How To Write A Formal Report “Quick-Fix” Workshop Communication Centre
Research • Primary: Interviews, surveys, questionnaires, observation, unpublished documents • Secondary: Published material, catalogues,handbooks, brochures, college website, etc
Layout and Design of a Formal Report Title Page The title page contains four main elements: • The full title of the report – informative but not too long • The name of the person for whom the report has been prepared • The name of the person(s) who has written the report • The date the report is issued
EVALUATION OF FACSIMILE TRANSMISSION (FAX) FOR USE IN SMALL BUSINESS OPERATIONS Prepared for: Joe Smith, INSTRUCTOR Prepared by: Bob Barker July 28, 2006
Summary • The most important page in the report – it must be written so as to encourage the reader to read further • Should be written after the rest of the report has been written • Keep it short, make it interesting and informative • Keep the intended readers clearly in mind
Summary Cont. • Use plain, non-technical words and avoid jargon • Draw information for the summary from the Introduction (particularly the purpose of the project), the Discussion (pick out the most important highlights) and the Recommendations (the outcome or result of the project)
Summary We have investigated whether it would be economically feasible for small business owners to invest in a facsimile transmission (fax) machine to send letters, documents and messages to customers and other businesses, rather than to continue using the conventional mail, courier, and telephone services. Facsimile transmission offers ABSO members a fast and inexpensive means for sending letters and documents, providing that (1) a sufficient number of their correspondents also have fax machines, and (2) the volume of documents they send is enough to warrant purchasing a fax machine. In many situations, sending a message by fax can be cheaper than conventional methods. If a small business owner is uncertain whether using fax is viable, we suggest leasing a fax machine for a trial period.
Introduction • Usually 1-2 pages • 3 components: • The Background • The Purpose • The Scope
Introduction Cont. • The Background describes events leading up to the existing situation, what projects (if any) have been done previously, and why the project or study is necessary
The Purpose defines what the project or study is to achieve, and who authorized it • The Scope outlines any limitations imposed on the project either by the person(s) authorizing it or by the person(s) undertaking it, such as cost, time in which it is to be completed, depth of study, and factors which must be included or may be omitted • Include in the Scope a description of your 3 criteria for analysis and your methods of research
EVALUATION OF FACSIMILE TRANSMISSION (FAX) FOR USE IN SMALL BUSINESS OPERATIONS INTRODUCTION XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Discussion of Findings • Three major sections with a heading for each – one for each criteria for analysis • Organize your information according to what services are offered at Mohawk College and the other postsecondary institution – use subheadings for subcategories • Include tables, graphics, pictures where appropriate
Recommendations • Be brief, and draw your main points from the Discussion • Be strong, and advocate action • Use the active voice • Satisfy the requirements established in the Introduction • Use point form if several recommendations are being made
RECOMMENDATIONS To determine the viability of purchasing a fax, we recommend that ASBO members take the following steps: • Identify the quantity of messages they are likely to send by facsimile transmission, then add 25% to the figure. • Determine whether sufficient potential recipients of their fax messages already have or plan to acquire a fax. • Determine whether sending messages and documents by fax offers a real advantage to their business operations.
References • You must include a list of references (sources of your information) • References are numbered and appear in the sequence in which each piece of information is referred to in the report (by endnote)
REFERENCES • Ann Rhodes, “Is That a Fax?”, Financial Post Moneywise. February 1989, p 66. • Valerie K. Halston, Survey of FAX Users in Canada, April-June 1989. Report 89/07, Multiple Industries Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, September 29, 1989, p 13.
Formal Report Part II
Generating Your Own Sources • Once you have exhausted library and Internet sources, pamphlets and catalogues, you will want to generate some of your own sources – in other words, conduct primary research • Conduct and experiment, survey a group of people, or interview an expert
Conducting an Interview • An interview can be especially helpful for a project because it allows you to ask questions precisely geared to your topic • You can conduct an interview in person, over the telephone, or online using email • A personal interview is preferable if you can arrange it, because you can see the person’s expressions and gestures as well as hear his or her tone and words
Here are a few guidelines for interviews: • Call or write for an appointment. Tell the person exactly why you are calling, what you want to discuss, and how long you expect the interview to take. Be true to your word on all points.
Prepare a list of open-ended questions to ask – perhaps ten or twelve for a one-hour interview. Plan on doing some research for these questions to discover background on the issues. • Give your subject time to consider your questions. Don’t rush into silences with more questions. • Pay attention to your subject’s answers so that you can ask appropriate follow-up questions and pick up on unexpected but worthwhile points
Take care in interpreting answers, especially if you are online and cannot depend on facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice to convey the subject’s attitudes. • Keep thorough notes. Take notes during an in-person or telephone interview, or tape-record the interview if you have the equipment and your subject agrees. • Verify quotations. Before you quote your subject in your paper, check with him or her to ensure that the quotations are accurate. • Send a thank-you note immediately after an interview. Promise your subject a copy of your finished paper, and send the paper promptly.
