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WRITING A HIGH-QUALITY INFORMATION REPORT

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It is no surprise that information texts are given a position of primary importance in most English curricula – we are in the information age, after all. From the ELA Standards of U.S. Common Core to the Literacy Requirements of the National Curriculum for England, non-fiction genres, in general, are given central positions in our teaching schedules. Acquiring the broad range of skills necessary to produce these texts competently takes time. Let’s take a look at the main features and organizational aspects of information reports to help set our students on the path to writing success.

Regardless of what genre we aim to teach our students, it is crucial that they develop an awareness of the different approaches required when writing for various purposes. Students need to be able to select the correct tools and structures for the job, and this starts with the students defining the text’s purpose.

Information reports present factual information to inform the reader about a specific topic. Examples of information reports may be found in encyclopedias, reference books, technical texts, social studies books, science books, magazines, and even internet websites. These may all be classed as forms of information texts. Despite this very broad range, it is useful to describe information reports in relation to several standard features, which are explained below.

WHAT IS AN INFORMATION REPORT?

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An information report provides readers with information on a chosen topic by providing them with facts.

Generally, an information report is written to provide facts about a living or non-living object.  It can be an individual object or a group of objects.  Some suggestions are.

  • Sea Creatures
  • The Bald Eagle
  • Aircraft
  • The Titanic
  • Rome
  • Pollution

The challenge in writing a good information report is to provide the audience with plenty of facts and evidence about a topic without providing a personal opinion.  If you do include personal opinion, essentially, you are writing a persuasive ( also known as an expository ) text.  If you are writing about a class of objects, such as sharks, it is important to highlight the differences and similarities between the objects.

A COMPLETE TEACHING UNIT ON WRITING INFORMATION REPORTS

An entire unit of INFORMATION REPORT WRITING awaits you. NO PREP REQUIRED. This editable PowerPoint bundle will allow you to teach your students how to write excellent Information reports using a proven model based on research skills, writing strategies and engaging content. The bundle includes 96 PAGES of:

  • Lesson Plans
  • Teaching Materials
  • Visual Writing Prompts
  • Assessment Rubrics
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Research Tools
  • Plus Much More

TYPES OF INFORMATION REPORTS

You will frequently encounter informational texts in your reading for both work and pleasure, and whilst there are many variations, they generally fall into these three main categories.

Scientific Reports:  Usually focuses on describing of appearance and behaviour of the subject of your report.

Technological Reports:  Usually focus on two main categories of information. Those are the components and uses of the technology.

Social Studies Reports:  Usually focuses on the description of people, places, history, geography, society, culture and economy.

STRUCTURE AND FEATURES OF AN INFORMATION REPORT

INFORMATION REPORT STRUCTURE

INTRODUCTION Classify your topic, describe the aspects, features or characteristics of the subject.

PARAGRAPHS Will be used to organise your information report. Use paragraphs to elaborate on your subject.

IMAGES Labelled diagrams such as maps, diagrams and pictures support and extend your written information.

SUBHEADINGS Keep your report in a logical state and ordered. It also helps the reader find key information quickly.

INFORMATION REPORT FEATURES

SPECIALIZED VOCABULARY Allows for more information to be shared with minimal text.

THIRD PERSON PERSPECTIVE Relays information from an impersonal position devoid of strong emotive language.

COMPARATIVE LANGUAGE Such as compared to, smaller than, greatest, different form is used to provide context

DEFINITIONS Of uncommon or unfamiliar language may be required in parts to assist the reader

RESEARCHING YOUR INFORMATION REPORT

Teaching students how to write information reports offers an excellent opportunity to introduce research skills to your students. For more advanced students, it creates opportunities for them to hone these important skills further. There are also several different processes students need to develop to ensure that they can filter their research for relevancy and accuracy. Let’s take a look at these:

1. Define the Scope of the Topic

If the scope of the topic is not defined precisely, considerable energy can be wasted at the research stage – especially if internet research is undertaken! Undoubtedly, you will know this from your own experience. How many man and woman hours have been wasted as our own research takes us down a pesky internet cul-de-sac?

