HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS REPORT
|TITLE PAGE||report title
|EXECUTIVE SUMMARY||overview of subject matter
methods of analysis
brief of recommendations
|TABLE OF CONTENTS||list of numbered sections in report and their page numbers|
|INTRODUCTION||terms of reference
outline of report’s structure
|BODY||headings and sub-headings which reflect the contents of each section. Includes information on method of data collection (if applicable), the findings of the report and discussion of market positioning, competitor analysis|
|CONCLUSION||states the major inferences that can be drawn from the discussion
|REFERENCE LIST||list of reference material consulted during research for report – APA6 or Harvard|
|APPENDIX||information that supports your analysis but is not essential to its explanation|
The executive summary provides the reader with an overview of the report’s essential information. It is designed to be read by people who will not have time to read the whole report or are deciding if this is necessary; therefore, in your executive summary you need to say as much as possible in the fewest words (Weaver & Weaver, 1977). The executive summary should briefly outline the subject matter, the background problem, the scope of the investigation, the method(s) of analysis, the important findings arguments and important issues raised in the discussion, the conclusion and recommendations. The executive summary should not just be an outline of the points to be covered in the report with no detail of the analysis that has taken place or conclusions that have been reached.
The executive summary stands as an overview at the front of the report but it is also designed to be read alone without the accompanying report (this would often occur in the workplace); therefore, you need to make sure it is self sufficient and can be understood in isolation. It is usually written last (so that it accurately reflects the content of the report) and is usually about two hundred to three hundred words long (i.e. not more than a page).
In a report longer than several pages a table of contents should be included as it assists the reader to locate information quickly. It also gives the reader a schematic overview of the structure and contents of the report.
A table of contents should include all section headings and subheadings:
worded exactly as they appear in the report
numbered exactly as they appear in the report (For more information on numbering systems used in report writing, click here.)
with their page numbers.
The table of contents should be on its own page.
As well as a table of contents, you may wish to include:
List of Figures (optional, separate page)
This list is used mainly for reports containing numerous figures. It includes the figure number, caption and page number, ordered as they appear in the text.
List of Tables (optional, separate page)
This list is used mainly for reports containing numerous tables. It includes the table number, caption and page number, ordered as they appear in the text.
List of appendices (optional, separate page)
This list is used mainly for reports containing numerous appendices. It includes the appendix letter (each separate appendix should be lettered i.e. Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.), its title and page number, ordered as they appear at the end of the report.
Where symbols are used extensively, a list of symbols and definitions should appear at the beginning of the report. If there is no list, symbols should be defined in the text when first used.
The introduction presents:
the background to the issue (i.e. why was the report commissioned),
the objective or purpose of the report (the aim)
a definition of the research problem/topic
a definition of the report’s terms of reference (the what, where, and when of the research problem/ topic)
an outline of the report’s structure
an overview of the report’s sections and their relationship to the research problem
an outline and justification of the scope of the report (the boundaries the report is working within)
a description of the range of sources used (i.e. secondary research, the limitations of this, and any other statistics and data sought)
acknowledgment of any valuable assistance received in the preparation of the report
While there will be some duplication in the contents of the executive summary and the introduction, the purpose of the executive summary is to provide a summary of the findings of each section of the report. The purpose of the introduction, however, is to outline what the report will cover and how these issues address the research problem.
The body section expands and develops the material in a logical and coherent manner, reflecting the structure outlined in the Introduction. It contains a description of the findings and a discussion of them. It should also discuss the current market position relative to your company. This will also include discourse on the competitors and a discussion on where your product and company are positioned. The following questions are examples of some of the types of questions the body of your report should seek to answer:
What were the most significant findings or factors involved in the topic/ problem?
What are the competitors’ position? Are sales growing? Why? Discuss.
Have you found some gap in their offering compared to your own? What needs to be done to enhance this?
Did you uncover any unexpected or new issues that need to be considered?
This section is usually the longest part of the report. The material must be presented logically. The type of headings you use to organise the information in the body of your report will depend on the purpose of the report you are preparing. Make sure the headings and sub-headings you choose are informative.
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.
The body of a report will also probably contain supporting evidence such as tables, graphs or figures. Only include those that are essential for reader understanding, the rest can be placed in an appendix that is referred to in the text; for example,
Appendix C contains the YoY predicted growth in shareholder accounts for the company.
The conclusion summarises the major inferences that can be drawn from the information presented in the report. It answers the questions raised by the original research problem or stated purpose of the report (Blake & Bly, 1993) and states the conclusions reached. Finally, the conclusion of your report should also attempt to show ‘what it all means’: the significance of the findings reported and their impact (Weaver & Weaver, 1977).
The conclusion/s presented in a report must be related to, resulting from and justified by the material which appears in the report. The conclusion must not introduce any new material. It should report on all the conclusions that the evidence dictates as it is NOT the job of a conclusion to “gloss over conclusions that are puzzling, unpleasant, incomplete or don’t seem to fit into your scheme” (Weaver & Weaver, 1977: 98). Doing this would indicate writer bias and mean your conclusion may mislead the reader.
In the workplace, conclusions are quite often read by managers before the main text of the report and hence, should summarise the main points clearly. This section also may include:
reference to original aim(s) and objective(s) of report,
application(s) of results,
limitations and advantages of the findings,
objective opinion, evaluation or judgement of the evidence
Quite often the present tense is used in the conclusion; for example, “The healthy lifestyles concept analysed in this report is a good candidate for next phase of the marketing campaign for Choice chocolate”.
The conclusions may be ordered in several ways (Weaver & Weaver, 1977). The main conclusion may be stated first and then any other conclusions in decreasing order of importance. Alternatively, it may be better to organise the conclusions in the same order as the body section was organised. Another strategy would be to present the positive conclusions together and then the negative conclusions. The organisational strategy you use may vary; the important thing is that the organisation of your conclusion is logical.
The conclusion must arise from the evidence discussed in the body of the report. It should not, therefore, subjectively tell the reader what to do (Blicq, 1992; Weaver & Weaver, 1977): this job is performed by the recommendations section.
(NOTE: Sometimes the conclusion and recommendations can be presented together in one section but they should be presented in separately labelled subsections).
Your recommendations section 2will contain between 2 and 5 recommendations based on the findings made in the main report and summarised in your conclusion and Executive Summary.
NOTE: It is essential to include a reference list of the reference material you consulted during your research for the report. A bibliography is a list of all the reference material you consulted during your research for the report while a reference list is a list of all the references cited in the text of your report, listed in alphabetical order at the end of the report.
Each reference in the reference list needs to contain all of the bibliographic information from a source. Throughout the text of your report you will also need to provide references when you have included an idea in your report which is not your own original idea.
A reference is the bracketed or footnoted piece of information within the text of your writing that provides an acknowledgment that you are using someone else’s ideas. There are several systems of referencing, however, you will be using Harvard or APA6. Use either of these but be consistent and use accurately. If you are not sure how to reference correctly, refer to the Griffith library for assistance with their Reference Tool.
The report needs to be formatted correctly and presentation will form a part of the marking rubric. The font needs to be 12 point sized and the line spacing 1.5 minimum.
Ensure you include your name, s number, course code and assignment 3 on the file save. This is important. Ensure you have included the e cover sheet made available to you in the assignment upload area. Note, DO NOT attempt to answer the two cover sheet questions before you are ready to upload your assignment. It only allows you one attempt.