Report Structure

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REPORT STRUCTURE : THE SHORTER FORMS

Your decision about report structure will be based on the needs of your situation. Those needs are related to report length and formality of the situation. The longer the problem and the more formal the situation, the more involved the report structure is likely to be. The shorter the problem and the more informal the situation, the less involved the report structure is likely to be. Such adjustments of report structure to length and formality help meet the reader’s needs in each situation.

Generally the reports are classified based on their length and formality with  high end reports to the low end reports. At the top of the stairway are the most formal , full-dress reports. Such reports have a number of pages that come before the first chapter. These pages serve useful purposes, but they also dress up the report. Typically, these prefatory pages as they are called, are included when the problem situation is formal and the report is long. The exact makeup of the prefatory pages may vary, but the most common arrangement includes these parts: title fly, title page, letter of transmittal, table of contents, and executive summary. Flyleaves blank pages at the beginning and end that protect the report also may be included. The first two pages title fly and title page contain identification information. The title fly carries only the report title. The title page typically contains the title, identification of the writer and reader, and usually the date. As the words imply, the letter of transmittal is a letter that transmits the report. It is a personal message from the writer to the reader. The table of contents, of course, is a listing of the report contents. It is the report outline in finished form, with page numbers to indicate where the parts begin. It also may  include a list of illustrations ( tables, figures, diagrams ), which may be a separate part. The executive summary summarizes whatever is important in the report – the major facts and analyses, conclusions and recommendations.

 

As the need for the formality decreases and the problem becomes smaller, the makeup of the report changes. The changes primarily occur in the prefatory pages. As we have noted, these pages give the report a formal appearance. So it is not surprising that they change as the report situation becomes less formal. Usually, such reports are shorter. Although the changes that occur are far from standardized, they follow a general order. First, the title fly drops out . This page contains only the report title, which also appears on the next page. Obviously, the title fly is used primarily for reasons of formality. Next in the progression, the executive summary and the letter of transmittal are combined. When this stage is reached, the report problem is short enough to be summarized in a short space. The report at this stage has three prefatory parts: title page , table of contents, and combination transmittal letter and executive summary.

At the fourth step, the table of contents drops out. The table of contents is a guide to the report text, and a guide has limited value in a short report. Certainly, a guide to a 100 page report is necessary. But the guide to a one-page report is not. Somewhere between these extremes a dividing points exists. You should follow the  general guide of including a table of contents whenever it appears to be of some value to the reader. Another step down, as formality and length requirements continue to decrease, the combined letter of  transmittal and executive summary drops out. Thus, the report commonly called the short report now has only a title page and the report text. The title page remains to the last because it serves as a very useful cover page. In addition, it contains the most important identifying information.

The short report is a popular form in business. Below the short-reports form is a form that reinstates the letter of transmittal and summary and presents the entire report as a letter – thus, the letter report. And finally, for short problems of more informality, the email form is used. Knowledge of the general relationship of formality and length to report makeup should help you understand and plan reports.

CHARACTERISTICS  OF SHORTER REPORTS

 

The shorter report forms are the most common in business. These are the everyday working reports those used for the routine information reporting that is vital to an organization’s

a.) Little need for introductory information

Most of the shorter, more informal reports require little sometimes no introductory material. These reports typically concern day-to-day problems. Their lives are short that is , they are not likely to be kept on file for future readers. They are intended for only a few readers, and these readers know the problem. They are likely to need little introduction to it. Determining what introductory material is needed is by analyzing what does the reader need to know before receiving this report.  Some shorter reports need introductory material in extreme cases you may need  a detailed introduction comparable to that of the more formal reports.

b.) Predominance of the direct order

Shorter reports are written in direct order which means the report begins with its most important information usually the conclusion and perhaps a recommendation. Business writers use this order because they know that their readers main concern is to get the information needed to make a decision. Deciding whether to use the direct order is best  based on a consideration of your reader’s likely use of the report. If your readers need the report conclusion or recommendation as a basis for an action that they must  take, directness will speed their effort by enabling them to quickly receive the most important information.  The indirect order makes presentations in a formal introduction, analysis , conclusion. But the direct order gives the main message first then depending on the problem the direct beginning could consist of a summary of facts , a conclusion, a recommendation, or some combination of summary, conclusion and recommendation.  The indirect order has this sequence , introduction, facts and analysis, conclusions and recommendations.

