers: to show that the writer is thoroughly acquainted with the material, the information, and/or the procedures; thereofore, be thoroug and complete; be concise
  • To transmit information to decision makers: experts and technicians, executives, and laypeople
  • To help them make decisions and act on the results presented; therefore: be concise; be thorough and complete

Before you write, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will read the report?
  • In what context will they be reading?
  • What do they want to know?
  • How should the report be structured?
  • What questions will your readers want your communication to answer?
  • What additional information do your readers need?
  • What information do you need to gather through research?

Reminders:

  • There is no universally agreed-upon format.
  • You should follow the format for your course or your company.
  • You may construct your own format. If you do, adapt the suggestions in this module to your needs, your audience, and your situation.
  • You can follow the guidelines and examples provided on the OWL to help you.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.