Academic Report: Overall Structure
Welcome to this ELC self-study video.
Today we’re going to look at the structure of a good academic report.
This can be tricky, especially if you’ve never written a report before.
So, let’s start with the basics. The first thing to look at when writing a
report is the structure. The structure is very important, because it
will help us to organise our thoughts, and make it easier for our tutors to read our
work, which will make them happier! A good way to do this is to use clear headings,
subheadings, and numbering. You should also underline your headings so
that they’re easier to see, and therefore easier to read.
Now, the first part of a report is the Introduction. This is where we will tell the reader what
the report will cover, i.e. the scope. What is the purpose of our report?
For example, this report examines This tells us exactly what the report is about.
We should include any background information the reader will need to understand our report.
We should also include any key terms the report will use.
That’s the Introduction sorted; now let’s move on to the next section.
The next section is sort of like an extension of the Introduction; it’s the Procedure.
If we’re writing a short report, we can include this section in the Introduction to save space.
Otherwise though, we should give it its own section.
The Procedure shows our reader exactly how we gathered the data.
Did we use a questionnaire? How did we find the respondents?
What groups of people were targeted? How many people were surveyed?
Did we, perhaps, perform some sort of scientific experiment?
Or did we observe something as it happened in the real world.
Whatever it is, this is the part of our report where we tell the reader exactly how the data
was gathered. Once we have gathered our data, we will include
it in our Findings. This is the part of our report where we tell
the reader exactly what we have found out. What did our respondents say?
Reports often use lots of tables and graphs to display information quickly and clearly.
The Findings section is also a good place to outline anything that went wrong when we
were collecting our data. A lot of the time, problems can be useful
for our research. In fact, sometimes we can learn more when
things go wrong! The important thing is to say what happened,
and why. We need to discuss the causes and implications
of the problems we encountered. The next part is the Conclusion.
This is where we summarise what we have concluded, from the successes and from the failures.
What did the data tell us about our topic? What did this mean?
Now remember, the conclusion should discuss the information in the report, but we shouldn’t
introduce any new information here. The main purpose of the Conclusion is to summarise
the rest of the report briefly and succinctly. The conclusion should also provide the link
between our Findings and our Recommendations. The final part of our report is the Recommendations.
What are the logical next steps from what we’ve found out?
If something went wrong, how could we fix it next time?
What have we learned and what does this suggest we could look further into?
How can someone else use our report to guide their own research?
There’s always more to learn, and this is where we show our lecturer that we understand how
our report can fit into the body of academic knowledge.
And that’s it! That’s the basic framework of an academic
report. Now, there are a number of other resources
on the ELC Youtube channel to help with each part in more detail, including a look at the
Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations sections, as well as how to use references to back up
everything we say.