Mechanism of Report Writing

There are very definite and set rules which should be followed in the actual preparation of the research report or paper. Once the techniques are finally decided, they should be scrupulously adhered to, and no deviation permitted. The criteria of format should be decided as soon as the materials for the research paper have been assembled. The following points deserve mention so far as the mechanics of writing a report are concerned:

  1. Size and physical design

The manuscript should be written on unruled paper 81/2× 11in size. If it is to be written by hand, then black or blue-black ink should be used. A margin of at least one and one-half inches should be allowed at the left hand and of at least half an inch at the right hand of the paper. There should also be one-inch margins, top and bottom. The paper should be neat and legible. If the manuscript is to be typed, then all typing should be double-spaced on one side of the page only except for the insertion of the long quotations.

  1. Procedure

Various steps in writing the report should be strictly adhered (All such steps have already been explained earlier in this chapter).

  1. Layout

Keeping in view the objective and nature of the problem, the layout of the report should be thought of and decided and accordingly adopted (The layout of the research report and various types of reports have been described in this chapter earlier which should be taken as a guide for report-writing in case of a particular problem).

  1. Treatment of Quotations

Quotations should be placed in quotation marks and double spaced, forming an immediate part of the text. But if a quotation is of a considerable length (more than four or five type written lines) then it should be single-spaced and indented at least half an inch to the right of the normal text margin.

  1. The footnotes

Regarding footnotes one should keep in view the followings:

  • The footnotes serve two purposes viz., the identification of materials used in quotations in the report and the notice of materials not immediately necessary to the body of the research text but still of supplemental value. In other words, footnotes are meant for cross references, citation of authorities and sources, acknowledgement and elucidation or explanation of a point of view. It should always be kept in view that footnote is not an end nor a means of the display of scholarship. The modern tendency is to make the minimum use of footnotes for scholarship does not need to be displayed.
  • Footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page on which the reference or quotation which they identify or supplement ends. Footnotes are customarily separated from the textual material by a space of half an inch and a line about one and a half inches long.
  • Footnotes should be numbered consecutively, usually beginning with 1 in each chapter separately. The number should be put slightly above the line, say at the end of a quotation. At the foot of the page, again, the footnote number should be indented and typed a little above the line. Thus, consecutive numbers must be used to correlate the reference in the text with its corresponding note at the bottom of the page, except in case of statistical tables and other numerical material, where symbols such as the asterisk (*) or the like one may be used to prevent confusion.
  • Footnotes are always typed in single space though they are divided from one another by double space.
  1. Documentation Style

Regarding documentation, the first footnote reference to any given work should be complete in its documentation, giving all the essential facts about the edition used. Such documentary footnotes follow a general sequence. The common order may be described as under:

(i) Regarding the single-volume reference

  • Author’s name in normal order (and not beginning with the last name as in a bibliography) followed by a comma;
  • Title of work, underlined to indicate italics;
  • Place and date of publication;
  • Pagination references (The page number).


John Gassner, Masters of the Drama, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1954, p. 315.

(ii) Regarding multivolume reference

  • Author’s name in the normal order;
  • Title of work, underlined to indicate italics;
  • Place and date of publication;
  • Number of volume;
  • Pagination references (The page number).

(iii) Regarding works arranged alphabetically

For works arranged alphabetically such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, no pagination reference is usually needed. In such cases the order is illustrated as under:

Example 1

“Salamanca,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th Edition.

Example 2

“Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,” Dictionary of national biography.

But if there should be a detailed reference to a long encyclopedia article, volume and pagination reference may be found necessary.

(iv) Regarding periodicals reference

  • Name of the author in normal order;
  • Title of article, in quotation marks;
  • Name of periodical, underlined to indicate italics;
  • Volume number;
  • Date of issuance;

(v) Regarding anthologies and collections reference Quotations from anthologies or collections of literary works must be acknowledged not only by author, but also by the name of the collector.

