Business Writing Tip No 40—More about Reports

When you’re putting together a report, the amount of information you need to include will dictate its length and the sections that you need to include. For a long report, you will want to create a logical structure that makes it easy for your reader to find the information they need. A shorter report still needs a logical structure, but may have fewer sections.

In this post I’ve included the principal sections that you would include in a full-length report, and what to include in each section.

Title Page

This page includes:

  • Report title
  • Author or authors
  • Date of issue (or publication)sample cover page

Avoid adding page numbering to your cover page.

It’s useful to centre to the information both vertically and horizontally and to use a large font size for the report title. To centre your page vertically in MS Word, use the page layout function. Put a section break (next page) at the end of you title page, and then use centre for your vertical alignment. Make sure you click that the alignment refers to ‘this page’ (not ‘whole document’ or ‘this point forward’). The alternative way to do this is to include a heap of manual line feeds, which makes for messy coding.vertical alignment - centred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Summary

This section is the most important section of your report because it is the section that most people will read.

It should include:

  • The subject
  • Your conclusions
  • A brief description of how you arrived at the conclusions

For a short report this section will typically be 100 to 200 words. For a longer report it could be up to one page long. It must stand by itself and be easy to read.

Contents List

You probably don’t need this for a short report, but it’s useful to include a contents list with page numbering for longer reports)

Introduction

This section:

  • Provides the background to the issue or work
  • Summarises the problem
  • Includes the terms of reference
  • Describes the purpose of the report

It is usually about 200 to 300 words long.

Body of the Report

In this section you describe the methods used to find out about the problem and the facts the method uncovered. This section also includes details of the significance of the problem and the associated facts. Present any alternatives you have considered, and discuss the benefits and risks associated with each option.

The body of your report may also include details such as the cost of each alternative and implementation times.

Each alternative should be discussed in a separate paragraph or, for a complex issue, you may include separate sub-headings.

Conclusion

This is a short section which should answer the question, ‘What is the real meaning of this report?’

Recommendation

In this section you state the recommended course of action and why you have chosen this particular course. You justify the idea that you are proposing.

If there are resource implications, i.e. you are suggesting particular people work on the project team, include them here. If you have a draft implementation plan, that can be included here or attached as an Appendix.

Bibliography or References

If you have referred to any documented sources in the report, include the details here. Some of your readers might want to read more about the information you have provided, or to check a source. This section can include details of books, journal articles, web pages, other company reports, and the like.

Before You Submit Your Report

Just a word of guidance. Before you submit your report, take the time to check the following:report check

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