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Guide to Effective Report Writing.

Reports whether written or verbal are an important means of communication in business and management and this short outline is intended to provide a guide to the structure and content of business and management reports .

Structure: Synopsis (more academic) or Executive Summary (more business focussed).


This is an important element particularly in business report writing and is an opportunity to highlight the key features of your report including the objectives of the report or project being reported on, key findings and conclusions. Both the synopsis for an academic report and executive summary for a business report should be written after you have completed the report. Typically this will include all the key elements your report on in any short personal presentation you make and should be designed to give a brief overview of the project and ideally make it clear what is in the report and why anyone should read further.

Introduction:
Here the report should present the background to the report and clarify the objectives and purpose of the report. In doing this some analysis and discussion of the purpose of the report including any clarification that you might have with respect to the purpose of the project, will be important; this should include any issues that come out of this analysis, as well as any modifications of the objectives that might arise from any such discussion with any client or result from your analysis and interpretation of the report remit. The result should therefore include clear details on: 1. The objectives and purpose of the report, including why it was commissioned 2. A clear definition of the terms of reference for the report, covering issues such as the time scale for the investigation, as well as any further clarification or modification of the project occurring after the start. 3. A clear outline of the structure of the report, here there should a brief overview of the reports sections and their relationship to the objectives of the project and how each section will further any research objectives required by the reports remit. 4. The scope of the report, this is an opportunity to make clear any time or resource constraints and boundaries the report might be working within. 5. A brief description of the sources and methodology used in developing any analysis, including brief details of the types of data used; including breakdown of the use of primary and secondary data. Some discussion of the use of theory and practice will be an important consideration in this element of the report. 6. Acknowledgement for any assistance received. There is likely to be a degree of overlap between the issues covered in the introduction and those highlighted in the executive summary, but the introduction will provide more detail and develop a clear understanding of the reports objectives and how they will be fulfilled.

University of Aberdeen Compiled by Rulzion Rattray July 2011.

Guide to Effective Report Writing. The Main Body of the Report

Here the report will follow the structure outlined in the introduction in a logical way so as the report on and fulfil the objectives set. This section is likely to be the longest element in your report; it is important that you follow a logical approach and report on this in a transparent way. The elements in this section will depend on the reports objectives and should clearly reflect these ideally in the headings and subheadings used. Depending on the extent to which you decide to deal with the discussion of methodology in the introduction and its relative importance to the report this section might include a discussion of how the data for the report was gathered, including some comment, on how good the data is; a brief discussion of the relevance of any underpinning literature or previous research. The main body of the report will also need to present important and relevant data, or refer to data presented in any appendices. Data presented in this section, rather than in appendix, is likely to be summary data and may well be presented in the summary tabular or graphical format; where more detailed data is important to the report it might be presented in an appendix. This might be important, particularly when your reader may not be able to easily access this data themselves. It is important that this section demonstrably furthers the objectives of the research and will contain the main elements of your analysis and discussion and should consider commenting on: 1. How issues raised support or differ from theory or other examples of practice that you might refer to. 2. The significance of any findings to theory. If your report requires any collection or analysis of data, it would generally contain a method section in the body of the report briefly describing how the data was collected: literature search, web pages, interviews (details of the questions and the subject pool), financial and other business reports, etc. Details of types of calculations or analysis undertaken would also be detailed.

Conclusions:
The conclusions should summarise the main findings of your research and an inferences that can be drawn from the analysis of evidence you have presented. It is important to ensure that the conclusions are clearly focussed on the issues raised by the objectives of the research as set out in the introduction. It is important to ensure that there is a clear audit trail between the evidence and analysis as presented in the report ideally the conclusions should attempt to highlight the significance of any findings and their potential impact. Remember that in many cases readers will jump to the conclusions to see if there is anything there for them so it is important to ensure that they remain focussed on the objectives of the report and are presented in an easily accessible and logical manner. Your conclusions are also an opportunity to make recommendations for action and to point out any limitations in the report and also to recommend further research where this is appropriate.

University of Aberdeen Compiled by Rulzion Rattray July 2011.

Guide to Effective Report Writing. Summary of Key requirements required for effective report writing:

Add value interpretation and analysis is more important than simple data gathering. Provide a contents page, with section headings, page numbers, appendix listings, etc. Provide an executive summary this should establish key issues, the key characteristics of your company, the key developments and your recommendations. Try to limit this to one page. Back all opinions with data or argument. Always reference data sources. Consider the reliability of resources hype vs. reality! Never present data without explaining its significance. Dont overload the reader with data. In the main text, tables should generally be no more than 24 bits of information and where possible try and ensure there is space on the same page for appropriate comment on the data. Avoid clichs, trite phrases and loose buzz words. Check your sentences for clarity by reading them aloud. Keep in mind that your report is a business document and not an essay Its a method of communication and its structure and approach should demonstrate an ability to communicate your analysis, interpretation and recommendations. Give details of the situation being examined. Explain methods of data collection used. Discuss the chosen methods of analysis and findings. Evaluate the relationship between theory and practice. Discuss perceived strengths and/or weaknesses of relevant theory; Highlight problems encountered in evaluating the issues raised by the remit.

University of Aberdeen Compiled by Rulzion Rattray July 2011.

Guide to Effective Report Writing.

References
Bryman, A & Bell, E (2007). Business Research Methods 2nd ed. Oxon: Oxford University Press. 553-578. Bryman, A & Bell, E (2007). Social Research Methods 2nd ed. Oxon: Oxford University Press. Fisher, A. (1993) The Logic of Real Arguments, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hart, C, (1998) Doing a Literature Review, London, Sage Publications. Manalo, E., Wong-Toi, G., & Trafford, J. (2002). The business of writing: Written communication skills for business students (2nd ed.). Auckland: Pearson Education. Piers,R (2008).Cite thm rght: th essential referencing guide 7th ed. Indianopolis: Pear Tree Books. 1-102. Toulmin, S. (1958) The Use of Argument, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

University of Aberdeen Compiled by Rulzion Rattray July 2011.