The sections that you include in the report will usually have a structure like this;-
Table of Contents
A list of sections, each numbered, with their page number
Executive summary or overview
It is easiest to write this last, although it will appear as the first section .It should summarise and give an overview of the whole report, and summarise the findings of each section of the report. It should include the overall conclusion, its findings and recommendations.
The executive summary needs to be comprehensible if it is read in isolation. It is constructed to be read on its own. Many readers will use this section to assess whether they need to read the complete report.
So it should give the reader an overview of the essential information contained in the report, and briefly outline the subject matter, and the reports terms of reference.
It should reprise background issues, the report’s scope and methodology, record analysis, and summarise arguments or issues discussed. It should sum up key findings, conclusion and recommendations.
The objective of this section is to explain the framework of the report, so there will have to be some repetition of the substance of the executive summary. The introduction section should include the terms of reference, and the reason for the commissioning of the report. It should introduce the subject, give some background about the report, and its goals and rationale.
It should delineate the problem or subject addressed in the report, its boundaries, the outline of the structure, and an overview of its sections. It should also list sources used, and acknowledge any major assistance given.
Body of the Report
This will be the longest section of the report. The material should be laid out in a logical way. The headings used will depend on the information included, and its targets and goals.
The report body will be divided into sections with relevant headings and sub-headings, echoing their contents. The outline structure will depend on the specific report, but should include methodology used, findings, and discussion of the findings.
When planning the structure, again keep in mind that readers will select relevant sections rather than reading the complete report. Develop the material in a logical manner, detailing and discussing its findings.
Include any supporting evidence essential to the findings, such as graphs or tables. If there is non-essential evidence, then that can be included in the annexe. You can reference it in the main body where it is relevant.
Bear in mind once again that the conclusion should be written so that it can be read in isolation without the reader having to read the full report.
Define the conclusions, findings, or inferences that can be drawn, and recommendations that are made. The conclusion should follow logically from the evidence discussed in the report, and it must answer the questions raised by the titles’ report, and its objective.
If you have come to a number of conclusions, give some thought as to how to organise them in the section. You could either put them;-
- in a logical order that follows the development of the report
- or in order of importance
- or with their advantages and disadvantages
You should include any limitations of the conclusions, and potential or actual implications for the reports’ commissioners.
You may decide to have a separate recommendations heading, or deal with them as a subsection of the Conclusions section. This will be dependent on the substance and gravity of the conclusions and recommendations.
Recommendations should be objective, but follow logically from the report’s conclusions. They inform the reader what action should be taken, what needs to be done, and what the next steps are. They ought to explain the reason for the recommendations, and be supported by the report’s conclusions.
List research sources, reference materials.
Proofreading and checking
Proofread it carefully yourself. Use spellchecker and other tools available online to help you.
Then ask a colleague, manager or assistant to read it and confirm that it “reads well “. It is extremely difficult to review your own work in this way , because you are too close to be objective, and you will make assumptions and have knowledge your readers don’t have, so it helps to get an objective opinion.