Report Writing: Organising and Outlining the Report
? To become aware of various ways of organizing data
? To understand key points for major sections of the report
? To understand key principles in the preparation of an outline 1. Organising the data for the findings section
There are a few ways of organizing the categories to make it reader-centred. They
Purpose: 1. Location To identify a suitable hotel for a company function. ? Xanadu Hotel
2. Quality of Food Conclusion:
? Xanadu Hotel Xanadu is more suitable in terms of location,
? Seasons quality of food and costs.
3. Costs of function
? Xanadu Hotel
Purpose: 1. Overtime work [CAUSES]
1.1 Insufficient staff
1.2 Increased demand from clients To evaluate the impact of 1.3 Old machinery overtime work on labour costs
and productivity. 2. Impact on labour costs and
productivity [EFFECTS] 2.1 $10 m per year spent on Conclusions: overtime pay. 2.2 Job fatigue Overtime work has a 2.3 More staff taking sick leave significant impact on labour
costs and productivity. 3 Ways to reduce overtime
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Employ more staff (part-timers) 3.1
3.2 Roster for all
3.3 Buy new machinery which
can increase performance
1.3 Effect-Cause (Problem-Solution)
1. Extent of the problem (EFFECTS)
1.1 Insufficient disk space in common
drive 1.2 Obsolete files taking up too much
Purpose: 1.3 Excessive time spent in
communication regarding the issue
2. Causes of the problem (CAUSES) To evaluate the effective use of 2.1 Frequent use of the common drive the common drive by the by a number of staff members personnel department. 2.2 Low maintenance by department
2.3 Too many graphics stored in the common drive
2.4 High staff turn-over rate and no
procedure to ensure cleaning of files
before they leave Conclusion: 3. Respondents’ suggestions for
improvement (SOLUTIONS) Productivity in the personnel 3.1 Evaluate the size of the common department can be affected by drive needed the lack of storage space in the 3.2 Appoint a staff member to maintain
common drive. This problem can the files
3.3 Assess the need for storage of be solved by having alternative
graphics storage systems as well as - Consider other options e.g. implementing a procedure to removable hard disks, CDs etc. monitor the use of the common 3.4 Set up a procedure for staff leaving drive. the company to clear the
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1.4 Functional (organises data into functional units or areas)
Purpose 1. Demand for bus services
To examine the feasibility of starting a
2. Availability of bus operator bus service to ferry students and staff to
and from NUS.
3. Rates to be charged Conclusion:
Based on the study, it is feasible to have
a bus service to ferry staff and students
to and from NUS. Not only is there a
demand for the service, there is also the
interested partner (i.e. existing bus
operator) that is able to offer the
services at reasonable rates.
Purpose 1. Indonesia
? To study the sales in the South East Asia
2. Malaysia Conclusion:
? The sales in Malaysia and Singapore are
doing well, especially ladies clothing and
cosmetics. However, sales in the other 3. Thailand countries tend to be better in men’s
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1. 7 am to 11 am
a. Promptness in service
b. Accuracy of orders taken Purpose:
c. Level of fatigue To examine fast-food restaurant
2. 11 am to 3 pm workers’ greatest periods of
a. Promptness in service productivity.
b. Accuracy of orders taken
c. Level of fatigue
3. 3 pm to 7 pm
a. Promptness in service Conclusion: b. Accuracy of orders taken
c. Level of fatigue Workers are most productive in
the morning as shown in their 4. 7 pm to 12 midnight promptness in service, accuracy a. Promptness in service of orders taken and levels of b. Accuracy of orders taken fatigue. c. Level of fatigue
2. Sections of a report
Having gathered the data and organised the information, the next step is to prepare
an outline. An outline is like a road map – it is a listing of your ideas to show the
logical relationships between the ideas. Before you do so, you need to know the
components of a report proper and what goes into the different sections. 2.1 Introduction
This section provides background information, basically all the things you considered
in the planning phase regarding information that would help your reader understand
your report. It consists of:
? Background – history of the problem or any other related information that is
relevant for the reader to understand the report; what factors determined the
need for the report; you may include who authorized the report and the
? Purpose – what the report should accomplish.
? Scope – what is and is not going to be covered in the report.
? Limitations – factors affecting the quality of the report.
? Research methods and sources – criteria on which you based your study and
decision; explain how you collected your data, research methodology (i.e.
interview, observation, survey, experimentation, focus group); what
secondary sources of information were used.
? Report Organisation – what topics are covered and in what order.
