- Mar 21, 2018
- - 0 comment
Writing Reports Rightly
Certain factors should be put into consideration while writing reports,
WHAT IS A REPORT
A report is an account given of a particular matter especially in form of an official document, after thorough investigation or consideration by an appointed person or body.
Report can also be defined as a textual work made with the specific intention of relaying information or recounting certain events in a widely reportable form.
TYPES OF REPORT
The types of reports are formal and informal reports. Formal reports contain formal elements such a title page, a transmittal, table of contents and a list of illustrations.
Informal reports are letters and memos. They are also computer printouts of production or sales figures.
Three levels of reports are information reports, analytical reports and recommendation reports.
Information reports include sales and quarterly reports that collect data from a reader. Analytical reports include annual reports, audit reports and pay-back reports. They are interpreted by the reader but no action is recommended.
Recommendation reports are reports that recommend action or a solution to an analysis. It is a combination of information, analysis and recommendation. This type of reports includes feasibility reports, justification reports and problem solving reports.
ESSENTIALS OF A GOOD REPORT
- The report should have a brief title
- The report should not be clumsy
- The object of the report must be clear in the opening paragraph
- The report should be addressed to a definite person or organization
- The report should start with a salutation
- The facts in the report should be complete and reliable
- The report should contain a table, which states the pages where a particular point is made available.
- The report should be submitted on time.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE REPORT
Reports are used to share information, analyze information and recommend solutions.
Reports without analysis and recommendation are primarily informational. Such report could be used to store record of proceedings in an event or meeting.
Analytical reports provide data, analysis and conclusion are analyzed. Analytical reports are used to persuade readers to act or change their beliefs.
Recommendation reports can only emerge when information reports and analytical reports have been properly reviewed. This helps to give an officer insight to the possible solutions that will improve the situation of an individual or an organization.
Reports are used to monitor progress in a business environment and other organizations.
The report is broken down into different parts. The title page shows the report title, name and submission date.
Executive summary shows overview of subject matter, methods of analysis, findings and the recommendations.
Table of contents shows list of numbered sections in the report and their page numbers. Introduction shows terms of reference outline of reports structure.
Body shows headings and sub-headings which reflect the content of each section. It includes information on method of data collection, the findings of the report and discussion of the findings in light of theory.
Conclusion shows the major inferences that can be drawn from the discussion.
Reference list show the list of reference material consulted during research of the report.
Appendix shows information that supports analysis but is not essential to its explanation.
Reports are written in direct and indirect patterns. The purpose for writing is presented close to the beginning in direct patterns. Information reports such as letter reports are arranged directly.
Organizational pattern is indirect when the conclusion and recommendations appear at the end of the report. This pattern is helpful when readers are not familiar with the problem in the report.
A report layout consists of three main areas. They are the page header, the page footer and the body. The body of the report contains the report data. The body holds data regions, text boxes, images, rectangles, sub-reports, and visual enhancements. Data regions display repeated rows of data from a data source.
The page header and footer repeat the same content of the top and bottom of each page. Report items such as images, textboxes and lines can also be placed in headers and footers.
HEADING AND NUMBERING
There is no one ideal strategy than can be used to organize the information of report. This is because it will vary depending on the information in the report. A consistent numbering system for headings and subheadings is important for the organization of the report. Headings are used together with numbers. It could be implemented in a report as:
- INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
1.1 Advantages of Information Technology
1.1.3 Peripheral unit
- BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
2.1 Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
2.2.1 Body language
2.2.2 Use of English
LONG FORMAT REPORTS
A typical structure of long format report is shown below:
- A) Preliminaries
- Title page
- Letters of authorization (terms of reference)
- Table of content
- List of tables and figures
- Forward / Preface
- B) Main report
- Finding and discussion
- C) Supplements
- References and Bibliography
Long format reports are documented in this format.
- The title page defines the content of the report
- The authorization letter is used as term of reference in very formal letters
- Table of content shows all headings and subheadings and make selective reading possible
- List of tables and figures helps to provide a valuable check against inaccurate collating before stapling and binding
- Forward or preface explains why the writer is writing the report
- Acknowledgements are used to thank those who have helped in the investigation and compilation of the report.
- Synopsis is used to give a busy reader a quick idea of what he will find in the report.
- Introduction contains a brief explanation of what is in the report.
