Four Types of Report Formats


There are a number of different assignments that may require you to write a report. Selecting a format for the report may be somewhat difficult; however, using the correct format will make the report structurally sound and help present information in a more relevant way. The type of report format being used will depend on the content and context of the report.

Simple Essay Format

  • Most commonly used in high school and undergraduate collegiate courses, the essay is a simple yet effective format for presenting information. It consists of a header containing the author's name, the date of writing and any other relevant information (for instance, what course it was written for). This is followed by a title, which is followed by the body of the essay. An essay's body contains indented paragraphs organized in a structured order. The intro paragraph introduces the reader to the subject of the essay, presents an outline of the arguments contained within and states the thesis or central point of the essay. The intro is followed by a number of supporting paragraphs, each of which contain their own individual idea. Each paragraph focuses on providing evidence to support its idea, which in turn is used to support the thesis or point of the whole paper. The final paragraph is a conclusion, which relates the ideas and concepts covered in the body to each other and back to the paper's thesis, often referring to the intro. The essay is followed by a works cited or a bibliography, which contains the sources used in the essay's creation.

Formal Report Format

  • Formal report is the report format commonly used in a professional setting. This format involves a title page, a table of contents and a series of sections contained within that present information. This formal report often has an introduction section, which introduces the subject matter to the reader and explains why it is relevant. Following the intro is typically a topic overview or abstract, which provides a look into the background of the subject, considerations to be taken, previous works or reports that are relevant and other information. The body of the formal report will vary depending on the subject matter and the author's organization of content, but will typically include relevant information and analysis. After the report's body, there is a conclusion section, followed by a references section in which the author lists his sources.

Letter of Transmittal/Informative Abstract

  • The Letter of Transmittal and Informative Abstract are two written items that comprise a miniature report. They are often included in a formal report, but they are not components of the report itself, and should be considered as a separate report of their own. The Letter of Transmittal is typically included to introduce the report on a basic level. It does not address the content within the report, but rather states the author of the report, the purpose of the report, why or when the report was requested, additional contributors and any specific directions for the reader. The Informative Abstract is a self-contained synopsis of the formal report that does not make specific references to it but concisely describes the objectives, the basic content and the conclusions drawn from the report. It is written after the formal report itself, and is focused on being clear and concise.

Technical Report Format

  • A technical report is used in a scientific or engineering context, and is structurally similar to a formal report. However, technical reports differ from formal reports in that technical reports are written to convey the results of a test, an experiment, a procedure or an operation. Technical reports often contain a greater amount of figures and technical terms as a result, and are written in a more passive voice than other formal reports. A technical report typically begins with a title page, and includes a letter of transmittal and informative abstract. These are typically followed with a table of contents, a list of figures, a list of tables and a list of symbols used. The report's body begins with an introduction, followed by a theoretical discussion or a problem discussion, which presents the problem that the report is responding to, or the theory that the report is proposing. This is followed by the data acquisition section, which includes a subsection describing the procedures used, as well as a subsection describing the results. The data acquisition section is followed by a short section presenting the condensed results of the report. The results section is followed by a conclusion section, which presents an analysis of the results, as well as their implications. The conclusion also relates to the objectives described in the introduction. The conclusion is followed by a references section, which is then followed by any appendices, which are used to contain auxiliary or supplementing material that is too tangential or wordy to be included in the report's body.


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