A report is a record of a meeting, a visit, a project that will inform people (who attended or who couldn’t attend), serve as a reference or be a baseline for future developments. Remember a report can be read by anyone, including people who may not agree with you: the clearer and more objective you are, more effective your work and the less opportunity there will be for criticism.
- Start by writing the points that you remember, in any order. Put them in order: chronological, by topic, or other as suits the subject of your report. Then develop them into sentences.
- Use objective statements that all attending the meeting agree on. If it is a report of one person’s visit, clearly make the difference between facts and personal opinions: ‘There are 130 children at the school’ and ‘ I felt there was a warm atmosphere in the school’. Reports should be factual.
- Emotional statements can give a personal flavour, but a more general report will reflect ‘what anyone can find/see’, not just ‘my point of view’. Be rational and reasonable: avoid absolutes (‘the most …’, ‘perfect’) because these could simply reflect your personal lack of experience rather than reality.
- Give relevant details. A reader should understand why information is given: avoid irrelevant information unless you can make a connection for people to understand why it is an important detail. Keep the report brief : Unnecessary information distracts the reader.
- Be diplomatic; avoid negative comments. Be constructive by transforming negatives into positives. Instead of ‘This is bad’, say ‘This can be developed’.
- Confidentiality is very important. This is especially true when mentioning people who were not directly, willingly involved. Mention names of people attending a meeting or attending in an official position (and give their position, e.g. A head teacher), but do not mention names of others without their permission, for instance children at a school, etc. Unless necessary, avoid details that would allow the person to be identified ‘A visually impaired METU student’ is preferable to ‘The blind METU History student’
- Short clear texts are easiest for the reader; the easier the reading, the better your message will get across. Use paragraphs or bullet points so that your text is broken into manageable bits. Use simple language: some readers might be learners of English, so simpler language will help everyone.
- Be logical. Connect your ideas: explain causes/ consequences if necessary, introduce new names, when using acronyms always give the full text the first time.
You now have a first draft. Give a copy to different people and ask for their comments. Some will read more carefully than others, but all comments will be useful; do not expect anyone to give all the comments. Invite those involved to check the text. Be brave and ask people who might not agree: their comments will strengthen your text more than those of any friend!