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Report Writing: Differences between reports and essays

Differences between reports and essays

What is a report? 

The main purpose for a report is to be informative. 

  • The biggest difference between reports and essays is the structure used
  • An essay is usually written in continuous text, but a report is broken into sections
  • Essays discuss ideas, but reports present the information that is available on a subject
  • The purpose of an essay is to make a convincing argument for a position, or discuss opinions, but a report outlines facts and figures and may give recommendations.

A report has:

1.  Defined structure: information is organised under headings

2.  Independent sections: a report contains stand-alone sections, to which a reader can refer selectively

3.  Unbiased conclusions: reports are written objectively

For some subjects, you may have a more specific report structure, such as a lab report, or a business report.  Most reports follow a section and sub-section structure.  The challenge is to arrange the information in a way that is easy to follow. 

Your report will have a specific purpose and audience, which will influence how you arrange the information to communicate clearly.  Read carefully through your assessment question to make sure you are following the expected structure, including the right content, and incorporating the right sections. 



The information in this guide has been adapted (with permission) from the University of Newcastle Library guide to report writing

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