What is the main part of report?

Solve a problem and present research findings

Make sure your report contains all the right elements. Every report should have the following sections:

Title page

Table of contents

This is optional depending on the length of the report—a 2 to 3 page report probably wouldn't have a table of contents but a 10 to 20 page report would.

Executive summary

An executive summary is a brief overview of a report that is designed to give the reader a quick preview of the report's contents. Its purpose is to present the key points of a report in one place. After reading the summary, your audience will understand the main points you are making and your evidence for those points without needing to read your full report. Remember that the purpose of an executive summary is to provide an overview or preview to an audience who may not have time to read the whole report carefully.

  • An executive summary explains why you wrote the report, emphasises your conclusions or recommendations and includes only the essential or most significant information to support those conclusions
  • Executive summaries are usually organised according to the sequence of information presented in the full report, so follow the order of your full report as you discuss the reasons for your conclusions
  • Executive summaries are usually proportional in length to the larger work they summarize, typically 10 to 15 percent. Most executive summaries are 1 to 2 paragraphs
  • Write the executive summary after you have completed the report and have decided on your recommendations. Review your report and identify the key points and use these to organise a draft of your summary
  • Make the summary concise, but be sure to show how you arrived at your conclusions
  • Don't introduce any new information that is not in your report
  • Executive summaries should communicate independently from your report

Introduction

The introduction should:

  • briefly describe the context and background to the research
  • describe the change, problem or issue to be reported on
  • define the specific objectives and purpose of the report
  • indicate the overall answer to the problem explored in the report
  •  outline the report's scope (the extent of the investigation, also known as its terms of reference or brief)
  • preview the report structure
  • comment on the limitations of the report and any assumptions that are made.

Discussion

This is the main body of the report and it has two key purposes:

  1. to explain the conclusions
  2. to justify the recommendations

Key points to remember when you are writing the discussion include the following:

  • Present the analysis in a logical and systematic way
  • If necessary, divide the material with appropriate headings to improve the readers' understanding
  • Back up your claims with evidence—explain your findings
  • Link theory to practical issues
  • Persuade readers of the validity of your stance

Conclusion

The conclusion should:

  • be arranged so that the major conclusions come first
  • identify the major issues relating to the case and give your interpretation of them
  • relate specifically to the objectives of the report as set out in the introduction
  • be a list of numbered points
  • follow logically from the facts in the discussion
  • be clean-cut and specific
  • be brief

Recommendations

Your recommendations point to the future and should be:

  • action-oriented
  • feasible
  • logically related to the discussion and conclusion
  • numbered
  • arranged in order of importance
  • brief

References

See the Library's website for information on citation and how to compile a reference list.

Appendices

Include in the appendices any essential extra material, such as tables and graphs that support your research but don't relate directly to the discussion of your findings.

Remember...

The first thing you need to do is identify your audience and what they need to know. Then think through what the report is about—what information needs to be in it, what information is best left out?

Also, remember that the key difference between an essay and a report is that an essay focuses on developing an argument or point of view, while a report centres on solving a problem and presenting research findings. You can also use headings (this is something you wouldn't do in an essay) to identify sections of the report (i.e., Discussion, Conclusion, etc.).

Get more advice and tips on how to write a great essay or report.

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Summary:

This resource is an updated version of Muriel Harris’s handbook Report Formats: a Self-instruction Module on Writing Skills for Engineers, written in 1981. The primary resources for the editing process were Paul Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (6th ed.) and the existing OWL PowerPoint presentation, HATS: A Design Procedure for Routine Business Documents.

The body of your report is a detailed discussion of your work for those readers who want to know in some depth and completeness what was done. The body of the report shows what was done, how it was done, what the results were, and what conclusions and recommendations can be drawn.

Introduction

The introduction states the problem and its significance, states the technical goals of the work, and usually contains background information that the reader needs to know in order to understand the report. Consider, as you begin your introduction, who your readers are and what background knowledge they have. For example, the information needed by someone educated in medicine could be very different from someone working in your own field of engineering.

The introduction might include any or all of the following.

  • Problems that gave rise to the investigation
  • The purpose of the assignment (what the writer was asked to do)
  • History or theory behind the investigation Literature on the subject
  • Methods of investigation

While academic reports often include extensive literature reviews, reports written in industry often have the literature review in an appendix.

Summary or background

This section gives the theory or previous work on which the experimental work is based if that information has not been included in the introduction.

Methods/procedures

This section describes the major pieces of equipment used and recaps the essential step of what was done. In scholarly articles, a complete account of the procedures is important. However, general readers of technical reports are not interested in a detailed methodology. This is another instance in which it is necessary to think about who will be using your document and tailor it according to their experience, needs, and situation.

A common mistake in reporting procedures is to use the present tense. This use of the present tense results in what is sometimes called “the cookbook approach” because the description sounds like a set of instructions. Avoid this and use the past tense in your “methods/procedures” sections.

Results

This section presents the data or the end product of the study, test, or project and includes tables and/or graphs and a brief interpretation of what the data show. When interpreting your data, be sure to consider your reader, what their situation is and how the data you have collected will pertain to them.

Discussion of results

This section explains what the results show, analyzes uncertainties, notes significant trends, compares results with theory, evaluates limitations or the chance for faulty interpretation, or discusses assumptions. The discussion section sometimes is a very important section of the report, and sometimes it is not appropriate at all, depending on your reader, situation, and purpose.

It is important to remember that when you are discussing the results, you must be specific. Avoid vague statements such as “the results were very promising.”

Conclusions

This section interprets the results and is a product of thinking about the implications of the results. Conclusions are often confused with results. A conclusion is a generalization about the problem that can reasonably be deduced from the results.

Be sure to spend some time thinking carefully about your conclusions. Avoid such obvious statements as “X doesn’t work well under difficult conditions.” Be sure to also consider how your conclusions will be received by your readers, and as well as by your shadow readers—those to whom the report is not addressed, but will still read and be influenced by your report.

Recommendations

The recommendations are the direction or actions that you think must be taken or additional work that is need to expand the knowledge obtained in your report. In this part of your report, it is essential to understand your reader. At this point you are asking the reader to think or do something about the information you have presented. In order to achieve your purposes and have your reader do what you want, consider how they will react to your recommendations and phrase your words in a way to best achieve your purposes.

Conclusions and recommendations do the following.

  • They answer the question, “So what?”
  • They stress the significance of the work
  • They take into account the ways others will be affected by your report
  • They offer the only opportunity in your report for you to express your opinions

What are the differences between Results, Conclusions, and Recommendations?

Assume that you were walking down the street, staring at the treetops, and stepped in a deep puddle while wearing expensive new shoes. What results, conclusions, and recommendations might you draw from this situation?

Some suggested answers follow.

  • Results: The shoes got soaking wet, the leather cracked as it dried, and the soles separated from the tops.
  • Conclusions: These shoes were not waterproof and not meant to be worn when walking in water. In addition, the high price of the shoes is not closely linked with durability.
  • Recommendations: In the future, the wearer of this type of shoe should watch out for puddles, not just treetops. When buying shoes, the wearer should determine the extent of the shoes’ waterproofing and/or any warranties on durability.

What is the most important part of the report?

The executive summary is usually seen as the most important part of the report, and it should be written last.

What are the three part of report?

The sections are: 1. Introduction 2. Body of the Report 3. Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations.

What is the main part of a business report?

The structure of business reports includes a title page, executive summary, table of contents, an introduction, the body portion, the conclusion, recommendations, references, and appendices.

What are the 3 main purposes of a report?

Evaluation of facts or research results. Discussion of outcomes and future courses of action. Recommendations.

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