Tips for Students: Report Writing

A primer for writing simple reports.

21 February 2021

1 Important Shortcuts (Windows)!

CTRL+B for Bold

CTRL+U for Underlined

CTRL+I for Italic

CTRL+Z for Undo

CTRL+Y for Redo

CTRL+C for Copy

CTRL+X for Cut

CTRL+V for Paste

CTRL+SHIFT+V for Paste Without Formatting

(This shortcut is maybe my most used keybinding. It is useful when borrowing text from online sources because it will erase the formatting and any hyperlinks too.)

CTRL+F for Find

CTRL+W to Close a Window

CTRL+A to Select all

CTRL+RETURN insert a Page Break

1.1 Navigating in the document can be done with just the keyboard as well.

Hold SHIFT and use the arrow keys to select text. Hold SHIFT+CTRL and you can select word-by-word. Hold CTRL and use the arrow keys to move around in the paragraph; CTRL+UP, for example, will take you to the start of the line. Of course, that would mean holding CTRL+SHIFT and using the UP and DOWN keys will let you select text line-by-line.

Now you are almost ready to type something. Just a few minor things to go over first.

2 Outline

You cannot write something like an internship report without an outline. You can begin the outline as soon as you begin your internship. It will help you keep track of important details, avoid repetition, and help with flow.

Buy a cheap paper journal that fits in your pocket so you can jot ideas on the go without the distraction of your phone.

3 Prepare Your Document Before You Start Typing

Open your favourite Word Processor. Do not just start typing. Do not worry about fonts, formatting, footers or any of that stuff yet. We are not ready. Several moments of patience will save you some time in the end. You are going to do three things before you start typing:

  1. Set up the page. That means set the margins if you need to.

margins
Margins settings

  1. Set up the page numbers, and make sure that the first page does not have a number on it. (This is in the basic options for footers and page numbering).

    • additionally, the preliminary pages should use Roman numerals, the body Arabic numbering
  2. Set the header to a small logo of the school and the title of your report. Set the footer to the page number (see above for more on page numbers).

  3. Set the language for the document. This is important for spell-checking later.

Language settings

  1. Install LanguageTool (we will come back to this later).

Now your Word Processor is ready to go. It knows the language. We do not care about the fonts or the overall appearance yet.

Go ahead and type what you need to type. Remember, no formatting required just yet.

4 What to Write

Here is a list of suggestions for topics to include in your report:

5 Set Your Styles

Styles are your Headings, Subtitles, Normal Text and Titles for your document. Why would you bother with styles? Well, for starters, it saves you loads of time. For instance, let’s say you want to change the font or size of all of your headings: if you use styles you can do that in one click. Or, what if you want to insert a table of contents in one click? Styles help you do that do.

Styles
Styles settings

(if you are unclear how to use styles, hit up YouTube for some tutorials)

Once you have typed everything that you need to type you can go about choosing fonts and setting up your Title, Subtitle, Headings, and Subheadings.

6 What NOT to do

7 Review and Review Again

Hooray! You have finished a draught of your internship report. Congratulations are in order. Now, save that file, turn off your computer, and go out for a little bit. You need a clear head for reviewing.

7.1 Use the Tools

The first thing you want to do is run your text through LanguageTool (do not use their website, download and install the standalone app or use Google Docs). Make sure you tell LanguageTool which version of English you are using (British, American, etc.) and launch the tool. LanguageTool will highlight possible spelling mistakes as well as grammar, style, and formatting errors (like spacing or punctuation mistakes).

After LanguageTool, you will want to use something like Grammarly’s Plagiarism Checker. Using the free version will not tell you where the mistakes are, but it will tell you how many mistakes and if plagiarism is detected.

UPDATE 27/07/2021: Thanks to Sarah for suggesting this list of other plagiarism checking websites — LINK

7.2 Your Review

When you review a large document that you wrote yourself, you should start at the end. Print your document (yes, bad for trees) and start reviewing paragraph by paragraph starting at the end. Here are things you are looking for:

7.3 3rd Party Review

Have somebody read over your report. Tell them to check for mistakes but also to see if it all makes sense. Do not be afraid of being judged.

8 External Tools and Websites

Here are some useful (and free) tools:

Deepl Translator

Slightly better than Google Translate

https://www.deepl.com/translator

WordReference

Excellent online Dictionary

http://www.wordreference.com/

GrandDictionnare

For those complicated terms

http://www.granddictionnaire.com/

LanguageTool

Style and Grammar Checker (there is a free stand-alone version for Windows and Mac along with versions for Google Docs and LibreOffice)

https://www.languagetool.org/

Grammarly’s Plagiarism Checker

Will check your document for mistake and plagiarism (the free version will not tell you where they are, but it helps nonetheless)

https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker

UPDATE 27/07/2021: Thanks to Sarah for suggesting this list of other plagiarism checking websites — LINK

9 Finalise Your Document

Before exporting your document to PDF, double-check everything. We tend to forget the easy things, like:

Save your document with a title. Not just “report.docx” and export it to PDF.

Open the PDF file on your computer and your phone to make sure things look the way you want. Pictures and page breaks do not always work.