In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Report 2. Features of a Good Report 3. Types 4. Steps in the Preparation of a Report 5. Organisation.
Meaning of Report:
The term report is devised from the Latin word “reportare” which means to carry back. Therefore, a report is a description of an event carried back to someone who was not present on the scene. C.A. Brown has defined a report as “a communication from someone who has some information to someone who wants to use that information”. It may also be defined as an orderly and objective presentation of information that helps in decision-making and problem solving.
From these definitions its features can be listed as follows:
(a) Information is well organised and the reader can easily find information.
(b) A report must be objective oriented in its presentation and it facilitates the reader to use it for decision-making.
(c) The report has to present facts and data. At times the report is to present subjective information and they may be forced to draw conclusions and make recommendations, then they must be presented ethically and based on information contained in the report.
(d) Finally, it must be helpful in decision-making and problem solving. The preparation of business reports is to be differentiated from academic and scientific reports.
Features of a Good Report:
A good business report should have the following features. They are:
f. Brevity and
g. Simple language.
Accuracy of facts is essential for good reports. Reports are helpful in decision-making and accurate reports provide useful information In-accurate reports may lead to disastrous decisions. Accuracy depends on correctness of data that was gathered to prepare it. Use reliable sources and be accurate in reporting information.
The matter reported should be short and summarised. Avoid lengthy reports. The analysis, investigation and recommendation must be objective oriented. Precision gives a kind of unity and coherence to the report.
Report must be clear. This again depends on the arrangement of information. Systematic presentation of the report by defining his source, state his findings and make necessary recommendations. There should be no ambiguity in presentation. Plain, objective and straight forward presentation plays an effective role.
The report should contain the material required. Unwanted and irrelevant information are to be avoided. Relevant information cannot escape inclusion and inclusion of irrelevant information may make the report incomplete and its findings may be misleading.
The presentation of the report must be free from personal bias.
Objectivity can be achieved by:
(i) Making a distinction between facts and opinions.
(ii) Report all pertinent information both positive and negative.
(iii) Use of impersonal style.
(iv) Recommendations must be impartial and objective.
(v) The recommendations must be based on logical investigation and analysis.
A report should be brief. It is difficult to define and cannot establish any rule in this connection. Brevity cannot be at the cost of clarity or completeness. It has to include everything required for presentation for accuracy, relevance and yet be brief.
(g) Simple Language:
Language used for presenting the report should be simple and unambiguous. This is a document of practical utility and its language must be free from unnecessary poetic presentations.
Types of Business Reports:
Business Reports are classified as follows:
(a) On the basis of writing.
(b) On the basis of legal formalities.
(c) On the basis of frequency.
(d) On the basis of function.
(e) On the basis of subject-matter.
(f) On the basis of persons drafting the report.
(a) On the Basis of Writing:
Reports are classified as oral and written reports. Oral statements are considered as the communication of interest or an observation. When the report is reduced to writing, it is called as a written report.
Generally a written report is preferred because of the following advantages. They are:
(i) A written report is a permanent record. It cannot be denied by the reporter as it is in the case of a oral report.
(ii) Comparatively a written report tends to be precise and accurate than oral reports.
(iii) A written report can be transmitted safely without any distortion.
(iv) As a permanent record it can be used for reference purposes.
(b) On the Basis of Legal Formalities:
Reports may be classified as informal reports and formal reports.
An informal report is usually in the form of one-to-one communication as a letter or a memorandum. It is short and fragmented statement of facts and there is scope for enlarging it based on requirements.
The features of a formal report are:
(i) Presented in a prescribed form.
(ii) Presented by the prescribed authority in tune with established procedure.
(c) On the Basis of Frequency:
A report may be periodic or special. A periodic report is also known as routine report. Its features are- They are submitted periodically on a regularly basis. (May be fort-nightly, monthly, quarterly and bi-annually). Branch managers and area manager’s report about performance and progress to the Head office. Special reports are prepared for a single occasion or situation; they deal with problems of non-recurring nature.
Launching of a new product, Opening of a new branch, Change of location office, Study of a particular branch.
(d) On the Basis of Function:
A report can be informative or interpretative. An informative report presents facts pertinent to an issue or a situation. An investigative report analyses facts, draws conclusions and makes recommendations.
Simple production report is an informative report but a report that goes into the causes of varying production, it is called analytical, interpretative or investigative report.
(e) On the Basis of Subject-Matter:
Report may be:
(ii) Performance report
(iii) A technical report
(iv) Problem determining report.
Fact-finding report is prepared to know the truth. This is prepared by a committee appointed for this purpose after enquiring from people connected with a particular incident. Performance report is a report about performance of people involved and their operational strength and weaknesses. In a technical report the technicalities and their dimensions are presented. It is a specialised data with or without comments.
(f) On the Basis of Persons:
The report preparation may be done by individuals or by a group of people. In the first case it is known as an individual report and in the second case it is known as group report. Examples of individual reports are- Report by Branch Manager, Personnel Manager, Marketing Manager, Auditors, Company Secretary.
