IT report: structure

This tutorial focuses on the common elements of IT reports. While there are several varieties of reports to suit specific purposes, most reports have a similar structure. The major components are:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion.

You need to develop the skills to produce a clear, concise, and professionally presented report to succeed both at university and in your future career. At university, reports are read by lecturers and tutors to assess your mastery of the subjects and your ability to apply your knowledge to a practical task. In the workplace reports will be read by managers, clients and other stakeholders.

While reports vary in the type of information they present (for example, original research, the results of an investigative study or the solution to a design problem), all share similar features and are based on a similar structure.

Some key features of reports include:

  • Aims: for quick and easy communication of information
  • Design: for selective reading
  • Structure: sections with numbered headings and subheadings
  • Illustrations: figures and diagrams to convey data
  • Language: formal and objective.

Most reports have a similar structure:

We will use authentic student report samples to illustrate each section.

Title page

A title page is presented on a separate page and should include:

  • subject name and code
  • assignment number
  • title of the report
  • due date
  • student’s name and ID#
  • tutor’s name
  • course name and number
  • department and university
  • date of submission.

The title of the report should indicate exactly what the report is about. The reader should know not only the general topic, but also the aspects of the topic contained in the report. Therefore, a report title needs to be specific to the topic. For example, “Reasons for IT to lose its grip on large data” is a better report title than “Large data in IT”, if the report is focused on why IT loses its grip on large data.

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Summary

Some key points about a Summary:

  • A Summary, sometimes called an Executive Summary or an Abstract, is usually 100-200 words long for a short report or a page long for a longer report.
  • It provides a brief overview of the report by stating the purpose, defining the topic, summarising the main sections of the report, and stating the conclusion or outcomes.
  • Most people don’t write an Abstract until they finish writing the report.
  • It is NOT an introduction to the topic.
  • Remember that a Summary needs to be concise. A busy manager who might not have time to read the full report should be able to get the gist of the whole report by reading the Summary.

    To be included in a Summary:
  • topic of the report
  • outline of the approach to the task if applicable
  • most important findings of research or key aspects of design
  • main outcomes or conclusions.
    NOT to be included in a Summary:
  • general background information
  • in-text citations
  • reference to later diagrams or references.
  • A sample of a report Summary and tutor’s feedback is provided here. Note that this is NOT a perfect example. The sample Summary is from a report entitled "Privacy issues in IT".


Sample of a report Summary

This report is an overview of a peer reviewed journal "The effect of online privacy policy on consumer privacy concern and trust" by Kuang Wen Wu, Shaio Yan Huang, David C. Yen, and Irina Popova. The report summarises and analyses these resources.


View the video for feedback

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Table of Contents

A table of Contents lists the sections of the report, providing readers with an overview of how the report is organised. Your choice of headings and subheadings communicates your interpretation of the topics to the reader. It is presented on a separate page and should include:

  • section headings
  • the number of the first page of each section.

The Contents page sets out the sections and subsections of the report and their corresponding page numbers. It should clearly show the structural relationship between these sections and subsections. A reader looking for specific information should be able to locate the appropriate section easily from the table of contents. It is worth noting that few reports are written to be read from start to finish. This why clear structure, headings and subheadings are so important.

Example:

table of contents


There are conventions for section and page numbering:

  • Number the sections by the decimal point numbering system.
  • Number all the preliminary pages in lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, ...).
  • Preliminary pages are any which come before the introduction, including the summary and, where applicable, acknowledgements.
  • Section and subsection numbering should not exceed two decimal points.
  • You don't have to place the number i on the title page. Just count it and put ii on the second page of your report.
  • Number all the remaining pages of your report with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, ...). Thus the report proper begins on page 1 with your Introduction, which is usually Section 1.
  • Provide a title in your table of contents to describe the contents of each appendix (Note: one appendix, two or more appendices). Don't just call them Appendix 1 or Appendix 2.

Activity

Two table of contents samples

Table A Table B

Image of table of contents sample A.

Table of Contents sample B

View video for feedback

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Introduction

An Introduction section provides the background information needed for the rest of your report to be understood. It is usually around ten percent of the total report length. The Introduction includes:

  • the background to the topic of your report to set your work in its broad context
  • a clear statement of the purpose of the report, usually to present the results of your research, investigation or design
  • a clear statement of the aims of the project
  • technical background necessary to understand the report; e.g. theory or assumptions
  • a brief outline of the structure of the report.

