The executive summary or abstract, for a scientific report, is a brief summary of the contents.It’s worth writing this last, when you know the key points to draw out.
During your planning and writing, make sure that you keep your brief in mind: who are you writing for, and why are you writing?
All your thinking needs to be focused on that, which may require you to be ruthless in your reading and thinking. As you read and research, try to organise your work into sections by theme, a bit like writing a Literature Review.
Above all, it should be easy to read and understand, even to someone with little knowledge of the subject area.
You should therefore aim for crisp, precise text, using plain English, and shorter words rather than longer, with short sentences. If you have to use specialist language, you should explain each word as you use it.
Make sure that you keep track of your references, especially for academic work.
Although referencing is perhaps less important in the workplace, it’s also important that you can substantiate any assertions that you make so it’s helpful to keep track of your sources of information.A report is designed to lead people through the information in a structured way, but also to enable them to find the information that they want quickly and easily.Reports usually, therefore, have numbered sections and subsections, and a clear and full contents page listing each heading. Modern word processors have features to add tables of contents (To C) and page numbers as well as styled headings; you should take advantage of these as they update automatically as you edit your report, moving, adding or deleting sections.For each theme, you should aim to set out clearly and concisely the main issue under discussion and any areas of difficulty or disagreement. All the information that you present should be related back to the brief and the precise subject under discussion.The conclusion sets out what inferences you draw from the information, including any experimental results.If you find that you’ve had to explain more than about five words, you’re probably using too much jargon, and need to replace some of it with simpler words. If the report is designed to be written for a particular person, check whether you should be writing it to ‘you’ or perhaps in the third person to a job role: ‘The Chief Executive may like to consider…’, or ‘The minister is recommended to agree…’, for example.As with any academic assignment or formal piece of writing, your work will benefit from being read over again and edited ruthlessly for sense and style.The structure of a report is very important to lead the reader through your thinking to a course of action and/or decision.It’s worth taking a bit of time to plan it out beforehand.If you’re writing a report in the workplace, check whether there are any standard guidelines or structure that you need to use.For example, in the UK many government departments have outline structures for reports to ministers that must be followed exactly.