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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 This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.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.


Checklist for Reports

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.

Questions to ask yourself before handing your reports to your readers.

General Checklist

  • Did you begin by asking yourself: Who will read the report? What do they want to know? How should the report be structured?
  • Have you planned and prepared the report with the reader in mind?
  • Did you follow the format specified in your course or by your company?
  • Did you use enough headings and organize them in a clear hierarchy?
  • Is the important information easy to follow?
  • Does the document use the most appropriate typefaces, sizes, styles or alignments?
  • Does the document have enough white space?
  • Would you be willing to have your competence in your field judged on the basis of how you presented this report?

Informal Lab Report

  • Has the introduction explained the problem you worked on and the purpose of your work?
  • Did you adequately describe your apparatus and procedures if you were asked to do so or had a reason to do so?
  • Does the body clearly indicate the data obtained, and have you discussed and evaluated your data?
  • If you were asked to do so, did you include useful, clear conclusions and recommendations?

Short Memo Report

  • Does the heading contain all the relevant information such as To, From, Date, Subject, and so on?
  • Is your subject stated clearly and concisely, with the most important words at the beginning of the subject line?
  • Does your introductory statement include the general problem (the “big picture”), the specific question or task being dealt with in your memo, a clear explanation of why the report is being submitted or what it is intended to do, and how significant it is to the reader?
  • Have you tried to persuade the reader of the reliability of your methods?
  • Have you presented your findings or results clearly and concisely with the most important results first?
  • Have you put less important matter separately in an attachment or appendix?
  • Have you discussed the significance of the results from the reader’s viewpoint?
  • If your report is supposed to include your conclusions and recommendations, are they emphasized and stated clearly (e.g. numbered list)?
  • Have you suggested some specific steps the reader could take to act on your recommendations?
  • Have you used headings to help your reader survey and locate information on the page?
  • Have you marked key points?
  • If your purpose was to persuade, have you placed your strongest argument first? Is the report as concise as you can possibly make it?

Long Report

  • Is the report organized so that the reader knows: What was done (the problem worked on)?How it was done (the procedures)? What results were found? What conclusions and recommendations can be drawn, if requested?
  • Does the body of the report move from general to specific?
  • Are the results presented clearly and in the specific way you found out?
  • Are there enough headings and subheadings to help readers find their way through the report, and are the headings in a clear hierarchy?
  • Are all headings and subheadings listed in the table of contents?
  • Is the important information easy to find?

Abstract

  • Does it summarize the main points and include specific results?
  • Is it clear and concise?
  • Is it self-sufficient? (Can it be read without having to refer to the body of the report?)
  • Are there any recommendations you can supply here?

Figures and Tables

  • Are the figures located wherever readers would find them easily helpful or persuasive?
  • Do all the figures and tables have numbers and captions?
  • If the figures and tables are referred to in the text, are page numbers included?
  • Are the figures and tables correctly labeled?
  • Are the figures and tables explained or interpreted adequately?
  • Are the figures and tables listed in the table of contents or in separate lists following the table of contents?
  • Do the figures look attractive and easy to read?
  • Are all units in the figures and tables clearly indicated?
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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.