Most assignments require either an essay or report. The table below describes the differences between essays and reports. The boxes provide examples of layout and structure for both types of assignment formats.
|Present arguments and/or issues||Present information|
|Read carefully by your teacher/tutor||Can be scanned quickly by the reader|
|Use limited headings and/or lists||Use numbered headings and sub headings|
|Link ideas into paragraphs||Use dot points to emphasise points|
|Make limited use of tables, graphs and illustrations||Tables and graphs illustrate points more clearly|
|Abstracts are only required if essays are very long and one has been requested by your teacher/tutor||May require an executive summary or abstract|
|Seldom have recommendations||Recommendations often follow the conclusions in order to correct problems or situations discussed in the report|
|Seldom contain appendices||Contain appendices|
An essay usually consists of an introduction, the body, a conclusion and a reference list or bibliography. The assignment question will contain instruction or direction words.
General layout and presentation of an essay
The following example illustrates the general layout and presentation requirements of an essay:
Your teacher will instruct you on margins, spacing, font and paragraph formatting for your assignments.
A report provides an account of research or an investigation. It clearly describes, in logical sequence the steps that have been followed. Reports can be any length and can be:
- Informational - contain facts/figures, e.g. sales, production or accident reports.
- Analytical - written to solve problems/situations, contain recommendations.
Report structures include numbered sections and have:
- Major headings in upper case letters. They can be underlined.
- Minor headings indented from the left margin and in lower case letters. They can be underlined also.
These headings distinguish major ideas from minor ones, help to organise your material and enable you to maintain a consistent layout throughout the report.
Remember: Write your report to get your message across - above all, your report should provide a clear and concise analysis of the work undertaken with no unfinished work apparent.
Example of a report format:
Cover page(Name of the report, your name, date, course name/no.)
Table of contents: list of all headings and corresponding page numbers in the report
Body of report:
1. INTRODUCTION (an example of a major heading)
1.1 Aim of the report (an example of a minor heading)
Describe the aim or scope in one short sentence.
Why the report was requested and by whom.
1.3 Sources of information
List interviews, laboratory procedure manuals consulted and so on.
2. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
2.1 Information available
A statement on the present situation.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
3.1 Summary of data
3.2 Explanation of tables and graphs
3.3 Analysis of data
3.4 Observation of results
State what the results have proved or suggested. Do not introduce any new information at this stage of the report.
5. RECOMMENDATIONS (if required)
It is recommended that: (action to be/not to be taken, or a choice can/cannot be made)
5.1 First recommendation
5.2 Second recommendation
Examples: Glossary, Survey results