Formal reports are rarely less than ten pages long and can often run into hundreds of pages. They are commonly written for a large audience who do not know the writer, and are sent outside an organisation. Third person and passive voice should be used (e.g. “It is considered that …” rather than “I consider that …”).
- Key element of long reports include:
- It provides an in-depth view of a key problem or idea.
- It requires extensive research.
- It is too detailed and complex to be organized in memo or letter format.
- It requires you to prepare a timetable for completion of the report.
- It is always directed at top level management. Collaborative effort. It is often the work of several individuals.
Process of Writing a Long Report
- The following guidelines will help you plan and write a long report:
- Identify a significant topic.
- Conduct research
- Expect to confer regularly with your supervisor(s).
- Revise your work often
- Keep the order flexible at first.
- Prepare both a day-to-day calendar and a checklist
PARTS OF A LONG REPORT (STRUCTURE)
- Cover letter/memorandum
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Table of illustrations, figures, tables, etc. (if applicable)
- Body of the report – methodology, findings and discussion
- Appendices (if applicable)
- Glossary or list of abbreviations (if applicable)
- Index (optional)
Write a cover letter if the report is to be sent to a reader outside the organisation.
Write a cover memo if the report is to be sent to a reader inside the organisation.
The letter/memo should contain a salutation (“Dear …” for a letter), statement of purpose (“Here is the report on … that you requested”), a brief overview or summary (“In this report you will find …”), acknowledgements (“Several people proved to be of great assistance to me…”), and a courteous close (“Thank you for the opportunity to investigate … If you have any questions about the report, please contact me”).
A report may be bound into a folder or professionally produced as a book.
- The cover should be attractive.
- The report title should be on the cover and spine.
The title should be complete and comprehensive, without being so long that it is difficult to grasp.
- Title of the report.
- Name and position of the person who wrote the report.
- Name of the person (or organisation) for whom the report was written.
- An alternative to having a separate title page is to set out this information at the top of the first page.
The summary is a quick overview of the aim, conclusions and most important aspects of the report.
The summary is designed to be read by people who are too busy to read the whole report. It is therefore essential that it be brief, comprehensive and interesting.
The summary is usually written last.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The table of contents is a systematic list, in page order, of all the parts of a report.
Page numbers are listed next to each heading and sub-heading.
If desired, a numbering system may be used for organizing the table of contents and report.
TABLE OF ILLUSTRATIONS, FIGURES, TABLES, ETC. (IF APPLICABLE)
Include separate tables of illustrations, figures (i.e. graphs and diagrams) and/or tables if the report is four or more pages long and contains a number of graphics, figures or tables.
- The introduction is the beginning of the major part of the report. Its aim is to provide all the necessary information so that the reader can understand the main discussion and the body of the report.
- It is the place for a broad, general view of your material.
- Avoid details that belong properly to the body of the report or the appendices.
- Authorization or terms of reference:
What is the problem or issue being reported on? Who asked for the report?
Why is the report being written?
- Background information:
What was the sequence of past events leading to the present problem or issue?
What aspects of the topic will be dealt with? What will be excluded?
What kind of information will be presented?
- Definitions of technical terms and words that you intend to use in a special sense.
- Outline the method of investigation or research:
When and how was the information obtained?
- Outline the sources of information:
Where was the information obtained?
- Present the facts and results that were obtained through the investigation or research.
- Restrict the content of this section to factual information of high credibility. Opinions should be located in the discussion section of the report.
- Divide the section into sub-topics and use sub-headings.
- Arrange the sub-topics in accordance with a basic plan or logical progression. For example: Order of time, Order of location, Order of importance
- Analyse and evaluate the facts already presented.
- Present your expert opinions. Avoid emotional statements or opinions
expressed in a “parent” tone.
- Based on the results of your research, argue the case for and against various courses of action, estimate the possible effects, and then recommend a suitable course of action
- If you wish, briefly include some additional material to support your argument, e.g. graph, diagram, table,picture.
- Throughout the discussion, refer to any appendices you have attached to supplement the information in the body of the report.
- Summarise the discussion.
- Summarise your findings and inferences.
- Emphasise the significance of your subject matter.
- Refer briefly to any wider consideration, outside your terms of reference, on which your report may have a bearing.
- Make recommendations based on your findings and inferences.
- Be as specific as you possibly can.
- State clearly what action should be taken as a result of your recommendations, and by whom
- Use subjunctive mood, e.g. “That … be [past tense of verb]”
- Set your recommendations out step by step and in a logical sequence.
- Do not put more than one step in each recommendation.
- Always number your recommendation.
- Keep your explanations out of the recommendations. If it needs explaining, do so in the discussion section of the report.
- If you expect a “knockback” on some of your recommendations,
include some alternatives in the recommendations.
- Don‟t be afraid to recommend further investigation if you feel you still don‟t have the answer when it is time to write the report.
- Name of organisation or commitee.
- Date that the report was completed or signed.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (IF APPLICABLE)
Record the bibliographic details (i.e. author, title, edition, publisher, place of publication, and year of publication) for the sources of information used.
List the sources of information alphabetically by author.
APPENDICES (IF APPLICABLE)
The appendices contain data (such as charts, tables, photographs, maps and statistics) that support the body of the report. These are located in a separate section to avoid disrupting and cluttering the flow of the discussion.
GLOSSARY OR LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS (IF APPLICABLE)
If the report is particularly complex and involves terminology that the reader may not be familiar with, include a glossary (mini-dictionary) to explain the meaning of words and terms.
If there are a number of abbreviations (acronyms, initials or shortened words), create a list of abbreviations and what they stand for.
INDEX (IF APPLICABLE)
If the report is over 20 pages long, an index will help the reader find specific information contained within the report more easily than is possible with the table of contents.
CITATION DOS AND DON’TS
To avoid plagiarism and maintain high ethical standards, follow these guidelines:
- Document any direct quotations from a source.
- If any opinions, interpretations, etc. expressed verbally or written down are not your own, document them.
- Document any idea, concept, or point of view from a source, even ifyou do not use the author’s exact words.
Never alter any original material to suit your argument
- Document any statistical data you did not compile yourself
- Always document any visuals.
- Do not delete an author’s name when you are citing an Internet