Sections of a report
Formal reports also take many forms depending on the field and topic. Many companies
and organisations have their own house styles for reports. Formal reports are usually
divided into sections with numbered headings. Although report formats vary, most reports
contain the following sections.
Apart from the title of the report, which should give a clear idea of the topic of the
report, a title page usually includes:
- Your name and position
- The name of the person or group that the report is addressed to
- The names of anyone else the report is distributed to
- The date
The contents page should list the main section headings of the report with page
numbers. It may also list the tables and figures in the report.
A good executive summary allows a busy reader to get the main points of the report
without reading the whole report. It should be short and should include:
- The purpose of the report
- The problem or issues dealt with and the main points of discussion
- The conclusions of the report
- Any recommendations made
The executive summary comes at the beginning of the report, but it is a good idea to
write it after you have finished writing the whole report.
The introduction explains the background to the report, its purpose and the points
covered. A good introduction will be short and will help to guide the reader.
The main body of the report should contain a clear explanation of what you have
discovered and how you have found it out. It is often divided into sections with headings
that describe the topics covered. Another way to divide up the main body is:
- Procedure - what you did
- Findings - what you have found out
- Discussion - relating what you have found out to what the reader
Many reports contain tables and figures. Each table or figure should have a caption
containing a number and a title. You should only include tables and figures which
contribute to the information you want to convey. It is not necessary to summarise all the
information in a table in your text, but you should always explain the main points
illustrated in the text following the table.
This contains the conclusions you draw from the information presented in the main body
of the report. Conclusions should be firmly and briefly stated. You should not introduce
Recommendations are suggestions for actions or changes. They should be specific rather
than general. If the purpose of the report is simply to present information on a topic for
discussion, a recommendations section may not be necessary.
A report may contain references or recommendations for reading in a bibliography. A
bibliography may not be necessary, however. In reports, full references to readings
introduced in the text are often given as footnotes.
Appendices may include tables, texts, graphs, diagrams, photographs, questionnaires,
etc. You should put these in an appendix when placing them in the main body of the report
would interrupt the process of reading. Items in an appendices should be referred to
somewhere in the main body. If you do not need to refer to them in the main body, you
might think about whether you need to include them at all.