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The objective presentation of your data through text, charts and tables i.e. you
report what the data
says or what your respondents or what experts say.
? Whenever appropriate, present the data using appropriate graphics. All
charts and data should be neatly and clearly presented; with a label and title.
? Comment on what the data says; identify trends and do not give a literal
description of the data.
? Present the data objectively; avoid language like "incredible", "unbelievable",
" wasteful", " awful" etc.
? Ensure that the organisation reflects the purpose and leads the reader
towards the conclusion.
This is your evaluation of the data presented in the findings section. The following
points should be considered when preparing this part of the report.
? The report writer should say what s/he wants to say but within boundaries.
? Unlike the findings section, this section presents what the writer says about
the data. However, the opinions expressed must be relevant to the purpose
of the report and based on the data. In short, the Conclusions section is the writer's evaluation of the data in terms of the
purpose of the report.
Recommendations are your ideas on what should be done based on your conclusions
but they must be a logical outcome of the findings and conclusions drawn. Bear in
mind the following points:
? If the other parts of the report have been properly presented, it should not be
necessary to justify your recommendations.
? With simple straightforward situations, it is possible to itemize your
recommendations in bullet points.
? If there are a series of alternatives, this should be made clear to the reader.
In the case of the problem-solving report, you are expected to make some
recommendations as the main purpose is to find solutions to an existing problem.
Most formal reports follow the conventional pattern (or indirect approach) with the
conclusions and recommendations at the end of the report. However, the direct
approach where the report begins with the most important information i.e. the
conclusions and recommendations can be considered in a problem-solving or
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3. Preparing the Outline
As you write your report, it is useful to have an outline of the report to refer to. This
is not simply a logical structure of the information you want to present, but it is also
a visual representation that reflects the logical organisation.
The outline is a tool that will help you as you draft your report and it is also the basic
structure of your report that will serve as a visual guide for your reader.
3.1 Choose a numbering system When developing an outline, a numbering system that is accurate and clear has to be
chosen. There are two basic numbering systems, namely the alphanumeric and the
decimal system. Either one is appropriate, but one must be consistent and not mix
3.1.1 Alphanumeric System
This is a combination of the roman numerals and the alphabet. Notice that different
font styles and indentations are used for the different levels.
I FIRST LEVEL
A Second level
1 Third level Example: a) Fourth level
3.1.2 Decimal System
The decimal system uses numbers with increasing decimal places for lower level
1 FIRST LEVEL Example: 1.1 Second level
1.1.1 Third level
126.96.36.199 Fourth level
3.2 Follow the principles of outlining
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Single subdivisions should not occur. It does not make sense to have a
section with a single sub-section because a whole cannot be divided unless
there are at least two parts to it.
? Divisions should be relatively balanced - one section should not be very much
larger or smaller than the others. ?
? The purpose of the divisions and sub-divisions is to help readers focus on the
information so you should not have too many sub-sections. If you have more
than 6-7, consider if the information under these headings can be
? Use different fonts, font sizes, type styles to distinguish between different
level headings. General principle : use more visually prominent features for
3.3 Use appropriate headings
There are basically two types of headings: topic and talking headings
? Topic headings are descriptive by nature. They can indicate the topic of the
section without giving any point of view or show how the section functions e.g.
introduction, methodology, findings, conclusions, extent of the problem.
? Talking (or informative) headings provide the topic as well as the point of
view. They guide the reader to think in a particular way about the topic e.g.
“New ways to increase profits”.
Notes on the use of headings:
? Headings must be broad enough to cover the information discussed in the
section, yet specific enough to be useful as a guide to the reader.
? They must be concise.
? They must be parallel in construction.
1. Bovee, Courtland L., Thill, John V. & Schatzman, Barbara E. (2008): Business thCommunication Today. 9 Edition. Prentice-Hall International Inc.
2. Denscombe, Martyn (1998): The Good Research Guide for small-scale social
research projects. Open University Press.
th3. Locker, Kitty O. (2003): Business and Administrative Communication. 6
nd4. Marshall, C and G.B. Rossman, (1995): Designing Qualitative Research. 2
edition, Sage Publications, Inc.
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th1. Bovee, Courtland L. & Thill, John V. (2005): Business Communication Today. 9 Edition. Prentice-Hall International Inc. -- Pages 402 - 417.
2. Locker, Kitty O. (2006): Business and Administrative Communication. 7th Edition. Irwin/McGraw-Hill. -- Pages 390 - 408.
Developing an Outline by Purdue University Online Writing Lab.
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