Information report: structure and language features

Structure of an information report.

  • Share the information report with students and have labels ready for each of the report sections.

language features of report writing

  • Students create a mind map, to record what they know about goats. Each section of the mentor text can provide information for a section of the mind map.
  • Provide students with a copy of the goat report, which has some key words removed. Students work with a partner to complete a cloze activity.

Language features of an information report

Note: Not every word or choice needs to be highlighted. For example, in the mentor text, there are many nouns. The focus for teaching is on simple noun groups which include an adjective + common noun.

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  • Information Report
  • Self-Test A
  • Self-Test B
  • Self-Test C
  • Explanation
  • Description

2.1 Information report 1 - structure and language features

Social purpose: to classify and/or describe natural, manufactured and/or social phenomena.

Link to Self-Test


Report writing

  • Introduction

What is a report?

What makes a successful report, how are reports read, checklist for successful reports.

  • Types of Report
  • Structuring your report
  • Writing up your report

Useful links for report writing

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Maths Support A guide to Maths Support resources which may help if you're finding any mathematical or statistical topic difficult during the transition to University study.

language features of report writing

  • Academic Phrasebank Use this site for examples of linking phrases and ways to refer to sources.
  • Academic writing LibGuide Expert guidance on punctuation, grammar, writing style and proof-reading.
  • Reading and notemaking LibGuide Expert guidance on managing your reading and making effective notes.
  • Guide to citing references Includes guidance on why, when and how to use references correctly in your academic writing.

Students often ask, "What's the difference between an essay and a report?" It can be confusing because university assignments can mix the features of both (e.g. an essay that allows sub-headings) and some assignments may not officially be called a report, but seem very "report-like" in their structure and criteria.

The guidance on this page will explain some of the key differences between essays and reports, and how the main features of reports make them economical to read. Understanding how reports are read and the features that make them effective will help you in any report-style assignment.

A report is a piece of informative writing that describes a set of actions and analyses any results in response to a specific brief. A quick definition might be: "This is what I did and this is what it means." You may be given an assignment which is not called a report but shares many of the same features; if so, aspects of this guide will be helpful.

It may help to know some of the key differences between reports and essays:

language features of report writing

  • Badly structured
  • Inappropriate writing style
  • Incorrect or inadequate referencing
  • Doesn't answer the brief
  • Too much/too little/irrelevant material
  • Expression not clear
  • Doesn't relate results to purpose
  • Unnecessary use of jargon

How can you make sure your report does what it's meant to do, and does it well?

Make sure you know which sections your report should have and what should go in each . Reports for different disciplines and briefs will require different sections: for instance, a business report may need a separate Recommendations section but no Methods section. Check your brief carefully to make sure you have the correct sections. See the page on 'Structuring your report' in this guide to learn more about what goes where.

Remember that reports are meant to be informative : to tell the reader what was done, what was discovered as a consequence and how this relates to the reasons the report was undertaken. Include only relevant material in your background and discussion.

A report is an act of communication between you and your reader. So  pay special attention to your projected reader , and what they want from the report. Sometimes you will be asked to write for an imaginary reader (e.g. a business client). In this case it's vital to think about why they want the report to be produced (e.g. to decide on the viability of a project) and to make sure you respond to that. If it's your tutor, they will want to know that you can communicate the processes and results of your research clearly and accurately, and can discuss your findings in the context of the overall purpose.

Write simply and appropriately . Your method and findings should be described accurately and in non-ambiguous terms. A perfectly described method section would make it possible for someone else to replicate your research process and achieve the same results. See the page in this guide on 'Writing up your report' for more on this.

Spend time on your discussion section . This is the bit that pulls the whole piece together by showing how your findings relate to the purpose of the report, and to any previous research.

Every idea and piece of information you use that comes from someone else's work  must be acknowledged with a reference . Check your brief, or department handbook for the form of referencing required (usually a short reference in the body of the text, and a full reference in the Reference List at the end).

Be clear about the scope of the report . The word count will help you to understand this. For instance, a 5000 word report will be expected to include a lot more background and discussion than a 1000 word report - this will be looking for more conciseness in the way you convey your information.

language features of report writing

This is not to suggest that you should spend less time on writing up your findings. But it does show that the sections you may think of as less important (like the  abstract or introduction ) are actually often the places a reader gets their first impressions. So it's worth getting them right.

language features of report writing

  • Does it answer the needs of the projected reader?
  • Has the material been placed in the appropriate sections?
  • Has all the material been checked for accuracy?
  • Are graphs and tables carefully labelled?
  • Is data in graphs or tables also explained in words and analysed?
  • Does the discussion/conclusion show how the results relate to objectives set out in the introduction?
  • Has all irrelevant material been removed?
  • Is it written throughout in appropriate style (i.e. no colloquialisms or contractions, using an objective tone, specific rather than vague)?
  • Is it jargon-free and clearly written?
  • Has every idea taken from or inspired by someone else's work been acknowledged with a reference?
  • Have all illustrations and figures taken from someone else's work been cited correctly?
  • Has it been carefully proof-read to eliminate careless mistakes?
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language features of report writing

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The purpose of a report is to describe and classify information. Reports have a logical sequence of facts that are stated without any personal involvement from the writer.

