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How to Find

What is a report?

"A report is a specific form of writing that is organised around concisely identifying and examining issues, events, or findings" (Massey University, 2012). It usually covers the who, what, where, when, why and how of a particular situation, issue, or problem, and may be produced by government departments, research groups, not-for-profit organisations, companies, and others. 

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Why use reports?

  • Reports are generally highly specific and go into quite a bit of depth, providing you with a complete picture on whatever subject they are covering. 
  • Reports are written by individuals or organisations that are strongly linked to the subject matter. They can provide the context for why particular decisions were made, specific directions were taken, particular problems tackled and so on. You are getting information direct from the source.
  • Reports will often contain information that will not be available elsewhere.

You will need to exercise some caution when accessing certain types of reports. Company reports and reports produced by charity organisations, for example, are produced largely for marketing purposes. It is possible that positive information will be highlighted, while more negative material is glossed over or omitted altogether.  

Tips for searching for reports

Reports will generally be available for free on the Internet, and simple strategies are often more fruitful than the rigourous strategies used for database searching.


Websites of relevant organisations

Search or browse the websites of key organisations in your research area. Looking out for links to 'publications', 'reports', or 'collections' can help. Remember, reports are produced by companies, government departments, professional associations, not-for-profit or charitable organisations, academic or research institutes and may more. Depending on the focus of your topic, the following sources may be useful: 


Online search engines

Search engines such as Google are useful when searching for reports. Most reports will be published online in PDF form, so it's helpful to limit your results by file type:

  • "Renewable energy AND Australia filetype:pdf will search for PDFs on renewable energy and Australia.
  • "Renewable energy" filetype:pdf site:gov.au will search for PDFs on renewable energy from Australian government websites.

Google searches will often return large numbers of results so consider limiting your search by date (e.g. last 5/10 years) etc. in Advanced Search.