Report writing in business is about communicating your key message to a business audience. This key message is usually around providing a solution to a problem. A report is written in response to a problem/situation and the key message provides a solution. Reports must do more than provide the facts (description), they need to provide critical analysis of the data and other supporting evidence, and a report needs to recommend actions. In a given problem there is usually no one solution.
A report is written to persuade the reader of the key message. The key message should determine the structure of the report, specifically the sections within the report. Additionally the structure may be determined by the individual lecturer and may vary considerably according to the task's purpose and audience.
Business report introductions typically contain the following:
- Aim, scope and limitations
- Background or context (details of problem addressed)
- May include the overall answer (suggested solution)
- The report structure
This is usually the longest section of the report and presents your findings based on evidence. These findings provide the justification for your recommendation(s). This section needs to develop the material in a clear, logical and coherent manner. Relevant subheadings make it easier for the reader to follow the structure. This structure should reflect the structure outlined in the introduction.
The body section will contain different sections depending on the purpose. The following are typical sections
- Methods: outlines how you went about collecting your information, why you chose this method and a justification as to why it was the most appropriate method for your project.
- Results: conveys the results in a clear and concise manner, often using tables and charts to summarise. Detailed results and calculations are placed in appendices at the end of the report. All charts and tables must be contextualized and explained in the body text.
- Discussion: analyses and evaluates the results and leads toward the conclusion and recommendation/s. This section may outline any unexpected or new issues that need to be considered.
The conclusion states what has been found based in the evidence, analysis and evaluation that was presented in the discussion. The conclusion should outline the key points/findings and state the recommendations that follow from the analysis. In some reports it may be necessary to state any limitations to the research that might affect the interpretation of the results. Most importantly the conclusion refers back to the overall purpose of the report and emphasises the key message.