- Finding and discussion shows the research information analysis and recommendation in the report.
- Conclusion is a summary of the report.
- References and bibliography is used to itemize the materials and websites used in compiling the report.
- Appendices are used to compress statistical data
- Index provides easy reference for busy readers.
HOUSE STYLE: HOW TO GET STARTED
It is mostly recommended to use the house style while structuring reports.
The information will be broken into contents, features expected in management report, presentation of textual information, presentation of numerical information, and presentation of geographical information.
The contents hold the titles of information in the report.
The features expected in management report will show a general sequence of the presented material. This includes reports that will start with title page, contents page, individual topics presented in logical order, references, bibliography and appendices.
The presentation of textual information involves use of concise and precise information in short paragraphs. Personal pronouns should be avoided. Spellings should be correct.
The presentation of numerical information involves highlighting numerical information, formatting and justifying the information accordingly.
SETTING YOUR OBJECTIVE
The objective of the report should be set and roughly outlined before proceeding with the documentation of the report. The objective of the report will depend on the matters that need to be addressed in a company or organization. The objective of the report may vary. It could be an information based report. It could also be an analytical report or a recommendation report.
The objective will help to structure the report more accurately and use the format that matches the type of report.
RESEARCHING AND ASSEMBLING THE MATERIAL
Researching and assembling of materials is the first thing to be done before commencing writing a report. Materials used for reports include previous works of educational or professional experts, website resources, textbooks, handouts, and notebooks.
Reports are best put into the suitable formats by using word processing software. Hence a notebook, laptop or desktop computer will be needed to compile the report.
An internet facility will also be needed to access information from search engines, online encyclopaedias and open source libraries. Websites that can be used to gather materials include answers.com, Wikipedia.com and goggle.com.
ORGANIZING THE MATERIAL AND PLANNING THE REPORT
Organizing the material and planning the report involves drawing a priority list of things to be done while preparing the report. The term of reference should be examined to determine if it is an information report, an analytical report or a recommendation report.
Planning a report involves preparing a condusive environment to write the report.
A time frame should be set to cover a particular area of the report. This will help the writer to stay focused and finish the report before it will be needed.
WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT
The draft is written after reading extensively, assimilating and summarizing sufficiently.
While preparing the first draft;
- Write an introduction about the topic and outline, then summarize the approach to the subject.
- Write an essay in your own words. The essay should indicate:
- a) Understanding of the topic
- b) Thoroughly researched topic
- c) Exhaust topic in terms of given reference
- d) Emphasize certain aspects
- e) Interpreted data
- f) Points of view and compared facts
- g) Evaluated points of view
- h) A logical and reasoned flow of points
- i) Summary
- Conclusion will depend on the nature of assignment. Hence all the above points might not be implemented.
- Pay particular attention to layout and numbering
- Conclusion should be written when the topic has been exhausted.
EDITING THE REPORT
The final stage of a report is the editing stage. A thorough editing helps to identify spelling mistakes, awkward grammar, breakdown in the logic of report’s organization or conclusion and fulfilment of requirements of reports.
The reports could be exposed to the spell checker of word processing software. This feature will help to identify wrongly spelt words and call the writers attention to wrong sentences.
Editing the report could take some time but it should be done carefully. This is because the slightest mistake can nullify the validity of the report.
Editing the report involves checking the correctness of the titles, verifying the level of alignment with terms of references, the correctness of the table of contents, preface, acknowledgement and synopsis.
The headings and numbering involved in each topic should be closely checked for errors. Abbreviations used in an information or recommendation report should be stated clearly.
The corrections should be made on the soft copy of the report. Producing a report before editing will demand extra time, effort and resources.
PRODUCING THE REPORT
The production of the report involves collating and binding the printed copy of the report. A back cover can be adopted to ensure the durability and longevity of the report. The first page will contain the title of the report. The next will be the table of contents.
When the report has been orderly arranged it is then presentable to the organization.
An integration of computer hardware, software and peripheral units help to make the production of the report possible.
Report writing is a vital process that keeps information of management operation updated in the mind of the staffs in an organization.
Taking out enough time to study professional reports will help to become a better report writer. Reports are quite lengthy and it requires a great level of concentration to prepare a good report. Report writing requires verbal communication skills to use words in a professional way and document the report in the right way.