Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University


A report can be either submitted as a long or a short report. Irrespective of being a long or a short report, they intend to present comprehensive information on a topic.

A report generally aims to inform but it can also aim to persuade. Generally, reports should be written clearly and succinctly, with evidence to support.  They are also written formally and are based on research to support a conclusion.

A report can be delivered in the following ways during the COVID-19 situation as an alternative to a paper-based final examination:

  1. Non-time limited final assessment—often known as a ‘take-home’, the task is not performed under ‘exam-like’ time constraints and is provided to students at least several days before the due date. A common platform for submission of such a task is EASTS.
  2. Time limited, non-invigilated online exam—the task is undertaken online under ‘exam-like’ time constraints (typically 1-3 hours) but is open book, allowing students to refer to any material they can access.

Pros and cons of reports as an assessment task

Some advantages:

  • Report writing can help students develop and demonstrate attributes that employers value.
  • Assessment in the form of report can be considered as the end product of useful learning activities such as research, practical work, analysis and comparison of data or information etc.
  • Assessment can also be extended to provide an opportunity to ‘speak to’ a report in a presentation or seminar or in the current situation, a video or synchronous online presentation.
  • Report writing can be used as formative assessment where students are encouraged to incorporate the feedback received in future assessment eg. They can practice report writing in class or as an out of class task, be given feedback and then refine as a final assessment
  • Reports can be written individually or as part of a group project.
  • Online (‘Google Doc’) reports can be considered as alternative assessment type that encourages group work.
  • The structure of a report can provide scaffolding for students, particularly those who find writing difficult.

Some limitations:

  • Reports can have a high risk of academic misconduct if completed in a group.
  • Report writing can be time consuming, given the need for refinement and editing.
  • Requires some consideration of appropriate formats, and without direction, this can be time consuming.
  • Report writing is not appropriate to all disciplines.
  • Requires increased marking time, particularly in providing quality feedback to individual students.
  • Evidence and data need to be checked for verification.

When to use a report

A report is type of communication that is used in many professions and disciplines. For example, there are business reports, laboratory reports, legal reports, technical design reports.

A report is a useful task when students are required to research, describe, problem solve, interpret, analyse, evaluate, communicate, synthesize and integrate.

Some considerations when developing a report as an assessment task

  • Provide clear guidelines on the format of the report, submission method and the due date.
  • Ensure that the task is clearly aligned with content and learning outcomes.
  • The marking rubric should be made explicit to the students.
  • When a report is submitted based on group work, students should be made aware of the unintentional academic misconduct that can occur; students should have access to institutional Academic Integrity policies that help them differentiate between collaboration and collusion.  It is also useful to have a mechanism for identifying individual contributions to a group report.
  • A report should have an introduction, a body and a conclusion and be formal in its writing style.
  • It’s important to show example of reports, so students are familiar with expectations of format, length, inclusions etc.
  • Emphasize the importance of editing and proofreading as part of professional report writing practice.
  • A template may be useful in providing a clear outline of the scope of the report to be written.
  • Sub-headings may be used and provide a structure: consider outlining these subheadings to assist with structure.
  • A report can use visual and graphics: provide examples and make any requirements explicit.
  • Emphasize the importance of providing recommendations or conclusions.
  • Stipulate the audience for the report and the purpose and function of the report so students know how to direct their efforts.
  • Consider the importance of research- direct students to appropriate references or provide a bank of resources for them to draw from.
  • In an examination situation, resources may be provided, with students required to work from those resources.

Additional resources

The Division of Student Services at Charles Sturt Division of Student services provides a report writing checklist for students.

Choosing and designing assessment tasks - University of Tasmania

Writing a report - University of Canberra

Report writing - Deakin University

Developing appropriate assessment tasks - Curtin University