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Purposes and Types of Report Formats

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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?


  • 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.