Look at the sample Introduction below. Note that this is not a perfect example. The sample Introduction is from a report entitled "Keeping employees education level updated with the changing world”. Which aspects of an ideal Introduction do you find missing?

Sample of an Introduction

The topic we chose for our project is ‘Keeping employees education level updated with the changing world’. We chose this topic because as we know that the world is changing so fast, especially the world of information technology which is changing so rapidly that it is hard to focus on a single thing. From different gadgets to a small piece of software everything is changing in a small span of time. Things which are new now will become obsolete in two years. So it is very important for Information Technology professionals to keep themselves updated with the changing needs because they are the people who are making these changes possible. If they do not keep themselves up to date with the changing needs they will be easily replaced by other new professionals who know the current trends. The peer reviewed journal article that I choose to explore is ‘Keeping up-to-date with information technology: Testing a model of technological knowledge renewal effectiveness for IT professionals’ by Guang Rong and Varun Grover.

View the video for feedback

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Body of the report

This is the main part of your report, where you present your work. There are some points about the body of a report which are worth consideration:

  • It should consist of information which is supported by examples and evidence obtained from your research.
  • The information should be presented under appropriate headings and subheadings and should be ordered in a logical manner to facilitate the reader’s understanding.

In principle, the body of the report:

  • presents the information from your research, both real world and theoretical, or your design
  • organises information logically under appropriate headings
  • conveys information in the most effective way for communication:
    • Uses figures and tables.
    • Can use bulleted or numbered lists, but the bulk should be paragraphs made up of full sentences.
    • Can use formatting to break up large slabs of text.

You will need to choose concise but informative headings and subheadings so that the reader knows exactly what type of information to expect in each section. These headings need to be:

There are conventions for using figures and tables in a report:

Conclusion

The Conclusion section provides an effective ending to your report; thus it needs to be written in a concise manner. The content should relate directly to the aims of the project as stated in the Introduction, and sum up the essential features of your work.

In brief, the Conclusion section needs to:

  • summarise the main ideas that have been established in the body of the report
  • recap key findings
  • finish the narrative of the report
  • state to what extent you have achieved your aims
  • give a brief summary of the key findings or information in your report
  • highlight the major outcomes of your investigation and their significance.

Therefore, the Conclusion section must not:

  • include any new information or ideas
  • simply indicate whether you have achieved your aims.


The following example is the Conclusion of an article review report.

"There has been rapid development and changes in information technology platform, so the IT professionals must keep themselves updated with the changes so that they can prosper in their career. Many other researches also shows that knowledge renewal has become critical issue for the professionals as well as the businesses. The resource chosen is not very current but they still do justice to the topic by providing important and relevant information about the issue, which is an important aspect for everybody who are related to this industry."

Activity

View video for feedback

Reference list

Citing and referencing

You need to reference all source materials referred to in the report using the APA 6th referencing style as required by FIT. The two parts to referencing are:

  • citations in the text of the report
  • references in the reference list.

A citation shows that information comes from another source. The reference list gives the details of these sources. You need to use in-text citations and provide details in the references section when:

  • you incorporate information from other sources, e.g.:
    • factual material
    • graphs and tables of data
    • pictures and diagrams
  • you quote word-for-word from another work (when you do this the page number must be given in the in-text citation).

Monash FIT students please make sure you check the FIT Style Guide to ensure your citing and referencing are accurate. You will always be assessed on how well you do this.

Activity

Which of these resources is incorrectly formatted to APA 6th style?

Examples of correct and incorrect references

View the video for feedback and to view the completed and correct reference list

View video for feedback

Appendices

An appendix (appendices in the plural) consists of any supporting evidence which is not possible to include in the body of the report, for example raw data, detailed drawings, coding or calculations. The conventions for appendices are as follows:

  • each appendix must be given a number (or letter) and title;
  • each appendix must be referred to by number (or letter) at the relevant point in the text.

Example:

In text:

The data obtained on perception of social media are summarised below. The detailed data are given in Appendix 1.

Title of the appendix on the actual appendix page:

Appendix 1. Detailed data obtained on perception of social media.

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