Student Guide to Report Writing

Relative importance of the report Environmental science involves more than doing lots of experimental work, field work or library research. You must be able to communicate your results and ideas to other people. If you cannot communicate the results of your work to others, there is little point in starting the work in the first place!

Much of your practical work will be assessed from your written reports, so it is a good idea to learn the basic approach to report writing now, rather than at some time in the future, after you have got your marked reports back, for this reason! In Environmental Science, the written work can take the form of any of the following: laboratory report, essay, project, literature review and field work report. In this document we intend to set general guidelines applicable to any of these forms of your submissions.

Some units may have particular requirements stated in the Study Guide, but in general you should use this document as a guide to your written submissions in Environmental Science. Any of the above mentioned forms of written submission will be referred to in this document as a report. By observing the correct approach to report writing, you help yourself in a number of ways. By getting the basic format, results and reference style correct, you avoid losing ‘easy’ marks from the outset.

You can then focus on the ‘science’ of what it is you’re looking at and concentrate on developing your ideas. It goes without saying that the report writing process is just as important when you are a student as it is when you do environmental work professionally. So budget enough time to write a decent report. A report concocted the night before it is due usually looks that way. When to plan the report It is a good idea to plan out your report as soon as your experiment is underway.

Doing this will help you see the relative importance of various aspects of your work, and you may even realise the necessity of collecting a particular piece of information during your experiment that you might otherwise have missed. Always write up sections of your work as you go along. Experience has shown many that sitting down and trying to write up a year’s worth of information can be daunting. The structure of your report Most experiments and reports can be written up using the format described below.

Some work however is more descriptive or observational and may not fit into this scheme, so do not feel obliged to force your project into this format. It is a good idea though to get used to this system as it is the preferred format of most, if not all, scientific journals and government reports; and more importantly the preferred system of most of your assessors. The conventional format is as follows.