A report can be defined as a document that presents information or testimonial of any circumstance or issue in a structured manner. The objective of the report is to provide explanation and analysis on any matter of importance. Report writing is not a difficult task; however, the lack of know-how of report writing makes it a confusing and cumbersome process for some.
With growing emphasis on corporate transparency, reports play a crucial role of providing daily information to the management, which helps them in solving complex problems and making informed, and planned, decisions for the company. Reports can also be used for judging individual, or team, understanding or performance, for example in schools or colleges. Unlike essays, reports do not present an argument. They only provide information, analysis and recommendations.
The main use of reports is in the corporate workplace, where managers usually do not have enough time to review each and every page of a report. Therefore, report writing should be done in a clear and systematic way to help the reader skim through important areas, leaving out the irrelevant details.
This, however, does not mean that the analysis of issues should not be done in detail. Details are important, since reports are always stored for future references. It is, therefore, important for reports to beclearly written and well structured.
A report is a formal document. Therefore, attention should be given to detail and formatting. A report should be broken down into various parts, each preceded with a numbered heading, or sub-heading. It is advised to use short paragraphs and bullets, wherever possible.
Since a report is, usually, meant for people who cannot spend much time reading it, it should always include as many pictorial representation as possible. A report would also end with recommendations. These recommendations should be mentioned in numbered, or bulleted, form to aid the reader.
A report should always have a title page and a table of contents. A letter of transmittal may follow this. The letter of transmittal is a formal handing-over document to the person who assigned the report to you, and should include the summary of the report, acknowledgements and expression of appreciation.
It is always a good idea to include an executive summary, which outlines the issue, the analysis, the findings, the conclusion and the recommendation. The executive summary is, normally, a one to two pages abstract of the complete report.
The objective of the executive summary is to provide the gist of the report, to anyone who cannot afford to spend time reading the whole report.
Report writing should always be started with a good introduction. A good introduction is one that explains the issue or circumstance, and provides a reason for writing the report.
It gives a detailed background of the problem and sets the stage for the report. It should also mention the scope of the work carried out in the report. It also advised to mention the targeted audience of the report. For examples, if a consultant prepares a report for a client, the consultant should mention who is likely to benefit from the findings of the report.
After the introduction, the body of the report starts. This forms the major chunk of the report. Its content, and length, will be defined by the objectives of the report. Generally, the contents of the body will remain alike. The body will start with the problem at hand.
It will explain in detail how and why the problem arose, in the first place. It will try to explain the research problem and its purpose.
Once this has been completed, the body will then include the literature review, which will include the findings on the topic from other secondary resources. This part will help in creating a better understanding of the problem, by providing a detailed background on the context.
Then, if there was any kind of research that was undertaken for the analysis, it will be mentioned under research methodology. This part will state how the person, who is preparing the report, decided to tackle the problem. It would mention whether there was any primary research or secondary research that was carried out.
It should include details of how the information was gathered; if there were interviews conducted or was information gathered through other sources.
This part will be followed by the findings from the observations and information that were gathered. It will describe in detail what the results were of doing the research. Finally, a discussion will follow, which will explain the findings and link them to the goals and objectives of the study. It should aim to show that the purpose of the report has been accomplished.
Report writing should end with recommendations and a conclusion. No new information should be included in this section. The conclusion should link the recommendations to the purpose of the report. It should be concise and well-structured. Report writing will become a simple task if the writer ensures that the report is well-structured and easily readable.