c.) More personal writing style :

Although the writing for all reports is much the same, writing in shorter reports tends to be more personal. That is, the shorter reports are likely to use the personal pronouns I, WE, YOU rather than only the third person.  Shorter report situation usually involve personal relationship because these reports tend to be from and to people who know each other and who normally address each other informally when they meet.  Then they involve personal investigation of analysis in their writer needs and finally shorter reports tend to deal with day to day routine problems.  The problems are by very nature informal  and it is logical to report  them informally and personal writing tends to produce this informal effect.  The decision of whether to write a report in personal or impersonal style should be based on the situation. Write impersonally when your reader prefers it.  It should be clear that either personal or impersonal writing can be appropriate for reports ranging from the shortest to the longest types.

d.) Less need of structured coherence plan :

Long and formal usually require a structured coherence plan. Shorter reports do not. This is not to say that coherence is not essential to short reports. The point is that a structured plan is not needed. By structured coherence plan we mean an arrangement of summarizing, forward looking, and backward looking parts that tie together the report presentation.  Therefore in shorter reports this plan is not needed since they directly move to main information or conclusion.

FORMS OF SHORTER REPORTS

a.) The short report :

One of the more popular of the less formal reports forms is the short report. The short report consists of a title page and the report text.  These reports are in the direct order , beginning with the conclusion. Then based on the need the introduction comes next, then the findings and analyses, and finally conclusions.

b.) Letter report:

The second of the more common shorter report forms is the letter report, that is, a report in letter form.  They are used primarily to present information to persons outside the organization especially when the information is to be sent by mail or fax.  They are usually written in personal style and cover short problems.  If a letter report is begun in the direct order, a subject  line is appropriate.  It may written in a capital letters or written by giving a sub topic subject  and writing the text. Theorganizational plans of the letter report are much like longer report which has a direct order and indirect order.

 

c.) Email Reports :

Email is most widely used form of written communication in business. Although heavily used for communicating with outside parties, email dominates internal written communication.  That is, email is written by and to people in an organization. Because email is primarily communication between people who know each other it is usually informal. In fact many are hurried and casual messages , some are usually formal for high profile audience. Some are more formal, factual and problem related.

SPECIAL REPORT FORMS

 

a.) Staff Report :

One of the more popular forms of reports used in business is the staff report.  Usually written in memorandum form, it can be adapted to any structural type, including the long , formal report. The staff report differs from other forms of report primarily in the organization of its contents. It arranges contents in a fixed plan. The plan remains the same for all problems. Because this arrangement leads systematically to conclusions and recommendations, it is especially useful for business problems.  The basic  course of plan is summary , problem objective , facts , discussion , conclusions , recommendation. One of the major uses of staff reports is the armed forces , all branches of which use a standardized form.  But military version of plan is somewhat different from the above plan.

b.) Meeting Minutes :

Minutes provide a written record of a group’s activities and decisions , a history that includes announcements reports, significant discussion and decisions. Minutes include objective data because they will highlight who will do what and when. Accurate minutes are important because they can have some legal significance as to whether decisions are binding.  The physical form is typically a memo or email, but the layout varies among organizations. Basically, it should enable the reader to easily focus on the content as well as easily retrieve it. Typical minutes include common preliminary body, such as name of the group, name of the document , type of meeting , place date and time called to order , names of those attending the meeting , names of those absent and reasons for absence. The body items include approval of minutes of previous meeting , meeting announcements , old business – reports on the matter previously presented and new business- reports on matters presented to the group. The closing item include place and time of next meeting , notation of the meeting’s ending time , name and signature of the person responsible for preparing the minutes.  Preparing ahead of time makes the job easier and encourages more complete notes.

c.) Progress report :

A progress report presents a review of progress made on an activity. Most of the  reports are informal send through mail, as a worker reporting the duty of the particular work done to his superior. Certain formal reports include reporting the progress made for huge projects.

d.) Audit Report:

Short form and long form audit reports are well known in business. The short form audit report is perhaps the most standardized of all reports.   The standardized statement verifying an accountant’s inspection of a firm’s financial records.  Long form of audit reports vary in their makeup.

