This report is written with the ultimate objective of sharing the knowledge gained from a previous workshop regarding report writing. A report writing process has several sections that include report planning, report writing and report design. Under the planning section, various elements are evaluated before the actual writing commences. These include defining the purpose of the report, defining the audience, identifying main ideas, collecting information, sorting and evaluating information collected and preparing the outline. Report writing on its part includes the structure that should be followed while writing a report. Various sections have been outlined ranging from the title page up to conclusion. There is a highlight of what needs to be included in each section. The design section shows how different things should be incorporated in the report in order to make it attractive and easy to read.
A report entails a systematic, well organised document that defines and analyses a problem or subject. It may include recording of a sequence of events, interpretation of significance that come along with these events, evaluation of various facts involved, discussion of the outcomes, conclusions and recommendations. Reports should always be concise, accurate, clear and well structured.
Report writing is a technique that is vital in a workplace setting since it is an effective and adequate tool of communicating in a comprehensive manner. For this reason, junior employees and other management staff need to be equipped with relevant report writing skills in the day to day execution of their activities.
Reports can be classified into either internal or external. Internal reports are developed while dealing with issues that strictly affect the organisation alone. They may be directed to employees, managers or other relevant stakeholders. External reports on their part target individuals operating outside the organisation, but are related to the organisation in one way or another. These people may include consumers, suppliers, community among others.
This report aims at summarising the knowledge that I acquired with regards to report writing during the previous workshop that I attended. I feel obliged to share some of the information that I obtained with the top level managers and other junior employees. I strongly believe that adopting effective report writing skills will help the organisation improve in different areas that are dependent on accurate and concise information availability.
Planning a report forms the basis of the writing process. This stage consumes more time compared to the others since everything needs to be on the right track. Poor planning results to wastage of valuable time, and also presents the risk of developing a report that does not meet the desired objectives. There are steps that can be used in order to plan a report effectively. They include:
1.1 Define the Problem and Purpose
At this stage it is vital to ask oneself several questions. Among the questions that can be asked include:
What is the scope of the investigation?
What will be investigated?
What are the limitations associated with the investigation?
What method will be used to conduct investigations?
What is the significance of the report?
Having a clear definition of the purpose for the report is important because it makes it easier to define the audience and the information that needs to be collected.
1.2 Define the Audience
The audience here entails the people that are going to read the report. This may be the employees, managers, consumers, suppliers among others. Identifying the audience helps in determining the tone to use while writing and the contents to involve in the report. The education level of some consumers is not at par with that of the organisation’s employees hence there needs to be a different between reports directed towards these two groups.
A report should entail only what these readers need to know. This calls for profiling since the readers will have various values, needs and expectations. Profiling these attributes helps in identifying appropriate ways of addressing them.
1.3 Identify Main Ideas
It is vital to establish the topics or ideas that need to be addressed. This will entail making a list of all potential sections or topics of the report. A preliminary outline of headings can be drawn here. The aspect helps in the collection of the information that is required in writing the report.
1.4 Collect Information
After identifying topics and issues, an individual needs to locate the research and information needed. Report writing usually contains two main categories of information. They include primary and secondary information. For primary information, it is gathered directly from the original sources through various methods like survey, observation and interviews. Secondary information on the other hand is obtained from previous reports, statistics and published materials.
1.5 Sort and Evaluate Information
After gathering the information, there is need to review the material involved. Key terms and ideas that relate to the purpose of the report need to be highlighted. The highlighted material makes up the findings section of the report. No information should be discarded before the report is complete. Circumstances might change and it will save time if major changes need to be done.
1.6 Prepare the Outline
Different ways can be used to provide a logical order or information. They include: chronological sequence, order of importance, inductive order, and problem solving order among others.
2.1 Structure of Report
2.1.1 Title Page
Normally includes the title, name of the author, name of the audience it is being directed to and the submission date. It is advisable to avoid “fancy” fonts and effects while writing this section in order to make it look formal. The title needs to be eye-catching and reflect what has been done, for positive impact on the reader.
It is the most read part of the report. This is the part where the author attracts attention to his/her report. The abstract should be short, within two paragraphs. It needs to contain the essence of the report, based on which the audience makes the decision on whether to go ahead with reading or not. It may contain several details such as main design point, main motivation, critical differences from previous reports, and methodology among others.
2.1.3 Table of Contents
This is a list of numbered sections included in the report and their page numbers. It includes the content, list of figures and the appendices.
Most reports are usually headed by this section. The section shows that the author has understood the brief or task and he/she is going to cover everything as required. It should answer some of the following questions:
What is the setting of the problem?
What exactly is the problem being solved?
Why is it important to solve the problem?
Has the problem remained unsolved?
What makes the problem difficult to solve?
How has the problem been solved in the report?
Under which conditions are the solutions applicable?
What are the main results?
What is the summary of the report?
How is the report organised?
On most occasions, the introduction is just a short version of the entire report. In some cases the report might also have a similar flow.
This expands upon a separate section if there is presence of sufficient background that the reader needs to understand before knowing the details of the report. It is important to state that a reader who knows the background can skip the section.
This section describes the materials and methods used in conducting the research. Enough detail is provided so that someone can repeat the same procedure with the objective of ascertaining the results. The section also requires explanation and justification of selecting a particular method (Lichtenberger, 2012). It also becomes important to include extra observations or information, such as changes caused by some accident or method generated through the results of a pilot study.
The section gives a description of the results, but does not explain them. It gives the reader a factual account of the findings involved (Kuiper, 2009). The author/researcher usually has the freedom to draw attention to specific data or trends that they think are important. The main objective of this section is to make the results more comprehensible to the readers. If an individual is presenting statistical results, they should present descriptive statistics first followed by the inferential statistical tests performed.
The section has two fundamental objectives of explaining the results of the study and exploring the significance of the findings.
Here the author needs to crisply state the main points from the report. How has the reader become smarter? Or how has the world become better as a result of this report?
2.1.10 Reference List
This entails the material that was consulted during the research for the report. There are various formats that can be used on this section.
3.1 Numbering System
It is vital to include a consistent numbering system for the headings and subheadings. One can also use the indenting layout of the report’s headings to show the sections and sub-sections.
Headings should be accurately, logically and clearly labelled since they permit quick reference to particular information and reveal the organisation of the report. Should be descriptive and specific at all times and avoid being general and vague (Burlew, 2010).
Various types of visual aids exist. They include graphs, pictures, diagrams, sketches, maps, objects, tables and charts among others. Visual aids help in improving audience understanding, provides clearer understanding serves as notes among other things.
Visual aids need to have several formatting requirements like titles, labels, keys, positioning and size.
3.4 Principles of Design
It is about a report’s structure and use of white space in order to “chunk” related information together.
This entails how space on every page is used so that explanations, graphs, recommendations and cause analysis have obvious connection with each other.
It is all about consistency. Entail aspects such as using similar formatting and graph type to display performance measures over time.
It is about making the significant things to stand-out, like signals of attainment of target or gradual change in performance.
Burlew, M. (2010). SAS guide to report writing (5th ed.). Cary, N.C.: SAS InstituteTop of FoBottom of Form
Kuiper, S. (2009). Contemporary business report writing (4th ed.). Australia: South-Western Cengage Learning.Top of FormBottom of Form
Lichtenberger, E. (2012). Essentials of Assessment Report Writing (1., Auflage ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.Top of ForBottom of Form
Scalise, F., & Strosahl, D. (2013). A street officer’s guide to report writing. Clifton Partk, N.Y.: Delmar.