Knowing about the function and structure of reports is important; however, knowing about the appropriate style and conventions to use when writing your report is equally important. Reports written in a university context tend to be structured, formal, objective, impersonal, complex and contain technical language.
The formal and impersonal nature of reports can be achieved by avoiding certain types of language such as slang terms and contractions (didn't, won't etc) as well as strong expressions of opinion and attitude. In addition, the use of the passive voice (were specified, it is suggested etc) allows writers to foreground what was done, rather than who did it, thus making the writing less personal. A more objective, impersonal tone is achieved through the use of formal and impersonal language. Some examples of expressions you may use in your report include:
This report aims to investigate...
The use of discipline specific terminology in your report will add to its technicality and formality. Discipline specific terminology consists of words or phrases particular to a discipline which experienced writers within the field use to convey meaning in a certain way.
The language of reports should also be objective and complex. Objectivity and complexity can be achieved through the use of structures such as nominalisation and extended noun phrases. Nominalisation is the expression of actions as noun phrases instead of verbs. This allows the text to focus on objects or concepts rather than actions, so it sounds more abstract and objective. This language structure also allows more information to be packed into less space and increases the complexity of the writing. Extended nominal groups increase the amount of information provided about the people, places or concepts described in the report.
Read the following example:
Follow this link for more detailed information on the words, structures and conventions of academic writing.
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