 

BUSINESS PROPOSALS

A proposals is a persuasive presentation for consideration of something.

Proposals are usually written, but they can be oral presentations or a combination of both. They may be made by individuals or organizations, including business organizations, and they may be made to any of a variety of individuals or organizations such as government agencies, foundations, businesses. They can even be made internally by one part of a business to another part or to the management of the business

Proposals may be Invited or Prospecting

By invited we mean that the awarding organizations announces to interested parties that it will make an award and that it is soliciting proposals. A government agency might have funds to award for research projects. In their announcements, the awarding organizations typically describe their needs and specify the unique requirements that the proposals should cover. In business situations , invited proposals usually follow preliminary meetings between the parties involved.  At  the meeting the representatives would discuss the need with suppliers.  Prospecting proposals are much like rational sales letter , they amount to descriptions of what the writer’s organization could do if given an award by the reader’s organization.  A person ,institution can write a proposals to a philanthropic foundation to avail funds.

Format and organization

The physical arrangement and organization of proposals vary widely. The simplest proposals resemble formal email report s. Internal proposals those written for and by people in the same organization usually fall in to this category, though exceptions exist. The more complex proposals may take the form of full-dress , long reports, including prefatory pages.  Select the format appropriate for your one case. Your design should be the one that you think is best for the one situation.

Formality Requirements

The formality requirements of proposals vary. In some cases ( a university proposal for research grant), strict formality is expected. In other cases informality is in order.  The decision should be based primarily on the relationship between the parties involved. The degree of formality or informality is expected regardless of the relationship of the parties.

Content

Determine the content of a proposal by reviewing the needs of the case. If the proposal has been invited, review the invitation. If the proposal is uninvited, use judgment in determining the readers needs. As a general guideline follow these rules in writing the content of a proposal

Writer’s purpose and the reader’s need

An appropriate beginning is a statement of the writer’s purpose to present a proposal and the reader’s need to reduce turnover of field representatives. If the report is in response to an invitation, that statement should tie in with the invitation. If a proposal is submitted without invitation, its beginning has an additional requirement it must gain attention. As noted previously, uninvited proposals are much like sales messages. Their intended readers are not likely to be eager to read them. Thus, their beginnings must overcome the readers reluctance. An effective way of doing this is to begin by briefly summarizing the highlights of the proposal with emphasis on its benefits.

Background

A review of background information promotes an understanding of the problem.  A background information should be provided in order to justify your statement of the need mentioned in the proposal. Based on the background information, the need of the proposal is determine.

Description of the plan

The heart of a proposal is the description of what the writer proposes to do. This is the primary message of the proposals. It should be concisely presented in a clear and orderly manner.

Particulars

By particulars we mean the specifics: time schedules, costs, performance standards, means of appraising performance, equipment and supplies needed, guarantees, personnel requirements, and such.  What is needed in a given case depends on its unique requirements. But in any event, the particulars should anticipate and answer the reader’s questions.

Evidence of ability to deliver

The proposing organization must sometimes establish its ability to perform. This means presenting information on such matters as the qualifications of personnel, success in similar cases, the adequacy of equipment and facilities, operating procedures, and financial status. Whatever information will serve as evidence of the organization’s ability to carry out what it proposes should be used.

Benefits of the proposals

The proposals also might describe good things that it would bring about, especially if a need exists to convince the readers.  Typically like selling.

Concluding comments

The proposal should end with words directed to the next step-acting on the proposal. One possibility is to present a summary review of the highlights. Another is to offer additional information that might be needed, yet another is to urge or suggest action on the proposal.

 

 

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2 Responses to Report Structure

  1. ANM says:

    Very short and useful information

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