Writing report

Structuring a business report

It’s important to present a business report in as clear and concise a way as possible. Your reader needs to grasp the main points quickly and easily, and so you should consider how well your report’s structure and format helps to communicate this information.

Click on one of the below headings for more information:

Informal reports vs formal reports

Report sections

Title

Contents

Summary or abstract

Introduction and terms of reference

Procedure/method/methodology

Findings

Conclusions

Recommendations

Bibliography

Appendices

Example report

Informal reports vs formal reports

An informal report may be one or two pages in length and formatted as a letter or memo. It may even be distributed via email.

  • Your company may have a specific format to be followed, so using past reports as a guide will help.
  • Or you may choose a style with headings and subheadings, numbered lists, or an outline style to make reading easier.
  • The title of the report should be introduced as a subject line.
  • Keep in mind who will be receiving your report and use vocabulary and tone appropriate for your audience.
  • Simplicity and accuracy, however, remain key factors.

The formal report is usually more complex and runs several pages long.

  • Accuracy of facts, spelling, and grammar is a must.
  • Also, if more than one person writes the report, be sure it has continuity (no sudden jumps from one topic to another) and a consistent voice (no jarring contrasts in style).
  • Your company may have its own report format, or you may have to develop one of your own.

Report sections

Although specific business fields may have differing approaches, a report can generally be structured as follows (note that you will not always need to use every section):

Title

Base the title on the essentials of the brief you were given. You can also give your name and the date of the report.

Contents

You only need to include a Contents page in a formal report that is long or complex. It is usually the last page to be typed, after the entire report is finished and its pages are numbered.

List the section headings exactly as they appear in the report, with the corresponding page number.

Summary or abstract

This is a paragraph that sums up the main points of the report. Although some reports benefit from this brief synopsis, it is not always obligatory to include. Check with the person who has asked for the report if a summary or abstract is required.

Introduction and terms of reference

Describe the details of the brief you were given or any other reason for writing the report.

Procedure/method/methodology

Describe your method of gathering information.

Findings

Present the outcome of your research in a succinct and logical way, making sure that you include enough information to demonstrate that you have investigated the matter thoroughly.

You can summarize the opinions of people you have approached, present statistics in support of your points, or describe any other relevant information. It will help the reader if you organize these findings under further headings, subheadings, or numbered subsections.

Use graphics or illustrations if appropriate, and be sure they are identified in some way, such as with a title or a figure number. The placement should coincide with the corresponding text for easy referral by the reader.

Conclusions

This section should sum up your assessment of the current situation, based on your findings.

Recommendations

Propose recommendations to be considered for future action, based on your conclusions.

Bibliography

The bibliography lists, in alphabetical order, all published resources used in the compilation of your report. Include any books, periodicals, or online articles that you consulted here.

Appendices

If you choose to keep all charts, illustrations, tables, and so forth grouped together, they can be placed in an appendix at the end of the report. Supporting material such as maps, notes, questionnaires, or summaries of data may also go here. If you have several items appended, they would be headed as Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on.

Example report

See an example of a well-structured business report (pdf).

 

Back to Writing business reports.

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