2. Uncover Important Keywords and Phrases

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The importance of keywords and subject-specific vocabulary in writing an information report has already been mentioned. However, generating these keywords and phrases is also crucial for the research stage when using the internet. Search engines are only as valuable as the terms that are searched. The research process will help students refine and filter the concepts and vocabulary that they will use in the writing of their text.

3 Evaluate Sources

After students have selected their search terms, they must look at and evaluate the returned sources. This is best achieved by the teacher going through various examples and modelling the criteria used to select the most valuable among them. Students are often not required to cite research papers at the school level, etc. But they should begin the process of ranking information in terms of its legitimacy. This is a long-term objective, but the teaching of this genre of writing offers ample opportunities for introducing this complex idea. Teaching this objective may involve lessons on things like distinguishing fact from opinion, how to spot bias, detecting fake news/satire, cross-referencing sources etc.

4 Develop Note-Taking Skills

The research stage of writing an information report affords students a valuable opportunity to develop their note-taking skills. The ability to mine information for the key points is an essential skill for a student to develop. Obviously, note-taking is a complex skill and will necessarily be differentiated according to the student’s age and abilities.

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As an information report is a factual piece of writing focused on attention to detail, you will need to ensure your students are provided with an opportunity to research their topic.  Ensure they use technical language when required and have a collection of useful facts to include.  

The research will be a significant part of your lesson time, so please ensure you allow this before expecting them to contribute anything worthwhile.

Although we strongly encourage the use of visuals, leave this till all writing has been drafted, written and edited.  It should support a robust written report first and foremost. Using graphic organizers, planning tools, and writing checklists will greatly assist the planning and editing time. We have an in-depth article on student research strategies for you to explore here.

HOW TO WRITE AN INFORMATION REPORT

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When considering how to organize the structure of an information report, the purpose of the text must be at the forefront of the student’s decision-making. The complexity of the textual organization will again depend on the student’s grade level and ability; however, the general structure will be as follows:

1. Table of Contents

A table of contents should be included for longer information texts. It should outline where specific information can be found in the document or the text. For longer texts, each section should correspond to a page number on the table of contents. For shorter texts, this may be numbered sections instead of page numbers. This will allow the reader to locate specific information that is being searched for without having to read through the whole text. Page numbers can be entered on the table of contents after the text is completed.

2. Introduction

As with other writing genres, information texts must first use a hook to grab the reader’s attention. This hook may take the form of an interesting fact or statistic, an anecdote or a question etc. Fundamentally, the introduction to the text must orientate the reader to the topic in question. It should outline what the reader can expect to learn within the body of the text.

3. Subheadings

The main job of the student when writing an informational text is to organize the information so that the reader can easily understand it. To help the reader achieve this, they need to organize their ideas into paragraphs and to help the reader locate the information on each of these ideas, each paragraph should contain a subheading. These subheadings can also provide titles for the table of contents.

Be sure to check out our own complete guide to writing perfect paragraphs and sentence structure.

Subheadings are necessary to help your students organize their information by focusing on various aspects of the topic as a whole. For example, if the focus of the information report is an animal, then subsequent subheadings may be something along the lines of appearance, habitat, diet etc. Each subheading will consist of at least one paragraph that constitutes a separate section in the body of the text.

These subheadings often emerge organically as the student undertakes their research before writing. Subheadings may also be accompanied by relevant drawings, maps, tables etc., that summarize the information contained within.

The first sentence of each section should begin with a topic sentence expressing that paragraph’s main idea or topic. The following sentence will provide more detail on the topic sentence or main idea. The next sentence can provide an example or evidence regarding the main idea. Have your students practice this paragraph structure: Topic – Detail – Example.

4. Conclusion

The closing section of an information report can be used to summarize. The conclusion should focus on what the reader has learned in the text. It may also contain information on links or further reading the reader can undertake to find out more about the topic. For more advanced students, the opportunity to make cross-curricular links to IT skills (for example) can be taken by encouraging students to incorporate hyperlinks to further sources.

