How to Write a Good Report

I have written a lot of reports in my time in education. I now mark reports. Writing a report is a really easy way to gain or lose marks within education. In this article I share advice for any students writing their own reports. What I write here will be true at any level of education, and will probably be helpful even if you have to write reports later in your career. These come from my experience writing in UK English, your kilometrage may vary depending on where you live and what you study.

General Advice

  1. I have many students to mark and I want to give you marks, make it easy for me to do so and I will give them to you.
  2. You’re not creating a masterpiece, you’re just doing an assignment. Make it as good as it needs to be.


  1. A good assignment includes a mark scheme as well as the task description. Read it before you start writing your report. The mark scheme tells you what to write.
  2. I don’t want to read waffle – text that goes on and on without any real substance makes for a bad report. I would rather read something that falls short of the word count than have to sift through whole paragraphs that have nothing to say.
  3. A focused report makes it easier for me to issue marks as I can see when you’ve met a criteria, and better shows where you have been creative, critical, or understanding.
  4. Don’t use GAI as it will write waffle.
  5. Use a spellchecker – every editor and system has one built in. Get someone else to read your report and check your spelling and grammar.
  6. Target the right kind of grammar – is the report expecting a first person account or a third person report.
  7. Briefly summarise what I’m going to read before I read it – explain the layout and main claims of your report in the introduction.


  1. If you’re including images, screenshots or diagrams, make sure they’re relevant.
  2. If you have no images or diagrams, see if there are any that would help make your point better.
  3. A good rule of thumb whether to include a visual – If you could meaningfully replace the image with a sentence, do that.
  4. Before screenshotting, resize the windows & increase the font size before you take the screenshot to make them readable.
  5. If the images are still large, crop them to show only the relevant part
  6. If you’re making a diagram, use a vector or object editor. If you need to edit it later, you won’t need to re-do the whole thing. Basic presentation software is good at this.


  1. If there’s a page or word limit, try to stick to it. It’s there for a reason.
  2. If you’re not hitting the limit, then you’re missing something key. Have another look at the mark scheme.
  3. If you’re going over the limit, you’re probably waffling. Focus on the key points, say exactly what you need to say and no more.
  4. Use a basic serif or sans font. Black on white. Use the default font size. Stick to the default formatting of your editor / markup language. Anything else will make it harder for me to read.
  5. If you paste anything, make sure it didn’t mess up the formatting. Learn the “paste without formatting” command for your editor.
  6. Learn when and how to use chapters, headings, and subheadings depending on how long the report is.

Plagiarism & Referencing

  1. If you copy text from the web, put it in quote marks and add a citation / footnote.
  2. If you don’t attribute copied text, that’s plagiarism.
  3. If you’ve copied text verbatim, unless you are quoting, summarise it in your own words. That shows you understand what you copied. Turn the citation into a reference.
  4. Don’t copy from someone else, that’s plagiarism.
  5. Pick good quality references. Not random clickbait articles. Wikipedia is a good source of sources, not a source in and of itself.
  6. Include relevant references that you learned something from. A few references you actually found useful are better than many unrelated references.
  7. If you’re describing a discrete thing, include a footnote to the manufacturer’s website. Citing documentation is better. A reviews academic report on the thing better still.
  8. I personally don’t care what referencing style you use, as long as it’s consistent and readable. Learning how to use one is a good skill, and most reference managers make it easy to switch between styles if needed.
  9. Don’t use GAI as this will either result in a bad summary, made up references or plagiarism.

You could debate whether writing reports is a suitable way to test someone’s understanding. Personally, I think writing reports is one of the better ways of assessing knowledge, critical evaluation skills, and understanding of a topic. Better than quizzes and exams. Though I appreciate that for some students, writing reports does not come as an easy task. If that describes you, I hope that some of these tips will help.

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.