Information on Technical Communication

 Reader Analysis
 Formal Report
 Analytical Report
 Typography Hints
 Instruction Basics
 Memo Format
 Oral Report
 Progress Reports
 Letter of Application
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The Analytical Report

The analytical report examines a problem or issue and recommends an action. Some analytical reports function as proposals that identify or define problems and and argue for specific ways of resolving them. Other analytical reports are feasibility studies that examine proposed solutions and determine their practicality.

Analytical reports are written by experts, often working in teams. The reports generally require that these experts

  • use their professional skills to define an issue, making the study large enough in scope to identify all the factors that bear on the problem and using a standard professional methodology,
  • know or learn how such issues have been resolved in other cases, inside and outside their own company; and
  • accommodate constraints like cost, time, company policy, union contracts, local and federal law.

The completed report will have at least three groups of readers:

  • Experts, who will be asked to validate the scope of the study, the data collected, the methodology used, and the practicality of the solution
  • Managers who ordered the study, and will consider the significance of the problem identified in the study, the practicality of the solution in terms of cost, duration, and affect on other operations, and the judgment of the experts asked to validate the report
  • Managers from other units of the company, who will be asked to validate the results from their own perspectives such as whether the solution conforms to environmental or tax law or whether the company has adequate personnel to staff it.

Elements of Reports

Parts of the report, in order, are

  1. Letter or Memo of Transmittal (not actually part of the report but included with the report)

  2. Title Page
    • Title of the report
    • Name of the person, department, or company commissioning the report
    • Date submitted
    • Authors and their corporate or departmetal affiliation

    The title of the report should

    • be long enough to describe the report's contents (two-line titles are acceptable) and
    • incorporate the key words from the report to allow indexing and retrieval.

  3. Executive Summary

    The executive summary will be read by the executive who commissioned the report and in many cases, this is the only part of the report that he or she will read. Staff members will analyze and read the rest of the report.

    The executive summary is always one paragraph long and contains the following :

    • an identification of the problem addressed in the report
    • a brief description of the significance of the problem to the company
    • a very brief description of the solution
    • a very brief description of the time and funds required to implement the solution

    Executive summaries do not contain explanations or justifications because there is no space for them; a partial explanation is worse than none at all. Note that the executive summary is not a complete summary. Many key parts of the report are not mentioned. It is also not an "abstract." Abstracts are written by experts for other experts who use them for research purposes. Abstracts place primary emphasis on the scope of the study and the methodology used.

  4. Table of Contents

    Tables of contents are necessary only when the report is more than ten pages long or has many separate parts.

    The table of contents generally is not included in a five-page report because the readers can skim the report to find content as easily as they can use the table of contents. But the table of contents generally is included in a ten-page report because the readers can generally locate information in a table of contents more quickly than they can skim ten pages.

  5. Table of Figures

    Tables of figures are necessary only when the report has a number of charts, graphs, or line drawings and the readers will be accesing them non-sequentially.

  6. Glossary of Terms

    Glossaries are necessary only in those rare cases when the report will use a number of terms that are not familiar to the reader.

  7. Body

  8. Conclusion

    Conclusions are a natural extension of the report and complete its logic. The "Conclusions" section can be of any length and is alays written in paragraphed prose. The conclusions are a separate part of the report, always labeled "Conclusions." The conclusion section need not begin a new page of the report.

  9. Recommendations

    The recommendations are a separate part of the report, always labeled "Recommendations." They always form a separate page.

  10. Appendices

    Appendices are put at the end of the report and are labeled "A" through "Z." They are referenced in the report itself, generally with a sentence in parentheses, ie., "(See appendix C.)"

    Appendices are used to hold independent data or documents needed to explain or support points made in the report. For example, if the report recommends purchasing a safety device to improve a machine's operation, an appendix would contain a manufacturer's specification sheet describing the device. If the report recommended a department reorganization and change of change of titles and salaries, an appendix would would contain.

  11. Bibliography

    The bibliography lists the published documents that are referenced in the report itself. It is always placed on a separate page and is labeled "Bibliography."

    List only physical documents rather than Web pages in bibliographies. Report readers must be able to order the cited published document at any later time, but Web pages disappear or change over time. When you need to reference Web-based data, download and print the information and include it as an appendix.

    Since most reports do not include references to published documents, biblographies are relatively uncommon.

  12. Page Numbering

    The system for numbering pages is standard for all reports and is slightly different from the system used in other documents.

    • Pages are always numbered and numbers are most often placed at the bottom of the page, eithered centered or in the right corner.
    • If readers will be working with multiple reports at the same time or if you expected the report to be disassembled, use a "footer" instead of just a number. The footer, which you create in your word processing program applies to each page, always includes the page number, and can also contain the title, the report date, the draft number, or other useful information.
    • The letter of transmittal is not part of the numbering sequence because it is not strictly part of the report.
    • The title page is page 1 of the report, but the number is not put on the page.
    • The table of contents is page 2, and the number is put on the page.
    • All other pages through the end of the bibliography are numbered sequentially.
    • The appendices have independent numbering systems; appendices are lettered in sequence, and each appendix is internally numbered. So the first appendix is "Appendix A"; the second is "Appendix B" and so on. If Appendix A has four pages and Appenix B has three pages, the pages are labeled A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, B-1, B-2, B-3. the "Table of C" "Table of F."