Business Writing Tip#106—Report Structure

In the last post I promised you some information about common structural elements of reports. There are no hard and fast rules, and the information here is to guide you. I’ve divided it into two sections based on relative report length. Again you need to use your judgement to decide what you need to include.

Longer Reports: usually include the following elements:

Cover pageUsually includes some, or all, of the following:
Title.
Name of person who commissioned the report.
Name and job title of report writer.
Organisation name.
Issue date of report.
Reference number.
Degree of confidentiality.
Distribution list.
AcknowledgementsOne or two paragraphs where you thank the people and organisations who helped you prepare the report.
(Table of) ContentsA list of all of the headings and subheadings included in the report with the appropriate page numbers.
(Executive) SummaryA short, overall view of the report together with the conclusions and recommendations. This section helps people decide if they need to read the full report.
Terms of ReferenceThe exact subject of the report.
Its scope (what it is dealing with, the range) and limitations.
Why it was written.
Who asked for it.
Who wrote it.
When it was completed.
ProcedureThe methods of investigation used to find the information. Could include meetings and visits, interviews, published sources, personal observation, questionnaires and surveys.
FindingsThe main body of the report. This section contains all the information that has been collected, presented in a logical sequence, and arranged using headings and subheadings. Note: in a business report this section will probably be replaced by sections related to the content of the report such as advantages, disadvantages, option A, option B, etc.
ConclusionsThe significant results of the findings. This section flows logically from the facts.
RecommendationsThe writer makes personal judgements about specific actions that should be taken to respond to the issues raised in the report. The recommendations should be based directly on the results of the investigation.
AppendixSupporting material that provides useful background information but is not essential. It might be material that you consider too long, too detailed or too technical. Might also include tables, diagrams, graphs, excerpts from other publications, etc.

Shorter Reports: usually don’t need as many sections as long reports. Analyse the material and type of report and make an appropriate judgement about what to include. Generally a shorter report includes:

Cover pageTo/From/Date/Subject
IntroductionWhy the report is being written and a brief description of how the information was collected.
FindingsThe main body of the report. This section contains the information that has been collected, presented in a logical sequence.
Note: in a business report this section will probably be replaced by sections related to the content of the report such as advantages, disadvantages, option A, option B, etc.
ConclusionsThe significant results of the findings. This section flows logically from the facts.
RecommendationsThe writer makes personal judgements about specific actions that should be taken to respond to the issues raised in the report. The recommendations should be based directly on the results of the investigation.

 

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