Once you have collected all your information, and before you start writing, there are some things you must consider!
The Report Writing Process • 5 steps: • Preparing to write • Organizing the information • Writing the words (draft) • Editing the information (to be covered in consultations) • Revising the text (to be covered in consultations)
Preparing to Write • Consider your audience • Determine the “tone” of your report – are you informing or persuading? • Think about the design of your report
Design • Margins – 1inch is standard, but for a bound report, increase the left-hand margin on odd-numbered pages, and the right-hand margin on even-numbered pages • Page numbers – centred at the foot of the page
Line Spacing – double for preliminary draft and final draft • The number of lines between paragraphs – two blank lines between paragraphs when the report is double-spaced • Paragraph indenting – do not indent the first line of major paragraphs
Types of Headings: headings provide a visual clue to the importance of information. Use bold letters and a variety of type sizes so that the relative importance of each heading is visible. • For example: • Major Headings in 18 point Times New Roman • Secondary Headings in 14 point Times New Roman • Introductory Headings in 12 point Times New Roman
Select a simple, well-known type font rather than an exotic one • Use the same font throughout your report, choosing one point size for the text and others for the headings • Research shows that serif fonts such as Times New Roman are easier to read – usually serif fonts are used for longer reports
Organizing the Information • Create an outline – even a very basic one – of your report • Start with listing headings for your major topics and any subheadings that arise
Writing the Words (Draft) • Avoid trying to type a perfect first draft – no one expects to produce instantly usable words and sentences that require no further polishing • Write the report in pieces, treating each section as a mini-report complete in itself – with an introductory section, a development in the middle, and a concluding section • Avoid editing at this point – wait until you have completed the report sections
Some Notes on Style • Write in the First Person – it is not unprofessional! • Use I, we, me, and my • Instead of: “The components have been ordered…” “A data survey was conducted…” Try: “I have ordered the components…” “We have conducted a data survey…”
Active Voice • Always use the active voice in your report writing • A. Carl Dunstan investigated the problem. • B. The problem was investigated by Carl Dunstan. • Which sentence is written in active voice?
Active Voice: when the person or object performing the action is stated first: • Carl investigated the problem. • Petra is studying the charts. • Passive Voice: when the person or object performing the action is stated after the verb: • The problem was investigated by Carl. • The charts are being studied by Petra.
Using the active voice is especially important when making recommendations: • Passive: “It is recommended that…” • Active: “I (or we) recommend that…”
Avoid Cluttering Language • Use simple words • Remove words of low information content • In order to (replace with to) • Effect an improvement in (use improve) • An effort should be made to (replace with we should) • Located in the vicinity of (use nearer to)
Avoid Overworked Expressions and Cliches • All things being equal • At this point in time • In reference to • In the long run • Last but not least • Needless to say • Regarding the matter of
Avoid Gender-Specific Language • Choose gender-neutral terms: • Chairperson or chair • Supervisor • Technician • Worker or employee • Server
Illustrations • Ask yourself three questions: • Which kind of illustration (table, graph, bar chart, flow diagram, photograph, etc.) will best illustrate the particular feature or characteristic I want my readers to comprehend?
Will readers be using the illustration simply to gain a visual impression of an aspect being discussed, or will they be expected to extract information from it? • Will the illustration be referred to only once, to amplify or explain a point, or will it be referred to several times in the report? (If it will be referred to frequently, its position needs to be carefully considered).
Some General Guidelines • Number each illustration sequentially and always refer to it in the report, like this: • …in Figure 2 the monthly profits for financial year 1999-2000 are compared with those for the two previous years.
Give every illustration a title: • Fig. 2. Financial year 1999-2000 profits compared to two previous years. • Decide where in the report your illustration should appear • If the illustration is large or extremely complex, insert it as an attachment at the end of the report • If readers will need to refer to the illustration as they read the report, place it directly in or beside the report text
Graphics Table Bar Chart Line Chart Objective To show exact figures and values To compare one item with others To demonstrate changes in quantitative data over time Choosing Appropriate Illustrations
Pie Chart Flow Chart Organization Chart Photograph, Map, Illustration To visualize a whole unit and the proportions of its components To display a process or procedure To define a hierarchy of elements To create authenticity, to spotlight a location, and to show an item in use
Identify the best kind of graphic to illustrate the following data: • Instructions for workers telling them how to distinguish between worker accidents that must be reported to provincial and federal agencies and those that need not be reported. • Flow Chart
Figures showing what proportion of every provincial tax dollar is spent on education, social services, transportation, debt, and other expenses. • Pie Chart
Data showing the academic, administrative, and operation divisions of a college, from the president to department chairs and division managers. • Organization Chart
Figures comparing the sales of VCRs, colour TVs, and personal computers over the past ten years. • Line Graph