5. Glossary

The glossary will contain much of the subject-specific vocabulary identified at the prewriting stage. It will contain the words in alphabetical order and a definition that gives the word context in light of the topic. Some of the contents of the glossary will also be identified by the student reading over the body of the text they have written and selecting words that may pose difficulties for readers or need further contextualizing in terms of the topic. Sometimes, it is helpful to use bold fonts to emphasize the words in a text that will be defined in the glossary. This allows the reader to know they can turn to the glossary to find out further information on the definition of this word and its use in context. As with the other sections of an information report, illustrations, tables, and photographs can be used here to visually represent related ideas and concepts and reinforce the definitions provided.

animal_classes_information_report

And there it is, some meat on the bones of information reports. Choosing topics for your students to write about can be generated either by the interests of students themselves, which can significantly enthuse them, or you can select topics for your students that tie into other areas of their learning, thereby killing the proverbial two birds with one stone! It is quite a complex genre but a very important one, and it is advised that students are offered ample opportunity to read lots of information reports to internalize these features and structures. The reading of information reports not only helps our students to understand how to write them but also, wonderfully, helps our students learn lots of stuff about lots of things!

LANGUAGE FEATURES OF INFORMATION REPORTS

Present Tense:

Information reports are predominantly written in the present tense. This is because the information presented on the topic will generally be considered static knowledge. However, this is not always the case for all information texts; for example, autobiographies and biographies can be considered information texts but will more than likely be written in the past tense. For the purposes of this article, however, we will focus on the more formal genres of information texts.

Subject Specific Vocabulary:

Depending on the topic of the text, vocabulary specific to the subject will typically be used. For example, if the text provides information on an animal, it will likely utilize related words and phrases such as ‘habitat’, ‘species’, ‘offspring’, ‘lifespan’ etc. A helpful exercise for preparation to write an information report is to have students brainstorm words and phrases related to that topic. This also helps ensure the student covers all relevant related material and helps them organize their material before writing. It will also provide useful search terms for internet researching of the topic and provide some of the vocabulary to be contained in the glossary – more on this later!

General Nouns:

bee_information_report_writing

It is vital for students to realize that they should use general nouns when writing on their topic. The information included in their text should be generally accurate, and this should be reflected in the use of the generic noun classifying it; for example, Bees collect nectar from flowers.

Passive Voice:

Information reports are an example of formal non-fiction writing. In common with lots of formal writing, they often apply the passive voice. It is helpful to draw the student’s attention to how this differs from other more personal writing genres, such as fiction. When teaching narrative writing, we often encourage, even insist, our students name the doer of the action. In fiction writing, using the passive voice often takes the narrative drive out of a story, leaving it limp and weak in the hands of the reader. This is because the character and narrative voice are central to story writing. This is not the case in information report writing. Here, the passive voice draws attention away from the doer or speaker and brings the attention firmly back to the object itself.

For example:

“Every year, cars kill thousands of hedgehogs on our roads.”

Here the active voice is used. Read carefully, we can note a considerable amount of our attention goes to the ‘killer’ in this sentence, i.e. ‘cars’. This brings our attention away from what should be our primary focus and the topic of the report, ‘hedgehogs’.

If we instead use the passive voice to convey this information, it would look something like this:

“Every year, thousands of hedgehogs are killed on our roads.”

Now the same information is relayed to the reader while maintaining the sentence’s focus on the subject ‘hedgehogs’.

A valuable exercise to help students understand the difference between passive and active voices is to give them a list of sentences for them to identify whether the active or passive voice is being used. They can then rewrite active voice sentences as passive voice sentences and vice versa.

Information reports are also generally written in the third person for the same reason the passive voice is used. The third-person perspective creates an impersonal tone that maintains a formal tone appropriate to the genre.

Visual Information:

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DIAGRAMS ARE A ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF AN INFORMATION REPORT

Visual presentations of the information to support the text, whether in the form of diagrams, photographs, graphs, maps, pictures, or tables, are extremely helpful to the reader. They help the reader to digest large amounts of information quickly. Remember too that pictures, photographs etc., should be labelled with captions explaining what they show.

Visual presentations should reinforce points made in the text, often in a condensed way. You may remember flicking through the pages of the World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica as a child, and even if lacking the necessary literacy skills to actually read the articles, you likely picked up information just by looking at the colourful and well-presented illustrations and tables.

Browse any well-developed website, and it will quickly become apparent the central role visual media plays in the sharing of information. Your student’s work should be no different in this regard. Depending on the age and ability of your students, they may wish to draw pictures or create graphs using computer software to accompany their text.

