Body Sections of a Report
- Purpose (or problem statement)
- Research (or methods)
- Recommendation (or solution)
- Overview of alternative options
This list may look intimidating, so it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a Table of Contents for every formal report. Remember, as the writer, you should use what best suits the material’s and organization’s requirements. There may be additional sections needed in unique cases.
An introduction sets up the structure of a report. Essentially, the introduction tells the reader what is to come and in what order, and it reminds the reader of the key criteria that instigated the report’s creation. This section is key to the reader following and retaining key points of the report.
Introductions are used in both informational and analytical reports. In an informational report, this helps segment the data that follows. In an analytical report, the introduction helps the reader come to the conclusion the author expects. An introduction is used in all informal reports as well. In an informal report, there may or may not be a separate header with this label, but an introduction must always be present.
Depending upon readers’ expected reception of the content, the introduction may foreshadow the conclusion. With receptive audiences, the outcome is clear in the introduction. With less receptive audiences, it is important to present all the facts and research prior to declaring a conclusion; thus, for less respective audiences, it may be better to foreshadow the conclusion than to fully e conclusion as the author as details develop.
The introduction may also include the problem statement or purpose of the report. However, in longer reports, these may end up either in the background or as their own sections.
The background section of a report explains the circumstances that led to the report’s creation. In some situations, this section may be labeled as criteria or constraints, or the topic may be briefly addressed in the transmittal letter or introduction. This section can appear in both informational and analytical reports.
The background provides a baseline of the current situation and any potential constrictions such as budget, time, human resources, etc. This section explains why the investigation or work was completed. It may introduce how the information is thorough, even if 100 percent certainty is not possible.
Purpose or Problem Statement
As mentioned, the purpose or problem statement section may be part of the background, or it can stand separately, depending upon the complexity of the report. The purpose or problem statement should be worded like this example:
The purpose of this report is to address [the problem or question that the requester needs addressed]. This report will accomplish this by investigating [whatever you researched or developed for the report]k.
While the example shows the proper phrasing for an analytical report, it could be reworded to fit an informational report: for example, “details from three solutions are listed.”
Research or Methods
The research section (also sometimes called methods) is where authors establish their credibility as they show how their perspective is supported by outside experts.This section provides background on where data used in the report was found: it is not a section where data is listed .
By telling your audience how you came to know what you have found out, you are demonstrating to them that your results are trustworthy and that they truly hold significance. With strong methods for finding out your facts, your readers will feel comfortable and confident in making the changes your report recommends. Your data will appear later in the evaluation, so that the data is in the same place as the reader is learning about its meaning. Additionally, the data can be presented in full in the appendix.