Report writing is an important skill to develop as it is a common form of writing at university and in later employment.
It is important to read your assignment question carefully to find out the specific requirements of a report in your subject
In general though, reports may differ from essays in a number of ways:
|The purpose of a report is to convey specific information to provide the reader with information.||The purpose of an essay is to show how well you have understood the question and are able to answer it.|
|A report usually contains a description of events/results of research. Often you need to do more than just describe the events or results**. You may also need to analyse these events or results, or use them to put forward a proposal for future action or to solve a particular problem||University essays usually require some form of argument in response to the essay question.|
|A report may often contain conclusions and recommendations||An essay will contain a conclusion, but including recommendations is rare.|
Despite these differences, in some disciplines, the distinction between an essay and a report can be blurred; for example, an essay can be structured more like a report with headings separating the sections of the essay.
**It is recommended that students consult their lecturers regarding the particular style of report required in their specific subject.
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Usually your tutor will decide what form your writing should take and will lay it out in the assessment criteria. However, the further you go into your academic career, the more freedom of choice you will have. This means that you need to engage more in the decision of what is the most appropriate form of writing.
For your university life, and for your working life beyond, it’s important to be able to distinguish between a report and an essay, and to be able to understand why you might write one rather than the other.
When choosing to write a report or an essay for your assignment you should understand these key differences:
Reports are the presentation and analysis of findings from practical research. They begin with an aim (to investigate, to explore) and probably a hypothesis (a proposition that the research will test). Depending on the guidelines or purpose, a report may make recommendations.
Essays begin with a question and seek to answer that question based on research into existing theories and through the writer’s own evaluation. An essay may include results of practical research but only in so far as it may help support the writer’s conclusions.
Reports are generally descriptive, reporting sequential events (experiments or fixed results from surveys etc). However, they involve an evaluation in either the conclusion or recommendations sections.
Essays can be descriptive, discursive, evaluative, etc. This is dependent on the process given in the essay question. Content usually involves a synthesis of knowledge gained from existing texts and from the author's own opinions and argument.
Both essays and reports use an introduction and conclusion format. The main content, findings, analysis etc. come inbetween.
A report generally has a fixedstructure. The choice of sections will depend on the purpose of your report and, while at uni, the preferences of your tutor or department.
In an essay, the thought process taken from the question dictatesthe structure of the main body of an essay.