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Criteria For Good Academic Report Writing English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2986 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The following interaction shows a number of key factors to consider when constructing a written piece of work. Following these points will hopefully develop your writing style and help you include every issue in your report.

Contents and structure of a report

2.1 Contents and structure of a report


Photograph showing a close up the contents page in a report.


2.1.1 Title page

This should include the title, date and author of the report as well as the person for whom it has been produced.

It may include additional information such as reference numbers, sub-headings and so on.

2.1.2 Summary (also known as an abstract)

This is an overview of the whole report, including the conclusion or recommendations. It would normally be one paragraph long and needs to be very concise.

Ask yourself:

Why would your employer be interested in this research?

What are the most important aspects of the research?

What should a reader be sure to know about the research?

What information will the reader need to have in order to understand the most important aspects?

What are the main points from each section of your report?

Summarize each section in one sentence, if possible.

2.1.3 List of contents

This is a list of the chapters or sections of the report in the same sequence as they appear. Section numbers and the page on which they start should also be given.

You will section a report more than an essay. For example you may begin with:

Section title: Report Introduction

1.1 The background information

1.2 The purpose of the study

1.3 The scope of the study

2.1.4 Introduction

The Introduction will include the background to the report.

2. Contents and structure of a report

2.2 Body of the report: survey findings and conclusions

Headings within a report are not standard and they will be dictated by the nature and content of the report.

The headings and content of the report should be in a logical order. This may be chronological order, items in order of importance or even perhaps alphabetical order.

It is important to note here that if you asked a lot of questions you may not be able to include all the statistical data that you have produced. In this case place your statistical data in your appendix and use only the graphs and charts that are the most relevant to your findings.

2.2.1 Conclusions

This is the critical part of a report where the author looks back over the evidence, reaches a judgment and looks forward to the recommendations.

Before writing this section you need to take another look at:

Considering your objective, did your survey help you to answer your original question?

How did our survey help you?

Were you right to think you needed to make changes?

2.2.2 Recommendations

Recommendations should be kept separate from your conclusions so that it is clear what is being suggested. Care should be taken not to overlap this section with the conclusions. This can be a bullet point section, although it is advisable to number each recommendation so that each recommendation can be easily identified and recognised in future discussions.

Recommendations might include:

The new methods you would like to introduce into your salon to improve the way you work.

The points that you would present to your employer and other colleagues.

2.2.3 Appendices

This is where bulky raw data, diagrams, tables and other technical information should be included. The appendices can also include:

A bibliography

A copy of the survey (questionnaire)

A copy of any interview questions and the answers given

2.2.4 Further Tips

Other tips which may help you succeed in writing an effective report are:

1: Think before you write: This may sound strange, but make sure you give yourself a plan of action. What do you need to do, how are you going to achieve it etc.

2: Be clear what your purpose is: Through evaluating what the question wants, you should be clear on what it is asking of you. Identify what information you want to convey.

3: Discard everything irrelevant: Do not include sections of writing which you don’t think fit into the issue you are analysing.

4: Arrange the material in a logical sequence: See the stages above.

5: Structure longer reports with sections: If you find that one discussion topic in your report is becoming overly long, then try to think of sub-headings which you would use to split it up and make it more readable.

6: Use a layout which helps the reader: If a tutor is marking your work, then it may be necessary to include a specific font and letter size which makes it easier to read.

7: Choose right words for meaning and reader: Do not fill it with long / difficult words in an attempt to make it look more intellectual. Use formal language.

8: Seek higher standards through self-criticism and practice.

And finally…


c Citation and referencing

3.1 Citation and referencing

When writing a report you will have to use various academic texts (e.g. business planning, SWOT, PEST, SMART targets, Value Chain Analysis, motivation etc). These will contain theories that will help to explain your work.

It is only fair that your use of another person’s work or ideas to support your own work is appropriately credited to the original author. The process of referencing enables you to demonstrate to anyone reading your work, the breadth of research you have undertaken before producing your report and your familiarity with the subject without giving long explanations.

People who read your work and find it interesting may want to know more about the subject. Your reference list is a good source of information that readers can use to guide their initial search.

Citation and referencing

3.2 Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the term used to describe the use of another authors work in your own report (either intentionally or unintentionally) without acknowledging that it is not your own, or giving the other author the credit for it.

