This is a generic structure for reports which can be used as a starting point. There are many types of reports, so actual structure required by your course may be different. We strongly encourage you to contact your lecturer to make sure you are using the correct structure.
A report generally includes the following sections:
Please check with your lecturer to confirm whether you need to include a Letter of Transmittal.
This is a letter to the person who commissioned the report, in which you effectively hand over your work to that person. Include:
- a salutation (eg. Dear Ms Smith)
- the purpose of the letter (eg. Here is the final version of the report on ‘Soil Mechanics on the Darling Downs’ which was commissioned by your organisation.)
- the main finding of the report
- any important considerations
- an acknowledgement of any significant help
- an expression of pleasure or gratitude (eg. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work on this report.)
The Table of Contents is a list of the headings and appendices of the report.
Depending on the complexity and length of the report, you could list tables, figures and appendices separately. Make sure the correct page numbers are shown opposite the contents.
Up-to-date word processing packages can generate a table of contents for you.
You should provide an alphabetical list of the abbreviations you have used in the report, especially if they may not be familiar to all readers of the report.
If you have used many technical terms, you should also provide a glossary (an alphabetical list of the terms, with brief explanations of their meanings).
An abstract or executive summary is quite different from an introduction and should be written after you have completed your report.
It is a summary of the report in which you include sentence/s for every main section of your report. For example, you can include:
- the context of the research
- the purpose of the report
- the major findings (you may need several sentences here)
- the conclusions
- the main recommendations.
The content of the body depends on the purpose of the report, and whether it is a report of primary or secondary research.
A report of primary research (based on your own observations and experiments) would usually include:
- literature review - describes literature relevant to your topic
- method - summarises what you did and why using past tense
- findings or results - describes what you discovered, and observed in your observations and experiments and is written in the past tense.
- discussion - discusses and explains your findings and relates them to previous research.
A report of secondary research (based on reading only) would include:
- Information organised under appropriate topics with sub-headings.
- Analysis/discussion of the sources you are reporting.
An appendix contains material which is too detailed, technical, or complex to include in the body of the report (for example, long tables, surveys etc.), but which is referred to in the report. Appendices are put at the very end of the report. Each appendix should contain different material and should be numbered clearly.
The following can be used as a general guideline for the formatting of your report. Be sure to check your course documents and ask your lecturer for further information.
In general, your report should:
- use subheadings
- allow spacing between the elements of your report
- use dot points/numbers/letters to articulate these elements
- use clearly labelled and referenced tables and figures to support your report. For example, Figure 1 shows that the population of Bandung has increased dramatically since 1890, or The population of Bandung has increased dramatically since 1890 (see Figure 1)
- number each page noting that the Letter of Transmittal and Title page do not have page numbers
- use Roman numerals for: Table of contents, List of abbreviations and/or glossary, and the Executive summary/abstract
- use consistent and appropriate formatting
- use formal language and avoid overly descriptive words.
- Writing a structured, formal, business report from UniSQ Library (MP4)
- Example Report – UniSQ (PDF 562KB)
- Report writing in science and engineering - University of Sydney.