Report writing guide
Your report should have an introductory paragraph (about 5-10% of your word count). The
introduction should arouse the reader’s interest in the report and:
• Set the scene by stating the purpose of the report (Example: “This report will….” or “In this report I will…..”)
• Explain how you have interpreted the task by stating the most important issues facing Sierra
(Example: “The most important issues facing Sierra are…”
• Outline how each of those issues will be tackled in the report and in what order
(Example: “These issues will be addressed in this report by….” Or “I will address theses issues
You may also define or explain key terms if necessary.
There are 8 marks available for the introduction.
Main sections of the report
The main sections of your report should be about 75% of your word count.
Each section should have a heading specifying the contents of that section. Only one major topic
area (or a linked series of smaller topics) should be in each section.
Your sections should address as a minimum:
• Your assessment of current costing and pricing practices of Sierra Ltd;
• Your assessment of whether activity based costing is suitable for Sierra Ltd;
• Your assessment of the factors that the management team at Sierra should consider to
ensure successful implementation of activity based costing, should they decide to go ahead
with Baljit’s proposal.
Depending on your approach, you may have more than one section for any of the above. The first section in the main body of your report covers the first thing you said you would address in your introduction. The first sentence in this section introduces the main idea of the section
Example: “This section will deal briefly/in depth with.….”
You then develop the topic presenting your observations, evidence, and arguments, not forgetting to
cite sources for your assertions.
The second section in the main body of your report starts with a sentence that links to the first
section and then introduces the main idea of the section.
Example: “Having dealt with issue X briefly/in depth, I now turn briefly/in depth to issue Y….”
You develop this second section as described for the first section, then move on to your next
section(s), following the same type of structure.
The main sections of the report have 60 marks available in total.
You need to ensure that the in-text referencing is complete and in the correct format, and that you
have used credible sources.
Completeness of in-text referencing: If you do not know something before you have read about it,
then you need to cite a source. This is because it is not your idea. Furthermore, citing a credible
source means that your manager is more likely to believe your arguments.
Plagiarism: If you follow the above rule about believability, you will avoid most problems with
Format of in-text referencing: if you do not cite a source for your assertions, then your arguments
will not be well justified. Your manager cannot guess which article or book in your reference list
supports the arguments you are making – make it easy for him, put the source next to each assertion
that you make.
Example: “Some researchers believe that…..(author, date)”.
Example: “Smith (date) explained that ‘Activity Based Costing systems track consumption of
resources’ (page 478)”.
Sources that are credible: Your textbook, practitioner articles (mostly), and peer-reviewed journal
articles are credible sources. Your manager is likely to believe you if you use them to support your
arguments. All suggested sources on the reading list are credible sources.
Sources that are not credible: Wikipedia, Investopedia, accountingcoach.com, accountingtools.com,
accountingdetails.com, businessdictionary.com, knowledgegrab.com, brighthub.com,
cliffsnotes.com, transtutors.com, coursehero.com, ukessays.com, tutor2u.net….etc. If you use these
sources, your manager may not believe your arguments.
Number of sources
It is entirely possible to get a first class mark (70%+) or even a high first class mark (85%+) by using
the sources in your reading list (above). In this assignment you are writing a report to your manager.
Your manager does not need to see that you have used 50+ sources or, in fact, not read them but
added them to your reference list for effect (padding your reference list).
The most common way for students to pad their reference list is to use lots of references from one
article and cite them as if they had read them. Adding in citations that you have not read leaves this
reader (and marker) completely unimpressed.
What matters in this assignment is linking the reading you have done to the case of Sierra in order to
analyse it and assess current practices, the suitability (or not) of ABC, and the factors that
management need to consider to ensure successful change (should the team decide to proceed with
Reports that do not use the suggested sources raise questions the most significant of which is “why
did the student ignore the suggested sources?” All too often (sadly) this is because either (a) the
student did not read the guidance they were given and/or (b) the assignment writing service the
student used preferred other sources.
Important note: Using an assignment writing service is cheating, and you may receive a mark of zero
if you do not write your own assignment.
Moving from description to assessment
To obtain the highest marks you need to move from describing what is happening at Sierra to
assessing what is happening.
To assess what is happening:
• Take examples of what Sierra is doing, or the context in which Sierra operates, from the
briefing notes provided by the manager and make sure you understand what is going on.
• Look for similar examples in the literature suggested for this assignment – some literature is
generalised (e.g. textbook) and some is case specific (see reading list).
• Find out what the authors or researchers recommend in general, and in specific case studies.
• Consider whether what is recommended by these other writers is suitable for Sierra – are
there any peculiarities in the Sierra case that would make the general or case specific
recommendations not suitable? Is there some information that you need to know before
making a final decision? Alternatively, are you happy to draw a firm conclusion?
Your report should have a summary paragraph (about 5-10% of your word count), which draws
everything together. The conclusion should:
• Summarise your main arguments (Example: “As discussed in this report, the main points
• Make it clear why these are the most important issues to focus on (Example: “These issues
are critical to Sierra Ltd because….”)
• You may also cover one, some or all of the following of the following contextual issues,
depending on your approach
o Set the issues in a broader business perspective;
o Discuss what you’ve failed to do because, for example, the information you had was
o Suggest further questions of your own because you don’t think that you have all the
information that you need;
Summaries should not introduce new material.
There are 8 marks available for the summary.
Your report should contain some recommendations (about 5-10% of your word count).
Depending on the approach you have taken you should make clear and justified recommendations
for action either:
• by your manager, or
• by Sierra Ltd, or
• by both your manager and Sierra.
(Example: “Based on this summary, I recommend that…..”)
To earn high marks, your recommendations should be linked to your introduction via the main
sections of your report. If you have identified a major issue for Sierra Ltd in your introduction, then
this issue should have been addressed in your main paragraphs, your findings should be summarised,
and then some recommendations made.
There are 8 marks available for the recommendations.
This report is for your manager. Your job and promotion prospects depend on maintaining your
reputation for attention to detail and excellent research and presentation skills. Your report is the
window to your mind and is an indication of your dedication to your role.
Spelling and grammar: your report should be free of spelling and grammar errors.
Tone: your report should adopt a formal tone, suitable for a work setting, although you may use “I”
when explaining what you have done, or when expressing opinions, because this is your report to
your manager; see examples above.
Formatting: your report should use one font throughout, with section headings in bold or underlined
Appearance: you may wish to use tables and bullet points; both are acceptable in reports.
There are 8 marks available for presentation.
Reference list (this is not part of your word count)
Your reference list should be comprehensive, accurate, and in the correct format.
Comprehensive: The reference list has a 1 : 1 matching with sources cited your report.
• Every source cited in your report appears in the reference list;
• Every source that appears in your reference list is cited in your report.
Dangling citations should never occur: that is, you should not cite a source in your report that does
not appear in the reference list.
Dangling references should never occur: that is, you should not cite a source in your reference list
that does not appear in your report.
Accurate: the reference list should be correct: the names of the authors are correct, the names of
the books and journals and their edition numbers are correct, dois or URLs are correct, and page
numbers are correct. Any reader should be able to go to the source you have used and check it out.
Format: Use an acceptable format: APA or Harvard. These systems use the (author, date) citation in
the main body of the text, and put the full reference, in alphabetical order, in the reference list. For
more guidance, see the UG Information Page on Moodle.