What is the Difference Between Reports and Essays?

Many words in the English language are frequently interchanged, but often there is a most appropriate choice. For instance, the restroom is a room with only a toilet and sink. On the other hand, there is a bathroom, which is a room with a shower and/or tub, as well as toilet and sink. These words are used interchangeably, but not all restrooms are bathrooms and vice versa. Similarly to this, there are key differences between a report and an essay, despite how often these words are erroneously interchanged.


When writing a report, we are motivated by the delivery of information. We are overviewing a given subject, and providing the history, background and specifics about the topic. A report is simply presenting information, whereas an essay serves to prove a point. With an essay, we are striving to prove a point. Reports will use only the primary source, but essays will find outside research and data to support the thesis statement or hypothesis being made about the topic.


The content found in a report would include information like origin, setting, plot, characters and other details about the topic. The content is not attempting to prove any point, and is presented to provide the reader with general knowledge on the given topic. With an essay, the content will include a thesis statement, as well as multiple points that support this statement. Each of these points supporting your thesis statement or hypothesis will have outside research to support ideas being made. For instance, if an essay argues that wind energy is the cleanest energy in existence, this statement would be supported with data proving this to be true.


Although it is smart to format your paper with the same general guidelines each time, an introduction, body and conclusion, there are identifiable differences in the formats of reports vs. essays. An essay will follow your thesis statement and outline as a road map for the paper, whereas a report will follow the content of whatever you may be reporting about.

When assigned with the task of an essay or report, consider these major differences between the two types of writing. Going into your research and preparation process with this knowledge will help you discern what information will be more or less useful. Once you determine the type of paper you are writing, proceeding will be much easier!

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