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Writing reports – part 4


Footnotes vs Harvard

The aim of any good reference is to provide information for further reading and validation of information as necessary.
Clearly, a minimum amount of information is required and there are a variety of formats that are traditionally used.

In the case of the footnote the reference is denoted by a small superscript number as in (1). The reference (1) is then found at the foot of the page in a particular format. The advantage of using a footnote is that they are quickly accessible at the bottom of the page.
However, they have problems. They often take up a lot of space if you have many references. If you use the same reference more than once you can just refer to the page that it is on, for example, ‘Other, P27’. You would of course then have to look back to page 27 to find the full reference for Mr. A. N. Other. Footnotes are often referred to as ‘endnotes’.

You may come across some other terms used in references.

  • ibid

It literally means, ‘in the same place’ and is a shortened form of the Latin word ‘ibidem’.
It is used where references are exactly the same (except for a page reference) as the one immediately above it.
It may also be seen in legal documents as ‘ib’. ‘ibid’ is similar to ‘id’ short for the Latin ‘idem’ which means ‘the same’, again often used in legal areas.

An example of the use of ‘ibid’ might be:

  1. Other, A. N., Brilliant ideas (London: All Press 2003), 272.
  2. Ibid., 100.

In some respects, the use of ‘ibid’ serves the same purpose as ditto marks (‘’).

  • Op. cit.

This is from the Latin ‘opus citatum’ meaning ‘the work cited’.
It really refers to an earlier reference by the same author.
Thus, when you see this you must look back through earlier references until you find it.

An example of the use of ‘op. cit.’ might be:

  1. Other, A. N., Brilliant ideas (London: All Press 2003), 272.
  2. Brown, D., Dark colours (London: All Press 2004), 113.
  3. Other, op. cit., p54.

The Harvard system is somewhat easier to use referring to an author as part of the text. The full reference is then held in an Appendix at the back and listed in alphabetical order. It is also known as the ‘author-date system’ and ‘parenthetical system’.

An example of the Harvard system might be:

“The brainstorm has been considered the pinnacle of methods for generating ideas (Brown 2004).”

The full reference would be in the Appendix as:

Brown, D., Dark colours (London: All Press 2004), 113.

If you refer to the author in the text only the year date is in brackets, for example:
“The brainstorm has been considered by D. Brown (2004) to be the pinnacle of methods for generating ideas.”

Typical reference format

There are key parts to any reference:

  • Name of the author (surname, initial)
  • Publication date
  • Article title
  • Title of the book etc
  • Publishers name
  • Place of publication

The exact format can vary depending upon the report / publication where they exist.
Many documents have a very specific format that you will need to adhere to.

Examples might be:

Brown, D., Dark colours (London: All Press 2004), 113.


Brown, D., Dark colours, London: All Press, 2004, 113.

You will need to check on the exact format required within your own documentation and keep to it.

Use of a word processor

Few people now would tackle any report just using paper, even for outlines.
Microsoft Word is easy to use, very well known and can also be used for outlines.

If you haven’t done so it is relatively easy to learn to touch type and gain a reasonable ability that will make your report writing that much easier. The spell check facility is great for many.

It is very easy to order a list of items alphabetically or in any other fashion.


Feedback is important in all aspects of project management and general management and leadership [see 'The Complete Leadership package’].
Report writing is no exception. Gaining feedback from a variety of sources is useful.
The techniques involved are fairly universal and are explained in greater detail in 'The Complete Motivation package'.

Feedback can come via coaching, friends, colleagues, mentoring, family etc.
Make sure you are specific about the feedback that you require. In this case, it is to do with reports and nothing else.
You may need to itemise the various aspects of a report and get specific comments in these areas.

Consider all feedback carefully and if necessary take the opportunity for self development to improve.
Many skills require time to gain experience but additionally good Time Management [see 'The Complete Time Management package’] skills are very useful.

Much of report writing is in the planning and not the actual writing.


Taking notes

Note taking can be very difficult for project management reports within research and other areas.
Speed and accuracy are essential. Improving in this area may be useful and specialist books may prove useful.

Non - PRINCE2 information