There are many different ways to set out a business report and most companies have their own preferred style, which you should always follow when asked to. However, if you've never written a business report before, and your company does not have a standard style, use the one we've detailed below. Do bear in mind though, that the layout of your report will depend on the subject, purpose and contents you are including.
The 14 Main Sections of any Business Report
1. Title Page – pretty self-explanatory as it simply details the title of the report, who produced it, the date it was created and any reference number you may need to use.
2. Circulation List – this details every organisation or person you intend to send the report to. If you intend to send the report to a large number of people you can use a collective name, such as 'All Managers'. If this is the case, you can detail this on the title page.
3. Notes and Acknowledgements – notes should contain details of who, if anyone, funded the report, who requested the report, what abbreviations have been used. Acknowledgements should include thanks to all those involved in producing the report.
4. Table of Contents – contains the heading of each section of the report and their relevant pages.
5. List of Illustrations – another self-explanatory section, simply list the illustrations that appear in the report.
6. Abstract / Summary – this is an important part of any report. It allows the reader to get an idea of what the report is about without having to read the whole document. It should include the following:
a. the problem the report is addressing
b. what has been investigated
c. the findings, conclusions and recommendations
7. Introduction – this gives the reader an introduction to the purpose and scope of the report and, if you've not already detailed this information on the Notes / Acknowledgement page, who commissioned it. As this is written at the end of the process, the method of approach and any limitations in the report can be included.
8. Body of Report – this contains, as the name suggests, the main body of facts you've discovered during your investigation. You should also decide at this point whether to include illustrations here or in an appendix at the end of the report.
9. Conclusions – this is where you draw together the various parts of the report leaving any subjectivity and bias to one side. Your evaluation should be a considered and balanced judgement. You'll then use the conclusions to offer recommendations. Keep in mind that in order to be valid any conclusion needs to be based on solid and, more importantly, objective evidence.
10. Recommendations – this is the most important part of the report for the readers as the aim of the report is to investigate, conclude, consider and recommend.
11. Appendices – this is where the tables, result, photographs, maps and diagrams should be included. Other additional material, such as the names and addresses of organisations or companies that were contacted during the writing of the report or background data, should be included here.
12. Bibliography / References – list any books, periodicals, articles or websites that were used or recommended for further reading in this section.
13. Glossary – it's important to keep the level of expertise of the readers of the report in mind when compiling the glossary. Only explain terms that the reader is not likely to understand.
14. Index – this only applies to longer reports and enables readers to locate the information they require quickly and easily.
This is, of course, a basic explanation and should be used as a starting point, to be altered according to the nature and purpose of the business report.