A business report is a piece of writing aimed at delivering detailed information in the business environment. Usually, these reports are written by senior employees in response to a specific request and address a particular issue requiring a decision to be made. Business reports are a type of formal writing, characterized by a concise and focused style. They present a coherent and in-depth analysis of a topic, offer adequate insights, highlight main points and a conclusion in the final section, and provide detailed recommendations. Technical language should be tailored to the intended target to ensure full comprehension of the text. The overall tone is factual, and proper use of verb tenses should be carefully observed to underline the status of the object of the paper: past tense refers to completed works, present tense to a developing plan, and future tense is used for upcoming projects.
What is a Business Report
Usually, business reports are written following a meticulous structure. After the title page, a report begins with an executive summary that offers a general view of the topic, its main points, and the recommendations formulated in the text. The actual writing starts after the summary, and it consists of a table of contents, introduction, discussion, findings, conclusion, recommendations, references, and appendices. In some cases, an explanation of the research methodology may be inserted between the introduction and the discussion.
How to Start a Business Report
Planning is the first step to writing a good business report. Answering a few carefully chosen questions will help define the guidelines for creating an overall structure. The questions cover the report purpose, target audience, main topic, and framework.
- What is the purpose of the report? Clearly identifying the purpose for writing is paramount to effective composition. Considering that the report is supposed to give recommendations for decision-making, it is most likely that the text will summarize information, compare figures, present facts and data, and finally suggest the most suitable choice.
- Who is the target audience of the report? Identifying the readers of the report is essential to set the tone and the level of complexity of the text. The audience is supposed to have a thorough knowledge of the topic, but the report can also be targeted at secondary readers who may not be familiar with the more technical information.
- What is the subject of the report and its central message? According to the purpose and target audience, the author of the report should carefully weigh the message to be delivered, providing the required pieces of information without expanding the text unnecessarily. However, additional information may be included in some cases.
- How will the subject conform to the structure of a typical business report? Usually, modern business reports present recommendations and a conclusion in the first part of the writing, providing reasoning and data in the sections that follow; this approach is known as deductive. In some cases, the argument is presented before the conclusions, especially when controversies are anticipated; this kind of report is called inductive. Both the deductive and inductive approaches follow a standard structure.
How to Structure a Business Report
- Executive Summary.
This provides a concise overall view of the report, disclosing the main points, conclusions, and recommendations. Usually, the length of the executive summary is about 300 words.
This section introduces the subject of the report, the context, and the reason why the topic arose. Next, the purpose for writing is explained, and the thesis is stated. When writing the introduction, the writer should:
- frame the topic in the proper scenario;
- describe the subject;
- identify the issue;
- define the questions answered by the report;
- determine the scope of the investigation;
- outline the structure of the writing;
- highlight boundaries and limitations of the report.
As already pointed out, this section is not mandatory. When required, it describes the methodologies used to collect data and gather information.
- Discussion and Findings.
The central part of the report presents the outcomes of the research in a structured and logical way. The state of affairs, causes, characteristics, and consequences of the issue are thoroughly developed, providing adequate evidence and information collected during the investigation. For example, the author can include statistics, surveys, authoritative opinions, and other relevant information helpful to justify the recommendations. Organizing the text under descriptive headings and subheadings makes reading and comprehension easier. Graphics and illustrations can offer further clarity on the topic. These should be clearly identified and placed near the text they refer to, preventing any possible confusion.
This section presents a summary of the findings of the current situation. All the relevant data presented in the discussion should be highlighted in a clear and objective way. Bullet points can be used. When compiling the conclusion, the writer should:
- explain, summarize, and interpret the findings;
- clarify how the results relate to the topic;
- avoid introducing hints for further research, limiting the conclusion to the actual discussion;
- expose the conclusions objectively without manipulating or exaggerating the data;
- organize the conclusions in a number or a bullet list.
Unlike conclusions, which are oriented to the past, recommendations look at the future. They highlight the changes that are recommended realistically and concisely. Recommendations suggest specific actions to solve particular problems. The writer of the report should also explain the expected benefits from the implementation of the recommendations. Bullet lists can be used. When compiling recommendations, the author should:
- suggest specific actions to solve the issue presented in the report;
- display recommendations one by one and identify each by a number;
- make statements more effective by beginning sentences with a verb;
- aim to make statements strong (hence, conditional words should be avoided);
- provide a description of the implementations if required;
- arrange recommendations in a logical order.
All the information collected from other sources must be provided within the text and listed on the references page. All the sources consulted such as books, online articles, periodicals, theses, or speeches should be included. The formatting style depends on the recommendation of the organization or the academic institution.
Appendices include supplementary material that serves to improve clarity and understanding of the paper. Questionnaires, maps, summaries of data, and notes are some examples of extra content. Each appendix should be identified with a number or a capital letter, such as Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on; they should be listed following the order of appearance in the text. Appendices are especially useful in offering a detailed view of the investigation. When compiling the appendices section, the author should ensure that each appendix included is:
- clearly identified by a number/letter and a descriptive title;
- ordered following their appearance in the writing;
- clearly explained;
- related to the topic.
A business report is a piece of writing that follows precise rules. It addresses a specific issue and is usually requested by management and compiled by a senior member of the company. The tone is formal, the style concise and focused on the subject. However, it is important to note that the writing should be tailored to the target audience, keeping in mind that even if the main readers are supposed to have a thorough knowledge of the topic, the report might have secondary readers who have only a partial understanding of the matter. The scope of a business report is to provide recommendations to address and solve an issue.
An executive summary precedes the report, introducing the content, conclusions, and recommendations of the report. The text follows a precise structure constituting an introduction, discussion/findings, conclusions, recommendations, references, and appendices. Each section, in turn, adheres to specific guidelines aimed at making the report clear, concise, coherent, and effective.
Recommendations represent the outcomes of the report; they suggest particular actions that should be implemented to solve the problem that is the subject of the investigation. While the conclusions refer to the past and explain the current situation, recommendations are the logical consequences of the analysis and should realistically present actions to be taken and expected benefits. Finally, references and appendices provide evidence and sources to support the analysis, findings, and recommendations. Writing a business report requires a thorough knowledge of the subject, analytical and logical skills, and sharp reasoning abilities to produce coherent recommendations capable of informing and convincing the readers.