Business reports vary in content and style. However, the structure and method of creating business reports are more or less similar across the board. Of course, you must structure a business report in a professional and concise way, but it’s a mostly simple method to follow. It’s the content of the report that you should sweat over (but don’t worry, I have confidence that you’ll be just fine).
Though we can’t write the content for you, we can certainly tell you what you need to include and the standard structure of a report. While some elements of the report may not have to be in a particular order, it is important that it has all these elements.
The Report Title
It is the most obvious, perhaps, but you’d be surprised at how often people forget the title’s importance. The title of your business report basically states what the report is about.
It should be set out in its own page and centered in the middle of the page. Avoid using an ambiguous title; instead, make it as unique to your business report as possible. Additionally, it would be best if you remembered to include your name and your designation on the title page of your business report. Include on the title page the date that you will be presenting the report.
After the report title page, the next page should have a summary of what your business report is about. This is great for skimmers and those who want talking points before and after the presentation. The summary should include a variety of key points.
- What is the report about? A brief explanation that captures the main idea of your business report. Also, state your purpose for drafting the report.
- How did you collect the data? Explain briefly how you collected the data. Moreover, you can use this point to talk about the challenges and limitations that you encountered and how did you overcome them in order to produce your report.
- What are your findings and conclusions? Summarize what you have concluded based on your results.
The summary should offer enough information about the business report at a glance, especially to someone who may not be able to go through the entire report.
The Table of Contents (ToC)
This section lists the chapters or sections contained in your report. Mention the title of the section and the page on which they can be found. Edit for consistency! You want to make sure that each heading and page number matches precisely what is in your ToC.
If you’ve written a shorter business report, you don’t need to include a ToC. Use your best judgment when your report hits the 5-page mark. However, anything over ten pages should definitely use a ToC.
The introduction is not your summary, but rather a more detailed and personal snapshot of your report and its backstory. It marks the beginning of the actual report and includes background information. Don’t spend all day going into the history behind your motivations or the company, but definitely create a connection between purpose, intent, and relevancy. Also, describe the final outcome that you have in mind — your vision — and anything to help those present better understand the “why.” Include the scope of work involved as well as the information you chose to ignore or omit in your research. Again, explain why, but briefly. There is a bigger section you can dedicate to this.
The Procedure for Information Gathering and Findings
This section will call for detailed information on the different kinds of methods you used to gather your information. Likewise, you may also mention the methods you used that failed and why this happened. Additionally, you should cite all your sources in this section, as well as the reason why you chose to use the said sources. If you have a lot of sources, mention the significant ones and allow those present to review the others listed.
Consequently, after laying out your method, you will need to describe your findings in a detailed way. You can use any form of tabulated data and graphs to make the information easier to look at, at a glance. I put emphasis on “at a glance.” A business report needs to be thorough, but as mentioned before, there will be plenty of people skimming through the written report. So when you include anything visual, make sure it people can get any information they may need from it. Furthermore, use bulleted points. It will help to break down your findings into easy to understand parts.
After presenting your facts and findings, you can now prepare your conclusions on the report. In a conclusion, you need to write a summary of what you learned. You may also make a few recommendations for a course of action based on these findings, but only if the brief required that you do so. Don’t make suggestions if your manager or boss, or whoever “ordered” the business report, asks for it.
Your business report may not have been possible without some input from a few third-party individuals, organizations, or materials. Ensure that you give credit to every contribution made towards your business report by citing them on this page. The reference list should include all these resources listed in alphabetical order.
During your research, you may have gathered extra material such as financial data, interview transcripts, or marketing analysis material. This information could make your report too long if you include it in the main body of the report. You can cite it at the end of the report in the appendices section. This section is useful just in case someone would be interested in going through these sources and material for more information.
Finally, once you get your business report’s method and structure right, edit!
- Avoid grammatical errors by proof-reading your report thoroughly.
- Do not switch between different voices, if you choose to use active voice, keep it constant all through the report.
You don’t have to write a magical incantation to impress with a business report. All you do have to make sure it is structurally sound and polished.