Informative reports are written about living things like plants and animals and non-living things like cars or oceans. An information report is used when we talk and write about, eg. Bikes. (When writing a description we only talk/write about one specific thing, eg. My Bike).

Reports usually consist of the following:

  • an opening statement. ( The Antarctic is a large continent at the South Pole; Possums are nocturnal animals that were introduced to New Zealand from Australia. )
  • a series of facts about various aspects of the subject eg where possums live, what they eat, problems they cause, etc. These facts are grouped into paragraphs and each paragraph has a topic sentence.
  • diagrams, photographs, illustrations and maps may be used to enhance the text
  • reports don't usually have an "ending", although sometimes the detailed information is rounded off by some general statement about the topic.
  • Nouns and noun phrases are used rather than personal pronouns. The use of personal pronouns is limited.
  • Most reports are written in the present tense.
  • Some reports use technical or scientific terms.
  • Linking verbs are used, eg. is, are, has, have, belong to, to give coherence.
  • Uses some action verbs (climb, eat).
  • Descriptive language is used that is factual rather than imaginative eg colour, shape, size, body parts, habits, behaviours, functions, uses.

e-Learning tools to support report writing

Online thesaurus:

  • Merriam-Webster Thesaurus
  • Collins English Thesaurus

Brainstorming tools:

  • Popplet web 2.0 tool  and  Popplet Lite iPad app  (free)
  •  (free)
  • CMap Tools download  (free)
  • Mindmeister  (free trial only)

Updated on: 18 Mar 2020

Teacher Resources - Electronic

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  • NZQA English - annotated exemplars
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Writing Reports

Writing Reports

Reports are normally formal accounts, written in a logical, sometimes chronological, order by a person with specific knowledge of a certain subject. Reports are more common in business, technical, legal and academic settings but can include more informal settings also.

Reports tend to have objective language and a sole purpose to inform ; therefore, they include denotive rather than connotative language and also tend to use passive voice rather than active voice. Examples of passive voice were discussed in Unit 1 – refer back to this if it is something you need to recap. Passive voice in report writing helps emphasise the importance of the subject being spoken about, therefore it is automatically more formal. These features allow a report to convey information as clearly and concisely as it can. It also allows the report to remain neutral, preventing any emotion or biased points of view that may affect the tone.

Another common feature is the use of reported speech rather than direct speech as it shows that the events being reported are in the past tense (reported speech is something we will look at in more detail in Unit 4 of this course). Because of their purpose to inform, factual information is sometimes included within the main body of a report; for example, quantitative data expressed in tables, charts and graphs.

quantitative data

The structure tends to stay the same across all reports, no matter the purpose or intended audience. However, the purpose and audience must always be considered with report writing as these can affect the tone or style of the report. Not every report is formal and so you may find that some have a more informal style and tone.

As mentioned previously, the use of first person narration is more informal than third person, therefore if you are asked to write a report in the exam then use third person unless the question asks you specifically not to. Below an example of a short report written in third person has been provided for you.

If you are asked to write a report in the exam, then it may be much longer than the example provided. However, there is a simple plan you can follow to make sure you write an effective report:

The example report consists mainly of providing a summary of a specific event that has happened. It is written in the third person, in the past tense and told in chronological order. The language remains objective and it is merely reporting facts of the night, with a brief opinion included from the other students. Bear in mind that not all reports you come across or are asked to write will be summaries.

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Language for reports Some formulaic phrases

On this page you will find some language for reports . The language provides further examples of the formulaic language used in academic contexts. As with other formulaic language (e.g. the language for presentations ), you do not need to learn all of these phrases. You should be able to use at least one phrase for each function (e.g. stating the aim(s) of your report, referring to figures in the Results section or the Discussion section ). How many more you learn after this is up to you. Good writing requires varying the expressions you use, rather than using the same ones all the time. On the other hand, you will only state the aim once in a report, so one phrase may be enough for life!


report language

For another look at the same content, check out the video on YouTube (also available on Youku ).

The title of your report will depend very much on the subject matter, and will be very individual. Nonetheless, there are some useful verbs and phrases which can be used in titles, especially for science reports. These include:

  • Investigating X
  • Calculating X
  • Measuring X
  • Demonstrating X
  • Analysing X
  • Determining X
  • An Investigation into X
  • A Demonstration of X
  • An Analysis of X

There is no special language for writing abstracts or contents pages , which are the other components of the prilimaries of a report.

You may need to talk about something in general in the background section of your introduction. The most common way is to use [No article] + [plural]. For example:

  • Mobile phones have become very popular in China in recent years.

It is also possible to use [The] + [singular]. For example:

  • The mobile phone has become very popular in China in recent years.

The background section of your introduction is likely to require in-text citations. Some structures for citations are given below. For more, see the references and citations section.

You may need to give definitions and classify in this section. See the relevant pages on the website for language for definitions and classification.

