What is the difference between essays and reports? Report writing is a specialized skill that your academic tutor would like you to develop.
Whether you are writing a report in university or business, report writing skills are equally important to get your message across to the readers in an effective manner.
Generally, it is your academic tutor who decides what form of writing you must undertake and will provide the layout requirements in the assignment brief.
However, as you move towards university level study, you will have the freedom of choice to decide what form of writing you must undertake to address the problem question.
This means that you will need a critical evaluation of what form of writing will be the most appropriate for you considering the requirements of a given academic assignment.
Whether you are a student or a professional, it is important to understand the key differences between an essay and a report so you can work out why and you should prefer one form of writing over the other.
Typically you will be asked to write a report if you must present an analysis of results from practical research. All reports start with the topic background, research aim and objectives to provide details of what your work will examine.
You may also include a hypothesis in your report if you are testing a proposition with your research. Depending on the nature of your topic and the report writing guidelines laid out by your tutor, you may also have to include a separate section for future recommendations in your report.
Essays, on the other hand, find answers to a question using the researcher’s own critical evaluation of the existing theories. An essay does not directly include any practical research because it only uses the existing literature material.
The report starts with the introduction to the topic and lists the aim and objectives your practical research will address.
It quickly moves to report chronological actions such as gathering data and presenting findings from primary research activities and laboratory experiments before the writer finally provides an assessment of the results in conclusion and recommendations for future sections.
The content of an essay depends on the essay question you need to answer. Whether your essay must be evaluative, argumentative, narrative, discursive or descriptive will be determined by the nature of your essay question.
However, in general, all essays involve a synthesis of knowledge obtained from existing literature on the given question as well as the writer’s personal arguments and opinions based on the evidence collected during research.
The format of a report and an essay are similar as both include an introduction, main body, and conclusion sections. Reports further include methodology and analysis in the main body and have a fixed structure.
It is recommended to check your school’s formatting guidelines if you are unsure about how to format your report.
If you are writing an essay, the critical evaluation of the essay question will determine the structure you must follow in your essay.
Involves recommendations for future
Makes use of tables, graphs, figures, and illustrations
Use bullet points
Includes numbered/labelled headings and subheadings
Is written in a very formal style
Is written with a specific purpose and audience in mind
All information is fact-based and informative
Does not include headings or subheading in normal circumstances
Does not make use of sub-headings
Does not include figures, charts, graphs or tables
Is written in a narrative, argumentative or descriptive style depends on the essay question
Is not produced for a specific audience
Is idea based, descriptive or argumentative
Uses a semi-structured format
|Reports are written with a specific purpose and audience in mind.||Essays are written with the purpose to demonstrate that the author fully understands the research question and was able to answer it with research.|
|All reports start with a purpose but also include details of events/results of research. As a researcher, you will be expected not only to describe the findings and events but also critically analyse them to propose recommendations for future work.||You will be required to base your essay on arguments, counter-arguments, opinions, and evidence.|
|Reports may also have separate conclusions and recommendations chapters.||An essay will usually end with a conclusion section but in some cases, it may also have an additional recommendations section.|
Despite all these differences, it may not be that easy to distinguish between an essay and a report. For example, in some academic disciplines, essays are structured like a report with headings separating the different parts of an essay. The best practice in regards to the style and format suitable to your academic discipline would be to consult your academic tutor.