Sections of Formal Reports
Depending upon the situation and the institution you’re working for or writing to, some or all of the following sections may be required in a specific formal report. However, smart writers will be sensitive to the organization’s requirements or expectations and the needs of the information, then use that knowledge to determine the contents of their report.
The next few pages describe a large number of these section types so you, as a writer, may pick and choose what is appropriate to each situation. It is important to the report’s impact and the writer’s professional image to understand the purpose of each of these sections.
- The front part includes sections that come prior to the report itself to establish various items such as authority of the report and intended audience.
- The body of the report has many sections of key information and possible analysis. It is the meat of the report.
- The back matter contains sections of material that support the body.
Take a look at Figure 1 to see an example of the many potential sections in a sales proposal. Since this example models a response to an RFP (request for proposal), these sections were like required by the customer requesting the bid. The white, shaded, white pages related to the broad parts of a formal report. They are illustrative since the author determines specific sections needed based on report purpose company policy, and audience.
Front Sections of a Report
In formal reports, you may encounter introductory sections before the actual report itself. These “front sections” are important for establishing context and structure of the report for the reader. In some reports, such as sales situations or proposals, the entire report becomes part of a contract. These front sections aid in that function.
- Transmittal letter
- Cover page and Title Page
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
You will (or not) use these sections based on the context of your report, the information your audience needs, and your company’s policies.
A transmittal letter is sent to the company or business leader who requested the report. This letter may be sent separately from the report. This letter can be printed (especially in situations where the report itself is a paper copy), or it can be sent as an email.
This letter describes the need for the report and the date of report completion. The letter includes the background of the project, a reference to the problem analysis, and outlines the procedure used to determine the recommendations presented. It is most frequently used with reports created by one company and submitted to another, such as those associated with a sales situation. This letter can be used in both informational and analytical reports.
This letter should be formatted as a standard business letter (as discussed in Module 2: Writing in Business). It is frequently signed by an officer of the sending company to emphasize the formality of the document and potentially establish legal formality. Pay careful attention to company policy and legal advice. It’s also important to note that some companies prefer this same information in another format within the report.
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