If you want to refer to theories or principles, you can use the following structures.

The following structures can be used for presenting equations.

The following phrases can be used for stating what something stands for or represents.

  • X stands for/represents/denotes/symbolizes Y
  • Y is represented by X
  • Y is denoted by X
  • Y is symbolized by X
  • ...where X is/stands for/denotes/represents Y

This part of the report explains why you are writing the report. The tense you use will depend on whether the subject of the sentence is the report (which still exists) or the experiment (which has finished). If you are referring to the report, you should use present tense . If you are referring to the experiment, which has finished, you should use past tense .

Examples of aims, using the above structures, are given below.

  • The aim of this experiment was to measure the value of gravity in Guangzhou by using a simple pendulum.
  • The aim of this report is to investigate whether class size has a significant effect on student achievement.

The Method section outlines how you gathered information. Because academic language does not usually use 'I' or 'we', this section will often contain passive structures, usually the past passive (because the experiment or survey is finished). It can be useful to use transition signals to show sequence or process, such as the ones below.

  • First(ly)/Initially/At first/At the beginning/To begin with...
  • Second(ly)/Then/Next/Subsequently/After that...
  • Finally/At the end/Lastly...
  • After doing X, Y was done.
  • After X was done, Y was done.
  • Before/prior to doing X, Y was done.
  • Before X was done, Y was done.
  • Prior to X being done, Y was done.

For example:

  • After measuring the length of the string, the bob was moved several degrees.

Science reports will usually include apparatus for conducting the experiment. The following phrases can be used for describing the apparatus.

If you use tables, charts, etc., the following language can be used to refer to these. Note that this language is description, i.e. it does not analyse or draw conclusions.

The following language can be used for referring to graphs etc. in the Discussion section. Unlike similar phrases used for the Findings section , which merely describe, this language discusses, i.e. it says what the information means.

The following phrases can be used for science reports when comparing the results to those expected.

The following phrases can be used when discussing how errors may have affected the results.

There is not much language for conclusions, though conclusion signals such as 'In conclusion' are useful. For science reports, the following phrases can be used to indicate the degree of accuracy.


Recommendations can use the following modal verb constructions

Examples, using the above structures, are given below.

  • Based on the conclusions above, it is recommended that the company consider paying more attention to above-the-line promotion in order to attract new customers.
  • Further research should be carried out to find out if these opinions are true in other market segments.

If you are writing a lab report, the following conditional structures can be used to indicate how the experiment could have been improved.

There is no language for reference sections, but you can refer to the section on reference sections for more information on these.

There is no language for appendices, though the following may be used in the main body to refer to the appendices.

  • A complete copy of X is shown in Appendix 1.
  • For more detail, refer to Appendix 1, which shows...
  • See Appendix 1 for more information.

Academic Writing Genres


Like the website? Try the books. Enter your email to receive a free sample from Academic Writing Genres .

There is a downloadable checklist for reports ( structure and language) in the writing resources section.

Next section

Read more about writing essays in the next section.

Previous section

Read the previous article about report structure .


Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 10 April 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.


Pendidikan gerbang masa depan

language features of report writing

Definition, Structure and Language Feature of REPORT TEXT

Repor t Text

A report text is a type of the text that announce the result of an investigation or announce something. The information given in a report text is very general information. The social function or purpose of report text is to describe the way things are in general, with reference to a range of natural, man made, and social phenomena in our environtment.

The Sturcture of the text:

  • General classification, it tells what the phenomenon under discussion is.
  • Description, it tells what the phenomenon under discussion is in terms of various topic/theme, such as its parts, qualities, habits or behaviours, its diet, and so on.

The language features report text are:

  • General Nouns (E.g. ‘Reptiles in Komodo Dragon Island’, ‘Cheetahs in Africa’, etc.)
  • Relating Verbs (used to describe characteristics. E.g. ‘reptiles are scaly animal’, etc.)
  • Action Verbs (used to describe behaviours. E.g. ‘lizard cannot fly’, etc.)
  • Present Tense (used to state something in general. E.g. ‘Komodo Dragon is usually weigh more than 160 kg’, etc.)
  • Technical Terms (E.g. ‘Water contains oxygen and hydrogen’, etc.)
  • Paragraph with topic sentence (Used to arrange some information).

Penguins are birds that spend most of their lives in the ocean. They come on land to build nets and raise their young. Penguins cannot fly. They stand upright on land and walk with waddle because they have short legs and tall, bullet-shaped bodies. (General classification [topic: physical description])

Penguins once flew, but millions of years ago, they stopped flying and began to spend most of the time in the water. Overtime, their wings started to take the shape of flippers. This helped make beautiful penguins fast and graceful swimmers. (Description [topic:penguins’ history])

Penguins are covered with short, thick feathers. Their back, head, and wing feathers are black or bluishgray, but their undersides are white. (Description [topic: Penguins’ fathers]).

Penguins eat seafood such as fish, crabs, and shrimp. All penguins in the wild live in the cold waters south of the equator. (Description [topic: Penguins’ diet and habitat])

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