A report is a statement which describes “what has happened” or “a state of affairs”. In business there are many occasions when some form of ‘report’ is required. It is a ‘detailed examination’ of a situation, action taken or the findings of an investigation. It is written in a clear and informative way often drawing conclusions and making recommendations or suggestions.
What is Report Writing?
The purpose of a report is to inform someone about a particular subject. Reports are made up of facts and arguments on a specific subject. Reports allow information to be presented in an ordered way. You can write reports for business, psychology, health and safety.
How reports are different form essays?
Reports present findings and make recommendations rather than a critique of a subject. There are three types of report- extended formal report, short formal report and informal report.
Extended Formal Report
Companies and governments use extended formal reports when reports are going to be seen by the public. The structure of an Extended Formal Report is as follows:
• Title Page
• Terms of reference
• Body of the Report
• Detailed findings
Short Formal Report
A Short Formal Report is for internal use in companies. The structure of a Short Formal Report is as follows:
• Title Page
• Terms of reference
• Body of the Report
Informal reports are used for internal use, particularly within departments and for dealing with routine issues. Memorandum format is often used for these reports.
The structure for an Informal Report is as follows:
• Main Section- findings
• Final Section- conclusions and recommendations
Elements of a Formal Report
A title page is the front page of the report. The title page should include the author’s name and the date.
The contents page is a list of the sections in the report with the related page numbers.
The introduction is where you give the reader of the task set and what you intend to cover. The introduction is a good time to include the statement of aims and objectives; this is when you say what you are planning to do and how you are going to do it.
The Terms of Reference
This is an introductory part of the report and should clearly say:
• Who the report is for e.g. OCR Certificate in Administration Group
• What the report is about e.g. following office procedures
• When the report needs to being presented by e.g. to be presented to
Certificate in Administration Group 20 January…
Body of the Report
This is where you explain how the information was gathered. You also need to say exactly where you got your information from, and how you got the information. This is where you would also include your methodology if relevant.
This section of the report should contain the information that you found out as a result of your procedure. You will need to include the facts and figures that have been collected during your report. You can use tables, graphs and charts, if you do, you must remember to describe them e.g. Chart 8 or Appendix 3 shows that 28% of offices do not meet safety requirements.
The conclusion is made up of the main findings. This is where you show what you think of the information you have found. Make sure that you clearly show how you came to your conclusions, and that they are based on your findings. Everything in this section is based on the findings and you should not introduce new points at this time.
This is where you must say how the problem can be solved. This must be based on the findings of the report. You can have short term and long-term recommendations; you need to be aware of the implication of your recommendations (financial etc).
An appendix is the additional information you refer to in the report and wish to conclude as evidence or demonstration of the full findings. Graphs, tables etc, should be within the findings section if they need to be looked at whilst reading the report. The appendices should only include information that may possibly be referred to out of interest or is needed as evidence.
Things to remember when writing your report:
Language and Style
• Your writing must be clear and precise in meaning.
• The style of writing should be factual and objective.
• The language must be formal. Do not use slang.
• Do not use ‘I’, ‘you’ or ‘me’ in a formal report. Use third person language such as- ‘The personnel committee requested a report on…’
• The main parts of your report should have headings.
• Important points inside these main areas should carry sub-headings.
• If you want to draw attention to a specific word or section, underline that word or heading.
• Numbers can be used to help list points of importance in order.
• You can use letters to distinguish between different parts of the report (e.g.
section 3ii or Section A part 3b, etc…)
Example of a 'Short Informal Report'
To Mrs K Pearson
From Christine Fellows
Date 28 Nov 2007
REPORT ON THE PREVENTION OF WASTEFUL USE OF STATIONERY AND REPROGRAPHIC SERVICES
On 15 Nov you asked me to investigate the current wasteful use of stationery in the department and to suggest ways in which it might be more economically used in the future. My report was to be submitted to you by Nov 2007.
2.1 Stationery Use Investigated
The range of the departmental stationery investigated comprised: headed letter and memoranda notepaper, fanfold, tractor-fed printer paper, cut-sheet printer and photocopying paper, fax paper and the range of envelopes in use.
2.2 Stationery Associated with Correspondence/Internal Mail
The suspected increase in wasteful practices was confirmed upon investigation. I spoke to executive staff who confirmed that, despite our extensive use of WP drafting, a significant proportion of ostensible final copies were being returned because of errors still present. Observation and discussion with secretarial staff confirmed that clerical and executive staff in particular is using printed stationery and unused envelopes on occasion as message pads.
Confidential internal mail is being sent in sealed envelopes. No member of staff appears to be reusing envelopes. Also, despite the introduction of the LAN, staff are still distributing paper-based memoranda and attached copy files when multiple distribution could be achieved through the network with commensurate cost-saving on photocopying.
2.3 Photocopying Practices
The departmental copier is in need of servicing and staff is wasting extensive amounts of copy paper as a result of a fault which creases paper. Furthermore, departmental staff continue to use our three single-sheet copiers for batch copying instead of the much cheaper departmental and company systems copiers, despite regular requests not to do so.
2.4 Increase in Stationery Costs
I analysed the cost of departmental stationery, comparing this year’s second quarter with the first, and this year’s consumption to date against last year’s.
3.0 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The investigations I have made do justify the concern expressed about excessive waste of office stationery and reprographic services and its impact on departmental running costs. The increase in careless use of stationery is not confined to one section but is to be found, in different forms throughout the department. If action is not taken immediately the department is unlikely to keep within its administration budget.
I should therefore like to recommend the following information for your consideration:
3.4 A meeting with senior secretarial staff should be called to discuss the gravity of the problem and to obtain their co-operation in improving both managerial and secretarial performance. A refresher course could be mounted by the training department.
3.2 Control of stationery issues should be tightened; sections should be required to account quarterly for stationery if this proves practical in principle.
3.3 Consideration should be given to centralizing all reprographic work carried out in the department so as to ensure that cost-effective approaches are optimized.
3.4 Departmental policy on LAN emailing procedures and message routing should be revised and all staff notified.
Structure of a Short Formal Report
This type of report is divided into 5 sections
Look at the model copy to help you understand the report’s sections. Take note of the
language used and the difference between this and an informal report.
1.0 TERMS OF REFERENCE
This section includes –
Who asked you to write the report
What you should include
When it should be submitted
Do not use ‘I’, ‘you’ or ‘me’ in a formal report. Use third person language such as –
‘The personnel committee requested a report on…’
Here the writer outlines the means by which he collected the information.
In this section the information that has been collected is presented – in logical
order, usually with the most important point first. Sub-headings are used as shown
above to divide the information into logical and easily manageable sections. Facts
and figures and graphs and charts are often used in this section. If you use tables,
graphs and charts you must remember to describe them.
This is a summary of the main findings. This must be based on the findings and
you should not introduce new points at this time.
Here the writer has to identify the means by which the problem can be
resolved. The recommendations must be based on the finding
For further reading please refer Chapters 64 & 65 from 'Business Communication' by K.K. Sinha, Galgotia Pulishing Company.