Definition 1:A report is an organized statement of facts relating to a particular subject, prepared by the writer or writers after an independent inquiry or investigations and presented to the interested persons, with or without opinions or recommendations.
Definition 2: A report is a detailed account prepared after the completion of a specific assignment. It gives a step-by-step description and assessment of the task undertaken, the procedure and findings. It also makes recommendations on the way forward.
A report could be either oral or written. An oral report is simple and easy to present and could consist in the communication of an impression or an observation. Though an oral report may be quite useful, a written report is always preferred.
Advantages of Written Reports
- An oral report can be denied at any time but a written report is a permanent record.
- An oral report could be vague and have irrelevant facts overlooking some significant details. Written reports are mostly accurate and precise
- Oral reports could easily be distorted but a written report can easily change hands without any danger of distortion during transmission
- It’s difficult to refer to an oral report but a written report can be referred to again and again
The Importance of Reports/Role of Reports in an Organization
Business reports are written to communicate to various stakeholders such as investors or employees. E.g. they could be written as a means to attract investors to the organization or to keep employees informed about the company’s goals and achievements. Whichever audience the report is written for the purpose is to communicate specific information about your business.
- Problem Solving
Many business reports are written to illustrate a specific problem within the company and also outline solutions to help correct the problems identified.
- Financial Reporting
A business report might be written from a financial statement perspective. This type of business report will be aimed at advisers. To an extent, it can be used to inform employees about the financial standing of the company as well. A business report may be presented for this purpose at the end of each fiscal year.
- Marketing Reporting
A business report can be important when setting up marketing strategies. Before entering a new market or targeting consumers, a company may write a business report that an advertising agency can use to help devise a marketing strategy. There may also be a separate report to help obtain financing for a media push.
Characteristics of a Good Report
- Precision:The writer should be very clear about the exact purpose of writing which guarantees unity and coherence of the report and makes it a valuable document.
- Accuracy of facts:It’s important that reports have accurate facts as they are used in decision making process; inaccurate facts could lead to disastrous decisions.
- Relevance: all important details contributing to development of the report should be included. Excluding relevant facts could render a report incomplete and likely to mislead
- Reader orientation: while drafting a report its necessary to keep in mind the person who is going to read it. A report meant for the layman will be different from another meant for technical experts.
- Objectivity of recommendations: if recommendations are made at the end of a report, they must be impartial and objective. They must not reveal self-interests on part of the writer
- Simple and unambiguous language: a good report should be written in a simple and clear language.
- Clarity: clarity depends on proper arrangement of facts. The report writer must proceed systematically by making his purpose clear, define his sources, state the findings and make necessary recommendations.
- Brevity: a good report should be as brief as possible though this should not be achieved at the cost of clarity or completeness. Try to include everything significant yet be brief.
- Grammatical accuracy: this is of utmost importance. Grammatical errors make a report obscure and loose its seriousness.
Steps taken in preparation of reports
Step 1: Investigating the Sources of Information
The extent of investigation will depend on the length and importance of the report. Major sources of information are; company files, personal observation, interviews, letters, questionnaires, library research, data stored in the computer or he hard disks.
Step 2: Taking Notes
In course of investigations it’s important to take notes of anything related to the subject. This enables the writer to note any pattern emerging giving a starting point. Taking notes is important in organizing thought process before the actual report writing takes place.
Step 3: Analyzing the Data
This involves making sense of materials collected and establishing the final pattern; here the sources of information referred to in the first step are critically examined. This is the most important stage in writing a report.
Step 4: Making an Outline
Once the final pattern of the report has taken shape in the writers mind, he should prepare an outline to write a report. In the outline, the problem is stated, facts recorded are briefly analyzed and logical conclusions arrived at. Though not essential, an outline is extremely helpful in writing a system report.
Step 5: Writing the Report
This is the last stage and needs constant reference between the outline and the notes. First a rough draft of the report is prepared then it is revised, edited and polished. The writer should be careful that the language of the report is simple, unambiguous and free from grammatical errors
Format of Reports
Format 1: Letter Form
This is applied in the case of brief and informal reports. The arrangement followed in business letters is adopted. Its main parts are the heading or the title, date, address, salutation, the body, complimentary close and signature. The body of the letter can be further divided into the following parts:-
- Introduction: The introductory paragraphs present the terms of reference and the subject to study. The writer states the problem in relation to the terms of reference and the relevant circumstances.
- Findings: The next few paragraphs present the findings of the investigation.
- Recommendations: Given in the last paragraph of the body
Format 2: Memorandum Form
Adopting the memorandum form is a simpler way of presenting the reports since here the formalities of the letter are done away with. The title of the subjects is stated on the top. This is followed by the name of the writer of the report, the date, the actual text and the conclusion. As in the letter form, the text of the report is divided into paragraphs with headings and subheadings
Format 3: Letter-Text Combination Form
Long reports are usually written in the letter-text combination form. A complete report in this form includes 3 major parts;
Part 1: Introductory Materials
- Letter of transmittal/letter of presentation
- Title page
- Contents page
Part 2: Body of the Report
- Definition of the problem
- Method of procedure
- Conclusions and recommendations
Part 3: Addendum/Addenda
The following are the essentials/parts of a good report
- Title: spells out the key content of the report briefly telling the reader what the report covers
- Introduction: specifies the aim/purpose of the report. Some brief background to the investigation is necessary.
- Methods and procedures: briefly explains how the assignment was done
- Findings: gives details of the outcome or results of the investigations
- Conclusion: comments on the implications of the findings
- Recommendations: provides suggestions for the way forward and these should be based on the conclusions
K.N.E.C SAMPLE EXAM QUESTIONS
- Outline 3 disadvantages of using interviews to collect data for report writing (3 marks)
- Highlight 3 disadvantages of using a questionnaire to collect information for report writing (3 marks)
- Highlight 3 qualities of a good questionnaire (3 marks)
- Give 3 reasons why reports are written in an organization (3 marks)
- State 3 uses of a report in an organization (3 marks)
- State 4 items that should be included under ‘terms of reference’ in a report (4 marks)
- State 4 items that may be contained in the appendices of a report (4 marks)
Writing Reports Questions:
- You work as the Communications Assistant at Utawala College. The students’ performance in the recent national examinations was poor and the reputation of the college is at stake. The principal has requested you to investigate the matter and write a report. Assuming that you have completed the investigations; write the report. (16 marks)
- The number of staff members at Utendeti Limited taking meals and refreshments at the staff restaurant has been declining for the past 3 months. As the Assistant Operations Manager, you have been requested by the Human Resource Manager to investigate the matter. Assume that you have completed the investigation and write a report using the schematic format. (16 marks)