Your Report will do the following:

1. Define the topic

2. Present is partitions/topics/elements

3. Present the pros/cons or advantages/disadvantages or benefits or drawbacks of the topic (and/or its elements)

4. neutrally present 1 – 3. Just the facts without opinion or persuasion.

5. End the report with a section that recommends a course of action for the audience. This section explains the reasoning used to make the recommendation.

Organize your report according to steps 1 – 5.


Title Page

It should include a visual that invites the reader to continue reading and reflects the report’s content. Be sure to place underneath the visual – in smaller print – the source of the visual. Sometimes you might be the source of the visual – a photograph you have taken, for example. If so, then cite yourself and include that in your Work Cited.

Your text title should reflect the report’s content.

Include your name, major, and year of graduation. (I.E., Alice Kinder, English, 2022)

Balance the text and visuals of the title page to avoid significant gaps in white space.

Letter of Transmittal (or memo) follows the title page, tells the readers what they are about to read, and provides any explanatory detail necessary to understand the report thoroughly.

You will write a memo of transmittal to me that does the following:

  1. Presents your topic and its parameters in a couple of sentences. For example, this report explains how solar panels work and gives the pros and cons of installing them for private home use.
  2. Describes your method of conveying your report to your audience. For example, this report will be the take-home information for homeowners after we present this information to them in a one-hour face-to-face class hosted by Christiansburg Recreation Center.
  3. If you use a documentation style other than MLA, please tell me what style you are using and provide a web address.
  4. Uses a standard close that thanks to the reader for their time and gives your contact information if the reader has questions.

Note that the examples I used can be modified to suit the context of your report.

Think about the needs of your audience and the best way to convey your information.

Table of Contents

Microsoft has templates you can use for the actual formatting of this. Keep in mind the following:

  • Any mistakes on the TOC will most likely cause the reader to stop reading or at least question your credibility. You cannot make any mistakes on this page. Readers are irritated to see a heading that interests them, and they turn to page 5, but that heading is NOT what is on page 5.
  • The headings (and subheadings you use in the TOC) will be used in your report.
  • Use subheadings if a heading spreads over two pages.
  • Headings should reflect section content and should be reader-friendly.
  • Write headings that are parallel.

For example the following two headings are not parallel:

  • Explanation of How Solar Panels Work
  • Are Solar Panels Right for Your Home?

Revised to be parallel, these headings would be:

  • How Do Solar Panels Work?
  • Are Solar Panels Right for Your Home?

Using parallel headings is reader-friendly – the reader’s brain is guided smoothly and uses less time to process information. Note also that the headers are addressed directly to the reader, and the second one even uses the word “you.”

List of Illustrations:

Include a list of illustrations on the TOC if space allows

Use a separate page if the list of illustrations has more than five entries.

Use page 351 of our text as a model for writing a List of Illustrations. (Page number refers to the 3rd edition of our text)


Report Text: Tools to Use

Begin your report on the next page. Length is something students always ask about, and our shared concern should be that the primary measurement is quality, not quantity. Think about the information the reader needs to know to be educated in the basics of your report.

Remember that one of the purposes of this assignment is to take a technical topic and use plain language to present it to a non-expert. Then, you will offer suggestions concerning the use or future of this topic. Accomplishing this goal will be assisted by using tools presented in Chapter 14.

A personal aside: For example, I have little spatial sense. A few years ago, when our oldest child was completing her residency in Florida, she called home to tell us she had just seen an alligator about 12 feet long in her neighbor’s backyard. I didn’t know what 12 feet meant until my husband said it was the length of our kitchen. Oh my! That scared me that our child had a critter that big lurking nearby.

If you tell me something is 50 yards long, I don’ know what it means. If you tell me it is half the length of a football field, I have a better idea of what length you are talking about.

Comparisons can make things meaningful to your reader. What familiar or universal things can you assume that your reader would know? Use those to help your readers understand the concept, the process, or the item you are explaining.

For example a species becoming extinct is like pulling a block from a Jenga tower. Each block pulled from the building endangers the tower just like each extinct species endangers the others.

Your report should take advantage of these tools to help your reader understand your topic. Thus, I want you to use some of the devices in Chapter 14

Use both of the following in your report:

  • A sentence definition
  • An extended definition

*****To call my attention to a sentence or extended definition, please set them off in your text by using bold type. At the end of the sentence, then identify it. For example: At its most basic. Compost is decayed organic matter used as plant fertilizer (sentence definition).

Use one of the following in your report:

  • A partition
  • Principles of operation

***** To call my attention to a partition or principles of operation, identify it by name in bold (parenthesis) at its end.

Use each of the following in your report at least once:

  • A comparison/contrast
  • An analogy
  • Negation

*****To call my attention to these, please identify them by name in bold (parenthesis) at the end of the sentence/paragraph.

Some reminders:

  • Remember that smaller paragraphs are easier to read than big blocks of print.
  • Single spaced paragraphs and double space between them
  • Use a conventional, conservative type – Times, Calibri, Arial, etc.
  • Use 12-point font – because my eyesight is aging along with the rest of me.
  • Number each page in a consistent matter.
  • Avoid splitting a sentence into two pages.
  • Avoid splitting a table into two pages.
  • Try to keep a visual and the text that references it on the same page


You should use at least one visual per page. Please make sure they are large enough so that readers can easily read text or numbers within the visual. Visuals reinforce/illustrate points; they do not substitute for your topics but make your points more meaningful to your readers.

At least three of your visuals should be ones that you create, and I leave it to your discretion to create visuals that best illustrate your point—review Chapter 8 as necessary. Remember to cite yourselves as authors of these (in text and bibliography).

Be consistent with colors, borders, shading, and other visual elements.

Visuals should be integrated into your text. This means that you should do the following:

  1. Reference the visual in the text that precedes it. For example, as you can see in Figure 1, the New River Valley ‘s average number of sunny days make it suitable for solar panel use. (I don’t know this – I just made it up.)
  2. Label the visual – i.e. Figure 1. Then refer to it as Figure 1 in the text and under, over, or beside the visual itself.
  3. Use a caption that identifies what the visual is.
  4. Present the source of the visual in smaller print underneath it. If it is a long name, you can abbreviate it.



This is a list of terms that you do not define within the body of your report. If it is a short list, consider placing it after the Table of Contents page.


This will vary according to topic. Normally, Appendices contain material that is not strictly essential for the report but it does provide for a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. And, it is usually too bulky for the body of the report. Material usually included might includes such things as maps, raw data, government publications, large scientific diagrams, etc.

In the body of your report, when you refer to an item in the Appendix, tell your reader that – For more information on this subject, please refer to Item A in the Appendix.

The Purdue OWL has some useful information on this; to an external site.


I use MLA – which uses in text citations. You may use the documentation style guide of your discipline if it is different from MLA. You would need to tell me this in the Memo of Transmittal and provide a website address for this documentation so that I may consult it if I have questions.

Works Cited/Bibliography

Works Cited refers to sources that presented you with specific information that you used in your report – either in paraphrase or in direct quotes. Students always ask: How many sources should we use? My standard response is that relying on just one or two sources can make your report slanted or even biased. Using a number of sources can increase your readers’ confidence in the credibility of your report. Use a minimum of four sources. Most of you will find that you will use more than four sources.

Do annotate these sources. Please see this for more information on annotating a bibliography. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

A Bibliography refers to sources that you may have consulted and that your reader might find useful for further study. These sources do not have to be annotated. These sources are a courtesy to the readers so that they have a starting place to further research the topic you have presented in the Report. (This will follow your Works Cited page).