Writing Informational and Analytical Reports
1.0 Applying the Writing Process to Prepare Business Reports Reports play a significant role in the careers of all business professionals. Reports fall into three basic categories: Informational reports offer data, facts, feedback, and other types of information, without analysis or recommendations. Analytical reports offer both information and analysis, and they can also include recommendations. Proposals (in our next module) offer structured persuasion for internal or external audiences. The nature of these reports varies widely, from one-page trip reports that follow a standard format to detailed business plans and proposals that can run hundreds of pages. No matter what the circumstances, try to view every business report as an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of your audience's challenges and your ability to contribute to your organization's success.
1.1 Analyzing the Situation
The complexity of many reports and the amount of work involved put a premium on carefully analyzing the situation before you begin to write. Pay special attention to your statement of purpose, which explains why you are preparing the report and what you plan to deliver in the report. (See Fig 1) Fig. 1 Problem Statement vs. Purpose Statement Problem Statement Purpose Statement Our company's market share is steadily To explore new ways of promoting and selling declining. our products and to recommend the approaches most likely to stabilize our market share. Our current computer network lacks sufficient To analyze various networking options and to bandwidth and cannot be upgraded to meet our recommend the system that will best meet our future needs. company's current and future needs. We need $2 million to launch our new product. To convince investors that our new business would be a sound investment so that we can obtain desired financing. Our current operations are too decentralized To justify the closing of the Newark plant and and expensive. the transfer of East Coast operations to a single Midwest location in order to save the company money.
The most useful way to phrase your purpose statement is to begin with an infinitive phrase (to plus a verb), which helps pin down your general goal (to inform, to identify, to analyze, and so on). For instance, in an informational report, your statement of purpose can be as simple as one of these: To identify potential markets for our new phone-based videogames To update the board of directors on the progress of the research project To submit required information to the Securities and Exchange Commission Your statement of purpose for an analytical report often needs to be more comprehensive. When Linda Moreno, the cost accounting manager for Electrovision, a high-tech company based in Los Gatos, California, was asked to find ways of reducing employee travel and entertainment costs, she phrased her statement of purpose accordingly: ... to analyze the T&E [travel and entertainment] budget, evaluate the impact of recent changes in airfares and hotel costs, and suggest ways to tighten management's control over T&E expenses Because Moreno was assigned an analytical report rather than an informational report, she had to go beyond merely collecting data; she had to draw conclusions and make recommendations. Proposals must also be guided by a clear statement of purpose to help you focus on crafting a persuasive message. Here are several examples of purpose statements for internal and external proposals: To secure funding in next year's budget for new conveyor systems in the warehouse To get management approval to reorganize the North American sales force To secure $2 million from outside investors to start production of the new titanium mountain bike Remember, the more specific your purpose statement, the more useful it will be as a guide to planning your report. Furthermore, if you've been assigned the...