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WRITING THE REPORT

The report writing is multifunctional:
1. it is a record of work undertaken;
2. a repository of data;
3. a rationale of the formulation methods used, allowing for an objective and external
assessment to be made of these;
4. it is a description of a proposed project;
5. a justification for expenditure;
6. a set of instructions on how to implement the project; and, at the most general level,
7. a contribution to the debate within the country on national development planning.
Writing a report which does all these things and more, adequately, is a skilled job. The best
advice which can he given on how to write is to follow the five basic principles, that is keep
the writing:

Simple: avoid unnecessary jargon, long words or elaborate explanations where a
straightforward expression in plain, everyday language will do just as well;

Direct: stick to the point, do not digress unless it serves a real purpose, only introduce
material which is relevant to the theme being discussed;

Lucid: test each sentence or figure or table for comprehensibility — can it he
understood by an intelligent reader who is not as familiar as the writer is with the
project? Is there any ambiguity of meaning or interpretation? Is an important issue
being sidestepped or an answer being “fudged?

Vigorous: write in a manner which sustains the reader’s interest; present arguments
with conviction and, if warranted, conclusions with confidence;

Brief: above all, keep the length of writing on a particular topic to the minimum
needed to cover the essential points to which the reader’s attention should be drawn.
What constitutes an appropriate amount of detail will depend on the part of the report
concerned (i.e. Summary, Main Report or Annex). However, while brevity is generally
a desirable feature of reports, it is important not to sacrifice important material just for
the sake of limiting the length of a section of text. A complex development situation
may require a lot of analysis and the serious reader should be expected to have to keep
reading for as long as is necessary for arguments and explanations to be adequately
presented.

strategies. It is often a good idea to coin a noteworthy phrase to highlight the basic underlying theme of the project. plans and programmes. Each Annex should be written in the manner of a small monograph on the particular aspect of the project concerned. and possibilities for. the Annexes on physical planning will be the foundation on which the later Annexes (e. Annexes will often contain specialist bibliographies and should always be thoroughly cross—referenced to other Annexes. Clarity in the communication of the basic concepts and objectives is therefore essential. economic and social trends in relevant sectors or parts of the country and the organisation and function of the major institutions involved. The organisation and management section of the Main Report should explain how various institutions and agencies will participate in implementing the project and operating it . on agriculture or settlement organisation) are based and the latter. reviews recent technological. which may be briefly summarised. Sufficient analytical detail — such as assumed levels of activity with and without the project as conceived — must therefore be provided. The background section provides the “jumping off” point for the presentation of the project—specific material in the remainder of the Main Report. Thus. in turn. will underpin the Annexes on financial and economic analysis. The present development situation and the constraints on.) Any major departures in project concept from that put forward in the interim report should be mentioned. Thus.Writing the Annexes The Annexes of a project formulation report are the “building blocks” from which the Main Report is constructed. explains how procurement should be undertaken and recommends procedures for project accounting and audit The outline of the basic design concept of the project is crucial to the credibility of the proposals. improvement of this are summarised. Writing the Main Report The purpose of the introductory section of the Main Report is to provide the context and setting within which the investment proposals have been formulated. The section on the project area or sub—sector (or both. The objective is to provide reference points so that the various features of the proposed project which are spelt out in later sections can be related to present priorities. Hence the order in which the Annexes are presented in the report should follow the logical sequence of formulation itself in Phases 3 and 4. It is usual to start with an outline of the key development issues to which the project proposal is addressed followed by an indication of how and why the formulation mission received its particular terms of reference. in some cases) prepares the ground for explaining the project design decisions which were taken during formulation. it should have introductory and concluding chapters with the body of the text organised around the unfolding of a central theme. The background section introduces the important features of current policy on agricultural and rural development. including an indication of what might happen if the project was not forthcoming.g. This section is also the link between the introductory material about development objectives and the later more specific explanation of how the project will achieve them. for example. The rationale for the project itself is set out in the next section which includes a concise description of all the major features of the project — particularly its various components — presents a summary cost estimate and financing plan. and help the reader keep this in mind as he or she proceeds through the document. (It is a good idea to reproduce the full terms of reference in an Appendix to the Main Report for ease of reference.

The reader should not be distracted by cross references in the Summary to the rest of the report . and when. clearly showing the essential options (investigated. the list of contents will provide the necessary information on where to find further detail. Such summaries are sometimes referred to as ‘executive” summaries to distinguish them from the ordinary type of summary which simply seeks to shorten a lengthy account.subsequently. What is their main concern when presented with a project report dealing with a proposal for a large scale and complex investment? They want to be able to understand what the project aims to do. and it would be useful if their attention was drawn to major issues. The Summary should not normally exceed 2 to 3 pages in length. so much information will have to be either left out or compressed to its bare essentials. dealing with an endless stream of paper across their desks. rejected and preferred) which follow therefrom and upon which the investment authorities must base their decisions. It is important to concentrate on the particular benefits of the project in question rather than list a string of results which could be expected from almost any development project. Writing the Summary The Summary should not attempt to precise or condense all the information contained in the Main Report. It should convince the reader that the arrangements proposed are workable and acceptable to all main parties concerned. They will need to know how it relates to national priorities and those of funding agencies.if the reader is interested. It is here that implicit objections to the proposals must be acknowledged but shown to be outweighed by the arguments in favour of going ahead with the recommended design. with quantified costs and benefits. The purpose of a Summary is to highlight the key findings and conclusions arising from the formulation study. where. how. This leads naturally into the section on financial and/or economic implications while other aspects of the expected impact of the project and the main risks it faces are part of the broader discussion in the following section which is concerned with presenting an overall justification of the project. The last section of the Main Report should draw attention to any major outstanding issues which must be cleared up before project implementation can proceed. The purpose of the markets and prices section is to show how the inputs and outputs of the project will be traded and to indicate what is expected to happen to critical prices and price structures in the future. It is helpful if the report itself suggests what steps should he taken to hasten progress. And they want to be able to grasp all this without spending a lot of time searching through several pages of densely argued text. The section on justification and risks is often the first part of the Main Report to be read by the busy decision maker (or possibly the second after the project description and rationale). . possible politically sensitive implications and essential aspects of follow up. The writer of the Summary normally the team leader — should try to put themselves in the place of busy officials and administrators.

Repetition in the Main Report of material in the Annexes and some overlap between Annexes is of course permissible. What is irritating to the reader is repetition within the Main Report or within an Annex. Attempts to save time by retaining intact sections of the original draft or a reluctance to discard phrases which the original writer spent long time thinking up seldom produce the desired improvement. closely followed by the tendency to include data and analyses “just to be on the safe side’’. . it is much better for individual team members to write first drafts of different sections and for these to be given to an editor to put into a coherent whole.  If a section of the report has to be redrafted to improve its clarity. These are invariably a complete waste of time.Practical recommendations  A common fault of project documents is unnecessary repetition. it is often best to start again from the beginning and write an entirely new text. This can be avoided by always following the maxim “if in doubt—cut out”.  The team leader would be advised to resist any suggestion that the report or parts of it be written by committees or in group session.