Report writing 101

Kristine Genovese

Kristine Genovese, 13 March 2019

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You’ve built your surveys and collected responses; now it’s time to analyse your results and compile the key findings into a report.

A good report should address the objectives of your evaluation plan, present the data clearly and be written in a way that will convey the results without overwhelming or boring the reader.

To help you out, we’ve put together some quick tips to help you write effective reports.

1. Identify the purpose

It sounds so simple, but it’s very easy to miss. Before you start writing or collating content, clarify what question/s your report aims to answer. Consider what it was that your evaluations were created to answer in the first place. Perhaps you’d like to determine the social impact of a particular event or understand what programming strategies have been most successful in the past year. By pinpointing the purpose/s of your report, it will help you stay on track while crafting your content.

2. Draft the skeleton structure 

Take a look at the relevant data and create a draft a contents page that arranges it all into a logical order. Think about all of the evaluation information you have on hand and how to present it in a coherent way.

3. Use simple language

Copy should be concise and engaging, avoiding lengthy and unnecessary descriptions. When it’s time to get into the nitty gritty, *bold* important numbers, keywords and definitions within the copy so that it’s easy for the reader to get a snapshot view of your findings. Use charts and infographics to present info where you can. Keep captions brief.

4. Conclusions and key findings

It’s a good idea to compile your headline stats into a list of Key Findings and to highlight these at the beginning of your document. People are busy, and we’re all inundated with info – so make it as easy as possible for the skim-readers to see all of the great things that you/your organisation has been doing. If relevant, your conclusion should highlight any successes, recommendations and opportunities to improve.

5. Proofread!

Once you’re confident that you’ve nailed Steps 1 to 4 and you’ve completed a first draft, it’s time to start the most important step – proofreading. Consider this an opportunity to cut text that’s repetitive or unnecessary. It can help to read it out loud, or get a second opinion from a colleague.

 Repeat Step 5 until you’re confident that you’re happy with the end result.

In summary

 To put it into one sentence: Define your purpose; organise your ideas for clarity; be concise; conclude with key findings; edit and proof read, and; proof again.

Still stressed? For more information see our cheat sheet on reducing stress at report time for advice, have a peek at the reporting services we offer, and get in touch

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