These reports are related to their area of operation in the organisation. Reports concerning departments are prepared by a sub-committee by a committee as they deal with variable subjects. These reports are formal in style, impersonal in tone, prepared after a cautious and careful deliberation of members.
The discussion on reports was centering round the theoretical aspects and now the focus is on its preparation. This is divided into two parts.
(i) Steps in the preparation of a report.
(ii) Organisation of a report.
These steps are discussed below.
Steps in the Preparation of a Report:
The various steps in the preparation of a report are:
(a) Scope of the report
(b) Reader Profile
(c) Gathering of data
(d) Analysis of the data
(e) Recommendations or solution
(f) Presentation of the report.
(a) Scope of the Report:
The scope of the report must be defined. This will facilitate the people who prepare the report to identify the factors to be considered and the information needed for the report.
(b) Reader Profile:
The authors of the report must always have the reader’s profile in mind as they are the end users of the report.
To know the end users they should always consider the following factors:
(i) Reader’s educational background.
(ii) Reader’s position in the organisation.
(iii) Knowledge of the topic to be studied and analysed.
(iv) Their responsibility to act.
(v) Their age.
(vi) Their personal biases.
(vii) Their preferences and attitudes.
(c) Gathering Data:
The next step is to gather data. Discriminate the relevant and irrelevant data for the study. Then try to identify the source for the data. The gathering of the data may be from the primary source or from the secondary source. The primary source is the collection of data and recording by the researchers. Secondary source is the information gathered and recorded by others.
The information may be gathered from the organisational sources or from outside depending on the nature of the subject. When a large number of people are to be contacted, then decide who is to be contacted directly and who is to be contacted by questionnaires. In reports of general nature library research may be found useful.
(d) Analysis of the Data:
Analysis means isolating the relevant facts and figures, studying their inter-relationship, re-arranging the data wherever necessary and their classification. It also includes the application of statistical tools and techniques for the purpose of drawing conclusions.
This is known as interpretation of data. The object of this is the determination of the meaning and significance of data, figures and facts collected. Analysis and interpretation are complimentary. They are helpful in planning, detection of unfavourable factors and forecasting.
(e) Recommendation or Solution:
Based on the analysis recommendations logically follow the findings and it has to be given separately and specifically in the report.
(f) Presenting the Report:
The author of the report has the topic, necessary information and the decision to be made regarding its presentation. The point to be remembered is its clarity, objectivity and its format. The format for its presentation is discussed in the succeeding part.
Organisation of the Report:
This refers to the presentation of the report. In presenting the report there are two important ways of presenting the report. The way of presenting the report may differ according to the relationship between the presenter and the reader.
The report is in the form of a letter when it is between the organisation and outsider. If the report is to be presented within the organisation then the memorandum format is used.
In case of the letter format normally the following parts are used:
(b) Inside address
(d) Body of the letter
(e) Complimentary close
(g) Reference initials
Usually the letter written by Managing Director to Shareholders gives the annual message about the company. This accompanies the annual report.
A simple way presenting the report is the memorandum form. This form is used for reports based on informal studies, investigations and research. These reports are self-initiated or prepared at the request of someone higher up in the organisation.
Memo reports will have the following parts:
(i) Provide identifying information
(ii) Definition of the project or problem (purpose of the report)
(iii) Background of the report
(iv) Supporting Data
(v) Conclusion or recommendation
A third type of reports is known as letter-text combination. This consists of three major parts known as introduction, body of the report and Addenda.
The introductory part consists of the following sub-divisions. They are:
1. Letter of transmittal or letter of presentation,
2. Title page,
3. Table of contents,
4. List of illustrations Abstract and/or summary.
A transmittal letter is a routine one which is written to transmit the report from the writer to the reader.
Its important functions are:
(i) It provides a permanent record of transfer.
(ii) Date of submission of report.
(iii) Name and position of the writer of the report.
(iv) It states when and by whom the report was authorised.
(v) It may invite the reader’s comments and suggestions.
A letter of presentation contains the information to be transmitted, purpose and scope of the report, specifies the writer’s source of information and highlights its special features. The second part, Body of the report consists of introduction, discussion and conclusions. Introduction deals with authorization of the report. Historical and technical background, Scope of the study, Sources of data and method of collection and definition of special terms and symbols.
The report also speaks about the background and scope of study to inform the reader about the work already done and new grounds covered in the report. There should be no ambiguity regarding the terms used. In the discussion part systematically presents the various aspects of the issue under headings and subheadings. It contains the facts identified by the writer along with his comments.
It may also contain charts, graphs, statistical tables and even excerpts of published reports. These may be incorporated in the body of the report or they may be placed at the end in the appendix based on the length of the report. The conclusion and recommendations may put forward concrete suggestions or recommendations. In the Addenda, List of references, Glossary, Appendices, Index.
So the reports usually will have three main parts called Introduction, Body of the report and Conclusions. The elements in a report are terms of reference, purpose/objectives of the report, findings, conclusions and Appendices.