Skip to Main Content



Reports are a common form of assessment at university and are also used widely in the workplace. There are many different types, such as: 

  • scientific or research reports based on experiments or research 
  • technical reports that communicate technical information for decision making 
  • business reports that convey information for business decision making 
  • project reports that update stakeholders about the plan or progress of a project.

General tips for reports

While the structure and style of reports vary between disciplines, you should always: 

Consider the purpose and audience

The purpose and audience will influence the content of your report and how you present that information.

  • The purpose is what the report sets out to do. It might be to explain laboratory experiments, technical information, or a business case.  
  • The audience is who the report is for. For example, the audience can include clients, your manager, technical staff, or senior leadership within an organisation.

Use sections and organise ideas logically 

  • Break up your writing into sections with clear headings. Some reports like laboratory reports have pre-defined sections, while for other reports you will be guided by your assignment instructions. 
  • Have one main idea per paragraph and introduce that idea at the start of the paragraph. 
  • Make sure your ideas work together as a unified whole by organising ideas logically and linking ideas within and between sentences.

Present ideas using tables, figures and lists 

  • Present information in a way that makes sense to the reader. 
  • Present information visually using tables and figures where appropriate.  
  • Consider using lists to emphasise important ideas and make your text easier to read. 

Write in the appropriate style 

Academic writing is clear, precise, concise, formal and objective. It is also based on evidence, so you should reference the sources of information used in your writing. 

You may be asked to adopt a scientific or technical writing style. These styles follow the same basic principles of academic writing, but may have additional rules on aspects such as using scientific names, abbreviations, equations, numbers and units of measurement. Check your assignment instructions or read within your discipline (e.g. books, journals) to understand these rules. 


Headings provide signposts to help the reader navigate the report. Headings also make it obvious to person marking your assignment that you have answered the set question. 

There are two types of headings: 

  • functional headings that label the function of a section 
  • descriptive headings that give the reader a clear idea of the content of each section.

Some reports have different levels of headings that move from general to more specific content. You can use formatting or numbers to show the different levels. Check your assignment instructions for guidance. 

Functional headings Descriptive headings


Problem definition 

Problem solution 





Ski Lift Safety Issues 

Deropement Problems in Tow Lifts 

Proposed Rope Catcher Solution 

Benefits of Implementation 

Resolving the Safety Issues 



Headings reproduced from Last (n.d.).


Lists are series of items. Lists can be useful to highlight key ideas and help readers scan information quickly. However, you should use lists sparingly as you risk losing connections between ideas in your writing and confusing the reader. 

There are two types of lists:

  • numbered lists for items expressed in order
  • bulleted lists where the order of ideas is not important.

When using a list, make sure you: 

  • choose the right type of list (i.e. numbered or bulleted) 
  • introduce the list with a lead-in sentence 
  • ensure each item in the list follows logically from the leading sentence.

In this example, a lead-in sentence introduces the list, and each item follows logically by starting with the same type of word (verb). The list has been reproduced from Last (n.d.).

Revision of your document involves four stages performed in the following order:

  1. Check formatting for readability
  2. Review content to ensure the document contains all necessary information
  3. Edit sentence style and structure to ensure ideas are clearly and correctly expressed in a formal and precise manner
  4. Proofread for grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage errors.

In this example, a lead-in sentence introduces the list, and each item follows logically by starting with the same type of word (noun). The list has been reproduced from the State of Victoria (2019).

The Victorian Government classifies paid media advertising into three categories: 

  • Campaign advertising, which is designed to inform, educate, motivate or change behaviour. It requires strategic planning of creative and media services to achieve set objectives. 
  • Functional advertising, which is specifically used to provide the public with information and is generally simple and informative and only appears for a short time. Examples include public notices, notifications of public meetings, requests for tender, enrolment notices, statutory or regulatory notices, and emergency or safety announcements. 
  • Recruitment advertising, which is used to promote a specific job vacancy or a limited number of roles. Larger scale, industry-wide recruitment by government is usually classed as 'campaign' advertising.

Tables and figures

Visuals like tables and figures (e.g. maps, graphs, charts, photos) can help the reader understand your ideas more fully.  Make sure you correctly format and integrate your visuals into your writing. 


Number tables and figures sequentially, but separately (e.g. Table 1, Table 2, Figure 1, Figure 2)


Include a concise caption that clearly indicates what the table or figure illustrates.

  • Table captions usually go above the table because we read tables from top to bottom.
  • Figure captions can go above or below the figure depending on the discipline.


Refer to the table or figure in your writing, mentioning its number. For example, "Table 1 illustrates…" or …(see Figure 1).


Position the table or figure close to where it is first mentioned in the text. Supplemental material (e.g. raw data or a copy of a questionnaire) can go in an appendix.


Point out key data or trends in your written text. Interpret the information for your reader as a figure or table doesn’t speak for itself.


Cite the sources of tables or figures you did not create yourself.

The following table and text have been reproduced from Walls and Barnard (2020).

Participants were sourced through big data industry leaders, consultancies and social media, such as LinkedIn, which contained groups for big data specialists and professionals with many members from South Africa and Gauteng. Interviewees were from the following industries: insurance, banking, telecommunications, information technology and consulting (see Table 1).

Table 1. Industry and positions of interviewee sample

Industry Position Number of respondents
Insurance Executive head 1
Insurance Data scientist 1
Banking Executive head 2
Banking Data scientist 3
IT Big data analytics architect 1
IT Big data strategist 1
Consulting Owner 1
Consulting Managing director 2
Consulting Advanced analytics lead 1
Consulting Software engineer 1
Total   16

The following pie chart has been reproduced from the State of Victoria (2019).

Figure 1 shows 2018–19 expenditure for each communication priority area as a proportion of the government’s total expenditure on campaign advertising. More than half of the money was spent on campaigns related to public safety and behaviour change, with minimal investment on advertising social cohesion and community spirit (2.8%) and compliance with legislation (5.6%).

Pie chart of government campaign expenditure

Figure 1. Government campaign advertising by communication priority areas 2018-2019 (State of Victoria, 2019, p. 13)

Pathfinder link

Still have questions? Do you want to talk to an expert? Peer Learning Advisors or Academic Skills and Language Advisors are available.


Last, S. (n.d.). Technical writing essentials. Used under CC BY 4.0 license

State of Victoria. (2019). Victorian Government advertising report 2018-2019. Used under CC BY 4.0 license

Walls, C. & Barnard, B. (2020). Success factors of big data to achieve organisational performance: Qualitative research. Expert Journal of Business and Management, 8(1), 17-56. Used under CC BY 4.0 license