If you are careful and keep a good record of where you found information from there will be no problem in effectively referencing the source of any information or ideas you have found and the possibility of being accused of plagiarism can easily be avoided. Try to note down on paper every single publication and reference that you use when writing a report.

It is important to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a subject by showing that you can ‘work with’ other people’s ideas whilst developing your own, but you must avoid simply reproducing other peoples work: in effect copying or stealing their ideas.

Methods of referencing

4.1 The Harvard System


Photograph showing a library with shelves of books.


The main method of citation used for referencing focuses on what we call The Harvard System

The Harvard System is the most common method of citation and referencing. However, in some areas, alternative systems can be used so it is a good idea to always check the requirements of your report.

4.1.2 Citing authors in the text

Example 1

In this system you write the author/originators name and the year of publication of the document in brackets after each reference in the text.

The research shows (Wheeler 1961, p.5)…

Example 2

If the author’s name occurs naturally in the text then only the year of publication is given in brackets.

Wheeler (1961, p.7) illustrates in his study…

Example 3

If two or more documents have the same author in the same year then they should be distinguished by lower case letters after the year of publication.

Wheeler (1961a, p.5) describes this process in his study. In a second paper Wheeler (1961b, p.8) goes on further to explain…

Example 4

If there are 2 or up to 3 authors, the surname of all must be given.

Wheeler, Smith and Jones (1993, p.15) have proposed that…

Example 5

If there are more than three authors the surname of the first author is given followed by “et al” (Latin term meaning “and others”)

Wheeler et al. (1997, p. 3) believes…

Example 6

If there is no author then “Anon” should be used to indicate that the source is unknown.

A recent article (Anon. 2001) states that…

Example 7

If a reference is to a newspaper where no author is given the name of the newspaper can be used.

The Independent (1999) states that…

4.1.3 Secondary sources

If you refer to a source quoted in another source you should cite both in the text.

Example 8

A study by Wheeler (1995 cited in Wood 1998, p.42) argues that…

You should only list Wood in your list of references, as this is the book/article you have actually read.

Methods of referencing

4.2 Electronic Resources

When citing Electronic Resources in the text please note: The use of the URL within the body of the text is not usually acceptable. It should only be listed in the reference list.

As yet there is no universally accepted standard for citing electronic sources. It is advisable to include in your references the date you accessed the information.

4.2.1 E-book

Author/s or Editor/s (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Year of publication (i.e. year of print version, or year of electronic version if there is one)

Title (either in bold, italics or underlined) (full stop)

Edition (if not the first)

Electronic book supplier

[Online] (full stop)

Available at: Specify URL (Internet address)

Date of access: (brackets) (full stop)

Example: E-book

Davis, B. (2000) Caring for people in pain. Netlibrary [Online]. Available at: http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader (Accessed: 6 January 2004).

4.2.2 E-journal

To reference from an e-journal use the following format:

Author/s (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Year of publication (in brackets)

Title of article (comma)

Title of journal (either in bold, italics or underlined) (comma)

Volume number

Issue number (in brackets) (comma)

Page number or online equivalent

Name of electronic collection

[Online] (full stop)

Available at: Specify URL (Internet address)

Date of access: (brackets) (full stop)

Example: E-journal

Orkerson, A. (1991) The electronic journal: what, whence and when? Public Access Computer Systems Review, 2 (1), pp. 23-24 EBSCO [Online]. Available at: http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v2/n1/okerson.2nl (Accessed: 6 June 2002).

4.2.3 Website or Internet Database

When you need to reference a whole website, use the format:

Author, Editor or Publishing Organisation

Year (in brackets)

Website title (bold, italics or underlined ) (full stop)

[Online] (full stop)

Available at: Specify URL (Internet address)

Date of access: (brackets) (full stop)

Example: Website

Historic Houses Association. (2005) Historic Houses Association. [Online]. Available at: http://www.hha.org.uk (Accessed: 6 April 2005).

When referencing web pages or extracts from a database, use the format:

Author/editor or Publishing Organisation

Year (in brackets)

Title of extract (comma)

Title of database (bold, italics or underlined)

[Online] (full stop)

Available at: Specify URL (Internet address)

Date of access: (brackets) (full stop)

Example: Web Pages

Darnell, M.J. (2002) Opening the file drawer, Bad Human Factors Designs [Online]. Available at: http://www.baddesigns.com/file.html (Accessed: 6 April 2005).