Fact vs Opinion:

As stated, the purpose of information reports is to present factual information on a topic. It is essential that students can consistently and accurately differentiate between what constitutes fact and what can be considered opinion. This is not always as straightforward as it may seem and will require some practice on the part of the student.

It can be helpful for students to have several sessions working on distinguishing fact from opinion before writing their information reports. Prepare a set of statements for the students in your class. It may be on the topic they are to write their reports on or on an entirely unrelated topic. There should be a mixture of factual and opinion-based statements. After instructing the students on the differences between facts and opinions, have them go through each statement in their groups and discuss which they believe to be facts and which they believe to be opinions. They then categorize them accordingly.

Beyond the writing of information reports, identifying opinions and facts is an invaluable skill to inculcate in our students. You may wish to encourage them to apply it when watching TV news, reading newspapers etc.

Information Report Unit

TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT INFORMATION REPORT

  • Assume your readers are not as knowledgeable on the topic as you are. This means you will have to briefly explain your topic before getting into the body.
  • Use the correct scientific and technical terms in your report.
  • Find or create some labelled diagrams if possible.
  • Use paragraphs effectively. Each new element of your information report should start with a new paragraph.
  • Information reports are always written in the present tense and from a third-person perspective.
  • You may offer some form of question or comment around your findings in the conclusion only. The rest of your report should be constructed purely of facts and evidence.
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WELL LABELLED IMAGES CAN SAVE YOU A GREAT DEAL OF EXPLAINING AND ENHANCE AN INFORMATION REPORTS VISUAL APPEAL.

Be Technical and Descriptive

When putting together an information report, you need to know your topic well, so be sure to do your research beforehand.  If you were writing an information report on the Titanic, you might want to find out some of the following facts.

  • When & Where was Titanic built?
  • What materials was it made from?
  • Who was the captain, and were any other significant people involved?
  • Explain the facts about Titanic’s maiden voyage, such as locations and dates.
  • What caused the Titanic to sink ( Remember not to share opinions, just facts.)
  • Any critical dates and statistics associated with Titanic.

INFORMATION REPORT GRAPHIC ORGANIZER TEMPLATE

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INFORMATION REPORT WRITING CHECKLIST

  • Does every paragraph include all the needed information?
  • Did you indent every paragraph?
  • Do you have a capital letter and end mark for every sentence?
  • Did you check your paper for accurate spelling?
  • Did you read your paper out loud to someone or have another student read it to make sure it made sense?
  • Did you have the teacher help edit your paper (this is done last)?

Information Report Example (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of information report examples for students.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read the information reports in detail and the teacher and student guides highlighting some of the critical elements of information report writing to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of information report writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

INFORMATION REPORT WRITING PROMPTS

  • Write an information report on a country that captures your curiosity that you have never visited before.
  • Write an information report about a famous scientific or technological breakthrough that changed the world.
  • Write an information report on an animal that you have never seen before but always wanted to know more about them.
  • Write an information report about your favourite season and its impact on the environment.
  • Write an information report about something that you are passionate about, such as the history of Lego or soccer.
  • Write an information report on a piece of technology that was once huge and now has disappeared, such as the audio cassette. Why did it boom, and why did it bust?
  • Write an information report about a significant cultural or societal change in history, such as the Irish Potato famine leading to them settling in many different parts of the world.
  • Write an information report on a job that interests you, such as a make-up artist for films. What do they do, and how do they do it?

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

We have several premium information report writing resources available that offer a complete, no-fuss and instant solution to producing excellent informative texts in the classroom and independently.

A COMPLETE TEACHING UNIT ON WRITING INFORMATION REPORTS

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An entire unit of INFORMATION REPORT WRITING awaits you. NO PREP REQUIRED. This editable PowerPoint bundle will allow you to teach your students how to write excellent Information reports using a proven model based on research skills, writing strategies and engaging content. The bundle includes 96 PAGES of:

  • Lesson Plans
  • Teaching Materials
  • Visual Writing Prompts
  • Assessment Rubrics
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Research Tools
  • Plus Much More

INFORMATION REPORT WRITING ANCHOR CHARTS & RUBRIC BUNDLE

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INFORMATION REPORT WRITING VIDEO TUTORIALS

information report writing skills
Information reports
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing, can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.