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10 Top Tips for successful report writing

BASW has produced Top 10 Tips for successful report writing.

Published on 10th December 2015

Man writing a report

Sue Kent, professional officer at BASW, provides locum social workers with 10 Top Tips for successful report writing.

Social workers have historically been criticised for report writing with some being accused of writing in a language only applicable to academic professionals, others writing everything they know about a family or person while many have been challenged for not analysing their assessments and providing clear recommendations. 

The purpose of a report is to share information which has been gathered in a professional manner by a social worker who has clearly stated what they believe to be the best way forward for the family or person they are writing about. This then forms part of many processes whereby decisions have to be made about the future lives of such people.

Below is a summary of the main points to remember when writing a report which may have a significant impact on someone’s life:

1                     Before you start writing, collect all your materials together. Ensure your assessments are complete and you have all the relevant information to hand to write a constructive report.

2                     Give yourself time to write. Make a plan, draft a report, proof read it and correct and spelling errors or mistakes before submitting. Rushed reports are apparent and may lead to more challenges down the line.

3                     The format is important. If you are not using a house style (always check with your contract provider what is required), remember to use a basic font, number the pages, give clear headings and consider numbering paragraphs for ease of reference.

4                     Use plain language. Remember your report will be read by legal representatives including magistrates and judges, a range of professionals, as well as the family and maybe a young person or someone with either a mental health issue or a learning disability.

5                     Make the recommendations clear. All the involved people will look directly for your recommendations, so make sure they are clear, understandable and illustrate how you have come to make them. Your analysis is the main part of the report; long chronologies do not assist in decision making.

6                     This is not an academic essay; it is an illustration of your work with this person or family. Give clear statements about how you have reached your conclusion and recommendations.

7                     Avoid meaningless phrases. Comments like ‘she has a bubbly personality’ should not be used. Stick to the facts, not subjective comments.

8                     Be analytical. You are an expert, use your social work knowledge and skills to analyse your assessment and present information in an understandable way.

9                     Do not repeat what others have written in their report. If a psychologist has referred to an aspect of behaviour and given their view, there is no need to repeat this. Stick to a social work perspective.

10                 Keep your report succinct. More is not better and writing down everything you know about the person or family is not necessary.

 

There are a number of resources available for social workers with examples of good reports and what not to do. BASW and other organisations can point you in the right direction.

 

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