Reports and Essays

A good information report or essay is based on sound planning and thorough research. To ensure that your research is adequate you should follow the steps of the Information process.

The Topic Plan

As an example of sound planning, consider a research assignment which asks you to present a study of the disease malaria. If you have not been given a topic breakdown to follow or a set of questions to answer then the key to starting the assignment is to break down your topic into smaller parts and create a topic plan or scaffold.

There are usually a number of ways to break down a topic. Try to choose logical parts, such as these chosen to explore the disease malaria:

  • Description
  • Causes
  • Treatment
  • History
  • Current situation
  • Future

The parts can be ordered in a logical sequence:

  • Description
  • History
  • Causes
  • Treatment
  • Current situation
  • Future

These could be further divided to form a detailed topic plan:

Description
Symptoms
Short/long term effects
Spread

History
Extent of problem
Research/breakthroughs
Key people

Causes
Biological
Environmental

Treatment
Medicines
Therapies
Side effects

Current situation
Extent of problem
Latest research


Future

Getting Organised

For a report, use the detailed topic plan as your contents page and include the parts of your plan as headings and subheadings to create sections for your information. Include helpful diagrams, tables and images.

For an essay, do not include a contents page. Use paragraphs to create the sections of your information. Check with your teacher about using headings. Do not include diagrams, tables or images - interpret the information contained in them and express it in words in the body of your essay.

With a clear topic plan in mind you now know what to look for during your research. After you have compiled a good set of notes for each part, you can combine your notes into sentences and paragraphs that give detailed information about each part. Your sentences should be short and direct - use clear and precise language to convey your information.

Information reports and essays have different structures.

Reports

A basic information report should have these sections:

  • Title page - showing your name, subject, class, teacher, assignment/report name and date due.
  • Contents - a list of headings, subheadings and page numbers that maps out your report.
  • Introduction - a brief outline of the topic area and the purpose of the report.
  • Body - the findings from your research, organised under headings and sub headings.
  • Bibliography - a list of all the information resources you consulted, described correctly.

Below is an example of the contents page, which clearly shows your organisation of the sections of the report:

CONTENTSPAGE

Introduction

1

Description
Symptoms
Short/long term effects
Spread

2
2
3
3

History
Extent of problem
Research/breakthroughs
Key people

4
4
4
5

Causes
Biological
Environmental

6
6
6

Treatment
Medicines
Therapies
Side effects

7
7
7
7

Current situation
Extent of problem
Latest research

8
8
8

Future

9

Bibliography

10


A detailed report (senior school) about a topic or issue usually has a few added sections:

  • Title page - showing your name, subject, class, teacher, assignment/report name and date due.
  • Contents - a list of headings, subheadings and page numbers that maps out your report.
  • Introduction - an outline of the topic area and the scope and purpose of the report.
  • Body - the findings of your research, organised under headings and sub headings.
  • Conclusions - your own judgements on the topic drawn from the information presented.
  • Appendix - diagrams, images, tables and other details that add to your main information.
  • Bibliography - a list of all the information resources you consulted, described correctly.

For longer reports it is a good idea to use a numbering system for the parts listed in the contents.

Essays

Include a title page, as above.

A basic essay has three main parts:

Introduction - One paragraph:

  • A sentence or two to focus the reader's attention firmly on the topic you are discussing, possibly by stating the significance of the topic in a wider context.
  • A series of sentences that explains the way you are going to approach the topic or that outlines your argument on the topic (your contention or thesis).
  • A sentence or two that outlines what you are going to do in the essay.


Body - A series of paragraphs:

One or two paragraphs for the discussion of each of the parts listed in your topic plan. Each paragraph should consist of:

  • A topic sentence that introduces the part to be discussed.
  • A series of developing sentences that discuss the relevant aspects of the part and that introduce evidence to support your argument.
  • A concluding sentence that rounds off the discussion about the part.
  • A directional sentence that leads into the next paragraph.


Conclusion - One paragraph:

  • A series of sentences that briefly sum up the main points you have made.
  • A sentence or two that rounds off your discussion of the topic, or that reinforces your argument on the topic.
  • A sentence or two that gives your considered final opinion, makes recommendations, acknowledges the wider implications of the discussion or that makes an assessment of what the future holds in regard to the topic.

Consider using headings in your essay, to show the main parts of your treatment of the topic.
Check with your teacher whether you can use headings - they are generally not used in English essays.

 

 

 

 

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