Identification and discussion of report-writing strengths and weaknesses in an example report
The purpose of this report is to identify and discuss report-writing strengths and weaknesses in an example report. At this level of study, students are typically still learning how to develop reports and other forms of academic writing; this report aims to practice skills relating to the recognition of important report-writing factors and how they should be written in order to ensure meaning is clear. In order to achieve this, the report uses an example report alongside a range of authoritative source information from books and journals provided via the module reading list. The report concludes that the main weaknesses visible in the example report are formal punctuation, main body paragraph structuring, and use of personal pronouns, while academic caution, and report structuring are the main strengths that can be identified. The report recommends: further training be provided regarding academic formality; example main body paragraph templates be provided for students; a list be created of acceptable / unacceptable common academic words, including personal pronouns; summative feedback be provided to further encourage use of academic caution; and, that the example report be added to a style guide to demonstrate appropriate report structuring.
Several report-writing strengths and weaknesses can be identified in the example report. This report aims to help students understand the theory of report-writing, and how this can be demonstrated in practice, both of which are vital for turning new students into effective academic writers. The start of a new course of study is the ideal time to revise these skills, and the understanding required to complete this task will help build skills that can be used again in future academic and professional settings. With these skills in place, students can ensure that their academic work is more clear, relevant and well-structured, which aids the process of effectively communicating ideas. The following strengths and weaknesses will be discussed within this report: formal punctuation, main body paragraph structuring, use of personal pronouns, academic caution, and report structuring.
Use of formal punctuation is one report-writing weakness that can be identified in the example report. According to Bovee and Thill (2021): “Formal, academic writing should avoid abbreviations; this includes contractions, which involve combining two words together and replacing the missing letters with an apostrophe”. Several examples of contractions are visible within the example report, including in the following sentence: “Therapy dogs can’t be used in higher education because they’re often messy, and universities don’t have the ability to monitor them closely” (Appendix 1). This means that the example report has not used formal punctuation consistently throughout. Academic writing should avoid use of contractions as this comes across as informal, and can make meaning harder to establish in some instances. Therefore, words should be written out in full, rather than abbreviated. As such, use of formal punctuation is one weakness that can be identified in the example report.
Another report-writing weakness that can be identified in the example report is main body paragraph structuring. Jones (2021) stated that main body paragraphs should start by making a clear point (using a topic sentence), then follow this up with evidence. The example report shows this was not always the case, including in the following passage: “Therapy dogs should be used in higher education to help reduce stress and anxiety. They can do this by helping students forget about their workload” (Appendix 2). This indicates that the writer has progressed from a topic sentence to explanation, missing out evidence and interpretation. It is vital to include evidence relatively early within main body paragraphs in order to add weight to arguments. Adopting this approach also allows for enough scope to effectively interpret and explain this evidence before concluding, whereas introducing evidence late prevents this process from being followed to its logical conclusion. With this in mind, main body paragraph structuring is another report-writing weakness that can be identified in the example report.
The last report-writing weakness that can be identified in the example report is use of personal pronouns that indicate personal opinion. Archer (2022) explained that students should avoid use of personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ within academic work, as this form of work should be based primarily on logic and evidence. Personal pronouns can be seen in several places within the example report, including within the following sentence: “Therapy dogs could be very useful for students, and I think it is important that universities look into introducing these soon” (Appendix 3). This demonstrates that the writer has used personal pronouns and strongly suggested personal opinion. Academic work typically carries weight because it makes logical sense and has been tested in a scientific way. Opinions are something that everyone has, but these do not have to be informed by experience or close study. Therefore, the standard of proof is higher than this in academic writing. As such, use of personal pronouns is the last report-writing weakness that can be identified in the example report.
The first report-writing strength that can be identified in the example report is appropriate use of academic caution to ensure accuracy. Smith (2019) commented: “Academic caution can make academic writing more accurate by allowing for exceptions to the rule”. This is evident in many instances in the example report, such as in the following passage: “Therapy dogs may support improved mental health for a high proportion of students” (Appendix 4). In this instance, the writer has used the cautious ‘may’ in place of the definite ‘must’, and cautious ‘high proportion’ in place of definite ‘all’. Accuracy is highly important within academic writing, but is often something that is overlooked in less formal forms of speech and writing. As such, new students often adopt a tone that is too definite with regards to things that may be more nuanced, or potentially different in different contexts. Academic caution works like a buffer that can protect students’ arguments from being easily disproven based on wording, even if their position is generally correct. With academic caution clearly having been used in several instances, it can be identified as a report-writing strength in the example report.
The final report-writing strength that can be identified in the example report is report structuring. According to ARU London (2022), “All reports should contain these elements in the following order: title page, executive summary, contents page, introduction, findings section, conclusion, recommendations section, reference list, appendices”. This structure is clear throughout the report, but is most clearly demonstrated by the contents page, which displays all elements mentioned above in the correct order (Appendix 5). This means that the report has been written in line with academic best-practice, as well as with ARU London’s own requirements. Though reports can be written for a range of different purposes (e.g. informational vs analytical), and formatted in a variety of different ways, it is important for students to follow any models that may have been set out for specific circumstances, such as the ARU London preferred report-writing model. By following this model, students ensure that they cover all required elements of a report, and do so in an order that allows the argument to build logically. In conclusion, report structuring is another report-writing strength that can be identified in the example report.
Several report-writing strengths and weaknesses from the example report have been identified and discussed. These included report-writing factors such as: formal punctuation, main body paragraph structuring, use of personal pronouns, academic caution, and report structuring. Through the identification of these report-writing strengths and weaknesses, students should be better able to understand the key requirements of report-writing in terms of concepts like formality, language and structuring, and how each of these concepts could be demonstrated in practice. By developing this knowledge and practicing the related skills at this stage, students can make the most of both by applying them in future academic and professional environments. This should help to improve their ability to communicate and ensure their ideas can be transferred clearly and accurately. Future study could explore additional report-writing factors, or the same report-writing factors in relation to different types of report.
***ALL RECOMMENDATIONS MUST BE BASED ON IDEAS YOU HAVE DISCUSSED WITHIN THE MAIN BODY + SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE SAME ORDER.
Archer, D., 2022. Me, Myself and I: Why Student Opinions Don’t Matter. 1st ed. Swansea: Pearsonification.
ARU London, 2022. Structure your way to success. [Online]
Available at: https://lca.anglia.ac.uk/structure-your-way-to-success
[Accessed 20 February 2022].
Bovee & Thill, 2021. Business Communication Today. 15th ed. Harlow: Pearson.
Jones, H., 2021. Paragraph Structuring Through Time. 29th ed. Cairo: Blooming Fabulous.
Smith, S., 2019. Academic Caution Might Help Students Gradually Improve Academic Work. 112th ed. Pyongyang: MacMillmam.
***THIS IS AN EXAMPLE REFERENCE LIST; YOU MUST ONLY USE SOURCES FROM THE GIVEN READING LIST.
***COPY / PASTE THE EXAMPLES YOU HAVE USED IN FULL HERE. ALL EXAMPLES SHOULD COME FROM THE EXAMPLE REPORT.
“Therapy dogs should not be used in higher education as the environment is not set up to accommodate pets and other types of animals. James (2018) states that: “Universities are primarily places of learning, full of books, labs and other costly resources”. Therapy dogs can’t be used in higher education because they’re often messy, and universities don’t have the ability to monitor them closely.”
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