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CC0006 Basics of Report Writing

Report Writing Tips

Active / Passive voice

Many publishers and journals nowadays encourage the use of the active voice in research papers. Sentences in the active voice are said to be clearer and easier for the reader to understand compared to sentences in the passive voice. Sentences in the active voice are usually shorter compared to the passive, hence fewer words. However, the situation may sometimes call for the use of the passive voice. For example, when writing the Methods or Methodology section, authors often choose to use the passive voice to focus on what was done.

Passive voice: a. Data were collected six months after the earthquake.

                        b. Nine interviews were conducted via online videocalls.

                        c. Ten college students were recruited for the study using a randomly sampling method.

Active voice:   a. We collected the data six months after the earthquake.

                       b. I conducted nine interviews via online videocalls.

                       c. We recruited ten college students for the study using a random sampling method.

Organising paragraphs

The body of the report will contain numerous paragraphs and each paragraph should be devoted to only one subject. Some ways to structure content within a paragraph include:

1. Chronological order: Present information starting with the earliest event and end with the most recent, or in the reverse order.

2. Problem-solution order: For example, present the problem in one paragraph and the solution in the next.

3. Cause / effect order

4. Compare / contrast order: Present and discuss similarities & differences, strengths & weaknesses, etc. 

5. Familiar-to-unfamiliar order: Present ideas or concepts that are familiar to the reader and use that information to introduce / explain something new or unfamiliar.

6. Most-important-to-least-important order

Checklist for a successful report

Use the following checks to ensure that you have written an effective report.

  • Does it answer the research question?
  • Is it clearly written with sections having headings and sub-headings?
  • Is the content placed in appropriate sections?
  • Does the abstract include the key points to generate interest in readers?
  • Does the introduction explain clearly the topic, focus and purpose?
  • Have you explained your analysis and interpretations of the findings?
  • Does the recommendations offer solutions to the problem studied?
  • Have you cited relevant sources?
  • Does the in-text citations have an entry in the reference list?
  • Are the images, graphs and tables explained, labelled?
  • Has it been proof-read to avoid mistakes?


Useful resources