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The University of Southampton
English for EngineersUnderstanding assessed tasks

Consultancy Report

Consultancy reports are written for a non-specialist audience.  Often they are written in response to a request for information from an organisation or business.  It is your responsibility to make sure the reader can understand the information you present.

Comparing the audience and purpose of consultancy and lab reports.

Before you start writing any report, you need to think carefully about who you are writing for, your audience, and why you are writing, your purpose

These are important because they affect the language you use, the information you include and how you organise it, and the visuals you choose to support the text.

In the table below, the audience and purpose of a consultancy report and lab report are compared.

Consultancy Report (non-specialist audience) Lab report (specialist audience)
Purpose: to share research with an outside business, often in response to a specific need or problem.

  • The report needs to convey the relevance of the study, its findings and recommendations to the company and/or wider society. Costings and timeframes may also be required.
  • You may find the balance of your content different from a technical report i.e. you may spend more time explaining the real-world context or recommendations rather than the method.
  • You need to make any technical knowledge accessible to a non-specialist audience. You need to explain any essential terms or concepts, but be very selective and consider how much you could reasonably expect the reader to understand.
Purpose: to share experimental work and findings with the research community.

  • The report needs to justify why it is needed and how it fits in the context of other research.
  • The Methodology needs to give enough detail that someone else could repeat the experiment in exactly the same way. This is important to enable other people to analyse your results and method fully and therefore continue to contribute to the research community.
  • You need to get the balance between giving a thorough description and giving unnecessary information on well-known terms or procedures within the field.
  • You should use the appropriate specialist vocabulary to communicate efficiently and with precision.

Note: there is, of course, variation within the terms ‘specialist’ and ‘non-specialist’. If you explained a module you’re studying to other students in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, you would probably find you share some specialist vocabulary and knowledge. However, you would also probably know some specialist vocabulary and concepts that they do not. You would therefore need to pitch your discussion so that you were not ‘talking down’ to them, but also not hindering communication by using unfamiliar jargon.

Presenting data

The appropriate presentation of figures and tables is also important in writing a successful consultancy report.
Dr Kate Parks explains how to do this: here

Key points

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