In the Harvard system the corresponding references to citations in the text are arranged at the end of a piece of work in alphabetical order of authors’ surname, subdivided if necessary by year and letter.

4.3.1 How to reference a book

Author/s editor/s (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Year of publication (in brackets)

Title of book (either bold, italics or underlined) (full stop)

Edition (if not the first)

Place of publication (colon)

Publisher (full stop)

[Add series number and volume number if appropriate]

One Author

Hayes, N. (1998) Psychology: an introduction. 3rd edn. Harlow: Longman.

Two Authors

Winter, J. & Sivan, E. (eds.) (2000) War and remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Three Authors

Thwaites, A., Davis, L. & Mules, W. (1995) Tools for cultural studies: an introduction. South Melbourne: Macmillan Education Australia.

Multiple Authors

Raven, P.H., Johnson, G.B., Losos, J.B. & Singer, S. R. (2005) Biology. 7th edn. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Please note it is common acceptance, especially in scientific papers, to quote all authors in the reference list. However, this is not universal and an alternative, which is sometimes used when there are more than 3 authors, is to list the 1st author followed by et al. Please check your report requirements.

4.3.2 Chapter within a book

Author/s of chapter or section (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Year of publication (in brackets)

Title of chapter/section (comma)

Use the word In:

Author/Editor of book/collected work (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Title of the book/collected work (either bold, italics or underlined).

Edition (if not the first)

Place of publication (colon)

Publisher (comma)

Page numbers of chapter (full stop)

Example 1

Merridale, C. (2000) War, death and remembrance in Soviet Russia, In: Winter, J. & Sivan, E. (eds.) War and remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 61-83.

4.3.3 How to reference a journal article

Author/s of article (Surname (comma) followed by initials) (full stop)

Year of publication (in brackets)

Title of article (comma)

Title of journal (either bold, italics or underlined) (comma)

Volume number

Part/issue number (in brackets) (comma)

Page number/s (full stop)

Example: Journal Article

Bourget, D. (2004) Quantum leaps in the philosophy of the mind, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(12), pp. 17-42.

Example: Journal Article, multiple authors

Milner, L.M., Herrmann, M., Girand, K., Baker, M.S. & Hiser, R.F. (2003) International sport fishing: the case of the German angler in Alaska, Tourism Analysis, 8(1), pp. 89-94.

4.3.4 Referencing a newspaper article

Referencing a newspaper article is similar to referencing a journal except – omit volume number and part/issue number and state the day and month of publication.

Example: Newspaper

Hiscott, G. (2005) Salt level in food overtakes poisoning as main concern of shoppers, The Independent, 17 March, p.8.

4.4.1 Theses or Dissertation

When referencing a theses or a dissertation, use the same method as a book reference but include the level of the award (e.g. B.A., BSc., M.A.) and the name of the awarding Institution.

Example 1

Gayfer, J. (1993) Controlling wall thickness of extruded polythene pipe. BEng dissertation. University of Derby.

4.4.2 Conferencing

When referencing from a conference follow this format:

Organising/sponsoring organisation

Number (if appropriate)

Year (in brackets)

Title (in bold, italics or underlined)

Location of conference

Date of conference

Place of publication (colon)

Publisher (full stop)

Example 1

World Health Organisation (1978) Primary health care: report of the International Conference on Primary Health Care. Alma-Ata USSR, 6-12 September 1978. Geneva: W.H.O.

4.4.3 Audio-visual material

Typically, putting the title as the first element of the reference is preferred but if an individual has clear responsibility for the intellectual content then they should be given as the originator.

Title (bold, italics, underlined)

Year (date of distribution)(brackets)

Originator (director preferred)

[Videocassette] (full stop)

Place of distribution (colon)

Organisation (full stop)

Example 1

The Prince of tides (1997) Directed by Barbara Streisand [Videocassette]. London: ITV.

4.4.4 Maps

When referencing from an ordnance survey map, use the format:

Originator – state Ordnance Survey

Year of publication (in brackets)

Title of map (bold, italics or underlined ) (comma)

Sheet number (comma)

Scale of map (e.g. 1: 50 000) (full stop)

Place of publication (colon)

Publisher (full stop)

Series (in brackets) (full stop)


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