difference between essay and report

Always confused between essay and report?: Read this guide and be confident forever

Throughout your degree, you’ll complete assignments with varying criteria, so it’s critical to know what you need to do for each one. We’ll look at the fundamental differences between reports and essays in this section.

This page discusses the characteristics of academic reports and essays in general. You may use all of these features, a subset of them, or have additional needs depending on your subject.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a report or an essay, but they are distinct assignments. A quick glance:

Reports are highly influenced by the subject and type of report.

Essays usually feature specified topic and a well-thought-out structure that emphasises coherence and flow. Your subject may require different forms of material in your introduction – some disciplines begin their discussion, explain their resources, or briefly signpost the topic, while others begin their discussion, discuss their resources, or briefly signpost the topic.

Reports vs. essays: what’s the difference?

This table compares and contrasts reports and essays, as well as providing a description of each’s conventional structure. Your assignment will also be influenced by your discipline, the objective of your work, and your intended audience, so check your course and module handbooks, lecturer instructions, and topic conventions to see what you need to do.



A table of contents is included in reports.

There is no table of contents in an essay.

The IMRaD format divides reports into sections with headings and numbers, as well as sub-sections (see below).

Although essays are not separated into sections, separate headed appendices may be included.


Reports are commonly used in the workplace and often come from disciplines outside of academia.

Essays, especially practice-based issues, are born in academic environments.


Data and conclusions that you have gathered yourself, such as through a survey, experiment, or case study, are frequently presented in reports.

Some studies concentrate on how to apply theory to your line of work. Essays usually concentrate on analysing or assessing theories, previous research, and concepts. If you work in a practice-based field, they may entail applying theory to practise.

Tables, charts, and diagrams are common in reports.

Tables, charts, and diagrams are not commonly found in essays.

The procedures utilised are frequently described in reports.

The methods you utilised to reach your findings are rarely mentioned in essays.

A report’s discussion section generally includes suggestions for how the research should be improved and expanded, as well as an assessment of the methodologies and processes used.

The process of researching and composing the essay is rarely discussed in essays.


Recommendations are occasionally included in reports.

Recommendations are not included in essays.


The layout of reports


The IMRaD structure is used in most reports: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Some common sections that appear in reports are listed below. Alternative headings are included in several parts.

  1. The contents page

Each report section’s number, title, page number, and any sub-sections are displayed in your contents. The section title, not the margin or the number, is where the sub-section numbers and details begin.

  1. Executive summary or abstract

The last item you generally write is a quick summary of the report.

  1. A brief introduction

Your introduction states the report’s purpose, explains why it is required or valuable, and specifies the report’s specific goals and objectives.

  1. Review of the literature

This section, which is frequently incorporated into the introduction, describes current research and thought about the problem or research question.

  1. Methodology or Methods

The techniques or processes used to gather your data are described and justified in this section.

  1. Conclusions or Findings

This section contains the research’s findings (or processed data) and may mostly consist of tables, charts, and diagrams.

  1. Analysis, interpretation, or discussion

This section examines the findings and assesses the study project.

  1. Final thoughts

The conclusion summarises the report and, in most cases, refers back to the study’s goals and objectives.

  1. Recommendations

In this section, the writer applies the report’s findings and conclusions to practical solutions to a problem or issue. This may not be necessary.

  1. Appendices

If necessary, you might include raw data or items that your report refers to in the appendix. Charts, graphs, and tables are frequently used to convey data. Table 1 and its title should be written first, followed by Table 2 and its title, and so on as needed.

Essays’ structure


Your essay introduction establishes the backdrop and background information for the topic or questions being covered, as well as the scope of the essay.

The main body

The body of your essay is divided into paragraphs. These paragraphs aid in the creation of a smooth-flowing prose.


The essay’s main themes are summarised in the conclusion. In your conclusion, avoid presenting fresh facts.

Reference list or bibliography

This is a list of the sources you utilised to write your paper. The authors’ surnames are usually listed alphabetically.

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