How to Write a Business Report

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Reports and proposals
After reading this chapter you should be able to: • Explain the differences and similarities between formats, types or sub-genres of reports • Explain the differences and similarities between reports and essays • Explain why documents need to contain an appropriate balance of information and persuasion • Demonstrate competence in writing a longer, analytical research report • Explain the differences between reports and submissions, proposals and tenders

So you’ve got to write a report . . .
The ability to write reports is one of the most useful writing skills you can acquire. To be a good report writer means you must be competent at describing and analysing situations and people. A report is a powerful communication and decision-making tool in many business undertakings. It may be used to present the results of a special project or it may serve as a public relations exercise, such as in when social and environmental reports are published. In either case, how well the document meets the brief, and its quality and accuracy, can have a profound effect on its success in achieving its desired objective. What’s more, demonstrating your ability to produce a credible document will set you apart from colleagues and help you make strides in your career (Couzins & Beagrie 2003). Reports can be just a few words long or can extend to multiple bound volumes. They can deal with routine or non-routine matters. The writer may have to make all decisions relating to content, layout and design, or the format may be pre-set, with the writer needing only to feed in a few new figures and updates. Most reports are still paper-based, although an increasing number are completed and submitted online. There are many types of reports, but in this chapter we will focus primarily on analytical or research reports. We will also consider some types of documents that bear a strong resemblance to reports — namely, submissions, proposals or tenders. Table 5.1 sets out some of the key features of differing types of reports. Table 5.1: Some report/proposal formats

Report type Computer or data report

Function Gives quick visual overview of data

Audience • Mainly internal • Decision-makers and process monitors

Format and features • Mainly graphic renditions of tabular data from databases and spreadsheets • Minimal amount of descriptive and analytical text • Often created with specialised software (e.g. Crystal Reports) • Rarely involves conclusions or recommendations • Strongly fact-based: what, where, why, who, when, how • Created to document non-routine situation • May be used to detect emerging problems • May use standard format print/online document • Occasionally will give conclusions and recommendations • Strongly fact-based: what, where, why, who, when, how • Created to document non-routine situation • May be used to detect emerging problems • May use standard format print/online document • Occasionally will give conclusions and recommendations • Critical part of occupational health and safety/legal regimes • Documents routine situations • Standardised format is used across time and space to facilitate comparability and monitoring • Does not include conclusions or recommendations

Incident report

Gives quick overview of event not associated with human injury

• Mainly internal • Decision-makers and process monitors

Accident report

Gives quick overview of event associated with human injury

• Mainly internal • Decision-makers and process monitors

Periodic report

Gives quick picture of routine processes and situations

• Mainly internal • Decision-makers and process monitors

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Chapter 5 Reports and proposals

Table 5.1 (continued)

Report type Progress report

Function Gives picture of non-routine processes and situations

Audience • Mainly internal, but can be for external, such as clients • Decision-makers and process monitors • Mainly internal • Decision-makers and process...
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