Business Formal Report Writing

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					                        Formal Report Writing



    Report writing is an important part of many professional and academic subjects.
    Reports play an increasingly important role in the workplace, where they are a
    crucial instrument in all business processes. They are also widely used in
    government, technology, health care, social services, and many other areas.


What is a formal report?          A formal report is a document that is written following a
                                  fixed procedure and is used to describe an investigation
                                  and give results and recommendations based on the
                                  investigation.

 What is the purpose of a         The purpose of a formal report is to investigate a problem
          formal report?          or a need, find workable solutions, and make
                                  recommendations.

 What are the differences         Different types of reports are intended for different
between different types of        audiences and have different purposes. They may deal
                 reports?         with different kinds of topics, and therefore use different
                                  types of vocabulary. They may vary greatly in length.
                                  However, the general form of most reports is similar.
What are the parts of a           Title
       formal report?             Summary
                                  Introduction
                                  Findings and Discussion
                                  Conclusions
                                  Recommendations



                                      Mini-Quiz

     A formal report requires very clear, concise and accurate use of
     language to convey very specific information to its audience. Therefore,
     as a pre-test, select the most appropriate formal expression for use in a
     formal report from the options given under each item:

     1.   I ____________ the inspector to perform a thorough check on
          the functioning of company machinery and workstations.

               a. asked
               b. talked to
               c. requested
               d. spoke to

     2.   Extensive supplies of specimens _____________________ for
          testing at the laboratories for further research.

               a. were required
               b. were wanted
               c. were needed
               d. were booked
3.   The objective of the formal report is ______________ problems
     and to bring out suitable solutions and recommendations.

        a.   to search for
        b.   to investigate
        c.   to identify
        d.   to find

4.The CEO___________ shortly to discuss general issues on
   improving efficiency in manufacturing.

        a.   comes,
        b.   will sit
        c.   will arrive
        d.   goes

5.   The motion to reduce working hours _______________ by the
     company board, due to the fear of a drop in the required
     production output.

        a.   was not allowed
        b.   was dismissed
        c.   was passed
        d.   was accepted
                                         Example of a Report

A report has a well-defined structure. In the following report, as in most reports, all
the parts are named. Sections and sub-sections are numbered.

To the left of each section is an explanation of the type of information and
language used in that section.




 Begin with a specific title. The title             Survey of Overseas Students at
 should convey useful information about
 the content of the report                          Festina Lente University: 1985-
                                                    1999
 This is followed by the name(s) of the             University Marketing and Survey
 author(s), along with the date when the            Committee, June 10, 2000
 report was finished.

 Number each section.                         1     Summary
 The summary is optional. To write a
 summary:                                           A report on overseas students at Festina
 1. Briefly state the aim of the report.            Lente University was undertaken to
 2. Briefly describe the methodology                determine what (if any) problems these
 followed.                                          students face. Students were surveyed on
 3. Group the conclusions of the                    several matters. In general, students
 investigation into categories.
                                                    expressed satisfaction with the university;
                                                    however, a few areas of concern were
                                                    identified.
 The following parts are found in the         2     Introduction
 introduction of a report:
 • What is to be investigated / aim (A)
 • Who requested the report (R)                     This report was requested by the president
 • When it was requested (D)                        of Festina Lente University on November 5,
 • What methodology is to be used (M)               1999. A University Marketing and Survey
                                                    Committee was formed, consisting of the
 These are known as the terms of                    president; the bursar; the registrar; the
 reference of the report. (A), (R), and
 (D) may appear in any order. (M) is                deans of arts, science, and business. The
 always last. In the sample report on the           committee was asked to submit its findings
 right, the order of the terms of reference         by June 15, 2000.
 is (R), (D), (A), (M).
                                                      The main purpose of the study is to explore
Some expressions commonly found in                    ways of attracting more overseas students
(A):
the aim of...is to ...., will outline, was to         to study at Festina Lente. An additional
determine..., determine the feasibility of            purpose is to help to make the existing
..., the purpose of… is to..., to                     environment more conducive to study for
investigate                                           these students.
Some expressions commonly found in                    Our major source of information about the
(R):                                                  needs and wishes of overseas students at
was requested by, as requested by, was
instructed, was asked, make appropriate               Festina Lente is the students themselves.
recommendations, ...was asked to                      Therefore, the committee decided to
submit...                                             construct a questionnaire, aimed at eliciting
                                                      relevant information from overseas
Some expressions commonly found in                    students who have studied at Festina Lente
(D):
by (date), on or before (date)                        since 1985. Copies of the questionnaire are
                                                      on file with the Student Union and the
Some expressions commonly found in                    Faculty Office, and they are available for
(M):                                                  public viewing. A total of 242 responses
was collected, with discussions, was                  were received, 233 of which were usable.
used, obtain, carry out (a task, etc.), was
undertaken, findings, were surveyed, the              Three hundred and sixty nine overseas
scale was used to measure..., responses               students had been enrolled at Festina
were       identified,    questionnaires,             Lente during the period in question. The
tabulate, noted                                       responses, therefore, can be taken to
                                                      reflect the views of a significant majority of
Tense: Usually past. Use present tense
only to describe ‘aims/goals’.                        these students. The questionnaire included
                                                      24 variables, grouped into five categories:

                                                      a. Information received about Festina Lente
                                                      before the student’s arrival here;
                                                      b. The student’s reception into the country
                                                      and university;
                                                      c. The student’s courses at Festina Lente;
                                                      d. Interaction with academic and
                                                      administrative staff;
                                                      e. Learning resources.

