When you write about yourself, your purpose is to help readers share your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. In writing research report, however, your main purpose is to present information, although your teacher may ask you to say what you think or feel about the subject.
Much of the information in a research report comes from sources such as books, magazines, and interviews. One important skill in writing a research report is knowing how to get and record such information. On this page you will learn how to summarize, how to use outside sources, and how to write a research report.
Writing a Summary
Suppose you are telling a friend of an interesting television show about a young woman who was paralyzed in a skiing accident. The bell is about to ring, and you do not have much time, so you leave out unimportant details. You tell only about the main events - how the accident happened and how the courageous young woman overcame her disability. What you give your friend is a summary of the story.
A summary is a concise retelling or rewriting of the main ideas in a book, article, story, or speech. It answers the six basic questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Because a summary gives only the most important ideas from the original source, it is no more than one-fourth to one-third the length of the original.
Selecting a Topic for a Research Report
One way to find a topic for a research report for school is to think about your own interests and experiences. Although a research report uses information outside your experience, you can use personal experience as a starting point.
For example, if you want to write about sports, you might write a research report on how football (or some other sport) began. However, you would not write about how you threw a winning pass. Or suppose you are a mystery fan. Your favorite mystery show on television would not be an appropriate topic for a research report, but a famous Scotland Yard murder case would be appropriate.
In selecting a topic, remember that you need to use outside sources for information, so before you make a decision, check to be sure you can find the sources you will need. For instance, you may be interested in writing a report on the video disk, but your library may not have that information.
Remember, too, that a topic is a limited subject that can be discussed with specific details in a short paper. Continents is a broad subject, not a topic for a short paper. However, Atlantis, the Lost Continent is a topic because it focuses on the story of Atlantis, a continent that some people say once existed. You could develop this topic with specific details from questions such as these:
Where did Atlantis exist?
When did Atlantis exist?
Why did Atlantis vanish?
Why do some people say this continent never existed?