Before a report is written, it must be decided if a formal report is required. If a report requires the formal format, there are standard components that will ensure the report is as effective as possible.
There are two main reasons to create a formal report. The first is as a result of a major investigation. In a way, the amount of time spent researching the information for the report is proportional to the length and formality of the report. In other words, the more time required for investigation, the longer the report will be (Lesikar, Flatley, & Rentz, 2008). For example, after a year of investigation, the Department of Homeland Security issued a long detailed report to Congress regarding the safety of airplane cargo. Because of the long investigation required to produce this report, it was long and formal (Thomas, 2007).
The second reason a formal report may be required is if the intended recipients are high-level executives (Lesikar, et al., 2008). In this case, the formality of the report is the most important factor. Just as the length of investigation relates to the length of the formal report, the level of the audience relates to the formality of the report. The higher level the audience, the more formal the report.
An example of a long, formal report is the so-called Mitchell Report. The investigation for this report took 20 months. The leader of the investigation was former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. Although this report was intended for Congress and the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, it was released to the general public. The report is extremely long, very detailed, and very formal. In every way, it is a model for formal reports (“Mitchell’s report”, n.d.).
The components for a formal report can be divided into three main parts: prefatory, the report proper, and appended parts. The prefatory parts are the introduction of the report. There are six components of the prefatory parts. The first is the title fly; it is nothing more than the report title by itself. Following the title fly is the title page. This page includes the title, the writer, the authorizer, and the date. If the report was authorized in writing, it is traditional to follow the title page with the authorization message. This component is not written by the writer, but should come from the individual that requested and authorized the report. The preface is a personal message from the writer and follows the authorization message. Its purpose is to informally introduce the report to the reader, and takes the place of a face to face meeting. After the preface is the table of contents and list of illustrations. The final component of the prefatory parts is the executive summary. The executive summary is a highly condensed version of the report (Lesikar, et al., 2008).
The next major component of the formal report is the report proper. It consists of three main parts and is the real meat of the formal report. The report proper begins with the introduction. It prepares the readers for what will follow. The introduction should include information regarding the authorization of the report, the problem that will be addressed, the scope of the report, information gathering methods, and important definitions (Lesikar, et al., 2008).
The introduction is followed by the report body. This section presents the information that was gathered during the investigation and analyzes it in relation to the problem. The report body is written just like any other analytical report and should follow the direct pattern (Lesikar, et al., 2008). Lesikar, et al. (2008) point out that the formal report will require the writer’s entire “organizing, writing, and formatting skills” (p. 383).
The final aspect of the report proper is the summary. The summary should repeat the major findings of the report. In addition, if any conclusions have been reached, it is important to repeat those as well. Finally, if the writer is authorized to present recommendations for further action, it is appropriate to include those at the end of the report proper (Lesikar, et al., 2008).
The final component of the formal report is the appended parts. This component includes an appendix or bibliography if required. The appendix is the place for supplementary information. This information is not important enough to be included in the report proper, but still supports the investigation and analysis done be the report writer. Finally, the bibliography provides reference information for any outside resources used to generate the formal report (Lesikar, et al., 2008).
The need for a formal report is determined by the amount of investigation required to produce it and the intended audience. If a formal report is required, three main components – prefatory, the report proper, and appended parts – should be utilized. A report written in this fashion is guaranteed to be effective.
Lesikar, R., Flatley, M., & Rentz, K. (2008). Business communication: Making connections in a digital world [Electrionic Version]. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Mitchell’s report rips mask off baseball*s steroid era. (n.d.). USA Today, Retrieved June 24, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
Thomas Frank (2007, September 7). Report blasts air cargo security ; TSA screening flaws endangering fliers. USA TODAY, p. A.1. Retrieved June 24, 2008, from ProQuest National Newspapers Expanded database. (Document ID: 1332114011).