Findings are      the facts that were           3     Findings
discovered by    using the methodology
described in     the introduction. For
                                                3.1   Before arrival at Festina Lente:
example, if a     survey was used, the
findings are the responses to the survey.          Students were asked if they had received
The findings are grouped, presented in             thorough, partial or no information about
tabular form, or reduced to statistics for
easy understanding. An example of a                the university, their chosen program of
finding is, “Eight percent of all                  study, local culture, and travel and visa
respondents considered their courses on            matters. Results suggest that insufficient
the whole to be unsatisfactory because             information on local culture and traditions
they were unable to understand their               was provided to students before they
instructors.”
                                                   arrived here. In addition, some
                                                   departments apparently sent out flyers and
                                                   other information sheets that were
                                                   insufficient, incomplete, or unclear.
Divide complex information logically         3.2   Arrival at Festina Lente:
into parts and number each part as
shown.
                                                   Using a scale of dissatisfied, satisfied, or
The past tense is often used in this               very satisfied, students were asked to rate
section of the report, and the passive
voice is common.
                                                   five different aspects of their arrival in the
                                                   country and at the university. Mean
                                                   responses suggest that local food and
                                                   campus orientation seem to require
                                                   improvement.

This section is sometimes called             4     Conclusions
“Discussion and Conclusions.”

Conclusions are statements of fact                 This survey of overseas students at Festina
derived from the findings. They are                Lente over the last 15 years shows why
answers to the question: “What is the              Festina Lente continues to be a sought-
problem?” An example of a conclusion               after place of study for students from many
is, “There are not enough computers in             countries. However, two main concerns
the head office.”
Usually the present simple tense or
                                                   have been highlighted by the survey:
the present perfect tense is used.
                                             4.1   In some cases, inadequate or erroneous
                                                   information has been sent to overseas
                                                   students prior to their arrival at Festina
                                                   Lente.

                                             4.2   Problems with housing and cuisine have
                                                   been noted.
Recommendations are suggestions               5          Recommendations
about how to solve the problems. They
often contain the word should. They
answer the question, “What should we                     Based on the survey results, the committee
do to solve the problem(s)?” An                          makes the following recommendations:
example of a recommendation is the
following: “Management should install                    The university should provide information on
eight new computers in the head office.”     5.1         local culture and traditions as part of the
Verbs with should appear in the active
voice (“The university should provide                    mailing to overseas applicants.
information…”) or the passive voice
(The Student Union should be                             It should identify departments whose
asked…”).
                                             5.2
                                                         departmental brochures and flyers are in
                                                         need of updating or expansion.




                                       Formal Report Language
  Formal reports should be written using formal language. Can you replace the underlined
       words in the following short text with more appropriate business language?

 On June 20th, 2004, I had to have a look at complaints about the time-keeping of the guys in the
 general office. To get some information I had a chat with each of the 12 workers concerned, and
                   watched out for their time of arrival over a two-week period.

        (Suggested answers: investigated, punctuality, staff, obtain, conducted interviews, employees, noted)




                               Practising What You Have Learned
Now practise what you have learned about report writing and the language of formal reports by
 selecting the best option from each set of words contained in square brackets in the following
                                          short report.

[Note that this report does not have a Summary, so the numbering begins with the Introduction.]

      Complaints about the Poor Service Offered by the Library of the
                          University of Bilgewater
            The University of Bilgewater Library Committee, September 20, 1995
1       Introduction

        The objective of this report was to [address, receive, answer] complaints about
        poor service provided by the library and to make appropriate
        recommendations, as [demanded, requested, recommended] by S. I.
        Pennington, President, on 25 March 1995. An interview [conducted, was
        conducted, held] with Mr. Vernon English, Chief Librarian, on 15 March.
        Questionnaires [were distributed, distributed, sent out] to a cross-section of
        staff who used the library between 15 and 20 March.

2       Findings

2.1     Interview with Chief Librarian

2.1.1   Staffing:

        Mr. English has 13 full-time assistants. Five of these [at the, work the, are
        employed by the] college on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.
        They [work, stay, duties] from 2-5 p.m. on those days.

2.1.2   Equipment:

        A schedule of current items of equipment and their year of purchase
        [examined, was examined, is examining.] No problems with this equipment
        [noted, were noted, can be noted]. However, he requested purchase of
        additional equipment as follows:

             1 photocopier
             3 trolleys to transport books around the library

2.2     Views of the academic staff

        22 staff [asked, asking, were asked] to fill in a questionnaire, 20 responded.
        The problems identified are shown below:

2.2.1   75% of the respondents thought the photocopying facilities were inadequate.

2.2.2   100% [has, reported, found] difficulty in recalling books.

2.2.3   50% reported difficulty in communicating in English with some library staff.

3       Conclusions

3.1     There [are, were, should be] not enough library assistants to cope with the
        day-to-day running of the library in the morning.
 3.2         The present photocopying equipment is insufficient.

 3.3         The standard of English of some library assistants is not sufficient to
             enable effective communication to take place between the library staff
             and the academic staff.

 3.4         There [was, could be, is] no system in place for recalling books.

 4           Recommendations

 4.1         Five new library assistants should be [made, recruited, brought in] to
             work from 0900-1400 hours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

 4.2         A new photocopier and three new trolleys [shall be, will be, should be]
             bought.

 4.3         The front line staff [should give, should be given, should be taken]
             English classes wherever needed.

 4.4         The Chief Librarian [should be asked, should ask, is asking] to devise
             and implement a recall system.



Based on: Henry, Alex, & Roseberry, Robert L. (2001). Help Yourself to English in the Business School. (2nd ed.).
Ashhurst, N.Z.: One2One Training and Consultancy, by permission of the authors.

				
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