Why are you writing?

Author: Beverley Moore

The first question any professional business writer asks when starting a piece of work is: “Why am I writing?”

That’s because every piece of business writing has a purpose. It should lead to action, influence decision-making, or help move a project to the next step. If it does none of these things, then what’s the point? Science reports are no different. Whether you’re in business or academia, it’s essential to think about the goal – or, more usually, the multiple  goals – of each piece of writing. That’s because if you don’t know what result you want to achieve, not only might your writing efforts be largely wasted, you’re also making the job of writing very much harder.

So, why are you writing?  It will depend, of course, on what you are writing.

A few ideas:

Research reports in industry

  • To explain what you have found to the relevant people.
  • To lead towards the next step as part of the product development process. No matter how small a cog in the wheel you might feel you are, your work provides information needed to make decisions about what to do next.  Whether what you find prompts new avenues of discovery or closes them down, it’s important.
  • To build credibility for your department and your team, so others in the organisation feel they can be confident in your work.
  • To build your own professional reputation within the organisation and so enhance career prospects.
  • To contribute information as appropriate for regulatory requirements.

Research reports in academia

  • To get published.
  • To share your findings with others so they can assess the implications for their own research.
  • To stimulate ideas that will lead to new research.
  • To give enough information so others can reproduce what you have done and see if they get the same results.
  • To boost your own personal reputation and that of your institution.

Internal operational reports

Each specific internal report has an particular function. A pharmaceutical manufacturing Deviation Report, for example, has to provide background information on what happened when a product was not delivered to the correct specification. Clearly, the consequences of error here can be serious – the wrong dosage or product can kill.  The core purpose of a Deviation Report therefore is to enable managers to investigate thoroughly so they can take the appropriate actions to prevent the problem re-occuring.

These suggestions are by no means comprehensive – so before you start your next report, stop and think about what you want to achieve and what implications that has for how you go about writing it.  I can’t promise the report will write itself, but you’ll certainly find you have a clearer idea of what you need to say and how you want to say it.