  1. Regarding Second-Hand Quotations Reference

In such cases the documentation should be handled as follows:

Original author and title;

“quoted or cited in,”;

Second author and work.


J.F. Jones, Life in Ploynesia, p. 16, quoted in History of the Pacific Ocean area, by R.B. Abel, p. 191.

  1. Case of Multiple Authorship

If there are more than two authors or editors, then in the documentation the name of only the first given and the multiple authorship is indicated by “et al.” or “and others”. Subsequent references to the same work need not be so detailed as stated above. If the work is cited again without any other work intervening, it may be indicated as ibid, followed by a comma and the page number. A single page should be referred to as p., but more than one page be referred to as pp. If there are several pages referred to at a stretch, the practice is to use often the page number, for example, pp. 190ff, which means page number 190 and the following pages; but only for page 190 and the following page ‘190f’. Roman numerical is generally used to indicate the number of the volume of a book. Op. cit. (opera citato, in the work cited) or Loc. cit. (loco citato, in the place cited) are two of the very convenient abbreviations used in the footnotes. Op. cit. or Loc. cit. after the writer’s name would suggest that the reference is to work by the writer which has been cited in detail in an earlier footnote but intervened by some other references.

  1. Punctuation and abbreviations in footnotes

The first item after the number in the footnote is the author’s name, given in the normal signature order. This is followed by a comma. After the comma, the title of the book is given: the article (such as “A”, “An”, “The” etc.) is omitted and only the first word and proper nouns and adjectives are capitalized. The title is followed by a comma. Information concerning the edition is given next. This entry is followed by a comma. The place of publication is then stated; it may be mentioned in an abbreviated form, if the place happens to be a famous one such as Lond. for London, N.Y. for New York, N.D. for New Delhi and so on. This entry is followed by a comma. Then the name of the publisher is mentioned and this entry is closed by a comma. It is followed by the date of publication if the date is given on the title page. If the date appears in the copyright notice on the reverse side of the title page or elsewhere in the volume, the comma should be omitted and the date enclosed in square brackets [c 1978], [1978]. The entry is followed by a comma. Then follow the volume and page references and are separated by a comma if both are given. A period closes the complete documentary reference. But one should remember that the documentation regarding acknowledgements from magazine articles and periodical literature follow a different form as stated earlier while explaining the entries in the bibliography.

  1. Use of statistics, charts and graphs

A judicious use of statistics in research reports is often considered a virtue for it contributes a great deal towards the clarification and simplification of the material and research results. One may well remember that a good picture is often worth more than thousand words. Statistics are usually presented in the form of tables, charts, bars and line-graphs and pictograms. Such presentation should be self explanatory and complete in itself. It should be suitable and appropriate looking to the problem at hand. Finally, statistical presentation should be neat and attractive.

  1. The final draft

Revising and rewriting the rough draft of the report should be done with great care before writing the final draft. For the purpose, the researcher should put to himself questions like: Are the sentences written in the report clear? Are they grammatically correct? Do they say what is meant’? Do the various points incorporated in the report fit together logically? “Having at least one colleague read the report just before the final revision is extremely helpful. Sentences that seem crystal-clear to the writer may prove quite confusing to other people; a connection that had seemed self evident may strike others as a non-sequitur. A friendly critic, by pointing out passages that seem unclear or illogical, and perhaps suggesting ways of remedying the difficulties, can be an invaluable aid in achieving the goal of adequate communication.

  1. Bibliography

Bibliography should be prepared and appended to the research report as discussed earlier.

  1. Preparation of the index

At the end of the report, an index should invariably be given, the value of which lies in the fact that it acts as a good guide, to the reader. Index may be prepared both as subject index and as author index. The former gives the names of the subject-topics or concepts along with the number of pages on which they have appeared or discussed in the report, whereas the latter gives the similar information regarding the names of authors. The index should always be arranged alphabetically. Some people prefer to prepare only one index common for names of authors, subject-topics, concepts and the like ones.

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