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Chapter 12 – Strategies for Effective Written Reports

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1 Chapter 12 – Strategies for Effective Written Reports
The goal of the report is to communicate, clearly and concisely, the results and implications of an experiment or of some statistical research. Know your audience. Before writing the report, think about to whom the report is addressed. The report should be written to be understandable to your intended audience, but should not get bogged down in trivial details. Think about the backgrounds of the intended readers – what are they likely to know already about the topic?

2 Sections of the Report Title – Readers will look at the title to decide whether they want to read further, so the title should be informative, but short, no more than two lines. Abstract or Executive Summary – A well-written abstract or executive summary should be no more than 100 to 200 words, and should summarize the objectives, results, and implications of the research. The abstract should be written after the rest of the report is completed Key words and phrases (optional) – If you are writing a report for a scientific or technical journal, they will usually expect you to provide a list of key words or phrases that are not in the title. These words or phrases are used to index the report by its subject matter.

3 Introduction – This section should tell the reader why the research was done, as well as the context of the research – how does this research related to other researches in the same field? Here, you should reference and briefly discuss other reports. The last paragraph of this section should outline the remaining part of your report. Materials and Methods – This section should include a precise description of the experiment and data collection, including operational definitions of variables, equipment used, randomization done, and statistical procedures used. The reader should be able to reproduce your experiment after reading this section. Results of the experiment should not be included in this section.

4 Results – In this section, the author describes the statistical analyses done, and the results of the analyses. The text should fully describe any tables and graphs included. However, a table or graph should also be a stand-alone piece of information, which the reader can understand without referring to the text. You may comment on the results in this section, but do not discuss implications of the results. Discussion – In this section, the author should discuss implications of the experiment and make recommendations based on these implications. This section should also include discussion of any shortcomings or limitations of the experiment and suggestions for further experimentation. Do not overstate what the data tell you.

5 Conclusion – This section should briefly summarize the main points of the report. The conclusion is similar to the abstract, except that the conclusion section is read after the rest of the report, so that the reader has a deeper understanding of the results. Acknowledgments – (Optional) This section briefly acknowledges anyone who helped in the project or provided funds. References – Lists complete citations for all books, articles, and reports referenced in the report. Appendixes – Includes a table of the data, perhaps derivation of technical results, and other material that might detract from the flow of the main report. Glossary – (Optional) Defines specialized terms used in the report.

6 Style The report should be written in active voice, to get the attention of the reader. However, avoid being too personal or colloquial. Use simple language – “use” instead of “utilize.” Be concise – After you write the report, look at it to see whether you can shorten it by rewording, or by eliminating any redundant content. Look for vague statements that should be clarified.

7 Tables and Figures Tables and figures should be clearly titled.
In a graph, specify the units of measurement and clearly label axes. Number tables and figures (separately) sequentially for easy reference. A table or figure should be a stand-alone piece of information. The reader should be able to understand the content without referring to the text of the report. The text should reference each table or figure by number, and should clearly describe the content thereof. A table or figure that would occupy more than 1/3 of a page should be located in the Appendix.

8 Writing the First Draft
Begin with an outline, to organize your thoughts and make it easier to write the first draft. The outline should be based on the sections described above. Major headings are the section titles; subheadings are the major points to be covered in each section. Arrange subheadings in a logical order, and include tables and figures in the outline. Write the section that is easiest to write (save the Abstract or Conclusion for last). This may be the Materials and Methods section, or the Results section. Try to write a first draft of this section in a single sitting. For a first draft, don’t get bogged down on style and conciseness; those issues can be addressed later.

9 Go to another easy section and write a first draft
Go to another easy section and write a first draft. Continue until you have a first draft of the entire report. Rewrite – Now that the first draft is done, you can go back and think about issues of style, clarity, and conciseness. First, correct any flaws in logic and fill in any missing material that you did not include in the first draft. Are there any sentences that don’t make sense? Are the tables and figures complete and easily understood? Are all references listed? A second rewrite addresses style, grammatical errors, conciseness, redundancies, passive verbs, needlessly complex language, etc. A third rewrite should include a check of spelling and grammar. Lastly, read the report slowly, after not having looked at the report for at least a day. You may find that there is still room for improvement.

10 Check List Use the Written Report Checklist on page
141 of the text as you are writing the report.

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