In academia, there is some overlap between reports and essays, and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but reports are more likely to be needed for business, scientific and technical subjects, and in the workplace. Whereas an essay presents arguments and reasoning, a report concentrates on facts.

Report writing is an essential skill in many disciplines. A report aims to inform and sometimes to persuade. They should be written as clearly and succinctly as possible, with evidence about a topic, problem or situation.

Requirements for the precise form and content of a report will vary between organisation and departments and in the study between courses, from tutor to tutor, as well as between subjects, so it’s worth finding out if there are any specific guidelines before you start.

Similarities with Essay

    • to be written in a formal style
    • an introduction, body and conclusion
    • analytical thinking
    • extensive researching for information and evidence to support a conclusion
    • careful proofreading and neat presentation

Differences from Essay

    • is a presentation of facts and information, rather than a discussion of various opinions
    • is often written for a very specific audience (Eg: an organisation that has commissioned a report)
    • is structured so that it may be scanned by the reader
    • uses numbered headings and subheadings (Eg: 2.1 Executive summary)
    • uses short, concise paragraphs and dot points, where applicable
    • uses graphics wherever possible (tables, graphs, illustrations)
    • may need an abstract (sometimes called an executive summary)
    • makes recommendations
    • does not always need references and a bibliography
    • often has appendices

A report is usually a piece of factual writing, based on evidence, containing organized information on a particular topic. Reports can be oral or written depending upon the mode of presentation.

When you rejoin duty after attending an international seminar, you meet your officer and report about the deliberations of the seminar. This type of reporting comes under oral reporting.

An oral report is a simple and easy way to present. It may communicate an impression or an observation. While oral reports are useful, written reports are always preferred as they enjoy several advantages over the oral ones.

Oral Reports: Advantages and Drawbacks

    • Immediate feedback is possible
    • Do not add to the permanent records of the organization as the information/Facts can be denied
    • The audience needs to comprehend quickly  as and when these are presented
    • Maybe encumbered with irrelevant facts and overlook important ones
    • Cannot be referred to again and again
    • Have less Professional value

Written Reports: Advantages and Disadvantages

    • Immediate feedback is not possible
    • Contribute to the permanent records of the organization
    • The audience can ponder over these reports and understand its own pace
    • Are more accurate and precise as the writer will be careful in putting down the facts in writing
    • Can be edited, reviewed, stored and retrieved
    • Have more professional value
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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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