Report writing – parts of the report
1 Title Page
The title page not only serves as a protective cover; it can also be a way to impress clients and colleagues. It allows you to present a professional document. The minimum information expected on a title page is title, author and originating organisation
The title appears on the title page, and may be repeated on the summary and the contents page. The title should describe the contents without being too long. Avoid words that carry no or no new information. The title should be preferably typed in capital letters.
The summary (also called abstract or synopsis) is a summary of the contents of the report, concentrating on the most important aspects of the report. The main purpose of a summary is to provide all audiences with an overview of the investigation.
The body of the report should be prefaced by a factual statement summarising the material which was gathered and on which the report is based. Those who read the report need to be given an outline of the facts that were researched. The summary is always placed at the beginning of the report, although it is written after completing the report.
- The title and summary (synopsis) appear on a single page before table of contents so that this page can be copied and circulated throughout the organisation to keep people informed.
The summary should be a condensed version of the report, but should be in good English, in the same style as the report itself. Make it no longer than ten per cent of the length of the report; you may find that you can produce a satisfactory summary that is shorter than this. Use the same order of presentation in the summary as in the report, and introduce nothing that is not already in the report.
4 Table of Contents
The report should have a clear outline or Table of Contents following the Title page. The Table of Contents contains the divisions and subdivisions of the report with page numbers.
EXAMPLE OF AN OUTLINE OR TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. Source of Complaint
2.1 Plant Inspection department
2.2 Filed Service department
3. Items Investigated:
3.1 Design of product
3.2 Quality of materials
3.3 Inspection of Product
3.3.1 In process
3.4 Method of Production
3.4.1 Tools and equipment
3.4.2 Sequence of operations
3.4.3 Workmanship of Operators
5.1 Renewed, Detailed, Printed specifications
5.2 Appointment of two job instructors per shift
5.3 Closer supervision of operators
A. Factory Plans as they presently exist
B. Projected Factory Plans
C. Matrix on enhanced Production methods
The report commences with an Introduction which makes reference to the background – how the problem arose: it will include a brief outline of the purpose of the report (the terms of reference), how it was tackled, and whether the purpose was successfully accomplished.
The original outline becomes the guideline followed point for point. The units for discussion should be identified under headings and their inter-connectedness should be established. The subject matter must be logically developed, with each stage following naturally from the one that precedes it. Only relevant information or evidence should be included, and the reasoning must be clearly presented; for example, no new statement should be made without first preparing the reader for it.
A style of professionalism and impersonality must be maintained at all times. Never state your own opinion as a fact -let the facts speak for themselves.
Here you should describe the circumstances or arrangements or events which are the subject of the report. You should reserve later sections for attributing reasons or causes to the events you have described here; the findings must simply present an impartial description or narrative.
If you need to include any statistical data, you will have to decide which data is essential. Include only the most important statistics in the findings section – you can include the full data as an appendix. This prevents the flow of the findings section being interrupted by large passages of statistical data. The appendix of full data prevents the report appearing to give a biased view.
To make the presentation clearer, you should arrange the findings section under a number of separate subject headings, so that the reader can look quickly at the report and read only particular areas if necessary. It also makes the use of the report much easier if you use the same headings within the findings, conclusions and recommendations sections, so that a reader can follow a single area through each of these three sections. A glance at the sample report will make this clear.
b) Defining the Performance Gap
Define the performance gap that you found from your methods and scopes of your analysis
Make sure that the essence of the report is encapsulated by well thought out conclusions that are made based on the facts of the report. In this section you interpret the information you gave in the findings. E.g. if you found that long queues were building up at the cash desks in a building society or bank, you might conclude that too few cash desks were available or staffed at a period of peak demand.
For the relationship between findings and conclusions to function effectively, two things must happen. You must arrange the two sections with the same subject headings in the same order, so that the reader may go from one to the other to find underlying causes to factors observed in the first part.
You must base your conclusions solely on the information you presented in the findings, otherwise the reader will think that you have withheld some data and the report is taking on a personal bias.
In this section, you suggest a course of action to be taken in response to the differences between the current situation and what the stated situation should be.
The recommendations should follow the same subject headings as the findings and conclusions. As the conclusions should rest only on information contained in the findings, so the recommendations should rest only on the conclusions. After all, the recommendations will serve to answer the questions “WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?”
If necessary, one or more appendices containing raw data, figures not used in the body of the paper, sample calculations, etc. may be included. They are considered as additional material to the report, and may not be examined by the reader at all.
- Full Tables of Statistics – If you have given only part of statistical tables in the findings, you should give the complete data, along with details of sources, in an appendix.
Maps or Plans – If you are discussing the layout or sitting of a building, a map will help the reader understand your points.
Copies of Questionnaires – If research in the field included questionnaires, you should insert a copy of one to make clear the questions asked.
Answers to Questionnaires – The answers should be brought together and presented in pie diagrams, bar charts or other suitable forms.
You must present this data to make clear to your reader your research methods and detailed findings. However, it is unlikely that many reports would need all of these appendices; usually only a statistical table, bibliography, and questionnaire and answer analysis will be needed.
List all the books and articles you have consulted. Within the text, cite references by author and year unless instructed otherwise, for example “Comrie (1999) stated that …” or “several studies have found that x is greater than y (Comrie 1999; Smith 1999).” For two authors, list both names, and for three or more use the abbreviation “et al.” (note the period) following the first name, for example “Comrie and Smith (1999)” or “Comrie et al. (1999).” Attribute every idea that is not your own to avoid plagiarism. (http://www.geog.arizona.edu )
10 Signature, Position and Date
All your reports should include these as they make clear who you are and when you wrote the report. These are both pieces of important information if the report is consulted some time after you wrote it, and also if further research or analysis is needed.