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Rebecca Moore Howard
The Writing Program
Reports are a commonplace way
of communicating in a variety of professions and academic disciplines. Many scientists, for example, write lab
reports and research reports; social scientists write field reports and research reports; and people in business write a range of
formal and informal reports. Each
type of report has its own conventions, its own customary ways of
of Business Reports
Informal business reports are
typically communicated via email, memos, letters, or orally. A formal business report is customarily
submitted in print and may be the final document submitted in a series of reports--the
completion report--or it may be the
only document submitted in a project.
- Activity reports
- Minutes of meetings
- Policy or procedural directives
- Progress or status reports
- Survey reports
- Trip reports
- Analytical reports convey information accompanied by the writer's analysis or interpretation of it. Progress reports, for example, are
usually analytical, reporting not only what has taken place but the writer's
analysis of it.
- Informational reports convey information (results, facts, data) alone, with no commentary. Both formal and informal reports may be solely informational; minutes of meetings, for example, convey only the events and
conversations of a meeting--nothing more.
- Recommendations convey information; the writer's analysis; and the writer's ideas about appropriate actions that might be taken. Policy directives, in which one or more people announce policy by which the members of a group or organization will abide, are an example of this type of business report.
Parts of a Report
A few general guidelines are applicable to many types of business reports.
If your report is extensive (more than two pages), you should include descriptive headings for the major sections, to help readers navigate the report easily.
- Introduction: Begin
the report with a brief overview of its contents.
- Summary: Summarize the situation on which you are reporting, or describe the problem or opportunity that your report is exploring.
- Discussion: Provide some explanatory detail, including the results of whatever research you may have conducted. List the available options. Explain your methods, if appropriate. If you are writing an analytical report
or recommendation, give the criteria by which you are making judgments.
- Conclusions: If you are writing an analytical report or recommendation, explain the implications of each of the available options. If
you are writing an analytical report, offer your evaluation here. If you are writing a recommendation or feasibility study, explain which option you think is best, and why.